Film Review: The Mysterians (1957)

Also known as: Chikyū Bōeigun, lit. Earth Defense Force (Japan)
Release Date: December 28th, 1957 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Takeshi Kimura, Jojiro Okami
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Kenji Sahara, Yumi Shirakawa, Takashi Shimura, Akihiko Hirata

Toho, RKO Radio Pictures, 89 Minutes

mysteriansReview:

I have wanted to see The Mysterians ever since I discovered the giant robot Moguera in the first Godzilla video game on the original Nintendo. The character didn’t appear in a Godzilla film until the 90s and it was a much different version of the giant robot but it has always been closely associated with the Godzilla mythos.

The Mysterians isn’t all about a giant kaiju-like robot, however. The film is about an alien invasion and Earth having to kick some outer space ass.

It all starts with a series of natural disasters in Japan. The military and the scientists are on top of it, trying to figure out what is happening. Also, a mysterious asteroid is discovered. It is theorized that it was part of a planet that was once between Mars and Jupiter. Then, while our characters are investigating an earthquake, Moguera the giant robot appears and starts trashing everything. He destroys tanks and other military vehicles with his eye blasts. Mayhem ensures. The aliens appear, the government does government stuff, next thing you know – Earth is at war.

Coming out in 1957, The Mysterians was very early in Toho’s long history of kaiju and sci-fi films. It came out just three years after the original Godzilla movie, where it was wedged between the fantastic film Rodan and the severely underwhelming Varan. At this point, Toho hadn’t really started crossing monsters over into each other’s pictures. Had The Mysterians came a few years later, Godzilla, Mothra or Rodan may have helped defend Earth against Moguera and its Mysterian masters.

The film is very unique and like Gojira (the original Godzilla film) it was a trendsetter for Toho studios. It wasn’t simply a kaiju movie, it was a huge science fiction bonanza. It was also the first film they did in color in a widescreen format.

The success of the film, being sci-fi heavy, lead Toho to experiment with those elements in later pictures. The tone and style of The Mysterians isn’t all that different than where the Godzilla movies went once King Ghidorah showed up in the fifth picture. From that point on, there was always a strong alien presence in the Godzilla franchise. Toho even started using anti-kaiju weapons that were similar to those first featured in The Mysterians. Also, Toho ended up making several non-kaiju sci-fi movies. There is even a quasi-sequel to The Mysterians – 1959s Battle In Outer Space.

I ended up loving this film. Maybe I went into it with a strong bias, due to knowing how important it was to Toho and the evolution of kaiju films in general. Regardless, it is still a strong picture and apart from Gojira, the most exciting Toho movie of the 1950s.

The actors were familiar faces from Toho’s other big movies and they were just as good as they always are. The action was some of the best of the era. The production even boasted real tanks in some scenes. The special effects look great for 1957, being that this is the first time Toho had really gone all out, in full color.

Overall, The Mysterians is a strong motion picture that went on to influence the film industry for decades, if not permanently. It is well acted, well executed and a visual delight. I’d almost like to see Toho do a real update of this picture, similar to what they just did with Shin Godzilla.

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