Sunday, November 22, 2009

MOTHRA (1961)

During a typhoon, a ship runs aground on Infant Island, a supposedly uninhabited place on which there is a high level of radioactivity. When the survivors are tested, they are free of radiation, due apparently to some red juice that island natives gave them. When an expedition sets out to investigate the island, an unscrupulous artifacts dealer (Jerry Ito) kidnaps two tiny female natives, not quite a foot high, variously referred to as "fairies" or "tiny beauties," and tours the country with them as performers. Unknown to Ito, the two women frequently sing a song to Mothra, a giant egg back on Infant Island. The egg hears the song and cracks open, and a giant caterpillar emerges; it swims across the ocean (and in the process, causes great damage to ships) and lays waste to Tokyo where it builds a giant cocoon and soon emerges as a giant (wait for it…) moth with glittery eyes and wings that knock down tall buildings. Mothra follows Ito to New Kirk City in the country of Rolisica, intent on rescuing the tiny beauties.

This is the probably the most whimsical and undoubtedly the gayest of the classic Japanese monster movies; it’s also the only one I actually saw in a theater, and even though I was only 8, I wasn't scared by it. Though there are effective scenes of destruction, the whole thing does feel a bit fey. It's a very colorful movie, with lots of pastels, Mothra's discoball eyes, and froofy production numbers with the fairies. I wish I could work up an actual gay reading of the film, but I can't. The country of Rolisica is clearly intended to be America, so there's probably a political reading to be done, but I think the movie is best appreciated on the fantasy level. Overall, it seems much more aimed at children than its predecessors (like GODZILLA),what with a tubby kid in a red cap and a comic relief Lou Costello-type who calls himself Snapping Turtle, though it’s not quite as much of a kiddie movie as the later GAMERA. I'll be watching some more fantasy and sci-fi films this week since I associate the Thanksgiving holiday with those kinds of movies, which I remember watching as a kid while out of school. [DVD]

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