Film reviews

Mothra (1961) – Blu-ray Review

Mothra oh Mothra
If we were to call for help
Over time, over sea, like a wave
You’d come
Our guardian angel

So sing the twin fairies, the conduit between the human world and monsters, the victims of this particular kaiju movie. Mothra, directed by the Kaiju Maestro himself Ishiro Honda, is the first appearance of everybody’s favourite giant flying lepidoptera. Mothra has gone on to appear in over a dozen films, but this was her first appearance and it has to be said that the plot shares more than a few story beats with another monster movie you might have heard of – King Kong.

READ MORE: King of New York (1990) – Blu-ray Review

The story centres around the supposedly uninhabited Infant Island, scene of atomic tests carried out by a superpower known as the “Rosilicans”, a thinly veiled reference to America. When a survey is dispatched to the island to find out just what’s going on, they find a strange land of mutated plants and tiny twin fairy women called “Shobijin”. Echoing the actions of Carl Denham in Kong, the unscrupulous Rolisican businessman Clark Nelson decides that the tiny women are a potential moneymaker so he returns to the island with a group of his henchmen, killing the natives and kidnapping the girls, forcing them to perform in the “Secret Fairies Show”, leaving him free to rake in the profits while he ignores the demands of journalist Zenichiro Fukuda and photographer Michi Hanamura to let the girls return to their island.

But what he doesn’t know is that their song is calling out to their guardian, the kaiju known as Mothra, who hatches from her egg and makes her way across the ocean to rescue them, smashing over and through anything that gets in her way. Will Nelson be persuaded to give the girls up before Mothra wreaks destruction on the mainland? Well, probably not or this would be kind of a boring monster movie! After all, the destruction is what we’ve all come to see.

Confession time – Mothra is not my favourite kaiju. She’s not in my top ten kaiju. No offence to her, but she’s, well, a giant moth. She’s hardly a three-headed space dragon, a giant monster with a saw blade in his chest, or even a rocket powered, fire-breathing turtle. She’s similar to Rodan in that she’s a flying type, and both use their wings to create devastation below them.

The main difference between Mothra and the rest of the kaiju is that she almost always acts only to protect her worshippers rather than being a random force of chaos like Godzilla. Here she only really gets to show off her stuff in the latter half of the film when she finally emerges from her cocoon in her FINAL FORM. Luckily it’s worth the wait as she demonstrates just why you don’t mess with her as she methodically renders the Rosilican capital city into a pile of rubble while the humans ineffectually fire everything they have at her with about as much effect as pinging pebbles off a brick wall.

The transfer from Eureka is their usual sterling work. Everything looks crisp and clean, the colours vibrant without feeling over-saturated. There’s the slight downsides in that the model soldiers in the tanks are now REALLY obviously models, and you can clearly see the strings holding Mothra up, but that’s the price you pay for everything else looking so good.

     
     
     
     

In terms of special features there’s a decent amount for folks wanting more to get their teeth into. Authors and Japanese sci-fi historians Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewskiand offer their insights, as does film historian and writer David Kalat. There’s also an interview with author/critic Kim Newman, which is basically fifteen minutes of him fanboying all over Mothra which is a delight to watch. The phsyical release also includes a poster, and a limited edition booklet with essays from production designers and cinema experts.

READ MORE: Ishiro Honda Double Feature: The H-Man & Battle in Outer Space – Blu-ray Review

Mothra is simply a delight to watch. A proper old school, slightly comedic, heartfelt monster movie that was the first to show the kaiju as more than just rampaging beasts hellbent on destruction. The true villain of this piece is human greed, and Mothra is simply a response to that. Any self-respecting kaiju fan should own this, the first ever appearance of Godzilla’s sometime enemy/sometime ally. Another great release from Eureka and one that’s well worth purchasing.

Mothra is out now on Blu-ray from Eureka Entertainment as part of their Masters of Cinema range.

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