(director: Ishirô Honda; screenwriters: Yoshie Hotta/Shinichirô Nakamura/Shinichi Sekizawa/Peter Fernandez/Takehiro Fukunaga; cinematographer: Hajime Koizumi; editor: Kazuji Taira; music: Yuji Koseki; cast: Frankie Sakai (Journalist Senichiro ‘Sen-chan’ Fukuda), Hiroshi Koizumi ( Dr. Chujo Nakazo), Jerry Ito (Clark Nelson), Kyoko Kagawa (Photgrapher Michi Hanamura), Yumi Ito (Shobijin (Twin Fairy)), Emi Ito (Shobijin (Twin Fairy)), Takashi Shimura (News Editor), Akihiro Tayama (Shiro Nakazo); Runtime: 87; Columbia Pictures; 1961-Jap)
“A goofy monster film done with sensitivity.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A goofy monster film done with sensitivity, as directed by Ishirô Honda. The version I saw was dubbed in English and was richly photographed in color. Mothra was the third monster in the Toho Studios’ giant-monster family after Godzilla and Rodan, and the first female beast in the series. The Mothra is a giant larva worshiped by island tribesmen and guarded by twin sisters (Emi and Yumi Ito) who stand only about a foot high. Eventually, the larva metamorphoses into a giant female moth and attacks Tokyo while on a rescue mission.
During a typhoon a vessel gets grounded at a nuclear testing site. A search party rescues four survivors on what was thought to be a deserted Polynesian island. Instead the survivors are told that there are natives that gave them plant juice to drink which prevented them from being contaminated by radiation.
A research scientific expedition organized by the government of Rolithica, who carried out the nuclear test, is led by a mysterious non-scientist showman, Nelson (Jerry Ito). He is an ex-Rolithican, who still maintains a farm residence there. A tenacious reporter Tsinchan Okuda (Frankie Sakai) and an aggressive photographer Michi Hanamura (Kyoko Kagawa) interview Dr Chujo Nakazo (Hiroshi Koizumi), an ethnologist and linguist, who is part of the expedition.
Since the reporters are not allowed on the expedition, Tsinchan decides to stow away and get the story no matter what. When Chujo and the other scientists are told by Nelson that all discoveries must be given to him, they rebel as they sense that Nelson might have a different purpose than they do. The island they explore is lush and fertile, full of exotic plants. Exploring on his own, Chujo is attacked by a huge vampire plant. He is rescued by two tiny twin girls (Yumi Ito, Emi Ito). When the rest of the party hears this, they locate the girls. One of Nelson’s men captures the twins against the wishes of the scientists, but is forced to release them when they are surrounded by the natives. But Nelson later returns and kidnaps the girls and brings them to Tokyo to perform in his show.
When the captives sing a huge egg on the island hatches and Mothra, a gigantic caterpillar, heads towards Tokyo, breaking the huge radio tower in half. She is fueled on by telepathy to rescue the twins, and thereby resumes her mission despite the government’s efforts to eliminate it with atomic weapons. Since Tokyo is subject to mass destruction and Mothra won’t stop until the girls are returned to the island, the authorities try to get the evil Nelson and his henchmen to release them. But he refuses and a chase ensues to catch him. But Chujo and the newspaper people come up with a plan for Mothra to take the twins back unharmed. They use the religious symbols Chujo found in an island cave to lure Mothra to a spot where she can get the girls.
The film’s political message is an anti-nuclear one. It points out that even with the best of intentions, there is an inherent danger from such tests. In real life the twins were popular singers in Japan, known as the Peanuts.
It’s too bad that the poor quality of the dubbing makes the actors look ridiculous. As for the special effects, they were only adequate and not dazzling. But it’s the strange quality of the film and the heart-warming, good-natured singing twins, that make the bizarre story such a special treat.
REVIEWED ON 5/14/2002 GRADE: B