The Mysterians – 1957, Ishiro Honda – Japan
In the eleven years between 1964 and 1975 we saw seven (SEVEN) Godzilla films with essentially the same plot; aliens (or, in the case of Godzilla Vs Megalon, an ancient, futuristic society from the bottom of the ocean, same deal) show up and try to conquer Earth. At first they act like they’re out interplanetary pals, but then they bust out a giant monster, which they control, and start acting like real dicks. Fun fact; unbeknownst to me until NOW, the blueprint for this scenario predates Ghidorah The Three Headed Monster; it goes back at least as far as The Mysterians, in 1957, which is essentially the same idea, but without Godzilla. Yeah, it’s not a very original idea in the first place.
THE PLOT~ A highly advanced race of aliens arrive in rural Japan and set up shop, invasion style. These aliens, all of whom look like they should be piloting a damn Voltron or something, claim that they mean us no harm; they just need a place to crash for a while, and they’d really appreciate us being cool about it. PLUS, they want to bang our Earth ladies. So, hopefully we’re into that.
We’re not. Earth maybe would have been cool with them chilling here for a while, but banging Earth ladies is well over the line, and so, plans to kill every last Mysterian are immediately put into development by every organized government on the planet. They all have to die, every damn one of them.
It turns out that reaction was warranted, because, of course, The Mysterians are all assholes and they plan to conquer the Earth after all. The small area of land they’ve taken is being transformed into some kind of Spacebridge, or something, and it becomes important that we manage to stomp out their efforts before construction is complete. The advanced technology the Mysterians wield makes this difficult, but we figure it out and eventually the invasion is repelled. Hooray! Go die in the cold reaches of space, you sons of bitches.
My take on The Mysterians is a mixed one. Apparently, the film was regarded as being quite well done at the time of it’s release, but without that perspective, it’s hard to know how to look at The Mysterians in a fair way. My honest, gut reaction is that time hasn’t been very kind to this movie. We heard this story so many times during the Showa era that it leaves this early effort feeling unremarkable, and it’s difficult to remember that this one predates the many superior versions we’ve already enjoyed. The Mysterians feels like a rough draft of an idea, and it’s just not done well enough to make this the movie you want to see when so many superior variations are available to you.
Additionally, right or wrong, to me, Godzilla somehow feels exempt from the B-movie stigma that would normally be attached to an alien invaders/giant monster movie. His contributions to pop culture somehow earn him a pass, but without Big Green on board, Mysterians can’t claim this same exemption; it feels every bit as hokey and dated as the American saucer and spaceman films of the 1950’s, even with Ishiro Honda and the supremely talented Takashi Shiumra attached to the project.
The special effects are another problem; they further date and cheapen the production quite drastically. Taking into account the limited technology of the era, it is again difficult to assess this in a fair way, but regardless, it’s impossible for more modern eyes not to notice the clumsy use of blue screen and assorted other gaffs. The miniatures look quite nice, as is the case with most Toho productions, but Mogera, the giant, mechanical monster deployed by the Mysterians early in the picture, looks obnoxiously shoddy. Successful neither in design, nor execution, Mogera looks exactly like a man stumbling about in a costume made largely of spray painted cardboard boxes, which has the potential to be hilarious, if that’s what you’re looking for.
He is the doofus of the kaiju world.
Mogera turns up again in the Heisei era during the events of Godzilla Vs Spacegodzilla. Somehow he sucks much, much less in that movie.
But are we being too hard on The Mysterians? After all, it’s enjoyable enough, it’s certainly ambitious (jam packed with effects shots from start to finish) and it’s nearly sixty years old! If we’re being fair, the movie is probably fairly impressive when put against other films from that era, and it’s not really that The Mysterians is a bad film, it’s just not as good as Toho’s output in the following years… But this IS an earlier effort. Last word: The Mysterians is interesting, and fun for the completist, but if you’re a more casual movie goer, this just isn’t a Must-See.