After the success of GODZILLA and RODAN, Toho producer Tomoyuki Tanaka reassembled the talented team of director Ishiro Honda, special effects man Eiji Tsuburaya, composer Akira Ifukube, along with various cast members from both movies for another project. As before, the new film would have a science-fiction premise, touch upon the dangers of the atom bomb, and feature numerous opportunities to depict sequences of mass destruction. But THE MYSTERIANS would utilize alien invaders rather than the usual giant monster as its main focus of mass terror, and it’s the first Japanese film to do so.
During a festival, a Japanese town is totally destroyed by radioactive flames, and the military are called in to investigate. They soon come face to face with a bulky, beaked giant robot that squashes everything in site, knocking down buildings and incinerating cars with its deadly eye-beams. Though the robot (known as Mogera) is resistant to blow-torch fire, it is easily defeated when a bridge on which it is standing is detonated. We then discover that Mogera was from the planet Mysteriod, and the inhabitants of that planet have set up base here on Earth in a dome that submerges from the ground. The Mysterians are seemingly civil aliens who sport color-coordinated helmets and capes, claiming to have come in peace. Calling a group of Earth scientists into their dome for a private meeting, they request a piece of land, as well as wanting to obtain a group of Earth women for breeding purposes. The request causes outrage, enough for Earth to declare war against the Mysterians. World officials spend a lot of time in meetings, deciding what weapons to use against the alien invaders, and with the Mysterians' advanced technology, matching them is no easy challenge!
THE MYSTERIANS was the first Japanese science fiction film shot in Scope (2.35:1) and it takes full advantage of the then-innovative anamorphic widescreen process. The alien invasion themes seem to be somewhat inspired here by Hollywood films like WAR OF THE WORLDS, but Toho really proved they knew how to construct this sort of film. It’s fast paced, almost like a pulp comic book coming to life, and the special effects (with the expected visible flaws) represent some of the best of its type, especially considering this was shot almost 50 years ago. Flying saucers, zeppelin-like air vehicles, ray gun blasts, mass floods, and violent explosions are all well depicted with the help of convincing miniatures and matte shots. The alien suits are pretty slick and ahead of their time, and the clunky metallic Mogera was thrown in as an afterthought, but is a real treat for giant monster fanatics. The capable cast includes a lot of actors from the original GODZILLA and RODAN, including Yumi Shirakawa, Kenji Sahara, Momoko Kochi, Akihiko Hirata, and Takashi Shimura.
THE MYSTERIANS is the first in a series of non-Godzilla Toho titles that Media Blasters has gotten the DVD rights to, and the resulting product is marvelous. Any U.S. viewer used to faded and cropped VHS and TV transfers will be very pleased. Presented it its original 2.35:1 Tohoscope aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement, the original Eastman colors look pleasing, if not overly dazzling. The print source is in impeccable shape, and only shows blemishes when optical effects are employed. The original Japanese language track is playable in mono or stereo (with optional English subtitles), and there’s a new English track in 5.1 stereo. The newly dubbed track will disappoint those used to the original American version, but it’s actually respectably done, except for a few unfitting voices. A mono Spanish track is also included, as is a track where Akira Ifukube’s stirring score can be isolated. Also not that this DVD edition is the full uncut Japanese version with several extra minutes of footage not in the U.S. cut, including the brief appearance of a second Mogera during the climax. All the credits are in Japanese as well.
a Japanese language commentary with Toho effects directors Koichi Kawakita and
Shinji Higuchi, who started their careers in 1962 and 1984 respectively. There
is a commentator on hand, and English subtitles accompany it. Both men share
a lot of knowledge about Toho, as well as their craft, revealing a few effects
secrets, and they both obviously have a lot of respect and admiration for THE
MYSTERIANS. Also included are three different photo galleries, including black
and white stills, costume and set designs and storyboards. There is also the
original Japanese trailer, original trailers for the upcoming DVDs of MATANGO,
VARAN and DOGORA, as well as GAPPA and ONE MISSED CALL. (George
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