Monster Mania

Welcome to the Monster Mania, where we'll review the exploits of some of the world's best-known monster movies.

W A R N I N G !

This review does not represent the opinions of the general public. It reflects my personal thoughts and opinions on the movie.

That said, on to the review!

Now Showing: Mothra
Broadcast Dates: 1961 (1962 U.S. release)
Format: Cinematic, video cassette

When crews pick up shipwreck survivors on an island used for atomic testing, no one is prepared for the story they have: that the island is inhabited! An exploratory team immediately leaves for the island...including a shady entrepreneur named Clark Nelson. After gathering soil samples and the like, and after having a not-so-friendly run-in with the natives, the team leaves...but Nelson returns with plans to capture the twin foot-tall fairies regardless of the cost. In retaliation, the telepathic twins call upon the legendary Mothra to rescue them. The question on everybody's mind is: how many innocents will die in the process?

A giant egg hatches, releasing Mothra in her larval form. She immediately heads to Japan and Tokyo, where Nelson is exploiting the fairies. After a battle in the heart of Tokyo and the base of Tokyo Tower, the Japanese army thinks it's won against the huge kaiju. But the battle's only just begun, because Mothra's spun a coccoon around herself, and who knows what kind of creature will emerge?

This movie debut of the cutest of Toho's kaiju is definitely worth watching. The acting--so far as I can tell--is good, and the story is a far cry from those told in Godzilla, King of the Monsters, Rodan, and Varan, the Unbelievable: All right, they all revolve around "giant monster trashes Japanese city" and "scientific testing wakes/releases monster", but this time you have people trying to do the right thing in order to save the world. This sort of thing didn't really appear in the ealier movies (those I've reviewed, anyway). Godzilla and Varan were "fight to survive against untameable forces of nature" sort of things, as was Rodan to an extent. Mothra, on the other hand, is a "fight to survive against monster whose only crime is trying to recover that which was taken from it and which good people are trying to assist in" kind of plot. I know, that probably muddles everything, but it is a "man vs. nature" versus "man vs. man with nature standing by" comparison.

The English dub, naturally, isn't very good or believable, which makes me yearn for the day when American video companies wise up and re-release these movies in subtitled versions. Some of the overlay shots--well, I call them that, there's probably another term for it--were a little too obvious, with the footage of the live actors appearing darker and with a definite blue tinge to it plainly distinguishable from the footage of the scale-model sets. I'm glad modern film-making technology has advanced beyond this stage.

Now about Mothra...she's an all right kind of kaiju, but in this her first movie incarnation, she isn't as attractive as she/he will be in later movies. Her mottled skin and small eyes in her larval stage somehow detract from her cuteness, as do the two barbs by her jaws; I don't remember seeing those barbs on later versions, so I wonder what these were for. The solid light-brown colored versions have slightly larger eyes and are much cuter. Mothra's moth form is much better, but the colors chosen were darker, more earthy colors that fit in well with the natives' coloration, but I think something slightly brighter could have been used, as it was in later movies. Oh, and I had a slight problem with the way Mothra's wings flapped for the long shots: they seemed too much like bird's wings, as you might expect from watching an albatross gliding away with occasional flaps to keep it going. Perhaps I simply haven't watched butterflies and moths in slow motion, but don't they "flutter" instead of glide? Of course, we're talking about a giant moth here and perhaps flapping would be to problematic to manage...

Negative points aside, though, I really love this movie. The comic elements--among others, a camera-shy scientist, an investigative reporter who can't quite pull off undercover work, and a newspaper photographer who carries more cameras than I've ever seen on a person short of a spy--add a lighter tone to a movie about man vs. man's greed. And what's more, you can't help cheering when the bad guys get theirs. You want Mothra to succeed!

Next up, a review of King Kong vs. Godzilla, the next Toho Studios kaiju eiga pitting the radiation-born lizard that demolished Tokyo against the titanic ape that scaled the Empire State Building!

Interested in buying this video? You can! Just follow the link to order the VHS version. You can also visit the Stellar Video Store for other titles.

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