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Don’t Open That Door! #45: The Mysterians (1957)

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Thursday, Jun 6, 2013
Welcome to our weekly field guide to 1950s horror and sci-fi movies and the creatures that inhabit them. This week: Japan suffers from some seriously bad luck -- plus a giant killer armadillo robot -- in The Mysterians.
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The Mysterians

Director: Ishiro Honda
Cast: Akihiko Hirata, Momoko Kochi, Takashi Shimura, Kenji Sahara

(US theatrical: 15 May 1959)

Alternative title: Mars Needs Japanese Women


POSITIVES:
Gigantic robot armadillo thing from space!.
Gigantic robot armadillo thing from space shoots pulsar destructo-beams!
Twists and turns and double- (and triple-) crosses.
Nifty, “Now what?” ending.
  
NEGATIVES:
Women characters are pretty vapid.
A bit too much bone-crunching military action, if that’s possible.
Annoying martial music.


SYNOPSIS: When a forest fire breaks out in the dense woods of central Japan, the locals become understandably concerned—but not half as concerned as when the whole village disappears in an enormous mudslide/sinkhole. Brooding astrophysicist Shiraishi is quick to arrive at the scene of the fire, glad as he is of any chance to ditch his simpering ex-fiancee Hiroko, and summarily disappears, presumed lost in the landslide. This is tragic and everything, but it’s frankly overshadowed by the enormous, armadillo-esque robot that emerges from the crash site and goes on a rampage. The army is called in to beat it back, which it manages to do, but only after Armadillotron has spent a fair amount of time blustering about, loosing blue blobs o’ doom in all directions and generally making a mess of things.


Meanwhile, shooting stars are zipping across the night sky. Just sayin’.


But it seems that all this mayhem might simply be the prologue. Back in the big city, perpetually-worried-looking Dr Adachi—the mentor of both Shiraishi and Shiraishi’s buddy, Atsumi—collects evidence that rockets are flying from the moon towards the earth. Given that Armadillotron appears to be a radio-controlled robot built somewhere other than Earth, this is a worrying development—but not half as worrying as the enormous spherical space alien habitat that lurches up from underground and invites five scientists inside. The scientists, including Adachi and Atsumi, discover a race of humanoids who looks suspiciously like a motorcycle trick-rider team, who are not at all shy about voicing their demands. Said demands translate roughly as: “Give is some of your Earth women for sexual intercourse, because we find them attractive, which is weird considering we’re from outer space, but hey, you can’t second-guess attraction, and besides, all our space women have been a little dodgy in the child-bearing department ever since we had that big atomic war a hundred thousand years ago.”


As reasonable as this request might be, it meets with considerable resistance from our human heroes, who are none to keen on parceling out nice Earth girls just to help some race of alien helmet-wearers recover their evolutionary equilibrium. From here on out, predictably enough, it’s war—fairly repetitive, stock-footage-and-plastic-tank war—with a twist or two thrown in, courtesy of our pal Shiraishi. Remember him? They do.




Best lines of subtitling in the movie: “It’s cold inside. Please wear a cape.”


What gets mysteriously destroyed: Three members of the volunteer fire brigade; a village; a whole mess of fish; a Jeep; a town; some police officers; some firemen; several rocket launchers; an Armadillotron; numerous jet planes, tanks and artillery pieces; a big wingless jet bomber; some more war gizmos; a village; another Armadillotron; numerous horn-dogs from th’ stars; a hero; a spherical stronghold. Yep, lots of explosions here.


What gets saved: The Land of the Rising Sun (and by extension, the rest of the world).


Moral of the story: A woman’s place… is outer space! (Confession: Actually, that’s totally not the moral of the story.)


Did you notice? The sign at the UN announcing the most important initiative in the history of humankind reads: “Defense Force of the Earth – Head Quarter.”


Somehow their careers survived: Akihiko Hirata (Shiraishi) won the quadruple-crown of Toho’s prestige monster flicks, co-starring in 1954’s Gojira and 1956’s Rodan, as well as Mothra (1961) and Gidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964). But this prolific actor appeared in much more than kaiju films. Gojira also featured Momoko Kochi (Hiroko) and Takashi Shimura (Dr Adachi), who lent his dignified, professorial air to Godzilla Raids Again (1955), Mothra, Gidorah and much else. Kenji Sahara (Atsumi) appeared in numerous Godzilla films, as well as 1963’s creepfest Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People. All these movies were directed by Ishiro Honda.


BOTTOM LINE: A solid Toho Studios effort gets points for an evolving plotline.


NEXT WEEK: The Amazing Transparent Man (1959)



Rating:

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