Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (Nankai No Daiketto, 1966)
Released by Sony Pictures; additional material: trailers for Sony Pictures' DVD releases
Directed by Jun Fukuda
Starring Akira Takarada, Kumi Mizuno, Akihiko Hirata, Jun Tazaki, Chôtarô Tôgin, Hideo Sunazuka, Tôru Ibuki
Sadly for us poor westerners, Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster never received a domestic theatrical release; instead, in 1967, it went straight to television, courtesy of the Walter Reade-Sterling Organization. The original U.S. version begins with footage swiped from later in the film of the titular sea monster (uber lobster Ebirah) destroying a yacht, ostensibly owned by Yata, the brother of our young protagonist Ryôta. However, it’s clearly the same yacht later commandeered by Ryôta (its name, Yahlen, is visible on the hull). The film then cuts to a dance competition, where Ryôta hopes to win a boat so he may go and rescue his lost brother. Missing is the actual opening from the Japanese version, in which the siblings’ mother goes to a medium, who tells her that her son cannot be found in the land of the dead, which motivates Ryôta to embark on his quest. Thankfully, this Sony release offers the full-length Japanese version, in anamorphic widescreen, with a choice of subtitles or English audio. The English dub, however, is the horrendous made-in-Hong-Kong international version rather than the superior Titra version from the original U.S release (which featured Hal Linden, TV's Barney Miller, as the voice of Yoshimura, the bank robber played by Akira Takarada).
The financial hardships that had begun to plague Japanese movie studios in the mid- to late-'60s—which would eventually lead to a near-total collapse of the Japanese film industry—began to reveal themselves in the production of Sea Monster. Rather than the intricately crafted miniature city sets that effects director Eiji Tsuburaya had overseen in earlier films, most of the monster action takes place on the much sparser Letchi Island set. Still, the monster scenes are generally well-directed and include a few superlative moments, such as Godzilla's attack on the base of the Red Bamboo (the military organization, presumably communist, that has enslaved the natives of Infant Island and is secretly building nuclear weapons) and the MIG jet assault on Godzilla.