Ishirō Honda's MOTHRA
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
This movie is just plain fun. The story is simultaneously derivative (e.g., King Kong) and weird (tiny singing twins telepathically control a giant flying insect), the production values are gorgeous (caterpillar Mothra crawling across a miniature Japanese countryside is simply beautiful), and the acting is top-notch for both the good guys and the bad guys. We even see a familiar face from Kurasawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI in the cast (Takashi Shimomura).
It's impossible to take this 1962 film seriously, of course. While my favorite Honda film is still THE MYSTERIANS, Mothra has a charm all its own in the way it combines elements of fairy tales, science-fiction, political commentary, Cold War radiation fears, and mass urban destruction. There's even a bizarre religious element thrown in at the end (at least in the Japanese version I saw) that’s totally unexpected.
Some of the model work is spectacular while other scenes are laughably toy-like. I can't imagine what it must have been like to have been part of the crew (of adults!) who conceived and executed this. Done in the light of the Japan emerging from post-World War II reconstruction the political undercurrents of anti-Americanism are especially interesting.
I'm sure that movies like this must have a fairly small audience today, plus the technical fakery evident in so many scenes will probably seem hopelessly naïve to generations raised on hyperrealistic CGI effects.
No matter. There is something truly delightful in seeing that tiny golden carriage emerge from the back of the theater and then glide down over the audience to the stage where two tiny twin girls emerge to sing their telepathic Mothra song. They just don't make them like this anymore!
Review copyright (c) 2016 by Dennis D. McDonald