Mothra (1961)

Note: This review is for the Japanese version of Mothra and not the U.S. version.  Both are included on the DVD, but the Japanese version is the one you want to watch. 

A huge storm rolls in and shipwrecks the survivors of a merchant vessel on Infant Island.  Later they are rescued, but the authorities are shocked to find them in excellent health.  The Island was supposed to be irradiated by atom bomb tests and uninhabitable from the radiation.  When they tell them that the locals helped saved them an expedition is launched to investigate what is happening on the island.  They find an island filled with strange creatures like vines that try to eat them and a couple of foot tall singing women!  After a nefarious member of the group named Clark Nelson returns and kidnaps the height challenged women the natives of the island summon the mighty Mothra to return them home.  Destroying everything in it’s path Mothra soon has everyone ready to return the women, except that is for Nelson who has run off with them. 

This is one of my favorite Kaiju (think foam rubber monsters smashing up models) movies from the 50s and 60s.  The story is entertaining and paced better than many of the inferior giant monster movies from Japan.  You have a great villain like Nelson, who is willing to slap around and shoot anyone that gets in his way.  Mothra also adds that kid brother character to the mix, so they can basically put him in danger when he tries to free the diminutive pair of women from Nelson’s possession.  This is also the first time I can remember the monster not only living, but having a reason to go on it’s city smashing rampage.  Mothra is kind of a sympathetic character by the end of the film, in spite of smashing things up so much.  This is the kind of template that a lot of the later Kaiju movies follow when Godzilla suddenly shows up, not to destroy Tokyo but save Japan from all sorts of bad monsters.  Heck there is even a baby Godzilla later in the series!  I really dig those cheesy movies and because of that I really enjoyed Mothra.

The special effects are damn good.  I mean it is a big rubber bug flying around destroying cardboard buildings and plastic tanks/cars etc.  But for those kinds of effects this movie is top notch.  The creature design on Mothra is killer, especially after it has come out of the cocoon and is in full “bug” mode.  Mothra has always been one of my favorite creatures as far as it’s look goes.  Now of course the creatures design and special effects are going to annoy you if you don’t like Kaiju movies.  But if that is the case then Mothra isn’t the movie for you anyways.  So then why watch it? 

I guess for me the bottom line here is that if you are a fan of Toho studios, or of Kaiju movies like Godzilla you need to go out and pick up the Icons of Sci-Fi Toho Collection that Sony just put out.  Mothra is a must for everyone’s collection and it has never looked better than it does here.

3 out of 4

reviewed by John Shatzer

© Copyright 2009 John Shatzer