Mothra (モスラ?) is a Mosura1961 tokusatsu kaiju film produced by Toho Company Ltd., and the first film to feature the character Mothra. It is an adaptation of the serial novel The Luminous Fairies and Mothra, published in Weekly Asahi earlier in 1961. The film was released to Japanese theaters on July 30, 1961.
An expedition to an irradiated island brings civilization in contact with a primitive native culture. When one sensationalist entrepreneur tries to exploit the islanders, their ancient deity arises in retaliation.
In waters off Infant Island, a presumably uninhabited site for Rolisican atomic tests, the Daini-Gen'you-Maru is caught and run aground in the turbulence of a typhoon. A rescue party following the storm finds four sailors alive and strangely unafflicted with radiation sickness, which they attribute to the juice provided them by island natives. The story is broken by tenacious reporter Zenichiro (also known as "Bulldog" or "Zen-chan") Fukuda (Frankie Sakai) and photographer Michi Hanamura (Kyoko Kagawa), who infiltrate the hospital examining the survivors.
The Rolisican Embassy responds by co-sponsoring a joint Japanese–Rolisican scientific expedition to Infant Island, led by capitalist Clark Nelson (Jerry Ito). Also on the expedition are radiation specialist Dr. Harada (Ken Uehara), linguist Shin'ichi Chūjō (Hiroshi Koizumi), and stowaway reporter Fukuda. There the team discover a vast jungle of mutated flora, a fleetingly-glimpsed native tribe, and minuscule twin girls (the Peanuts, Emi and Yumi Ito). These "small beauties", as Fukuda calls them, wish their island to be spared further atomic testing. Acknowledging this message, the team returns and conceals these events from the public.
Nelson, however, returns to the island with a crew of henchmen and abducts the girls, gunning down several natives who try to save them. While Nelson profits off a "Secret Fairies Show" in Tokyo featuring the girls singing, both they and the island natives beseech their god Mothra, a giant egg, for help. Fukuda, Hanamura, and Chūjō communicate with the girls via their telepathic ability; they express conviction that Mothra will come to their aid. Meanwhile, Fukuda's newspaper has accused Nelson of holding the girls against their will; Nelson denies the charge and files a libel suit against the paper. Meanwhile, the island egg hatches to reveal a gigantic caterpillar, which begins swimming the Pacific Ocean toward Japan. The caterpillar destroys a cruise ship and survives a napalm attack on a beeline path for Tokyo. The Rolisican Embassy, however, defends Nelson's property rights over the girls, ignoring any connection to the monster.
Mothra finally arrives on the Japanese mainland, impervious to the barrage of weaponry directed at it, ultimately building a cocoon in the ruins of Tokyo Tower. Public feeling turns against Nelson, and he is ordered to release the girls. He flees incognito to Rolisica, where Mothra, newly hatched in an imago form, immediately resumes her search. Police scour New Kirk City for Nelson as Mothra lays waste to the metropolis. Ultimately Nelson is killed in a shootout with police, and the girls are assigned to Chūjō's care. Observing a religious significance in Mothra's unique symbol, Chūjō hits upon a novel way to attract Mothra to an airport runway. The girls are returned amid salutations of "sayōnara", and Mothra flies back to Infant Island.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Ishiro Honda
- Written by Takehiro Fukunaga, Yoshie Hotta, Shinichiro Nakamura, Shinichi Sekizawa
- Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka
- Music by Yuji Koseki
- Cinematography by Hajime Koizumi
- Edited by Kazuji Taira
- Production design by Teruaki Abe, Takeo Kita, Akira Watanabe
- Special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Frankie Sakai as Journalist Senichiro Fukuda
- Hiroshi Koizumi as Doctor Shinichi Chujo
- Kyoko Kagawa as Photgrapher Michi Hanamura
- Ken Uehara as Doctor Harada
- Yumi Ito, Emi Ito as Shobijin
- Jerry Ito as Clark Nelson
- Takashi Shimura as News Editor
- Akihiro Tayama as Shinji Chujo
- Obel Wyatt as Roff, Doctor
- Akihiko Hirata as Ship Doctor
- Kawazu as General Seizaburo
- Yoshifumi Tajima as Military Advisor
- Robert Dunham as Rolisican Cop
- Harold Conway as Rolisican Ambassador
- Kenji Sahara as Helicoptor Pilot
- Akira Yamada, Takeo Nagashima, Arai Hayamizu as Infant Island Natives
- Tetsu Nakamura, Akira Wakamatsu, Hiroshi Akitsu, Hiroshi Iwamoto, Toshio Miura, Osman Yusuf as Nelson's Henchmen
- Yoshio Kosugi as Ship Captain
- Ren Yamamoto, Haruya Kato, Ko Mishima, Rinsaku Ogata as Ship Survivors
- Kazuo Imai as Announcer
- Wataru Omae, Kazuo Higata as Officials
- Shoichi Hirose, Toshihiko Furuta as Dam Workers
- Koji Uno as Reporter
- Tadashi Okabe, Akio Kusama, Mitsuo Tsuda as Surveyors
- Mitsuo Matsumoto, Hiroyuki Satake as Police Officers
- Mothra Threatens the World (Mothra bedroht die Welt, Germany)
- Mothra the Indestructible (Mothra la indestructible, Mexico)
- Mothra, the Wild Goddess (Mothra, a Deusa Selvagem, Brazil)
Columbia Pictures distributed Mothra in the United States in a double bill with The Three Stooges in Orbit. Columbia removed about ten minutes of footage from the Japanese version of the film and rearranged some scenes, as well as dubbing the dialogue into English.
Mothra was a considerable critical and financial success in Japan. It launched the career of screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa, who would go on to write several Godzilla films as well as contribute to Tsuburaya Productions' Ultraman series. The monster Mothra would go on to become a very popular character, appearing in the 1964 Godzilla film, Mothra vs. Godzilla, and countless other films in the series afterward.
Mothra eventually received her own trilogy of films in the late 1990s. Mothra also received favorable reviews in the United States when it was released there, with critics praising its cinematography and special effects.
Mothra remains a popular and beloved film among fans of the kaiju genre, due to its unique story and the fact that it introduced the fan-favorite kaiju Mothra.
Home media releases
|Sony||August 18, 2009||Region 1||Japanese|
|N/A||Part of a triple feature with H-Man and Battle in Outer Space|
|Mill Creek||February 25, 2015||Region 1||English||N/A||Bundled with 20 Million Miles to Earth, The Giant Claw, and It Came From Beneath the Sea|
A scene explaining the origins of Mothra and the fairies was planned, but deemed too long and dropped from the final draft.
For years it was thought that Rolisica was actually based on the United States. However, it was revealed years later that it was based on both the United States and the Soviet Union. In fact, the name of the nation of Rolisica is a hybrid of Russia and America. The name of the country originally was going to be Roshirica. Also, the Rolisican flag is a hybrid of the American "Stars and Stripes" and the Russian "Hammer and Sickle".
In the American version, Mothra's home's name is changed from Infant Island to Beiru. However, in the American versions of her next three appearances, the island is called Infant Island.
Jerry Itô and Robert Dunham both spoke their lines in both English as well as Japanese.
This movie is thought to have popularized the notion of presenting giant monsters in Japanese movies as their own individual, identifiable characters, rather than menaces who are meant to be defeated. Tellingly, Mothra is presented as more of a hero than an evil or mindless beast. This change in characterization would carry over to other famous giant monster characters, most notably Godzilla, as they would become similar to the early Western monster movie characters made popular in the Older Monster films (The Hunch-Back, Frankenstein's monster, the Wolfman, etc.) rather than the bestial and often interchangeable, generic Western notion of giant monsters.
This was the only debut film featuring one of Toho's "Big Four" monsters (Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah) that Akira Ifukube did not compose the music for.
Jerry Itô's slow stilted delivery of his Japanese dialog fit his character as a foreigner speaking Japanese. This was not an intentional part of his performance. At the time this was made, Jerry Ito had been studying the Japanese language for over six months and was not completely fluent.
Hiroshi Koizumi would later return as Professor Shin'ichi Chûjô many years later in Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003), which also featured Mothra.
Cameo: Kenji Sahara (as the helicopter pilot at the beginning of the film)
This is the first Japanese monster film in which the monster doesn't get "killed" at the end.A different ending was originally planned where Nelson and his goons kidnap Shinji rather than tie him up. They then head for Rolisica via Nelson's private plane, but the plane crashes in Kyushu and Chujo. Senchiro and the police track them to a cave where Shinji breaks free and takes the case containing the fairies. Shinji then opens the case and the fairies telepathically contact Mothra who flies to where the action was. In a final confrontation with Nelson and his goons, Mothra ends up killing them and flying back to Infant Island with the fairies.