Cult Movie: The Mothra of all Japanese monster movies

Mothra – this winged wonder was one of the most iconic of all the Japanese kaiju
Mothra – this winged wonder was one of the most iconic of all the Japanese kaiju


IN THE world of mythic Japanese movie monsters Mothra has always been overshadowed by the skyline trashing antics of its cinematic brother, Godzilla.

That’s a shame because in that beautiful winged wonder we’re talking about one of the most iconic of all the Japanese kaiju. She graced a dozen features in her lifetime and she remains much loved by followers of that colourful world of cinematic fantasy and wonder.

As part of their ongoing Masters of Cinema Series, Eureka home video are releasing Mothra’s debut celluloid appearance this month on Blu-ray for the very first time and it’s a beautiful beast to behold. Ishiro Honda’s film forever changed the way monster movies were made in Japan and it still packs a considerable dayglow-flavoured punch today, almost 60 full years on from its original release.

The plot is simple and very much of its nuclear-fearing time. When reports filter through of human life on Infant Island, an allegedly deserted atomic bomb test site, an expedition of interested parties from all over the world descend on the heavily radiated island only to discover a tribe of natives and a pair of tiny fairies called 'Shobijin' who stand guard over a sacred egg.

Having clearly never watched a movie like this in his life, the idiot leader of this band of interlopers kidnaps the 'Shobijin' to show them off on a Tokyo stage. Unsurprisingly they swiftly summon their protector. The egg hatches and releases a giant caterpillar and by the time Mothra has morphed into her final form the entire Japanese nation faces destruction like it’s never seen before.

As wildly over-the-top and joyously psychedelic as that plot summary suggests it will be, Mothra is a joy to behold all these years on from it’s big screen debut. A trippy and colourful tale of an intelligent and protective monster,it changed the game for Japanese genre movies at the time and it still looks fabulous today.

This beautifully packaged Blu-ray issue contains both the Japanese and English version of the film (101 mins and 90 mins in duration respectively) and a whole raft of detailed extras for fans to drool over.

That means audio commentaries from historians and Japanese sci-fi experts like David Kalet, Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewki, English subtitles, if you feel such things are needed for a visual feast like this, and even an interview with the always entertaining cult King Kim Newman who throws plenty of new light on the history and legacy of the giant moth and the films she graced.

There’s also a lushly produced collector’s booklet that runs to an impressive 60 pages and gives us essays from the likes of Christopher Stewardson and Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp and more garish behind the scenes pics and period reviews than even the most hard core monster maniac could crave.

Godzilla may have got the headlines and the big budget remakes in subsequent decades but the discerning monster fan always nodded in approval at the hyper real adventures of Mothra. This timely release will tell you why.