TALKBACK: The Mysterians

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TALKBACK: The Mysterians

Postby Benjamin Haines » Sun Mar 04, 2012 9:24 pm

This movie has nostalgic value for me, even though I didn't see it until I was 16, all of seven years ago. Aside from Rodan, I never saw any of the non-Godzilla Toho SFX films from the golden age as a child, but I was aware of their existence thanks to books like The Official Godzilla Compendium. In the late '90s, if they weren't at any local video stores, as far as I knew they weren't on video at all, so to me those movies were always things of wonder, the mysterious first appearances of many of the monsters I knew from Godzilla films, lost to time, never to be seen.

Then in 2005, out of nowhere comes Media Blasters with a quartet of obscure Toho classics on DVD, starting with The Mysterians. The moment the menu screen came up and I heard Akira Ifukube's "Preparing to Attack" cue, it dawned on me what I was in for. For some reason it had never clicked in my head before then that these elusive Showa era SFX films were cut from the same cloth as the Godzilla classics I grew up watching, with the same kind of look and style that all felt so familiar to me. That was when I really started to appreciate the unique sensibility that Ishiro Honda, Akira Ifukube, Eiji Tsuburaya et al. brought to the table, as well as the recurring actors that pop up in so many of these classics. Realizing that the total number of Showa Era movies was more than double what I had thought was exciting to say the least.


I really like The Mysterians. Rewatching it now, it's clear that there isn't all that much of a story here. It's not as thin on plot as Battle In Outer Space, but after the first 40 minutes or so it's really just a series of escalating action sequences. What makes it work is the intrigue the movie builds up in the first act. The mystery of Shiraishi's disappearance, his incomplete report on Mysteroid, disasters in the form of a forest fire and a giant robot, and strange activity on the moon all lead up to the sudden revelation of the Mysterian dome.

I like how Mogera is handled. Unlike Godzilla and Rodan, the giant monster (or robot in this case) is a precursor to the film's main conflict, appearing early and unexpectedly. The outstretched arms, lumbering gate and lack of a voice make Mogera effectively ominous and the nighttime attack on the town is wonderfully shot. The brief appearance of the second Mogera toward the end of the movie is hilarious.

There is really bizarre scene in which a U.S. official speaks in English and a translator repeats the message in Japanese to the Japanese characters. Then when they all sit down, the American suddenly speaks Japanese, so why did he ever need a translator? I think the white actors were probably native Japanese speakers with no idea what they were saying in English. I wonder why Honda had them speaking Japanese in the film at all, though I guess he figured Japanese audiences at the time wouldn't be bothered by that inconsistency.

The miniature effects are just spectacular. Combined with the dynamic rotoscoping and Ifukube's riveting score they make for some unforgettable sequences of the Earth Defense Force fighting the Mysterians. This is the ultimate 1950s alien invasion movie.
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Postby MekaGojira3k » Sun Mar 04, 2012 9:40 pm

I first watched this a few years ago, and the effects were something I was genuinely blown away by. There's some really cool shots. It does stand as one of the more memorable alien invasion films I've seen. I do wish there had been a touch more Mogera, though.
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Postby kiryugoji04 » Sun Mar 04, 2012 9:47 pm

Yeah, this is easily among my top ten Toho films. So much more entertaining than Battle in Outer Space!
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Postby Mac » Sun Mar 04, 2012 9:58 pm

I'm a big fan of this one as well. I like the Mysterians' outfits.
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Postby king_ghidorah » Sun Mar 04, 2012 9:59 pm

I like the first 10-15 minutes...and then I start to drift away. I'm totally gone by the time the final 30 min battle or whatever takes place.

I know I'm in the minority on this one so I expect to take some flack lol.
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Re: TALKBACK: The Mysterians

Postby Tyler E. Martin » Sun Mar 04, 2012 11:18 pm

Benjamin Haines wrote:There is really bizarre scene in which a U.S. official speaks in English and a translator repeats the message in Japanese to the Japanese characters. Then when they all sit down, the American suddenly speaks Japanese, so why did he ever need a translator? I think the white actors were probably native Japanese speakers with no idea what they were saying in English. I wonder why Honda had them speaking Japanese in the film at all, though I guess he figured Japanese audiences at the time wouldn't be bothered by that inconsistency.


Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but according to all the sources I've read/heard, Harold Conway and George Furness (the Caucasian actors mentioned) were both expats from the west living in Japan. Now I'm not a fluent speaker, but their Japanese sounds very stilted, like they're speaking it phonetically (see Conway in Mothra, where he plays the Rolisican ambassador, for another example); they may not be the greatest actors, but their English sounds much more natural.

Back to the main topic, though, I'm more or less with KG on this one. The movie does have a lot of things going for it: excellent effects work, a cool monster, great music and a terrific cast...but the movie as a whole does nothing for me. The idea is potentially interesting, but the clunky narrative flow, which effectively peters out by the halfway mark, kills any interest I might have had.

Battle in Outer Space may be far weaker in terms of characterization and motivation for the invaders, but I love that movie to death, mainly because everything else that's done right in The Mysterians is done even better: effects, music, and a passionate plea for universal brotherhood. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

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Postby king_ghidorah » Sun Mar 04, 2012 11:22 pm

We're in this together bro! Lol...yeah, we are so doomed.
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Postby MekaGojira3k » Sun Mar 04, 2012 11:29 pm

I'd need to rewatch them both back to back, but as much as I do enjoy The Mysterians, I recall preferring Battle in Outer Space More.
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Re: TALKBACK: The Mysterians

Postby kiryugoji04 » Sun Mar 04, 2012 11:33 pm

Speaking of Harold Conway, I flipped when I caught him playing the husband of the lead lady from "Crazed Fruit," a 1956 Toho film. Like, I new he was gonna be a white dude but not THAT white dude. :lol:
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Re: TALKBACK: The Mysterians

Postby Tyler E. Martin » Sun Mar 04, 2012 11:37 pm

kiryugoji04 wrote:Speaking of Harold Conway, I flipped when I caught him playing the husband of the lead lady from "Crazed Fruit," a 1956 Toho film. Like, I new he was gonna be a white dude but not THAT white dude. :lol:


I'd heard about that film, but forgotten. It's now in my Netflix queue. Thanks for reminding me!
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Postby kiryugoji04 » Sun Mar 04, 2012 11:42 pm

It's pretty good.

BUT DAT ENDING, OH LAWD. D8
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Re: TALKBACK: The Mysterians

Postby Benjamin Haines » Mon Mar 05, 2012 12:56 am

Tyler E. Martin wrote:Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but according to all the sources I've read/heard, Harold Conway and George Furness (the Caucasian actors mentioned) were both expats from the west living in Japan. Now I'm not a fluent speaker, but their Japanese sounds very stilted, like they're speaking it phonetically (see Conway in Mothra, where he plays the Rolisican ambassador, for another example); they may not be the greatest actors, but their English sounds much more natural.


Interesting. That makes their inexplicable Japanese dialogue make even less sense.
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Re: TALKBACK: The Mysterians

Postby Tyler E. Martin » Mon Mar 05, 2012 1:30 am

Benjamin Haines wrote:
Tyler E. Martin wrote:Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but according to all the sources I've read/heard, Harold Conway and George Furness (the Caucasian actors mentioned) were both expats from the west living in Japan. Now I'm not a fluent speaker, but their Japanese sounds very stilted, like they're speaking it phonetically (see Conway in Mothra, where he plays the Rolisican ambassador, for another example); they may not be the greatest actors, but their English sounds much more natural.


Interesting. That makes their inexplicable Japanese dialogue make even less sense.


Given the context, the choice may have been made to just go ahead and deliver their lines in Japanese. As I recall, they're contacting Shiraishi on the television and conversing with him directly. Having the interpreter translate for them would have hurt the flow of the scene. It may have made technical sense, but dramatically, it really wouldn't have worked. Then, of course, we have later films like Battle in Outer Space and Gorath, in which two characters will be carrying on a conversation in two different languages, yet they seem to understand each other perfectly, which makes even less sense. Somehow, though, I don't hold that against them. Go figure.
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Postby MouthForWar » Mon Mar 05, 2012 2:00 am

I love this movie, but I agree that the pacing is a bit too sluggish. Still, its one of my favorites.
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Postby heroforhirerob » Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:22 pm

I like this one too. Sure..it's a bit slow at times, but it has plenty of good things about it....Mogera...Ifukube's music...and so on. What I like about this is...for the most part...it's way more ambitious than anything coming out of the States at the time. This film also has an excellent cast...
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Postby sentaison » Thu Mar 29, 2012 9:40 pm

It's one of my all time favorites. Yes the story seems to bog down a bit in the middle, but the battle scenes and all of the effects are just spectacular. And the music is among the best Ifukube ever did for Toho. Now I just have to find the free time to watch it again!
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Postby Giganfan » Sun Jun 17, 2012 11:02 pm

The Mysterians is my favorite of all Toho's fantasy films. To me, it contains all of the hallmarks of what a classic Toho science fiction epic is supposed to be; the ecclectic use of colors, the wildly imaginative costumes and weaponry, Ishiro Honda's universal theme of international unity against a common threat, the INTENSLEY blue skies (you gotta love Toho's backdrops in those days!) and a ROUSING Akira Ifukube score. When considering The Mysterians I cannot help comparing it to another of my all-time favorite films, Tod Browning's Dracula with Bela Lugosi, in terms of it's basic construction. In both films, you are immediately drawn in by the expository action. In Dracula the opening moments in Transylvania are often regarded as some of the finest of horror cinema that's ever been filmed, while in The Mysterians, the carefully paced and brilliantly moody "act one" with Moguera is simply one of the best sequences that the Honda/Tsuburaya/Ifukube trio ever conceived. However, in the case of both films, it seems the popular consensus is that everything that follows is considerably inferior. With Dracula, it becomes the victim of an extemely stage-bound script and a notoriously un-flashy director who was finding it difficult to adjust to the dawn of the talking picture era. In The Mysterians, with the exception of the effects sequences, most fans and critics feel that the story bogs down and Honda directs at a somnambulistic pace (that's just the feeling I have gotten from reading reviews and opinions of fans over the years; I could be wrong). To me, even though both movies are admittedly flawed, and not perfect, The Mysterians and Dracul are still great films, and are highly effective because they hook you from the start. Honda, Tsuburaya and co. start out with a loud "BANG" and they instantly get you interested. For me anyway, that's all they really needed to do to have me invested in whatever story they were trying to tell. The brilliant opening moments are what elevate the rest of the material beyond their imperfections. And besides, Ishiro Honda was, respectfully, an economy-minded and deliberately methodical director, sometimes to the benefit of a movie, sometimes not. Howard Hawks once said that a good movie consists of two or three great scenes, and no bad ones. Now, whether or not you agree with that statement (I do), I think it's safe to say that The Mysterians has three great scenes, atleast two and, atleast to my liking, no bad ones.
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Postby Giganfan » Sun Aug 05, 2012 10:58 am

D*mn...guess I didn't convince anyone :(
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Postby MekaGojira3k » Sun Aug 05, 2012 12:17 pm

I think Mysterians is okay. I really can't love it. I don't know what it is, but it never really grabs my interest.
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Postby metal_bryan » Mon Aug 06, 2012 2:38 am

I very much enjoy The Mysterians, but I don't know if I could possibly rate it higher than Matango. I know they're very different movies, but Matango always struck me as one of the best movies in general, whereas The Mysterians is a good Toho sci-fi flick.
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Postby The Real McCoy » Mon Aug 06, 2012 12:28 pm

I think it's a ground-breaking special effects movie. That's what fascinates me about it. The movie itself is kind of "par for the course" with me; not on the same level as Matango or H-Man.
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Postby MekaGojira3k » Mon Aug 06, 2012 12:30 pm

I think it's on par on H-Man, but not quite up to Matango...or Human Vapor..or...a lot of stuff really :lol:
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Re: TALKBACK: The Mysterians

Postby daijinryuu775489 » Wed Sep 18, 2013 8:40 am

The Mysterians is an excellent film, but it could still benefit from a more well developed plot. It was great to see the human stars from Godzilla and Rodan brought together for a strong alien invasion entry. Also, the Beta was an awesome aircraft. I tend to imagine that maybe the Beta was a precursor to the Gotengo...
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Re: TALKBACK: The Mysterians

Postby Silver Kamen » Fri Sep 20, 2013 6:41 pm

My biggest problem with The Mysterians is that the human drama is minimal. Even though there are countless actors here who could have carried the film. There’s no attempt to deepen the relationship between the lead characters, even though it’s at a critical point, as the aliens desire the main group of females for breeding. There’s not much time to deal with any of these issues. Which really hurts the film, in my opinion.
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Re: TALKBACK: The Mysterians

Postby Gman2887 » Fri Sep 20, 2013 11:41 pm

Silver Kamen wrote:My biggest problem with The Mysterians is that the human drama is minimal. Even though there are countless actors here who could have carried the film. There’s no attempt to deepen the relationship between the lead characters, even though it’s at a critical point, as the aliens desire the main group of females for breeding. There’s not much time to deal with any of these issues. Which really hurts the film, in my opinion.


I agree with this to an extent, but it's a much bigger problem with other 50s movies in the genre. Rodan barely had characters. They were more like cardboard stand-ins. Varan started with some fairly interesting characters, but gave them nothing to do by the last act. And I don't even know where to start with the cast from Battle in Outer Space. Couldn't tell you who the lead character really is.

For all the minimalism with the characters I give the movie props for at least giving them an arc with a beginning, middle and end. It's thin, but it still works and I feel a connection to them.

Then again I view The Mysterians as one of the absolute best movies in Toho's sci-fi catalog. I've stayed away from this thread only because I can't accurately put into words how highly I revere this film. And out of the 50s I think The Mysterians was the most influential on the 1960s flicks for its colorfulness, inventive weapons, infatuation with aliens/outer space, world unity, minor insanity and multicultural characters. Among other things.
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