Sunday, July 29, 2012

Matango- Attack Of The Mushroom People (1963)

A group of seven pleasure seekers take a trip on board a sailing yacht to escape the noise and craziness of Tokyo for a while. The group consists of the yacht owner, a writer, a famous singer, a young female student and a sailor and captain. A violent storm threatens to sink the boat  and after a night of trying to weather it the boat is left badly damaged with no sails or rudders and a fried radio. After several days adrift at sea the crew lands on a seemingly deserted island that is lush with mushroom growth. While searching the island for possible inhabitants and food the group sees a small pond that seems to be man made to catch rain water and a beached shipwreck. The group finds the ship tattered and weathered and covered in mold and fungus, with signs of radiation testing. With the ship as their only shelter, and supplying their only source of food in a couple cases of canned goods, the group cleans the fungus and decides to live there until they can fix the yacht and attempt to get rescued.

Shortly after moving in to the boat the group is attacked by a mysterious being but they are unable to capture him before it flees. The group becomes increasingly on edge with their situation. Hunger, isolation and several of the men fighting over the women leave the group at odds with each other. As alliances are made and plans hatched the captain of the yacht leaves with the slightly repaired ship to try to reach help. Days later the ship returns to shore abandoned with a note written on the wall informing whoever was to find it proclaiming the deaths of the group and the captain's own inability to reach help and his demise at sea. The group begins to break down totally at this point and some run off into the mushroom forest and begin to eat the mushrooms which were left alone due to the threat of being poisonous. The addiction of the mushrooms consumes the group and the true horror, and beauty of the island is revealed.

MATANGO is a finely crafted piece of fantasy. Director Ishiro Honda, best known for creating and directing Gojira (Godzilla), shows his talents again here with a tense and surreal experience. What begins as the classic tale of survival that covers many human conditions such as greed, the search for freedom and happiness, jealousy and love and lust turns into a dreamlike, monster filled nightmare that touches on the deepest of human emotions and desires. The acting from the entire cast is on par with each actor playing their roles fine. There is little doubt in my mind that the shipwrecked plot with this group of characters had a huge influence on the character ensemble for Gilligan's Island. The special effects and makeup for the Mushroom People is really good and the creatures have a great, true fungal look to them. I think The Toxic Avenger may owe a small debt of gratitude to one of the designs. My biggest problem with MATANGO is that the real selling point is the mushrooms and how long it took for them to come in to play in the film. The payoff is great when it happens I just wished they had introduced the effects of consuming the 'shrooms earlier and given us a bit more of them.

All in all, Toho has another cult classic with MATANGO that is much more than a "man in rubber suit" type of monster movie. The themes touched on involving the ultimate search for serenity give the film a much deeper and personal meaning than most fantasy movies can even dream of. There is a significant cultural impact that reached deep with the Japanese community at it's time of release as it was almost banned due to a resemblance in the design of the makeup to the victims of the Atomic Bomb in WWII. I can only see this film getting better with subsequent viewings and I recommend it to anyone looking for a visually entertaining and thought provoking piece of fantasy horror.


1 comment:

city said...

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