Film

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

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.


The Mysterians

Director: Ishiro Honda
Cast: Akihiko Hirata, Momoko Kochi, Takashi Shimura, Kenji Sahara
US Release Date: 1959-05-15

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)

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image