While Godzilla is the undisputed top giant monster especially in Japan. In said country of origin some years after Godzilla’s second appearance (which is difficult to find) the monster was put on hold (not for lack of trying) so with the addition of colour other monsters began to appear from Toho. First was Rodan but following was a monster that often rivals Godzilla’s fame by being a different kind of tale.
Mothra in 1961 was quite a bit different for Kaiju films. You see while the monster is a force to be feared, it’s not the antagonist. No, this time the villain is a human, and oh boy how over the top evil this guy is, but anyway…..
We open up with weather reports of a storm and a ship is out in it (a death sentence in Kaiju film). Search and rescue teams find survivors on a island that’s supposed to be irradiated by nuclear tests by the fictional country of Rolisica (which is apparently meant to be a stand in for Russia and America… though we later see it’s more America). The survivors tell them it must have been the red juice the natives gave them, which aren’t supposed to exist
An expedition is sent by the blatantly evil Rolisican entrepreneur Clark Nelson who co-founds with Japan an expedition. He refuses to have any journalists (yeah not giving any alarm bells yet) though comedic relief Fukoda a reporter sneaks onboard. On the island they find monstrous plants but are saved by 2 very small girls . Nelson being blatantly evil tries to steal them but is confronted by the natives. Members of the Japanese part of the expedition start to raise suspicions over Nelson (JEEZE YOU THINK!) as they return home, only for Nelson to secretly go back with guns and capture the girls, gunning down the natives while one of them prays to their god Mothra, as a small landslide at a temple reveals a giant egg.
Nelson removing all doubt he’s evil forces the girls to perform so he can make money… and despite he’s clearly exploiting two sentient beings CLEARLY SINGING IN THEIR LANGUAGE ,the government of Rolisica seem completely fine with it, even when it becomes clear the songs are summoning a giant monster to attack a neighbouring country. Hell it’s not till Mothra is in the middle of Tokyo that Rolisica says he has to let the fairies go… which makes it disturbingly relevant if you consider it a stand in for America. But it doesn’t matter Nelson is so evil he’s willing to become an international criminal with the world viewing him as responsible for the destruction of a major world city, than give the girls back as he flees to New Kirk city in Rolisica (see more America than Russia).
The film is rather enjoyable if the sheer level the villain is willing to go to rather than hand over the girls requires rather high levels of suspension of disbelief… (Until you remember what Trump was doing recently to try and not lose the election) .But time to talk about the monster, why most people watch these movies.
Mothra first rather oddly has nothing to do with radiation, despite the island being highly irradiated; early on she ( YES SHE ) is an ancient deity rather than some mutation. When the egg first hatches we’re introduced to her larva form, a somewhat cute very large caterpillar. We see it both in sea and land and it’s a very effective sight. To me it stands there next to the original Godzilla film in not just looking like a person walking about miniatures.
Of course its name is Mothra so near the end it emerges in its Moth form which is somewhat adorable too. Its less threatening design does help the idea this isn’t a malevolent or destructive force and since the villain is a human not the monster that fits the story. Its flying looks very graceful and for a film that came out one year before the invention of Spiderman that’s very impressive… go on look it up.
While Nelson can be so over the top evil he’s a bit distracting. The story is quite different from the other Showa era Kaiju films and the monster very well realized .It’s up there next to the original Godzilla as one of the best of the era and definitely worth a check out. Also sorry for everyone who reading this has now got Mothra’s song stuck in their heads again.