Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
Recommend this product?
Toho's 4th giant Monster to get it's own movie, Mothra, or Mosura as it's known in it's homeland, was released in 1961 and has went on to become one of Toho's most loved monster movies, and the character of Mothra has crossed over into several Godzilla pictures and proven a success.
I actually have this movie taped off the TV, when it was shown a few years ago on the UK Sci-Fi Channel, where Toho and Daei movies were shown every Sunday afternoon for a while, often films that weren't (and still aren't) available to buy in the UK, including this, Atragon and some of Toho's Space Operas. The movie is in full colour, and while the picture on my recorded tape isn't perfect, it is pretty old, but still in pretty damn fine condition, making me hope a DVD release using the print used by the Sci Fi Channel may one day be released.
The movie opens after a group of shipwrecked sailors are found on Beiru Island in the pacific, surprisingly, they show no signs of radiation poisoning despite this island being a test site for all sorts of nuclear weapons. The sailors theorise that it may have been something to do with the juice the natives gave them. This comes as a shock to everyone involved, because Beiru was supposed to be uninhabited.
Naturally a search party is organised in part by the Japanese government, and in part by the Rolisican government. Included in the team are reclusive archeologist type Dr. Shinichi Chujo (Hiroshi Koizumi - Dogora), scientist Dr.Harada (Ken Uehara - Atragon) and Rolisican 'adventurer' Clark Nelson (Jerry Ito - The Manster). Stowing away on the journey is reporter Senichiro Fukuda (Frankie Sakai - Man Who Causes a Storm), who quickly befriends Chujo.
When on the Island, Chujo is attacked by a mutated carnivorous plant, and is only saved due to the interference of two identical foot-high girls known as the Shobijin (Emi + Yumi Ito - Godzilla Vs. Mothra). After telling the rest of the crew about them, the party goes back to investigate, and Nelson and his heavies try to steal them, but are stopped when natives appear.
The party returns to Japan, but that very night Nelson returns and succeeds in stealing the girls, but has to shoot his way out killing several natives in his way. With his dying breath, one of the natives makes a plea to Mothra, and a mountainside cracks open revealing a gigantic egg.
Nelson is making the girls perform in a show that is bringing in huge crowds. They sing and dance, which Nelson thinks is great, but little does he know that what they are actually doing is summoning Mothra. After Chujo and Senichiro pester him about keeping the girls against their will, Nelson allows them to talk to the girls. It is here that they reveal that they communicate via telepathy, and that they are sad because Mothra is coming, and many good people will be hurt against the creature's will.
But Mothra hatches and makes her way to Japan. At this point she is in larval stage, and has to burst through a dam to get to Japan. Nelson goes on the run with the girls, just as Mothra begins to build a coccoon around the Tokyo tower. The Rolisican government, quick to try and make up for Nelson's evils, send in two experimental 'Heat Wave' guns which open fire on Mothra.
When her coccoon goes up in flames, the monster is announced dead, much to the celebration of Nelson, who has retreated to Rolisica with the girls, but has a bounty on his head.
But as it turns out, Mothra is anything but dead, and emerges from the coccon as a fully grown giant-butterfly like creature which has wings so powerful that just by flapping them the great winds cause destruction. Now she has the power of flight to aid her in her quest for the return of the Shobijin, but will Chujo, Fukuda and their friends be able to get the girls back and return them to Mothra so they can all go about their lives peacefully? or will Mothra have to destroy all of Rolisica as well to get them back?
The story of Mothra is on the whole fairly decent, but is does contain a few faults, such as the Rolisican Government protecting Nelson, despite the fact that he keeps the two girls in a cage(!), and that they would even allow flights out of the country when all this havoc is breaking out is pretty shocking.
But on the whole, I don't really have any other major complaints about the plot, and I actually have to give it kudos for making Mothra a sympathetic monster, but not in the way they tried with Rodan. It's Mothra's mission to bring the Shobijin back to Beiru, and she doesn't want to hurt the innocents and destroy the cities, but at her size it's fairly unnavoidable.
While I don't have any complaints about the plot that is there, it's what isn't there that bothers me. Mothra herself isn't on screen all that much, and apart from a few choice scenes of destruction, such as the dam, we don't really see her do very much in the way of spectacular action. I realise that she isn't meant to be the villain, Nelson is, but people go to see these movies to see destruction of miniatures and such, and there just isn't anything outstanding going on here.
As I mention in all my reviews of dubbed/subbed movies, I don't really like to criticise the performances unless they are obviously terrible, but I have to say that none of the performances in Mothra looked to be very bad at all, and that is saying something considering there was a kid in the cast. In fact, Im even going to praise Jerry Ito for his brilliant performance as the sneering Nelson, he made a great villain and it's a shame he never appeared in many other genre pictures.
Speaking of dubbing, the job done here isn't bad at all. The voices are all pretty well suited, and none of them done embarassingly. Even the kid doesn't recieve too bad of a voice, in fact he even sounded like a kid and not an adult talking with a high pitched voice. On the whole it's a pretty soldi dubbing job, which even avoids giving the characters English/American accents, and a few of them may even have been recorded by English speaking Japanese folks.
For a change, the music in Mothra is not from Akira Ifukube, but director Ishiro Honda himself played a role in the score, which is pretty mixed. On occasion it is given a suitable, if not overly memorable score, and at others, such as one instance where the music sound's like it is trying to be creepy, it just fails. You have to love the song of the Shobijin though, and it's so good Toho used it again for 1992's Godzilla vs. Mothra.
The special effects are for the most part good, for a little bad, but for the time sublime. While Larval stage mothra looks, and I quote someone I know here "more like something that Godzilla did after too many currys than something he would fight", she is brought to life fairly well by Eiji Tsuburaya, but it is adult Mothra that steals the show. Instead of being created by an actor in a suit, Mothra is a complex puppet that while looking a little goofy at times, with it's eyes that look like Motorcycle headlamps, but not goofy enough to put you off the movie, or realise for the early 60s that she is pretty damned impressive.
The cities are as usual brilliantly recreated, and the aforementioned dam smashing scene is very well done, as is the beggining of Mothra's coccoon weaving, sadly the coccoon itself looks like a large white Monkey Nut.
On the whole, Mothra is a fairly enjoyable Kaiju movie that could probably even be apprecaited a little by those who aren't even genre enthusiasts, but when compared to Toho's other solo monster movies like Godzilla: King of the Monsters or Rodan, it just lacks any sort of extra bite. Mothra doesn't really have any sort of feature to make her stand out, we had already seen flight in Rodan, Godzilla has his atomic breath, Mothra doesn't really have anything interesting on her side.
This is a real shame, because while the human plot is actually pretty good, with Toho's parody/slating of American commercialsim coming in the form of the 'Rolisicans' and the likeable cast trying to help the Shobijin, but the fact is that while the monster footage is competent, it doesn't excel to the levels of greatness Toho could pull off.
So, I think 3 stars and a recommended will have to do for Mothra. While it is a pretty decent movie, and Godzilla fans will probably want to see it, it doesn't really compare to some of Toho's better work, and has essentially been remade with the added element of Godzilla twice, first as Godzilla Vs. Mothra made in 1964 and then remade in 1992, both of which are superior. So yeah, if you like Japanese monster movies, Mothra is definitely worth a look. It isn't one of Toho's best kaiju epics, but what it is is a pretty enjoyable movie with excellent effects for the time. Even if you ain't a fan of the genre, Mothra may still be worth a TV viewing, because it is of a decent quality.
For those who look at Japanese monster films to laugh at the unintentional humour, there isn't really any as such in Mothra, it's a pretty serious and well done flick that fans of the serious movies will appreciate, even if it can't touch the king of the monsters.
Toho Sci-Fi Related Reviews
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
King Kong Vs. Godzilla
Godzilla Vs. Mothra
Invasion of the Astro Monsters
Rebirth of Mothra
Godzilla: Domination for Gameboy Advance
Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee for XBox
Godzilla: Save The Earth for XBox
Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children up to Age 4