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Friday, September 27, 2013

Matango - Attack Of The Mushroom People

As a kid and adult, I have had a love affair with the Japanese monster movie, led of course, by Godzilla, Gamara and my personal favorite, Mothra. I used to watch Ultraman on television and even the old Astroboy cartoons… in fact, my exposure to Japan by the time I was 10, was probably quite high. I didn't realize that.

I did hate most Japanimation cartoons from the 1970s, though… but I was exposed to them.

Along with the Kaiju Eiga (monster movies) mentioned above—many created by the legendary Toho Studios, I also saw Japanese science-fiction movies.

Until recently (hours ago) I didn't know that Toho was also responsible for them—four of them—that were made in the late 1950s-early '60s but were shown on Canadian television via nearby American television channels on Saturday afternoons starting at 1PM. I know this, because all the cartoons were done by that time. With a total of 12 VHF channels plus two, and maybe a third blurry channel on UHF, television programming was limited in the 1970s.

You kids nowadays are spoiled. Some of you need a spanking. When did I get old? If you are old and enjoy spanking, please call...

Anyhow, meanwhile back at the blog:

These science-fiction flicks from Toho are often called the "Mutant Series", because like the monsters, there was some radioactive or radiation sidestory at play. Radiation in that era, was the best way to create a mutant. Ask Marvel Comics and Spider-Man, The Hulk, Fantastic Four... but strangely enough, not the X-Men, who were born with mutated genes rather than genes that underwent a mutation.

Hell… if you think about it… there was a fair bit of radiation in the Earth's atmosphere during the age of the reptiles, which led to fast mutation over generations and furthering of the dinosaur species… and eventually the human species.

As mentioned, there are four great flicks in the Mutant Series:
  • 1958, The H-Man (Bijo to Ekitainingen, 美女と液体人間 - Beauty and Liquid Men) by Godzilla director Honda Ishiro (surname first);
  • 1960, The Human Vapor (Gasu Ningen Dai-Ichigo, ガス人間第一号 - Gas Human #1), also by Honda;
  • 1960, Secret Of The Telegian (Denso Ningen, 電送人間 - The Teleporting Man), by Fukuda Jan (surname first);
  • 1963, Matango (Matango, マタンゴ - also known as Matango, Fungus of Terror and Attack of the Mushroom People) by Honda, with special effects created by Tsuburaya Eiji.
Matango… I never saw this one on television… but I did rent it once back in the very young days of videotape.

As a 12-year-old, I saw my first VCR at a comic store run by Captain George (Captain George's Memory Lane) in Toronto. I recall seeing 1930s black and white Popeye cartoons… and until the recent advent of computer technology with animation, I think it was the best series of cartoons made (art-wise) ever.

I purchased my first VCR when I was 14—it cost $527—and I paid for it myself in cash. I can still recall the exact price, because I am still in sticker shock. If I could find a VCR now, I'm sure I could buy a good one for $40. Spoiled kids! No... I do not care to explain how I got $527... except that I earned it the hard way... a quarter at a time (see HERE, for what I really mean).

While the first things I taped were some old Twilight Zone shows, I also got my hand on my first porno enabling me to gain a well-developed right forearm. Use the left when you want it to feel like someone else.

After visiting a brand new video store—they rented VCRs out to people as well, but you needed to leave major credit card information—I was attracted to the Japanese monster movies section (there were six movies), and then said what the heck… Matango - Attack Of The Mushroom People sounds like something I might enjoy.

I was being facetious… sarcastic and flippant.

Boy, was I wrong… this was a very good movie.

The plot (all names are surname first): 

In Tokyo, a man visits another man in a psychiatric ward, and tells him that even though this might sound crazy, it really happened:

Aboard a yacht, a group of merrymakers go out to sea. The group includes:
  • boat owner Kasai Masafumi (played by Tsuchiya Yoshio); 
  • college professor Murai Kenji (Kubo Akira); 
  • professor's girlfriend Soma Akiko (Yashiro Miki); 
  • club singer Sekiguchi Mami (Mizuno Kumi) - because if one hot chick is a good idea - two is even better!; 
  • writer Yoshida Etsuro (Tachikawa Hiroshi);
  • Skipper Sakuda Naoyuki (Koizumi Hiroshi);
  • and his little buddy and first mate Koyama Senzo (Sahara Kenji - who was once the male lead in Rodan).
Gilligan's Island - Japanese monster movie style!
If you think it sort of sounds like the gang of Gilligan's Island - that's what I thought, too. But I thought it first. Should I tell you that I once went to a Gilligan's Island costume party and won first prize for my rendition of the Japanese soldier? Okay... well... that's pretty much what happened.

Now… we don't know where they are going or when they are supposed to return, but I'm guessing it was just a three-hour tour out at sea and back - but (I love it), the weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew - well.. in this case the weather smashes the hell out of the boat and leaves them helplessly adrift until…

the ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle…

The castaways are tired, hungry and mostly completely useless with their situation.

And yet... there is something ominous about the island... something horrible... though the bigger monsters on the island, may just be the castaways.

"We have met the enemy, and he is us." - Pogo Possum.

That little four-color 'possum... or since this is about Japan, 'o-possum' sure knew what he was talking about. 

Happy? Scared? Happy to be scared? Scared to be happy?
After walking around the island… and finding no food or water… they come across a plot of land that looks cultivated: ponds of fresh rainwater, and mushrooms as far as the eye can see.

Now… instead of it being the Professor, it's the Skipper who warns everyone to not eat the mushrooms because they could be poisonous. Thanks, professor...

Later, on their walkabout the Castaways see a ship wrecked on the shore of this uncharted desert isle (sorry… it just slips out… so put it back in, baby). The inside is covered with a fungus and mold - probably similar to whatever it is that I am allergic to in my house… but they notice that they can kill the fungus with a strong bleach cleaner… so they get to work.

Now here comes the typical morality play…

They think the boat was involved in nuclear testing, and that the irradiated waters around the island have caused mutations of things, including the mushrooms.

I'm unsure if it is typical or atypical to have a morality play about nuclear testing... 

Food begins to run out… but they do have seaweed and potatoes that they found…

Birds and fish and turtles seem to want to avoid coming near the isle…so that's off the menu.

Kasai (rich boat owner) doesn't seem all that interested in leaving the island, but enjoys stealing food from the group…

Yoshida (writer) is now moody and eats the island mushrooms…

Kasai is attacked by some sort of ugly, deformed man with a big hat…
Mushrooms will screw with your brain, man...
Kasai and Yoshida fight for Mami's (entertainer) affections… but Yoshida has clearly gone nuts from the mushrooms and pulls a gun… but is overcome and locked away.

In order to survive whatever is going on, the Skipper says they should leave the island—but no one listens —so he goes off on his own… not even accompanied by the First Mate.

Mami frees Yoshida… and while trying to take over the ship, Mami kills the First Mate. Skiiiiiiii-perrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Professor Kenji and Akiko (the Mary Ann of the group) regain control and force Mami and Yoshida off the ship.

Kasai the yacht owner goes back to his yacht and discovers that the Skipper has left behind a suicide note saying he feels responsible for the deaths within the group (and rather than stick around to help anyone else) so he has lept overboard drowned. Selfish bastard.

On the way back to the boat, Kasai discovers that being rich will get you the girl, as Mami entices him to go into the forest with her.

I'm not sure when exactly, but certainly as he is being swarmed by a swathe of mushroom people, Kasai figures out that anyone who eats a mushroom will turn into a fun guy fungus creature…
I would eat that...
Feeling aggressive or horny, the mushroom people attack Professor Kenji and his girlfriend Akiko… with Akiko taken away… but Kenji loves her… and is the heroic hero and must therefore do heroic heroful deeds (it's in the Hero's Manual - I'll show it to you one day)… so he tracks her down… but only after, it seems, that she has been force-feed mushrooms.

Akiko, Mami, Yoshida and Kasai are now under the influence of the 'shrooms. Professor Kenji is not.

Being heroic still, Kenji tries to rescue Akiko… but is overwhelmed by the mushroom people and is forced to flee like some sort of fleeing unheroic hero.

He gets onto the yacht, which is now seaworthy, and escapes the island.

In the classic twist at the end… he is rescued… but he wonders… should he have stayed on the island with Akiko? He thinks out loud that it wouldn't have made a difference if he had turned into a monster. Then he slowly turns towards the audience, and we see that Professor Kenji the unheroic dude is now covered in mushroom growths, and he continues, 'that even then… he would have been happier there with his love.'

As the movie fades to black with a view of Tokyo at night, Kenji says 'that humans are not much different than the mushroom people'.

And that's where Honda blew it! We don't need the moralizing cow manure! Mushroom people are nothing like the humans. They aren't all drug-addled psychopaths…It makes my head hurt to hear such a stupid line. I need an Asprin.

And… do we humans really want to be sautéed? No! They should have ended it one line earlier!!! Stupid writers… they never know when to shut up! I mean when I'm told to shut up, I shut up. I'm not one that has to keep talking. Some fellas just have to keep their mouths flapping, but not me! I was brought up right. My pa used to tell me "shut up" and I'd shut up! I wouldn't say nothing! One time, darn-near starved to death -

(turns to look at the reader through the computer screen)

 - wouldn't tell him I was hungry for mushrooms.

Here's a trailer from You Tube:
Anyhow folks, Matango - Attack of the Mushroom People is one monster movie I won't pan.

Yeah the effects will look cheesy when compared to what's new in 2013, but re-adjust your brain… think as though it is 1963 and Andrew hasn't been born yet… and enjoy a creepy flick.

Unless I spoiled it for you…. sorry?

Yes... you could buy a Matango, Mushroom person on a glowing tricycle... why do I want one? I'm sick.
Andrew Joseph


  1. I remembered this movie from a late late program on Sat nites called "Wierd." Kids who could stay up past the news got to watch these BIG BUDGET BLOCKBUSTERS! I loved this (I was 5, ok) didn't know the title. You did it justice - including the spoiled kids comments & superbly wicked bits of snark! Brought it all back - except fighting over popcorn with my brothers. Thanks!

  2. I remembered this movie from a late late program on Sat nites called "Wierd." Kids who could stay up past the news got to watch these BIG BUDGET BLOCKBUSTERS! I loved this (I was 5, ok) didn't know the title. You did it justice - including the spoiled kids comments & superbly wicked bits of snark! Brought it all back - except fighting over popcorn with my brothers. Thanks!