Matango – Japan, 1963

Matango (マタンゴ) – also known as Matango, Fungus of Terror and Attack of the Mushroom People – is a 1963 Japanese tokusatsu movie. It was directed by Ishirō Honda (The Human Vapour; The H-ManGodzilla) from a screenplay by Takeshi Kimura, based on the story “The Voice in the Night” by William Hope Hodgson. Eiji Tsuburaya handled the special effects.

Matango was apparently nearly banned in Japan due to some of the makeup resembling the facial disfigurements characteristic of those who survived atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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It was never released theatrically in the United States, but was released directly to television by American International Television (AIP-TV) in 1965 as Attack of the Mushroom People.

In the UK, the film was released with an ‘X’ certificate by Orb Films in 1969. VHS releases by JVI and Sheptonhurst/Private followed in the home video era.

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Plot:

After a yacht is damaged in a storm and its occupants become stranded on a deserted island. The passengers; a psychologist and his girlfriend, a wealthy businessman, a famous singer, a writer, a sailor and his skipper, take refuge in a mysterious fungus-covered boat.

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While using the mushrooms for sustenance they find in the ship’s journal that the mushrooms are poisonous, however some members of the shipwrecked party continue to ingest the mysterious fungi transforming them into hideous fungal monsters…

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Reviews:

With a slow-boiling tension, smart writing, convincing portrayals and some simple but effective special effects, Matango deftly explores the limits of human will and the lengths of social restraints. At the same time it directly questions the fabric of reality and the nature of happiness. And somehow, it also manages to consider life in a post-nuclear world with a rather nihilistic point of view.” Sean Kotz, Sci-fi Japan

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“Illogical on any level except that of fantasy, where it is glaringly consistent, this is a picture that, like Honda’s Chikyu Boeigun/The Mysterians (1957), allows us to glimpse something of the nature of the dream logic that structures the monster movie scenarios.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction

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“The pace of this undeniably trippy imagery steadily gains inertia before escalating into full-blown psychedelia, with hallucinatory flashbacks of the Tokyo skyline superimposed over by seductive dancing girls as the characters descend into complete delirium at the climax.” Jasper Sharp, Midnight Eye

“Far from a piece of Grade Z schlock, it’s a good, very atmospheric, serious, fairly compelling horror / survivalist picture about the dark side of human nature and the depths some people will go to save their own ass at the expense of others. […] Shot in Tohoscope, there’s a very hazy / foggy sheen that creates a great amount of dreary atmosphere and the makeups and monster designs are effective.” The Bloody Pit of Horror

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“Of course, none of it makes any sense, even in the demented world of horror films. But as a metaphoric fantasy (in the tradition of Alice in Wonderland and Gulliver’s Travels), Ishiro Honda has once again created an atmospheric, dream-like fable…” Thomas Weisser, Yuko Mihara Weisser, Japanese Cinema Encyclopedia: Horror – Fantasy – Science Fiction

“The flaws are slow pacing, poorly-shot action scenes, and the incomplete character development. But the atmosphere of grimness and mystery more than compensates. The film has a large cult following.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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Toho concept art for Matango (1963)

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Cast and characters:

  • Akira Kubo as Professor Kenji Murai
  • Kumi Mizuno as Mami Sekiguchi
  • Kenji Sahara as Senzō Koyama
  • Hiroshi Tachikawa as Etsurō Yoshida
  • Yoshio Tsuchiya as Masafumi Kasai
  • Hiroshi Koizumi as Naoyuki Sakuda
  • Miki Yashiro as Akiko Sōma

Wikipedia | IMDb | Image thanks: Sci-fi Japan | VideoCollector.co.uk

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