Mothra (1961)

Mothra. Mothra is a moth. A giant moth. I've actually seen a Mothra movie once. I might actually be this movie, because I don't remember Godzilla being in it, and there were two twin pixies or something, and the description for this movie describes that. So we'll see. I'll be honest, I might be least excited for Mothra in this movie, and in King of the Monsters (out later this year), because he/she seems least destructive and awesome. I'm sure it can do some pretty cool things, and those things will work really well in the movies (that shot from trailer one of Mothra opening it's wings in the rain/waterfall is beautiful), but I'm here for giant monsters leveling cities, and we're probably not in for all that here, with Mothra.

This shot.

This shot.

Mothra came out in 1961, which was five years after Rodan. Like Rodan, it too, was not intended to be in the Godzillaverse, but was later absorbed in. Like Rodan I am not suspecting anyone will refer to the big G, but we may be surprised, who knows? (Next time, we'll wrap up this non-Godzilla trilogy with 1933's King Kong, where we get to talk about racism!) Also like Rodan as well as the original Godzilla, Mothra is directed by Ishirō Honda. I liked how he handled Rodan's flying scenes, so maybe he'll do a good job with these flying scenes. Why don't we find out...

The Recap

Columbia Pictures? What the hell? That's not Toho at all. Toho released every other movie we've talked about, so what gives? A quick search reveals that Columbia released an English dubbed version in 1962, so it seems that's what I'm watching. A brief tangent: All the other movies have been available to stream on Starz (thank you, Starz), but this one was not on there, so I had to rent it from YouTube (thank you, YouTube). I guess they have the American version. But hey! That's fine. It'll be nice to not have to read subtitles (I do not yet speak Japanese). Anyway, we're off to a bad start here, because we're already at the end of the first paragraph and we're not even past the first shot yet, so let's get cracking.

Uh oh! There's a typhoon! And a ship is caught out in the center of it. Someone on board points out that they are right over the atomic test area, because Kaiju movies use nuclear testing the way moths use lamps. The ship crashes, forcing the crew to abandon ship. They are later found on a nearby island, to much media frenzy, as relayed to us through a helpfully un-subtitled sign.

This helpfully un-subtitled sign.

This helpfully un-subtitled sign.

he four men are brought back and examined by scientists. They seem to be okay. Two journalists sneak into the lab and the plot of this movie. The director of the lab allows them to interview the survivors, because of their... Ingenuity? It seems like bad practice to reward such shady means of chasing a story, but I like these guys, so it's okay! There's a photographer named Michi, and a journalist named Zen-Chan, or maybe Sen-Chan. The subtitles tell me one thing, Wikipedia another. Zen-Chan puts the survivors to the question, and learns that they survived the radiation on the island by drinking a strange juice the natives of the island gave them. The reporter takes his findings back to the newsroom and YAMANE'S BACK, BABY!

This Yamane’s back baby.

This Yamane’s back baby.

Actually, no he isn't, but Takashi Shimura, who played Dr. Yamane in Godzilla and Godzilla Raids Again (briefly), plays a character that Wikipedia lists as "News Editor", so I'm assuming he doesn't have a huge role in this film. He also doesn't have a mustache, so I've lost interest already. Good seeing you again, though, Mr. Shimura.

Apparently, no one knew there was anyone living on the island when they did their tests, though they claim they analyzed it first. When did these people get there? Were they there the whole time? How did they survive the radiation? What the hell? These are just a few of the questions that will be asked of the natives when an expedition is launched, but not yet. Gotta pace the movie out, you know? Also, a brief note is that this movie moves lightning fast. It's just scene after scene of plot, and nothing is slow. I love it, compared to the leisurely pace of the other movies, but it makes writing this recap a bit more challenging. Onward.

Not-Yamane, and the reporter, Zen-Chan, discuss an authority on the island, a Dr. Chujo, and an interview is set up. Michi, the photographer, was sent to get a picture, and she returns with, well, a picture.

This picture.

This picture.

He's not referencing The Grinch, here. Turns out the good doctor doesn't like being photographed. They go to the dude's house, and he's still hiding his face behind newspapers. What the hell? Is this a Dr. Claw situation? No, it isn't, because after Michi puts the camera away, we see his face, and he's... wait, what? A incredibly attractive man? Damn, this dude's hot, I was not expecting that at all. After a weird bit about a pet mouse, our newly assembled team of main characters sit down to talk about the expedition to the island. Chujos's going, and they discuss how every continent was once connected before separating. Michi, for some reason, is being all "flat-earther" about this, and doesn't believe it. This is never brought up again. Also, the press won't be allowed to go on the mission, which annoys reports Michi and Zen-Chan, who wonder if mission leader Nelson is up to something (he definitely is).

The mission ship takes off to the island, and on-board, Chujo and another scientist, Dr. Harada also voice their concerns about Nelson. He wants all data collected to be cleared through him. Strange, as Nelson is not a scientist. Maybe they should talk to reporter Zen-Chan. Too bad they can't because he's not on the -- OH WAIT, look who sneaked (it really should be snuck) on-board. It's my boy Zen-Chan, who accidentally ended up in Nelson's room. Nelson (shockingly) acts super shady when he catches the journalist, aiming a gun on him and smiling like a straight up villain. But Zen-Chan is saved by Chujo, so it all works out. Anyway, he's allowed to stay as long as he does no journalism/reporting.

The crew of the ship are given protective equipment, which includes a button that emits a signal to warn the others of danger nearby, and with that, the mission begins. The first thing they discover is that the island, rocky and barren on first glance, actually contains a giant forest terrain. They also find a cave, containing giant plants, which the scientists speculate must have produced the juice the survivor drank. Meanwhile, Chujo gets split off from the group, and decides to pull the Chekov's Gun early, when he gets tangled in some plant tentacles and pushes his emergency button. The others find him, injured, and bring him back to the ship. When he comes to, he tells them that he must have been saved by two girls he saw. They were fully grown women, but were only a foot high. Bizarre!

The next morning they go back to the scene of the crime, where the girls, still are for some reason? I guess they can't move very far with those tiny little legs. They apparently want their island left alone, and, preferably, unused for atomic testing. In response, Nelson decides to take the two women. That's not cool, Nelson. That's when the natives come to play. They are normal sized, and Nelson gives up the girls, causing the natives to retreat. Seems they are pretty protective of the girls.

Back home on the mainland, Zen-Chan and Chujo compare notes. There are these weird symbols they found on the island, the subject of which seems to be something called "Mothra". I wonder what that could be? Nelson, meanwhile, decides he hasn't been enough of a dick, so he sneakily takes a team back to the island and snatches those girls, shooting down the natives when they approach. I hate that guy. One of the islanders, wounded, approaches a shrine with some more of those strange writings, and calls out to "Mothra". A section of the wall crumbles away, revealing a Rodan-esque giant egg.

This giant egg.

This giant egg.

Apparently, word of the kidnapping gets back to the mainland, because Zen-Chan and Not-Yamane talk about it. Then, we see that Nelson has set up a kind of circus featuring the girls. All the main characters go see it, and we learn that Nelson himself funded the expedition to the island. Dude's freakin' shady, man. Anyway, the show starts, and I have a lot of questions. It's called "The Secret Faery Show", which is not a secret, and they seem to have set up a whole song and dance number with the girls. They're singing about “Mosura”, which is the word for Mothra, which means this song is probably theirs, and the dance I guess goes with it? Also, they must have performed it in front of Nelson so that all the backup dancers could learn their parts? And they ALSO must have made these tiny little costumes for the girls? And they ALSO ALSO must have done this all in a pretty short amount of time? It's unclear.

On the island, the natives hear this tune and decide to dance along. The main characters go to Nelson's office to tell him to stop being such a prick, so he permits them to see the girls. They go in (without Nelson, for some reason) and learn that the girls can communicate with them, not by speaking (though they are speaking), but by understanding the thoughts of those they're talking to, and making the others understand them. I was going to say it's a bit like telepathy, but Chujo got to it first. You go Chujo, you handsome, intelligent man, you. Anyway, the girls offer a warning to our heroes, that Mothra is going to come for them, and bring the girls to the island. They are sad, though, because this will probably result in the deaths of the humans. Back on the island, the ritual results in the egg hatching, and a giant, gross larva creature emerges! Gross!

Nelson visits the newspaper, threatening to sue, and it's at that moment that they receive word of some giant creature swimming toward them. Damn, this movie moves fast, which is probably why this review is so long. Zen-Chan tells Not-Yamane (I'd like to stress that this character doesn't have a name) that the thing is Mothra, although right now it should be called Wormra, amiright? Anyway, the creature, out at sea, destroys a boat. She's HUGE! I know Mothra's a Kaiju, but hatching from the egg, she just seemed big. Up against the boat, her true size is shown.

This true size.

This true size.

When news of the boat attack reaches Zen-Chan and Chujo, they publicly demand Nelson return the girls. He refuses, so they take matters into their own hands by sneaking into Nelson's office (fighting past some guards to do so), and ask the girls to stop Mothra. Sadly, they cannot. But, the scientists of Tokyo do construct a box to block the girls' psychic connection to Mothra. While that's going on, the Rolisican government decides to attack Mothra at sea, dropping bombs on it.

At this point, I'd like to make a point about Rolisica. The movie keeps referencing the Rolisican government, and I haven't mentioned them in this recap. That's because I'd actually never heard of Rolisica until this movie, and as it turns out, nobody has! It's fictional. I looked it up, it's apparently supposed to be an amalgamation of Russia and America. So that's rude, but not altogether inaccurate. It seems they didn't want to cause controversy by having either country be the mean, send explosions-type force, so they made one up. So that's Rolisica. It's only ever used in this movie, and it never comes up again, according to Gojipedia.

Mothra, not dead, turns up just outside the city, causing a dam to break open. There's a flood, a bridge collapses, and Zen-Chan saves a baby that was accidentally left on it. It's a whole sequence. Back in Nelson's compound, Chujo's younger brother Shinji for some reason takes it upon himself to sneak into Nelson's office, and offers to take the faerie girls back to his home. He's immediately captured by Nelson's men. Good try. Back in things that matter, the army decides to stop backing Nelson (no reason for this is given), and they demand he release the girls. Too bad he and his men packed up and left, taking the girls with them. Chujo discovers this when he, too, breaks into the compound, and finds his brother tied up, but unharmed. So that's resolved. Why was he in this movie? He's like a little kid! Chujo is an adult man, (a sexy adult man), and his brother is, like, 12? What the hell, movie? Why do you keep doing these weird things?

Sorry, just had to get that out. Mothra has made land, and this movie gets back to it's Godzilla roots when the worm starts crawling through the city, leveling buildings and getting uselessly shot at by missiles and tanks and choppers. Were they called choppers back then? Probably. Nelson is trying to escape, but gets caught in traffic. Evacuation traffic! As they make a plan, Mothra make her way to Tokyo Tower, a radio tower, and then she starts to climb it and it breaks. She falls onto her back. It's funny, but I don't know if it's supposed to be, because I can't tell if she was trying to break it, or just trying to climb it. In any event, in the ruins of the tower, Mothra, who I'd like to stress is still not a moth, begins to make a cocoon out of webbing, accidentally shooting down a helicopter as she does. The military decides to use this opportunity to find Nelson, who's in disguise, leaving by plan. Codename: George Walker. Sinister, Nelson. Sinister.

This sinister.

This sinister.

His plan isn't super solid though, as Michi is able to immediately guess that he's on one jet leaving for Rolisica today, so he's probably on that. Speaking of Rolisica, they decide to send two "Atomic Heat Gun" to Tokyo, with which to blast the big cocoon. They arrive the next morning, by which time, Mothra is completely encased. There's this neat detail about them firing the guns and announcing when they're gonna do it. There's even a count-down. That was cool, as opposed to them just firing immediately. They open fire, and the cocoon just erupts in flames. Across the sea (I'm assuming, I don't know where Rolisica is supposed to be, but Japan is an island), Nelson hears of this attack, and celebrates, believing the beast to be dead. The girls, on the other hand, do not believe, and keep singing.

Mothra also doesn't give up hope, and the cocoon hatches! Finally, an hour and 10 minutes into the movie, Mothra, as a true moth, emerges. She's pretty neat, actually. She immediately takes off (I thought newly emerged moths/butterflies had to rest for a while after hatching?), and takes off for Rolisica. So do the main characters, in search of Nelson, who has an APB out for him. On the road, a huge crowd find him and gathers round his car, calling for him to come out. This gives him flashbacks to the natives of the island, so naturally, he pulls out a gun and gets out of the car! The police show up, Nelson shoots one of them (!!!), steals an old mans cane for some reason, and then gets shot down by the cops! Holy Shit! What an insane way to wrap up the Nelson story line, movie! He deserved it though.

The girls are found as the main characters show up, as does Mothra, who's straight up Rodan-ing all over the city. It seems she, also, is large enough to send cars flying with a flap of her wings. She even knocks down a building, but I'm not sure if she ran into it, or if it was the force of her wings. Apparently, thousands of people die in this flight! That's a ton of people! On the ground, a nearby church looks and sounds like the symbols from the cave, and the girls singing, so Chujo develops a plan, and this all seems like a bit of a stretch, movie, but okay, what do you have for us?

It's actually not too bad a plan. He asks the military to paint the symbol giant on a nearby airport landing area, and have all the church bells rung at exactly 3 o'clock. This all goes down without a hitch, though Mothra does destroy some more buildings. It seems she also has, just, crazy powerful wings. Neat. She also tips over some boats proving that it's not only loose lips that sinks ships. Uh, is this thing on?

Anyway, the rest of the movie happens flawlessly. Mothra lands as Chujo releases the girls. They thank our heroes for all they've done, and walk over to the great moth (it takes a while). I guess they climb onto her antenna, it's impossible to see at that scale, and Mothra flies off, back to her island. It's only long after she's gone that Michi realizes she forgot to take any pictures.

The Review

THIS MOVIE HAD EXACTLY ZERO (0) DINOSAUR PICTURES IN IT, SO I GIVE IT A 10/10. Actually, it was pretty good. I don't know if I was just happy seeing a movie in color, and in English, and in glorious HD (probably due to YouTube) but I was actually pretty impressed with it, especially as down on Mothra as I was at the top of this article. I'm still not crazy about the creature, but we'll get to that.

It was good! I thought Nelson was an interesting villain even if his ending was completely out of left field. The reporters were funny and likable. Chujo, who ended up being the main character was a little one-dimensional, but he was damn sexy so it's okay. It was also pretty weird. There was a lot of stuff that happened without any explanation, like why the military was so back and forth with Nelson. Or why Shinji was in the movie at all. Or where the island people came from. I wonder if I watched a version with some stuff cut out. It's hard to say. It also reminded me a little of the King Kong story, which is fitting for next week. Group of people, including the good guy and bad guy, goes to a strange place, where the villain finds an unusual thing, takes it back to the mainland for profit, and experiences terrible consequences. Tale as old as, well, at least 1933.

As for the monster, I think I agree with my statement about Mothra being (so far) the lease interesting of the monsters. She did all the same stuff Rodan did, but slower. Crushing buildings and flinging cars with just her wings, that was cool and all, but we've already seen it. Speaking of which, I thought Mothra was supposed to be a good guy. She was, obviously, but she killed a lot of people! Thousands of them! Just to get to the fairy girls! What the hell? They didn't deserve that. Anyway, she didn't really do anything. Her presence just scared the people into giving up Nelson so the fairy girls could go with Mothra. That's not exactly god-like power or anything. I mean, no offense, but in a fight against Rodan, what's Mothra gonna do? Maybe she can do something else that I'm not yet aware of, and that will change my mind. It's possible. Plus, she spend most of the movie as either an egg or a larva. It's just so weird.

I've definitely never seen this movie, by the way. I've seen a Mothra movie, but it wasn't this, I'd remember. I can't say a single thing that might have happened in it, but it did have the girls in it. It'll be interesting to see how that evolves over time. I'm sure the girls are not in the new movie. We'll see.

So that's Mothra. I really liked it, it may be one of my favorites that we've seen, even if Mothra was a bit underwhelming. I'm excited to see how she fares against Godzilla in the future. Also, she's probably the first monster to survive the movie she was introduced in. Godzilla, Anguirus, and Rodan all died in their maiden voyage (Spoilers for King Kong, I know how that ends). So that's an interesting note, but it probably doesn't mean anything. And that's it. Join us next time when we travel to Skull Island (is it Skull Island in the next movie? I don't know) and meet the mighty Kong, in... King Kong! Bye, everybody!