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A group of pleasure-seeking young people are stranded on a mysterious island when their boat crashes. One by one they succumb to the lure of the deadly mushrooms.Written by
Steve Hill <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One of the most beautiful and haunting fantasy films ever made
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.
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