Alternate Titles: Fungus of Terror, Curse of the Mushroom People, Attack of the Mushroom People
Matango isn't a Daikaiju movie. It's really barely a Kaiju. So what is it doing here? The answer, as usual, is the Godzilla: Monster of Monsters Nintendo game that forms the basis of my personal Godzilla canon. If Godzilla and Mothra can fight Matango (in space!), we can include it in our project. But it is really just a horror movie. And as such, it of course begins with a bunch of youngsters partying on a boat. Min's condition for watching the movie this time around was that we would fast forward through all the singing. So the "bad girl" of the movie, played by Toho regular Kumi Mizuno, starts up with her song, "La la la la la!".... ...and i push the button to jump ahead. Still going. Literally, "La la la la la!". Jump ahead. Still going. More. More. More. It never ends, and the only lyrics are "La la la la la!". I completely forgot that this song has no goddamned lyrics! Why the hell are you making her la la for 10 minutes! Also on the boat is the "good girl" character, played by Miki Yashiro, who is "not good at mingling" and who goes below deck during the partying, while the men say, "It's her first time". Jesus Christ. Douchebags. No way in hell am i going on a boat as one of two women with a bunch of men i barely know. Ladies, we have to be extra paranoid because society's still clawing its way out of the Dark Ages on this one. It's pretty clear from the beginning that Toho's going with that overused (and sexist) trope where the sexually active woman is portrayed as cunning, grasping, and untrustworthy. She's also the one who wears makeup and dresses to show more skin. In case that wasn't obvious enough, they've contrasted her with The Innocent - a girl who's quiet, shy, and naive. She wears clothing that isn't too revealing and is makeup-less. It's incredibly annoying, but Matango is a horror movie made in the 60s, so i don't suppose anybody should be surprised. This movie is basically cast full of tropes. Although the characters all have names, they are so clearly movie tropes that we just use those tropes as identifiers instead of bothering with names.
Matango isn't a Daikaiju movie. It's really barely a Kaiju. So what is it doing here? The answer, as usual, is the Godzilla: Monster of Monsters Nintendo game that forms the basis of my personal Godzilla canon.
If Godzilla and Mothra can fight Matango (in space!), we can include it in our project.
But it is really just a horror movie. And as such, it of course begins with a bunch of youngsters partying on a boat.
Min's condition for watching the movie this time around was that we would fast forward through all the singing. So the "bad girl" of the movie, played by Toho regular Kumi Mizuno, starts up with her song, "La la la la la!"....
...and i push the button to jump ahead. Still going. Literally, "La la la la la!". Jump ahead. Still going. More. More. More. It never ends, and the only lyrics are "La la la la la!".
I completely forgot that this song has no goddamned lyrics! Why the hell are you making her la la for 10 minutes!
Also on the boat is the "good girl" character, played by Miki Yashiro, who is "not good at mingling" and who goes below deck during the partying, while the men say, "It's her first time".
Jesus Christ. Douchebags. No way in hell am i going on a boat as one of two women with a bunch of men i barely know. Ladies, we have to be extra paranoid because society's still clawing its way out of the Dark Ages on this one.
It's pretty clear from the beginning that Toho's going with that overused (and sexist) trope where the sexually active woman is portrayed as cunning, grasping, and untrustworthy. She's also the one who wears makeup and dresses to show more skin. In case that wasn't obvious enough, they've contrasted her with The Innocent - a girl who's quiet, shy, and naive. She wears clothing that isn't too revealing and is makeup-less. It's incredibly annoying, but Matango is a horror movie made in the 60s, so i don't suppose anybody should be surprised.
This movie is basically cast full of tropes. Although the characters all have names, they are so clearly movie tropes that we just use those tropes as identifiers instead of bothering with names.
And in addition to the kids, there's also the boat's captain and a hired sailor (Hiroshi Koizumi and Kenji Sahara, both major Toho regulars). As far as they're concerned, the people they've been hired by are "a little old to be boys", but they will always be boys because they are spoiled little rich kids.
I will be referring to the other characters as the "rich boat owner" (Yoshio Tsuchiya, who plays a similar PTSD character as the one that he'll play in Sea Monster), the "writer" (played by Hiroshi Tachikawa), and the main character "professor", who is played by Akira Kubo, inventor of the Ladyguard from Monster Zero.
The boat is caught in a huge storm (which is particularly rough on the model boat)...
...and when it's over they find themselves adrift at sea, with ever possible part of the boat broken. They hear on the radio that "hope has been virtually abandoned" before the batteries give out.
First of all, those batteries suck cause you guys have been lost at sea for less than a day. Second, who the hell did Rich Boat Owner will his stuff to, because the search was abandoned pretty much immediately.
After a while drifting aimlessly they enter a great fog and have a hallucination of a ghost ship.
They drift South and eventually come to an island which is said to be a part of Ogasawara.
They stagger ashore and start looking for food and water. Now is a good time to provide Min's Survival Tip #2, which is "Watch Voyage of the Mimi". I think Tip #1 is "Don't leave home".
Clearly. We are totally watching Voyage of the Mimi. I need to brush up on my "how to make seawater drinkable" technique.
After a long painful walk (for us and them), the characters find evidence of human activity in the way that stones are laid around a freshwater stream. Then, after more walking and climbing, they find a derelict ship said to have washed ashore over a year ago.
They enter the ship and find its insides covered with mold. They locate a lab and find that the only areas unaffected by the mold are near bottles of alcohol and disinfectant. They also find a box labelled "Matango" that is holding a giant mushroom.
The first question asked is "Is the mushroom edible?" but for now they hold off on eating it. There's some talk of radiation (they find a preserved mutant turtle and other specimens), and it's determined that the derelict ship was once used for oceanography. They also find that someone has removed all the mirrors from the boat. In an even moldier room, they find a captain's log, and after reading it, they say that the ship's nationality was deliberately concealed, with items around the boat hinting at Western, Communist, and Japanese origin, but the boat was definitely "connected with nuclear tests" and a "spy boat". The log says that you shouldn't eat the mushrooms found on this island because test reports say that they contain nerve affecting agents. The fact that no corpses are found on the ship is also said to be suspicious, and the mushrooms are blamed. The original crew began eating the mushrooms and then disappearing.
With survival odds looking grim, strife breaks out between the cast, and not just because the writer guy is dressing like this:
If you can't handle my sexy socks, that's your problem, not mine.
A portion of the boat is cleaned out with disinfectants and alcohol, and it's where the cast takes up residence. The boat owner PTSD guy finds and repairs a rifle, and refuses to come out of a private room and help with any tasks.
As they set up a signal fire, there's a flashback to a time before they were stranded. The main point is the induction of the new girl into the group; they even give her a necklace. They are apparently a little club of some kind, but it's not clear exactly what.
Taking the rifle on a futile hunting expedition (it's observed that "even the birds shun this place") they are tempted by more mushrooms...
...but for now they leave them alone. They think that they see a mushroom man walking in the distance...
...but they aren't able to catch it.
It's also discovered that there are more wrecked boats in the water around the island; it seems lots of ships wind up here.
Finally we have our first real encounter with a Matango. The two girls hear it first, but at the same time the sailor guy comes lurking into their quarters, probably with ill intentions, and they scare him off with their flashlight before it runs out of batteries.
That's it! No more shadow puppets before bedtime!
At this point everyone is on alert, but first the guys have to deal with a red herring as the two girls show up wearing robes for some reason.
Just kidding, guys. Thanks for not shooting us.
Then finally, the Matango arrives.
He first attacks the boat owner, who was in the kitchen stealing canned food during the kerfuffle. But when the others arrive it seems to disappear.
The next morning, they debate whether they really even saw a creature, and the conversation takes a strange turn from there. The hired sailor is the instigator. He says that the creature that they think they saw was really a delusion caused by blue balls.
I'm screaming at the television. You can't seem me doing it, but trust me - I am.
The sailor generously allows that he himself is affected by this.
But he's got a solution.
The singer girl justifiably asks why the rest of the doofuses at the table are just sitting there silently.
Even the professor who's supposed to be the good guy!
But instead, it turns into a fight between her and the rich boat owner, who had been a couple even though now she's sleeping with the writer.
Instead of resolving this, the conversation turns to more practical matters, like finding food, and the stranded group does seem to rally, locating turtle eggs, edible roots, and sea mussels to eat.
By the way, the reason i call the sailor a "hired" sailor as opposed to the captain of the ship is because the captain and the rich boat owner have a history together. The boat owner looked after the captain's family and put him through school. The captain now resents that since the rich guy has been acting like an entitled prick. It's too bad; you don't want to alienate the captain because he's the most level headed and competent guy on the island.
More survival strife. The rich boat owner continues to not look for food himself, but he pays the sailor for turtle eggs (the sailor is banking on them eventually making it home). The writer also refuses to help look for food, and he instead fills up on mushrooms.
This is why everybody needs to evaluate their friends on a "Would I want you in my Post-Apocalypse Commune" table before going on trips with them.
Later he and the bad girl cause a scene by having sexy times in the kitchen.
Ew. Not if he's still got his socks pulled up to his knees. And he prolly smells bad, too. Put a shirt on, guy!
This causes the sailor to attack the writer, something that the bad girl is pleased about.
And she didn't even eat a mushroom.
The writer guy continues to go crazy, ranting about how he ate mushrooms and therefore is admittedly crazy and willing to kill everyone, so they had better just do whatever he wants.
The others eventually tackle him and lock him in the rich guy's private room, kicking the rich guy out.
The captain eventually abandons the others (can you blame him? They're all crazy and useless.), trying to get home in the boat that they came in. And we'll later learn that, in the end, he jumped off the boat and probably drowned. The guy that ate the mushrooms stages a mutiny and tries to leave with the girls.
He winds up shooting and killing the hired sailor, but then he and the bad girl are exiled.
The socks gets you the ladies every time.
So as you can see, this is mostly a movie of society falling apart under stress. If you're familiar with zombie movies or other post-apocalyptic type stories, it's the same basic idea. But for god's sake, we're not in this for any of that. We're here for mushroom men! And finally it starts to rain relentlessly, and the mushrooms on the island begin to grow.
The rich guy becomes increasingly ineffectual, and then the bad girl returns to lure him out into the jungle to eat mushrooms.
She's all mushroom underneath that head scarf.
And that triggers a psychedelic mind trip that involves the good girl in a dance sequence.
And then the bad girl, a little late, tells him that if he eats all those mushrooms going to turn into a mushroom man.
That's something my grandmother would tell me.
To illustrate the point, the writer guy gives us a wave.
It's been a bit of a drag getting here, but at this point the movie is uniquely dark and creepy and psychedelic, especially compared to the other Toho films we've been watching. There's all this psychedelic laughing and finally the Matangos come out.
That's the last we'll see of the rich guy. So we are down to just the professor and the good girl, and the derelict ship they're living in is now newly covered with fungus thanks to the long rain. The good girl is going crazy from hunger and forgetting that you're not supposed to eat the mushroom.
When the professor points out that the people that ate the mushrooms are now half-mushroom themselves...
...she says that it may be the only way to live.
She then has a breakdown, saying that the professor is "wonderful and strong" but she is "so weak and miserable".
Then the Matangos attack the boat.
Why do they come after you? The two people left were like two days from eating the mushrooms anyway.
The good news is that the rifle the professor has seems to have unlimited bullets, and the Matangos also fall apart very easily.
For some reason the mushroom men that attack are less mushroomy than the ones in the forest. Maybe in the earlier stages they are more mobile, and the fully mushroomed ones can't travel very far.
They do manage to kidnap the girl and the professor goes after her.
But it's too late; she's eaten.
Which also causes her to wear makeup. Just like the other chick. Because now she's "bad". Hrrr.
The professor is attacked by Matangos while the creepy psychedelic laugh continues and we get occasional pop-ups from the cast.
But the professor eventually escapes.
The movie actually starts off in an insane asylum, with the one surviving guy saying that they all think he's crazy. He says that they're not all dead, and that in fact only one is dead (really two if you assume that the captain drowned). Then the movie begins with the "La la la!" song. And now at the end of the movie we are back to the asylum.
He tells his doctors that if he really loved the girl, he would have eaten the mushrooms too.
And he's bitter because despite not eating the mushrooms, he's become fungi-infected anyway.
Oh, just put some Bactine on it.
Thanks for putting me in a *psychiatric* ward when i clearly need medical attention.
At the very end, he throws in a line to give the movie a little social commentary, saying that the people in the city of Tokyo are becoming inhuman too.
And that's it! Definitely a different sort of movie, and not really something that should be part of our project. But i could totally see the Matangos being some kind of space mushroom that landed on Earth and eventually growing big enough for Godzilla to fight. Or another giant monster could eat Matango and become a super-mushroom. In fact, i demand such a sequel!
Monsters Appearing: Matango
Monsters Appearing: Matango
I've got this on DVD. The trailer for it seems to have better lighting and a bit of extra footage that wasn't in the actual film.
The movie was supposedly based on William Hope Hodgson's "A Voice In The Night".
The professor could have been infected by breathing in spores.
There's a very embarrassing blooper in this: just before the professor finds the good girl in the shroom field, a Matango starts to get up, and then sits back down again. You can imagine the director motioning "NOT YET!"
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 15, 2015 4:12 PM
I got to see this one again but I remember enjoying it. Mushroom people walking around should be silly but Honda made it work. It's very Lovecraftian.
Posted by: david banes | August 15, 2015 4:14 PM
This film actually never got a theatrical run in the USA; it went straight to TV.
Matango did show up in American comics, in a way. Steve Bissette appropriated the name for a largely unseen monster in a Swamp Thing Annual. Neil Gaiman mentioned it again in the next Annual, and then Doug Wheeler actually made it a "fungus elemental" that fought Swamp Thing over several issues. Matango was never shown as a giant mushroom monster in those issues, but you'd think use of the name alone would have attracted legal action by Toho. I'm guessing nobody at Toho was a DC Comics fan...
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 17, 2015 12:06 PM
I first saw this film as a six-year old at 8:00 pm on a Saturday evening and was unable to sleep for the next 24 hours after watching it.
This films impact on me was so great that I will still not watch it to this very day nor eat mushrooms. Honest.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | August 17, 2015 3:00 PM
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