Mothra Blu-ray Review
After legendary director Ishiro Honda introduced Godzilla to the world in 1954 it wasn't long before Toho studios started adding to the roster of giant monsters, or kaiju, that continue wreaking havoc across our cinema screens to this day. Only a year after his debut Godzilla was back fighting the irradiated ankylosaur Anguirus in the hastily cobbled together Godzilla Raids Again. Soon after that the mutated pterosaur Rodan took to the skies with Honda back in the directors chair. A few years later as the swinging sixties began in earnest it was time for a departure from the usual nuclear charged reptiles, and so Honda turned his attention to an altogether different kind of creature. The landscape of giant monster cinema was forever changed with the arrival of Mothra.
Having now appeared in over a dozen movies Mothra's debut brings a different feel to the world of the kaiju. The film has much more of a fantasy tone than the science-fiction leanings of its predecessors. Mothra is more of a benign creature, attacking only when provoked and leaving the human element of the story to provide the real villains in the film. The plot of Mothra is simple and bears a few similarities to that of another famous giant monster, albeit a Western one, King Kong. When survivors of a shipwreck are rescued from a supposedly uninhabited Infant Island a tribe of natives are discovered who worship a giant egg. Also on the island are the "Shobijin", foot-tall twin fairies who are the guardians of Mothra. When the unscrupulous leader of an expedition to the island kidnaps the fairies and takes them back to Tokyo to exploit them for profit only Mothra can come to their rescue.
Mothra is pretty unique amongst kaiju films in that there is no monster-on-monster action and the only reason the creature wreaks havoc on human cities is because she's come to rescue her diminutive guardians. Adding to the unique aspect of the film are the various musical numbers performed by the Shobijin. Played by real life singing stars "The Peanuts", these performances add a whimsical charm to proceedings and ensure this entry into the pantheon of giant monster movies is always entertaining. The lead in Mothra is also not what you would normally expect as the star of an action movie. Furanki Sakai puts in an excellent comedic turn as he bumbles his way through as a likable reporter. Even the child that appears throughout the film is engaging, unlike the grating youngsters that would become a staple of the Gamera film series. Amusingly the evil expedition leader who kidnaps Mothra's guardians is depicted as coming from Rolisica, a fictitious country that is an amalgam of America and Russia. Even back then these superpowers weren't above subtle digs at each other.
Mothra would go on to become a protector of the Earth in future instalments and the seeds are certainly sown here. Moths represent the souls of the living in Japanese mythology, and also rebirth. The idea that our planet would have an ecological saviour who is constantly dying and being reborn in order to protect it is a theme still very much relevant today.
Eureka Video present Mothra in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p. This release actually contains 2 cuts of the film, the original Japanese version (101 minutes) and the re-cut English version (90 minutes). The shortened English cut loses a sequence featuring another song from the Shobijin and several other small edits that just tighten the flow but don't really change anything in the way of plot. Picture quality is solid if not overwhelming. Film grain is present giving a nice theatrical presentation. There are occasional scratches and other artifacts but nothing too distracting. Mothra is a pretty vivid film and these colours have been reproduced well. The film contained the largest and most intricate model sets built for a Toho release and their details are reproduced very well making the attacks on the city all the more impressive. Mothra has probably never looked this good since its original theatrical release.
Audio on the original cut of Mothra is Japanese 2.0 (dual mono). Your surround sound system obviously isn't going to get a workout but the audio is clean with particularly nice reproduction of the various songs sung by the Shobijin. Dialogue is always clear and the score by Yuji Koseki is excellent. Whilst not quite as good as music from the legendary Akira Ifukube, Koseki provides Mothra with an exciting score, particularly the songs and chants used when summoning the monster. There is also an isolated music and effects track which is a nice addition. Subtitles are available in English.
The English version contains an English 2.0 (dual mono) dub with the option of subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing. As dubs go this one is adequate but certainly not the preferred way to watch the film.
Audio commentary with film historian and writer David Kalat: This commentary is on the original Japanese cut and contains a plethora of information about the film's production. Kalats' delivery can be a little dry at times but he certainly knows his stuff and this is well worth a listen, especially as no documentaries have been included in this release.
Audio commentary with authors and Japanese sci-fi historians Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski: This separate commentary is only included on the English cut of the film and is an easier listen than the commentary by David Kalat. Ryfle and Godziszewski have a natural rapport and deliver a ton of information and trivia that is easy to digest.
Kim Newman on Mothra (14:42): Genre film stalwart Kim Newman gives his thoughts on Mothra and touches on the history of kaiju movies in general. Kim is always enjoyable to watch, extremely knowledgeable and an entertaining figure. His love of kaiju is obvious and his thoughts on the mythology behind Mothra are very interesting.
Stills Galleries: There are 2 stills galleries. The first containing a sizeable amount of production stills and poster designs. The second is smaller but consists of production and what look like original storyboards which are really quite lovely.
Teaser Trailer: This black and white teaser consists of what appears to be concept artwork and gives the impression that the film is much more standard horror fare.
Theatrical Trailer: This trailer, with its bombastic voice-over gives the viewer a quite misleading idea of the film they are going to get, depicting Mothra as your standard monster movie and definitely cashing in on the popularity of Godzilla and his ilk.
Eureka's release of Mothra is limited to only 4000 copies and includes a hardbound slipcase, a poster and a 60 page collectors booklet containing essays and interviews.
Mothra (Masters of Cinema) is available to buy from November 16.
Dir: ishiro honda | Cast: Furankî Sakai, Hiroshi Koizumi, Kyôko Kagawa, Yumi Itô | Writers: Shin'ichi Sekizawa (screenplay), Shin'ichirô Nakamura (novel), Takehiko Fukunaga (novel), Yoshie Hotta (novel)