“A Landmark Film Showcasing Toho’s ability to present captivating tales with unique special effects and fantastical story elements. A True Classic.”
One of Toho’s classic endeavors, Mothra is arguably Toho’s most well known creation outside of Godzilla. The classic Kaiju got her start independetly from the Big G’s franchise, Much like Rodan the decade before, with this debut film in 1961. She would be assimilated into Toho’s main franchise three years later with Mothra vs Godzilla in 1964.
Mothra was released in the states a year after its initial release in 1962, with only ten minutes of footage missing. The film was double billed with a Three Stooges outing, and received a good deal of attention. The New York Times ran a review of the popular film, with critic A.H. Weiler praising the film’s effects and imagery:
“There’s that color, as pretty as can be, that now and then smites the eye with some genuinely artistic panoramas and décor designs…. Fantastic though the plot may be, there are some genuinely penetrating moments, such as the contrast of the approaching terror and those patient, silvery-voiced little ‘dolls,’ serenely awaiting rescue. Several of the special effects shots are brilliant, such as the sight of a giant cocoon nestling against a large city’s power station tower.”
Toho’s new Queen of Kaiju was a unique and fantastical giant moth with a budding personality – all brought to life through a much more vibrant and fantasy-based sense of storytelling. With this film, classic Toho director Ishiro Honda took a broad step away from the horrific undertones of his previous Daikaiju efforts such as Gojira and Rodan. Mothra ushered in a new type of film for Toho – one full of bright colors, hopeful imagery, and a monster that was an ancient guardian of the Earth rather than a folly of man’s ignorance.
The ignorance of humankind, however, does play a large part in the storyline (with the ‘evil men’ kidnapping the Shobijin and so forth) – a storyline that would prove so captivating and successful that Toho and screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa would recycle it for their two most successful films ever, King Kong vs Godzilla and Mothra vs Godzilla.
Yet American audiences weren’t accustomed to such monster films. When Mothra was initially released in the states, marketing teams chose to push the film as another run of the mill Japanese monster flick, depicting Mothra as a bloodthirsty giant insect in some of the most recognizable posters and lobby cards from American pop culture.
A Landmark Film Showcasing Toho’s ability to present captivating tales with unique special effects and fantastical story elements, Mothra was undoubtedly a success of its time, and has become a true classic of the genre.
– Jon @ UnCanny
Mothra shows that not all kaiju have to be evil. Granted, Mothra does a fair share of damage, but the monster was a hero- long before Godzilla became the defender of Japan.
After shipwreck survivors are rescued from an irradiated island, it’s learned that the island is inhabited. An expedition led by Nelson goes to the island, with reporter Zenichiro Fukuda stowing away to get the story. While exploring the island, they find two small girls, the Shobjin. Nelson kidnaps them puts them in a show. The Shobjin’s singing calls on Mothra, who comes to their aid. Nelson flees with the girls as Mothra forms a cocoon. An atomic heat ray fails to destroy the cocoon, and Mothra emerges to continue the search for the Shobjin. The police kill Nelson, and the Shobjin are reunited with Mothra on a runway marked with Mothra’s symbol.
The characters in this movie are a mixed bag. Nelson is an excellent villian, callous and greedy. The reporter, Fukuda, makes an interesting lead. He seems more the comic relief type character than a leading man, but his combination of comic skill and strength make for a pleasing performance. The show is stolen by the Shobjin, though. Emi and Yumi Ito, as the Shobjin, have both pathos and charm. Their lovely voices are a highlight in this film.
Mothra is portrayed well, too. The caterpillar is rather homely, but moves convincingly. The adult is a beautiful kaiju. The destruction scenes are as different as the monster’s stages. The caterpillar is a giant bulldozer, smashing anything in its path. The adult generates hurricane force winds, sending cars flying into windows and uprooting trees.
It’s a fun movie with more mystical tones than sci-fi, but Mothra is an entertaining film.