“Beware the mushroom people!”
- Akira Kubo as Professor Kenji Murai
- Kumi Mizuno as Mami Sekiguchi
- Kenji Sahara as Senzō Koyama
- Hiroshi Tachikawa as Etsurō Yoshida
- Yoshio Tsuchiya as Masafumi Kasai
- Hiroshi Koizumi as Naoyuki Sakuda
- Miki Yashiro as Akiko Sōma
- Directed by Ishiro Honda
If you are unfamiliar with this film, boy – are you in for a treat! Matango is a classic science fiction film from TOHO studios, one that has stood the test of time much more-so than most of it’s era. The lead actors, specifically the legendary Kumi Mizuno, are all pitch-perfect in their roles, and the special effects are so funky it’s hard to look away.
The film begins with a man traveling to visit university professor Kenji (Akira Kubo) who is being held in the psychiatric ward of a hospital. The professor tells the strange man that while what happens to him sounds crazy – he 100% believes it – and that he is not insane after all.
The main characters all set out on a Japanese yacht for a day trip, eventually encountering a nasty storm that capsizes the boat. What follows is a garish island tale of zombie-like origins. Once the crew runs out of food, they begin consuming local mushrooms; desperate times call for desperate measures. Slowly, certain individuals begin exhibiting horrid symptoms – eventually turning into full-blown Mushroom people!
The special effects are ahead of their time, but remain just campy enough to give this film every ounce of glorious old-school-fun you expect from a Toho film. Japan at the time of the film’s release, however, was not a fan. The film was almost banned for its makeup fx so heavily resembling the scarring of Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s bombing victims. Aside from the fx, the score is a particular standout, written with a tense edge by the masterful Sadao Bekku. The cinematography by Hajime Koizumi also lends much to the production; his vision helping elevate the flic above other humanoid monster flics of the era.
Sold yet? If you love kaiju eiga or tokusatsu in general, you will love this film. Sure, it is not giant-scale, but the entire package is so unique you’re guaranteed to fall in love as a fan of the genre. If for nothing else, watch for Kumi Mizuno’s siren-like performance as Mami Sekiguchi. She’ll steal your heart – then your mind!
– Jon D. B.