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MATANGO, directed by Ishiro Honda, is an exceptionally beautiful
fantasy film from the mighty Toho. Bastardized for its American
release, badly dubbed, retitled ("Attack of the Mushroom People") and
afforded very little respect, its recent re-emergence as a special
edition DVD confirms its place in the realm of fantastique cinema.
What makes this amazing film so effective is its seductively spare but intelligent screenplay, nightmarish atmosphere, serenely creepy score and stunning special effects. Tonally, it recalls underrated Japanese genre flicks such as "The Mistress in a Cave", "Horror of Malformed Men" and the delightful "Living Skeleton". Like the mushrooms the shipwrecked survivors of a pleasure craft are drawn to, it seduces us with its simple structure, pleasing taste and rich subtext.
The film operates on a number of thematic levels, but Honda's achievement is that he never allows the dense thematics to weigh the very human drama down. Like all classic stories of survival, human greed, envy, love and hunger are the engines of the conflict. The search for a state of being free of responsibility and consequences is the dream driving the conflicted.
It is of curious interest to me that the characters in this "uncharted island" fantasy include a Skipper, a Millionaire, a Professor, a First Mate and a Girl Next Door. Produced before "Gilligan's Island" debuted on American TV, it could surely be argued that this orchestration of characters was a template for Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of "Gilligan's Island".
A palpable sadness permeates the last twenty minutes of MATANGO, a sense of blinding melancholy that elevates it to a dizzying level of achievement.
MATANGO explores how we are all drawn to pleasures that we know may sign our death warrants while daring to suggest that death by pleasure is a demise more preferable to death without love.
I have noticed that many of the commentators in this forum have stated that
this film gave them nightmares. No wonder. This film based on William Hope
Hodgson's novel "The Voice in the Night", has a plot that is so bizarre that
it could only have been inspired by someone's nightmares. The premise of
intelligent fungus luring people to eat them and then the people slowly turn
to "mushroom people" is so nightmarishly creepy that I can't imagine that
Hodgson (or anyone else) could of dreamed this idea up when he was wide
MATANGO (aka ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE) is a surprisingly low key atmospheric Japanese horror fantasy. The film is a bit slowly paced at times and too much time is spent on the castaways bickering amongst themselves. There are some elements that I suspect were better developed in the novel. One scene has the two female castaways hearing the voices of dead relatives trying to lure them into the rainforest. This never occurs again and leads nowhere. I'm sure the stuff about nuclear experiments was not in Hodgson's novel. However, the art direction is excellent, the music creepy and the final sequence memorable. Overall, the boys at Toho did a good job.
I don't care what the Medvids think of this film, or the pseudo hip MST3K crowd thinks either, your old pal jim says, see this one.
First of all, it takes guts on the part of the filmmakers to make a commercial movie about people turning into giant mushrooms. It's all a big modern morality fable. Once the characters get to the island, we the audience are sucked into a horrific world of constant rain where the only food that grows is fungus. The characters try to resist but most eventually give in to the temptation. This film is very creepy and maintains an atmosphere of dread. Even the final evolution of the mushroom people is convincing enough to keep you wrapped up in it. It starts off slow but give it a chance. It's a beautifully made and memorable little masterpiece of horror that rightfully seems to have been born of nightmares. It's too bad that even in our supposedly enlightened, politically tolerant world that there is no American distributor for the uncut Japanese version of this film. This film is hard to locate but well worth the effort. I even saw the American International Pictures version that is badly dubbed and it is still a powerful and original film. See it at all costs if you are a fan of Japanese horror films.
If you look around on the Internet you can see that almost all the entries
for this movie, are above average and there are probably a million different
reasons for that. I think they all have in common that somehow this movie
really gets people on a sub-conscious level and represents something.
I remember seeing this movie at various times growing up on the late night horror shows, in Houston, Texas, called "Weird" and "Late Wierd", and then in California on "Creature Features".
There is something about watching this movie about a groups of somewhat related friends who are out on a cruise in their rich friends sailboat, well, actually the exact details escape me, and I am not sure that the English tranlation accurately tells what was supposed to be going on in the original story.
The boat is caught in a storm, and they drift through heavy fog to a deserted island where everything is misty, moist, and fungus ridden. To survive they look for food, and find that people have been to the island before, in fact a large group of people on a freighter ship that has wasted away.
There are some clues on the ship as to what happened, and some strange goings on that stress these "friends" to the breaking point, and their cohesion starts to unravel.
There is just something special about this eerie and fun movie that if I ever see it in DVD format I will pick it up.
The cast of this film all consider it one of their proudest achievements. This film is about false friendships, utter hatred, and abandonment of values. Constructed from William Hope Hodgson's rather simple horror story, in which a man hailing a schooner for food tells how the virtuous (abstinent) unmarried couple (himself and his fiancee) were in a shipwreck and tried to make their home on an island encrusted with fungus, first in a ship and then in two tents on an unidentified sandy substance, only to eat the fungus and become it, takes on a whole new dimension by placing the man, here a psychology professor, and his student fiancee with a rich couple together only for the money, a serious writer, and the two-man crew. Though they never abandon the fungus-encrusted ship for tents, they soon become embittered over food, and the men all want the virgin, not the rich showgirl. Hodgson was on the way to becoming a minister before he was killed in WWI, and his story is explicitly Christian. This film takes out explicit religion (though the Japanese version has a brief scene related to Akiko's Shinto beliefs, which was deleted because most Americans wouldn't understand it), but retains the morals. The psychologist is unable to cope with the degrading values, particularly after the mate is shot over money (useless) and turtle eggs (food). The skipper takes the ship (which isn't his, Kasai wearing a captain's uniform to prove it (and how stuck up he is)) after repairing it, without anyone else, but he dies at sea, Murai soon finding the abandoned ship. The voyage reveals the true character of the relationships with one another, and their attempts to break down the virtuous couple, which ends with the psychologist in the asylum, where he tells his story. He gets succumbed, too. "My friends are alive; I'm the one who died," he tells them. The crew dead, his friends are left on the island, slowly merging with the fungus...
This is a vastly underrated horror film which should be regarded as a true masterpiece, but instead is looked at as a piece of garbage. It is a beyond exellent masterpiece about starvation, betrayal, insanity, and the human condition. The film should not be looked at as a cheesy midnight movie with rubber mushroom people but as a horror classic. Ishiro Honda is an excellent director, his work should be acknowledged as true genius. The plot is about a yacht-load of happy go lucky vacationers who are escaping their stressfull lives. But one night a storm strikes and they loose their mast and are left helplessly drifting at sea. Then they reach an island. It is a foggy, desolate place with a huge jungle. There is nothing edible growing on this island except for a mysterous mushroom. The castaways find a fungus encrusted ship which they clean up and call home. They find a log book which claims the mushrooms can have strange effects on the human brain. The castaways try as hard as they can to get food but are still hungry and start to turn on each other. The castaways then see hideous monsters who live in the jungle. The mushroom turns humans into fungus. The castaways who ran the ship die and the rest start eating the mushrooms. Only one man, Murai, a psychologist, manages not to succumb. He escapes back to Tokyo whereapon he is thought to be mentally unstable and is confined in an asylum. He tells the story, but after he's done they find something different about him.... As I said, this film has gotten a very bad rap over the years. It aired on nightime TV and Creature Double Feature where it was regarded as a sleazy cult movie or a hilariously bad Japanese monster movie. IT'S NOT!! It's very disturbing and unsettling. The mushroom people look very ugly but the castaways transform from good natured working people to vicious, loathesome beasts even more scary than the mushroom people. Avoid the US version because of it's silly title, bad dubbing, and grainy, ugly, color distorted print. Get the original Japanese version for the biggest effect. The performances are so good they brought tears to my eyes, you can see the good camera work which looks like the cover of a pulp magazine. This is such a powerful film it was banned in Japan for some years but they have taken off their ban and it's now on video. My rating: ***** out of *****.
When I first saw this film on a local late-night horror movie show, it
was the late 1960s and our family hadn't yet purchased a color TV.
Growing up with films and TV shows produced and viewed in B&W made me
sensitive to the unique qualities of this medium, particularly the way
in which it focuses the viewer's attention on the quality and play of
light. It is this element of "Matango" which most impressed methe cold
ethereal light of the fog-shrouded forest covered in great lumps of
pallid fungus sent a real shiver down my back. Although I had cut my
teeth on such midnight horror movies, this one actually stole away my
sleep for a couple nights!
Over time I had lost track of this film. The Saturday Night horror show became a thing of the past and no one seemed interested in rebroadcasting these old films. Then very recently, on a lark, I asked our local (independent) video rental place if they had this film in their data base, and Lo! there it was, available on VHS. They ordered it, held it for me, I rented it and prepared to sit down and be scared by it again after a hiatus of over 25 years.
Imagine my surprise to find that the film is in color! In color, it didn't have the same impact at all as it did when I watched it on our B&W TV back home. Quickly, before it got too deep into the story, I changed all the settings on my TV to a nicely balanced black and white, and WOW! There it was, the scariness, the moodiness, the mystery, and the visual subtleties which make it a very nice piece of art.
Really, folksyou gotta see this film in black and white to really appreciate how well it was photographed, lighted, constructed and dressed. This is quite a gem of a film, but one which should have been in black and white to begin with.
First of all, if possible avoid the dubbed version of this one (ATTACK OF
THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE). The dubbing is no worse than usual for a Japanese
sci-fi/horror movie, but this one really needs the subtitles so the viewer
won't be distracted by the cartoonish dubbed voices. There is an excellent
widescreen/subtitled edition of this available from Video Daikaiju ( if
they're still in business; they somehow got away with putting out
excellent-quality subtitled versions of the films that Toho released for
Japanese video market), and it is also pretty easy to find at various
MATANGO scores very high on the slow-burn creepiness meter, and the story of a bunch of hapless castaways slowly descending in to distrust and madness is utterly compelling. What they find on the island is truly disturbing, and I can't put into words how thankful I am for not having seen this during my formative years. This is one of those movies that can royally mess up your mind if you're a little kid. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Forget the social and political upheaval: back when the world was still black and white, a kid could count on one thing, and one thing only- the Friday night fright fest. A daily dose of DARK SHADOWS, after school, was enough to get you through the week. Come the weekend, Friday or Saturday night 'round midnight, the real fun would begin: SHOCK THEATER (usually a double feature, hosted by some local stalwart in whiteface and black tie and tails, more often than not sporting a black cape). Thanks to Netflix, I was able to relive one of my fondest late-night childhood memories just this past week: I rented (via mail, no less) ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE. Surprised first to find that this Nipponese nifty was actually in color, I was pleasantly surprised, also, to find that it was still creepy, after all those years. Want to know what "old school horror" was really all about? Check out this one. You won't be disappointed.
First a correction : the making year and distribution release year in
of MATANGO is 1962 and not 1963.
It is of course a very good movie from Inoshiro Honda, the father of
Eiga" and every cinephile knows what that means. Besides, it is a "Kaiju
eiga" (= "monster movie" as trasnlated in English) quite closer to horror
than to science-fiction, even it is also a sci-fi, including mentions of
atom research in the ghost boat in which the survivors are
It is closer to BINJO TO EKITAI NINGEN [L'HOMME H] (Jap. 1958) than to
GOJIRA (Jap. 1954), both directed by Honda, if you want to have a
comparative idea. Anyway, it is a very original movie in Honda carrier.
it can remind, as a cultivate reader mentionned it, a W.H.Hodgson's novel.
But were the Japanese scriptwriters aware of that source ? Interesting
I am glad to announce you that in France, a smart distributor has bought
rights from Toho and distributed that movie in a beautiful Cinemascope
complying with 16/9 TV screening : it has been shown on Canal + private
famous French TV but I do not think it is available on DVD or video.
It was around one or two years ago and we have been able to discover it in original japanese langage with French subtitles : beautiful master and beautiful movie. Honda is my favorite horror and sci-fi movie director with regard to history of Japanese movie. I have recently written an "Elementary filmography of Kaiju Eiga" in which Inoshiro Honda has of course the main place, as far as Toho is concerned. MATANGO is a masterpiece.
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