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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Mothra (1961)


Starring: Frankie Sakai, Hiroshi Koizumi, Kyōko Kagawa and The Peanuts
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £29.99


Certificate: PG
Release Date: 16 November 2020

A major storm in Japanese waters causes a ship to run aground as they send a Mayday. Rescue teams search for bodies, but discover four survivors on an island which had been a testing site for atomic bombs and is considered a dangerous radioactive hazard. The survivors are tested and found to be completely healthy, apparently tended by unknown natives. A private expedition is arranged to return to the island. Here, they find two minute fairy-like women, but are warned away by the natives. The expedition returns with the agreement to mention nothing of the ‘Tiny Beauties’; however, the unscrupulous Mr Nelson captures them and returns to Tokyo to announce his money-making show. A reporter who had helped to keep the story quiet sneaks into the show to attempt to help the islanders. The ‘Tiny Beauties’ sing and dance in the show, but they are strong telepaths and in reality sending a distress signal asking Mothra for help. On the island, the natives perform their own ritual dance in front of a gigantic egg, which begins to hatch. Mothra emerges and is soon making its way across the sea towards Tokyo, and allowing nothing to stand in its way or block progress – including a ship and a fleet of bombers. It causes destruction in the city, before being cornered at Tokyo Tower. Here, it cocoons itself and is thought dead by the populace after Atomic Heat Canons are used. However, the now more powerful winged Mothra emerges. Can the journalist save the ‘Tiny Beauties’ known as Shobijin, catch the perpetrator and save Tokyo before the city is totally destroyed...?

I am a big fan of 1950s and 1960s Monster B-Movies. This Japanese Creature Feature emerged in 1961 to acclaim which has steadily grown over the years to cult status and inevitable sequels. You would expect it to be good considering it was directed by Ishiro Honda who made The Mysterians and the original Godzilla – and in fact, it’s better than good, it’s a classic of the genre. Honda’s movies are well known for his model work, but if anything he excels himself in the dramatic destruction elements. The disturbance caused by Mothra’s beating wings not only causes cars and even tanks to be blasted down the streets like the toys they are, but actually causes vibrations which break-up the buildings and then cause them to fall onto everything else. The set pieces are quite stunning for their time: the scenes at sea, the breaking-up of the dam, the streets of Tokyo, and the destruction at Rolisica (effectively a fictitious stand-in for America and Russia) are all very impressive. Only the tanks are a little bit jerky in their movements.

However, this film is not simply about scenes of disaster. It has a certain psychedelia about it, which is highlighted by the fact it’s in colour. On the island, in particular, there are vivid colours and a nice choreography of distance shots showing the dancing tribal coordination of the natives. There is a nice structure to the movie, which incorporates many more aspects than a simple monster fest. I have to say that the Mothra song sticks in your head for some time after the experience. The song brings the beast, but it is a protector rather than a destructor. So Mothra has a theme which makes you root for it even more. The ritual singing and dancing makes at least a part of this movie a musical – strange as that seems. I have seen this film several times over the years, the last time being as part of the excellent Killer B’ Movie collection. Each successive viewing seems to improve my opinion of it. This Eureka Entertainment release as part of their Masters of Cinema collection is Mothra’s first outing on Blu-ray. There is a Limited Edition set of only 4000 copies in a Hardbound Case, with a 60-Page Perfect Bound Collector’s Book, and Reversible Poster showing the Japanese or US artwork.

You have the choice of viewing the Japanese Version with English Subtitles (yes) or the shorter English Dubbed Version (no). There is an Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Writer David Kalat; an Audio Commentary with Authors and Japanese Sci-Fi Historians Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski; the entertaining Kim Newman on Mothra – an Interview with the Film Critic and Author; and Stills Galleries. A thoroughly entertaining film. Buy it.


Ty Power

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