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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Review: MOTHRA (1961)

We’re still watching movies from the big list in our Kaiju Movie Challenge.

Number seven is up: Mothra (1961).

My ten-year-old son, James, gives his thoughts now:
Well… i used to not like the song the little girls sang, and 1/3 of the movie they were dolls. 
And i couldn’t believe they were trying to save the girls even though they said that Mothra will destroy everything!! 
And now, the stages of strong! larva=2/3 moth=3/3. they both tied in travel. but in fighting skills, larva=1/3 moth =3/3, AND THE WINNER IS…..the larva…just kidding, it’s THE MOTH STAGE!!! 
and for movie ratings 2.7 atomic breaths of awesomeness!!!!
Now mine:
This is the first time we’ve watched these movies in true chronological order. Typically, we’d go through all the Godzilla films and then the Gamera and other kaiju movies. Seeing them in order, I can see the significance of Mothra
It’s a harbinger of the crap to come. 
I’m kidding.
First off, this film’s plot is reused a couple of times more in Toho’s catalogue. Natives on an island, bad guys want to capitalize on the natives/island/monster, monster attacks. 
Next up, kids. Yes, the kid in this movie is (comparatively) innocuous, but there’s more of them to come. Oh, brother. 
Lastly, the hero kaiju. The giant monster that does some destruction but ends up saving humanity one way or another. 
The first point is just because of an unimaginative screenwriter. The next two, though, are bad. By increasing the franchise’s visibility among children and making the titular kaiju into good guys, the beasts and the movies both are often defanged. That’s my memory of what comes later. We’ll see if it’s substantiated.  Regardless, I won't hold what's to come against this movie.
Beyond that, Mothra suffers a couple of other demerits. One is Frankie Sakai. Just a goofball. Difficult to endure. The second is the dubbing. If you’re watching the English version, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Nearly every single Asian actor in this movie is given a voice simply dripping with soy sauce and rice. The stereotyping is so bad, they even ‘R’ up some of the ‘L’s. Painful. 
All of that being said … it’s a good film. The story is decent, despite the odd Islamic America-Russia nation invented for the plot. Mothra looks good (both in larvae and moth mode). Tokyo Tower gets destroyed for the first time since this was the first kaiju film made after its completion. 
One funny note. If this had been featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in the day, I found the perfect ‘stinger’ (the funny clip from the film played at the end of most episodes). In a Rolisican diner near the end, a middle-aged woman tugs on the arm of her father, saying, “Come on, Dad.” The old man gets up with some effort and grunts hilariously. ”Unnngggghh!”
(Side bar: when they shoot weapons in this movie, the muzzle flash is red … what did they use to do that? I’ve seen it in a bunch of Japanese films.) 
Mothra … a solid film despite what will follow. 3.5 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here’s the trailer for the English version:

Up next, the British try to get in on the fun: Gorgo.

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