Surf-rock music warbles on the soundtrack while Godzilla and his mortal enemy, Ebirah the mutant, killer lobster play football with a giant boulder. Like some half-remembered dream, you can’t believe what you’re seeing. Welcome to Toho’s seventh Godzilla movie, one of the finest in the series, where anything goes! A striking opening sees a giant claw rise out of the stormy sea to smash a sailboat belonging to poor fisherman Yata (Toru Ibuki). Jump-cut to a dance contest - teenagers twist away on live TV. First prize: a sailboat that Ruta (Toru Watanabe) was desperate to win and find his missing brother, but he arrives too late to enter. Sympathetic best buddies Ichiro (Chotaro Togano) and Mita (Hideo Sunazuka) bring Ruta to the docks where he steals a sailboat that, unfortunately, includes a stowaway - shifty, super-cool Yashi (Akira Takarada). Could he be the bank robber mentioned on the radio? A monster attack leaves them shipwrecked on Infant Island, secret headquarters of terrorist organization The Red Bamboo.
Fleeing crack troops, jet fighters, a giant condor and lobster-god Ebirah, our heroes befriend native bikini babe, Daiyo (monster movie icon, Kumi Mizuno) and discover Godzilla asleep inside a dormant volcano. A lightning bolt revives Big G who kicks off a monster frenzy, smashing jets, crushing soldiers and slapping that condor silly. His temperament is sweetened by dainty Daiyo, who prays to the Twin Fairies (teeny boppers The Bambi Pair, replacing series regulars The Peanuts) so they’ll send Mothra to their aid, and inspires roguish Yashi to become a better man. While Godzilla battles mighty Ebirah, the gang set out to foil Red Bamboo’s schemes for world domination and free their native slaves. Ruta rescues his big brother. Yashi returns his stolen loot. Red Bamboo’s secret base is blown up. Our heroes hitch a ride home with Mothra. And Godzilla flees the exploding island with a running leap - slow-mo, like an action hero. What’s not to love?
Screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa’s crazy caper - also known as Ebirah, Horror of the Deep - plays like a surfing safari through Sixties pop cinema. Castaway films, James Bond movies, Disney fantasies, beach party musicals, jungle girl exploitation - it’s all here in this delightful adventure romp. New director Jun Fukuda borrows equally from Help! (1965), Thunderball (1965) and Mysterious Island (1961) as he does from Godzilla movies of yore. In place of series creator Ishiro Honda’s stately style, Fukuda favours hand-held shots and frantic zooms, getting down and dirty for the monster action (Highlight: Godzilla rips off Ebirah’s arms and taunts him by clacking claws). His later films were hit and miss, but here things work a treat. Much loved monster film stars Akira Takarada and Kumi Mizuno enjoy two of their finest roles, while Fukuda keeps careful track of all his characters, blending individual sub-plots into a skilful whole. Godzilla is in his loveable protector of the Earth phase here, looked upon with affection by the human heroes. One prefers this particular persona, but even those who balk should find this an entertaining entry. What many recent Godzilla movies lack is compelling characters to carry you through to the monster scenes. Here it hardly matters that Big G only shows up halfway because the story consistently involves.