Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People,
directed by Ishiro Honda
(Tokyo Shock, 1963)

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip ... Numbered among your castaways are a sailor, the skipper, a wealthy businessman, a professor, a female performer, a cute and mousy young woman and -- a writer. Oh well, you didn't think this was Gilligan's Island, did you? Nobody gets tired of coconut cream pies here because there is almost no food to be found on this deserted isle -- nothing except great big mushrooms that thrive in the seemingly cursed environment. You don't want to eat these mushrooms, though, for this is the one place on Earth where the old maxim, "You are what you eat," is actually a truism.

Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People taught me one thing. If I'm ever on Survivor and there's a Japanese contestant in my tribe, I'm going to do everything I can to make sure he or she is the first person booted out. This film's "survivors" definitely are not team players, and things start getting ugly even before their drenched clothes have started to dry out. The decision to take their tiny yacht directly into a huge storm is anything but unanimous in hindsight, the men soon starting looking at the women as if they've been locked away in solitary confinement on Alcatraz for a couple of decades, and the small and dwindling food supply is not even safe under lock and key. These folks wouldn't have lasted a day if they hadn't found an old, abandoned relic of a ship on the other side of the island. There, they at least have shelter. All too quickly, though, the more annoying characters succumb to the lure of the abundant mushrooms, even after they've learned that eating them will cause you to turn into a mushroom yourself.

Honestly, I expected to enjoy this film much more than I did. After all, it is from Toho, the guys who gave the world Godzilla, and a number of other reviewers seem to have a special kind of affection for Matango -- but I found the whole thing rather boring and utterly devoid of creepiness. I didn't think the character development was all that impressive, so much so that I sometimes had trouble telling the different male characters apart. And the constant bickering was just annoying. Whatever moral lessons this movie may have wanted to impart were rather lost on me, I'm afraid. Just to be blunt about it, I found the whole thing to be rather silly.

review by
Daniel Jolley

29 January 2011

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