Produced in 1961, Mothra was a real cinematic triumph for Ishiro Honda and special effects wizard Eiji Tsuburaya. Mothra is a very superior film that could be considered Toho’s greatest achievement next to the original Gojira (1954), which ranks among the best Japanese films ever produced. The films screenplay was the “rookie” effort of writer Shimichi Sekizawa, who would go on to create some of the more memorable stories ever produced at Toho. Mothra would take on a lighter tone than the studios prior daikaiju eiga, Gojira, Godzilla Raids Again, Rodan, Varan and The Mysterians. Introduced in Mothra were comedic themes plus fantasy and spiritual overtones that would begin to weave their way into future Japanese science fiction films.
When a group of survivors from a shipwreck on a island that was the site of several atomic tests by the fictional country of Rolisica (obviously the United States) show no signs of radiation poisoning a research team is sent to find out why.
The research team finds that Infant Island was not uninhabited as was believed prior. Somehow a native tribe and two miniature Shobijin (twin fairies) had survived massive doses of radiation with no effect. The research team headed by Clark Nelson, (Jerry Ito) Dr. Harada, (Ken Uehara) Shin’ichi Chujo (Hiroshi Koizumi) and the tag along reporter Fukuda, (Frankie Sakai) are fascinated by the two tiny women and attempt to capture them, the natives arrive just in time to save the pair and drive the researchers away.
Nelson would return to the island several weeks later with a gang of thugs and kidnap the Shobijin. When the natives try and stop them this time they are mowed down by machine guns and the goons escape with the tiny women.
Once back in Japan the “tiny beauties” become the stars of a hugely popular nightclub act. Their songs are a delight to the audience, but hundreds of miles away on their home island an ancient creature is being summoned by their hypnotic vocalizations. The scene on the island where the local villagers perform a ritualistic dance number is very impressive and its influence can been seen in King Kong vs Godzilla (1962). In fact many of the scenes in Mothra could be considered “inspiration” for the film that would come a year later.
The giant larva hatches from its egg and makes a beeline for Japan to rescue the Shobijin. This is where one of the films more visually impressive scenes takes place. As the Shobijin begin one of their performances they are transported to the stage in a mini carriage (cage) suspended by wires over the audience. The shot is a composite with a scene of Mothra crossing the ocean to where it looks like the Shobijin are leading the monster towards Japan. The giant creature comes ashore and lays waste to the countryside before it locates the Tokyo Tower, which it uses to spin a giant cocoon.
Growing social pressures force the gangsters to flee to the United States (Rolisica) to seek refuge. When Mothra emerges from the cocoon it takes flight and is telepathically drawn across the ocean to where the Shobijin are being held hostage in Newkirk City (New York City, Brooklyn Bridge and all). The armed forces of the United States are ineffective at stopping the monster and the city is quickly destroyed.
The local authorities manage to track down Nelson and his men and kill them in a shootout. The Shobijin are given to Chujo, who remembers an ancient symbol he saw back on Infant Island. It is interesting to note the Christian symbolism in this scene where a cross on top of a local church is seen with the sun behind it with rays of light coming off of it to form Mothra’s ancient symbol. After seeing this vision Chujo persuades the local authorities to draw the symbol on an airport runway in an attempt to lure Mothra to where they can return the fairies to it. The plan works and the trio fly back to their home.
Thoughts On The Japanese DVD Release For "Mothra"
I hadn’t honestly seen the film in twenty years before I bit the bullet and shelled out the money for the Japanese DVD release of Mothra. I figured that if I was ever going to own a copy of the film this would, in the interim, be the only way I could get it. Of course, since that time Sony has released the film on domestic DVD here in the United States.
It always seems to surprise me just how good these older Japanese monster films are. The dubbed versions we have all grown up with always made the films into campy affairs, but the original dialogue versions are really good even when compared to American movies made at about the same time. As usual the Toho DVD for Mothra is very well done. The picture quality and sound are both quite remarkable. The one draw back, of course, is the fact that there are no English subtitles available on this release. Oddly enough I was still able to enjoy the film and had no trouble following along even though 95% of what I heard was Japanese. I should note that there is some English dialogue in the film, even though it is very little. I guess I have seen enough Japanese films to pick up some of the language.
I want to point out something very interesting that was included on the Japanese DVD for Mothra. Included in the “extras” for the film, along with the films original Japanese trailer, was a different cut of the film that was listed on the menu as Mothra (1974)? This appears to be a different cut of the film with an entirely different opening and theme song. I did a search for this version on the Internet before I wrote this to try and find some information about it. Oddly I found no mention of it anywhere. I imagine after this has been up for awhile someone will be able to chime in with an explanation of where this version came from. I can only assume that since the year 1974 appears next to the title, that it is the year it was produced.
The original Shobijin were played by the Japanese singing duo known as "The Peanuts". The pair, Emi and Yumi Ito, would enjoy a twenty year singing career from 1957 to 1977. The two were huge stars in both their native Japan and also in Germany. They also enjoyed some brief success in the United States after the release of Mothra. The group recorded an English only album with covers of such songs as "California Dreamin" and "Proud Mary." The duo also appeared on "The Ed Sulivan Show." Although international singing stars they will always be remembered as the Twin Fairies from Mothra, Godzilla vs The Thing, & Ghidorah: the Three-Headed Monster.
Mosura ya Mosura
dongan kasakuyan indoo muu
rosuto uiraadoa, hanba hanbamuyan
randa banunradan tounjukanraa
Mosura ya Mosura
arehatetahito no kokoro inorinagara
utai, ai no uta
Mothra oh Mothra
Hear our call for you to save us
over time, over sea
like a wave you come
our guardian angel
Mothra oh Mothra
the people have forgotten kindness
their spirits fall to ruin
we shall pray for the people as we sing
this song of love
Mosura / Mothra (1961)
AKA: Daikaiju Masura (1961), Mothra (1962) Mosura / Mothra (1961)
Directed By: Ishiro Honda
Produced By: Tomoyuki Tanaka
Special Effects: Eiji Tsuburaya
Written By: Takehiro Fukunaga and Yoshie Hotta
Music: Yuji Koseki
Frankie Sakai as Senchiro Fukuda
Hiroshi Koizumi as Dr. Shin'ichi Chujo
Kyoko Kagawa as Michi Hanamura
Ken Uehara as Dr. Haradawa
Emi Ito as Shobijin (Twin Fairy / Peanuts)
Yumi Ito as Shobijin (Twin Fairy / Peanuts)
Jerry Ito as Clark Nelson
Takashi Shimura as News Editor
TetsuNakamura as Nelson's Henchman
Akihiro Tayama as Shinji Chujo
Obel Wyatt as Dr. Roff
Akihiko Hirata as Doctor
Runtime: 101 Minutes Japan, 88 Minutes USA
Color: Color (Eastmancolor)
Released: July 30, 1961
1. This is the only film where Mothra's island is called Beiru.
2. In the credits for the US version of the film actor Jerry Ito is billed as "Jelly Ito". This mistake also appears in all of Columbia Pictures promo material.
3. Also in the credits for the American, Columbia Pictures, release of the film the names of Frankie Sakai, Hiroshi Koizumi, and Kyoko Kagawa are missing. They are the top three billed Japanese stars in the film.
More Photos From "Mothra":
See Also: King Kong vs Godzilla (Kingukongu tai Gojira)(1962)(Toho) / Rodan (Sora no daikaiju Radon)(1956) / Gigantis The Fire Monster (Godzilla Raids Again) / Godzilla: King Of The Monsters