KAIJU KONNECTION: The Mysterians (1957)

Welcome to another edition of KAIJU KONNECTION. In this entry I will be discussing the 1957 movie THE MYSTERIANS (CHIKYU BOEIGUN in Japanese, translated to Earth Defense Force), that came out a year after RODAN on December 28, 1957. This was the first Toho movie to utilize the new widescreen format known as TohoScope. For this film, director Ishiro Honda wanted to take a break from giant monsters and just do a science fiction film. The studio insisted that a kaiju be included though because of the popularity of both GODZILLA (1954) and RODAN (1956).

Honda also wanted to escape the East versus West themes of his movies and have one where the world banded together to fight a common enemy. This must have been a good idea as this film grossed 193 million yen, making it the second highest grossing film in Japan that year. The film starred three recognizable Toho regulars with Kenji Sahara, Yumi Shirakawa and Takashi Shimura.

For this synopsis I am using the DVD released by Tokyo Shock in 2005. As of this writing, this DVD is still available on Amazon. I am also viewing the original Japanese version with English subtitles. Enjoy!

The film starts with the TohoScope logo and an exciting theme by Akira Ifukube. We then cut to a space station hovering above the earth. This space station was shown in other Toho movies later on, including KING KONG VS. GODZILLA and DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. As the space station moves out of the screen, multiple flying saucers appear following close behind. It is revealed that this is happening right outside the earth’s atmosphere.

We then cut to a village in Japan near Mount Fuji, in the middle of a celebration known as the Bon Odori Festival. We are then introduced to some of our main characters, Ryoichi Shiraishi, his fiancee Hiroko, his sister Etsuko, and his friend Joji Atsumi. It is revealed that Shiraishi has broken off his engagement with Hiroko. Shiraishi says that he cannot explain now why he decided to do this, only that he can’t get married.

Beautiful shot showing the miniature work for The Mysterians.

Suddenly there is an orange glow in the distance; a forest fire! In some great matte work the villagers are seen on the edge of the shore watching the fire in the distance. We then see three young men on bikes rushing to extinguish the fire. I am not sure how they plan on doing this as it is just them and their bikes. Shiraishi warns them that it is too dangerous. They proceed anyway.

When they arrive at the edge of the fire, they realize that the source of the fire is coming from underground at the roots. In a smart move, the three bikers turn around to head back to the village, only to be trapped as the fire has encircled them. All three men perish.

Behind the scenes shot of Moguera.

The next day we arrive at an observatory. It is revealed that Shiraishi has written a report on an asteroid called Mysteroid. Apparently there are asteroids between Mars and Jupiter that used to be a large planet. The report is unfinished.

We then see Hiroko answering a phone at the observatory. It is the University calling for Atsumi, to say that there was a landslide in the village that Shiraishi was staying at. We then cut to a very realistic miniature of the village, showing the ground beneath it giving way with all homes being destroyed. The details here are phenomenal right down to the rock walls in parts of the village.

Atsumi rushes to the village to see if his friend is ok. It is revealed that the area where the village was is radioactive. When they arrive there is nothing left, except a large hole in the ground, and the radioactivity is gone. They then go to look at where the forest fire was.

In a nearby stream, dead fish are seen everywhere. As they are driving back they notice a burning smell. The roadway is so hot that the tires on their vehicle are burnt. Not only is the ground hot but it is also radioactive. They then hear a rumbling noise and see the side of the mountain moving with smoke everywhere. Out from the mountain appears Moguera, a giant robot of unknown origin.

The men run away, even trying to stop it with gunfire. Moguera shoots at the Jeep with beams from its eyes, exploding not only the vehicle, but the police officer standing next to it. Moguera then kicks the burning Jeep down an embankment. The remaining three men make it back to town and a plan is put into place on how to attack the giant robot.

In some more great miniature work, Moguera is shown walking through a bunch of electrical wires with some forced perspective buildings in the foreground, lights flickering and then going out as the electrical tower falls over. It is this level of detail that adds so much realism to a scene.

An evacuation is ordered and the Defense Force is sent to protect the town. Police officers who didn’t learn earlier that bullets have no effect on Moguera continue to shoot at him just before they also get blown up by Moguera’s eye beams. An attempt to put out the fires caused by Moguera destroying the town fails when Moguera blows up all of the fire trucks, and the people around them.

While the people evacuate the military puts together a line of defense against Moguera. The battle between the military is very well done though I do wish that the eye beam special effects were better. The destruction of the buildings and military vehicles look fantastic. Three flying saucers are then seen streaking across the sky. The military onslaught continues, using everything from sub machine guns, missle launchers to flame throwers, all without effect. When Moguera gets to the Koyama Bridge that all of the people used to escape, they blow it up, trapping Moguera in its debris.

At the Diet Building, the military and scientists are trying to figure out what is going on. They feel everything must be connected. They discuss the metal that Moguera is made of, saying that it is a chemical product that has never been created on earth.

Back at the observatory the moon is being watched. They comment that Shiraishi was right about there being activity on the back side of the moon. A fleet of flying saucers is seen coming from behind the moon. It is now acknowledged that there may be something to Shiraishi’s unfinished report.

The scientists then visit a lake where Shiraishi believed the aliens were at. In the distance a bunch of dust is seen coming up from the ground…something is surfacing. It is a huge dome. A voice is then heard coming from the dome telling the people that we need to avoid useless warfare. They list the names of five people that they want to negotiate with. The five men go to the dome and enter. They are met by beings with outfits that look similar to Power Rangers.

The Mysterians.

They reveal they are from Mysteroid, a planet that was destroyed by atomic war. What they are looking for is a small strip of land, two miles in radius and the right to marry earth women. They are needed for breeding stock as breeding with Mysteroid women has resulted in abnormalities due to Strontium 90 in their bodies. They need to increase their population and improve their race. They want to start with five women, including Hiroko and Etsuko.

At the Ministry of Defense a meeting is had about their demands. They have asked for land that they have already taken and want to marry earth women, three of whom they have already kidnapped. A decision is made to fight the Mysterians.

We then see Shiraishi, broadcasting through the television to talk to Hiroko, Etsuko and Atsumi. He explains that it would be advantageous to submit to their demands because of how scientifically advanced they are and that it would beneficial to Japan. He pleads to Atsumi to stop the pending attack.

The attack begins. Nothing that they shoot at the dome has an effect. The explosions do no damage at all. Jets are sent to attack as well. Flying saucers are dispatched to attack the jets. The saucers immediately destroy a jet with their laser beams. The dome then shoots down two more before it starts shooting at the tanks, which melt from the heat of the blasts. In a fun special effects sequence, a tank starts to spin on the ground it is on, getting sucked below the surface. The driver jumps out just before it goes under in a very clever use of a puppet. The dome then retreats underground.

Three saucers are then seen flying over the city, reminding everyone of what their demands are adding that they do not want to fight. Due to the fact that most of the military vehicles were destroyed in the first attack, the scientists meet to see if they can come up with something. An electron gun is designed and built for the next attack.

The interior set of the dome is very imaginative and fun to look at. It’s simple but effective and does look futuristic. The Mysterians reveal that they are working on something underground that will allow them to control all of eastern Japan. A meeting from representatives from around the world join together to combat a common foe. The decision to use a heat ray is finalized.

Beta.

Two flying vehicles, Alpha and Beta, are dispatched to the dome. Three saucers then arrive and they seem unfazed by the aerial explosions. Beta is quickly destroyed by the dome and it becomes obvious that heat rays do not work. Alpha retreats. The Mysterians then announce that they are now taking 75 miles in radius. A new machine is then designed by the earthlings, called the Marcalite Farp, which has a reflective lens that is 600 feet in diameter which will reflect the Mysterians beams back at them.

Alpha.

Hiroko and Etsuko are then kidnapped. A new plan of attack is put in place using the newly build Marcalite Farps. An evacuation is again ordered for everyone within 75 miles of the dome. Meanwhile an air vent is found in the woods, allowing humans access to the interior of the dome. Atsumi infiltrates the dome while the attack outside seems to be going well. Atsumi attacks one of the Mysterians and gets his gun. The women are rescued by a yellow Mysterian; it is Shiraishi. The attack by the Marcalites is going great until the Mysterians use the power to force the water from the lake into the air, destroying the Markalites and the local town as well. Atsumi then uses the alien gun to shoot the power center of the dome. Shiraishi then brings Atsumi to the women, telling them all to escape before the whole area explodes.

Between the Marcalites, Beta 2 firing the electron gun and Shiraishi shooting everything with the ray gun, the dome ends up exploding. The earth is saved. A squadron of flying saucers is then seen trying to escape to the space station but not before a few of them are destroyed by Beta 2. The film ends showing earth’s atmosphere, now featuring satellites to monitor any future activity by the Mysterians! Their space station slowly drifts away.

Though this movie is lacking in a lot of kaiju, the scenes that feature the Moguera are really well done. The design resembles a metallic samurai suit with a bird-like head that features lit eyes and a rotating antenna on its head. Though I would’ve preferred that RODAN was the first movie filmed in TohoScope, this movie truly showed what the capabilities were with the format. Visually this movie is stunning and a lot of fun to watch. As mentioned before I only have one real complaint and that is with the optical animations (heat rays, saucer rays, robot rays, etc.). These effects are very distracting as they do not appear to be a part of the actual movie. Thankfully these types of effects were greatly improved upon later in films like WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS and GHIDORAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER.

Shiraishi helps Atsumi and the women escape the dome.

The attention to detail in this movie is second to none. It has been reported that every time you see the dome, with Mount Fuji in the background, the matte painting was re-done changing the clouds so that they always looked different. Everyone at Toho should be commended for the incredible work that went into this film. If you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend it!

If you would like to read the other blogs in the KAIJU KONNECTION series, please click HERE.

~David Abaugh

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