Today’s Random Tokusatsu: Mothra (1961)

Today’s selection: Mothra (1961, dir. Ishiro Honda)

Subgenre: Kaiju

Available from: Sony

Man, where to start when talking about Mothra, the second most important kaiju film ever made? I assume most people know the story, since it’s iconic (and not terribly dissimilar to Gorgo, from earlier the same year, or Honda’s earlier Half Human): civilization encroaches in on an unexplored tropical island, where the expedition encounters natives that worship a dormant goddess. The goddess’s priestess are unusual: a pair of twins that talk in unison, no more than a few inches tall. One entrepreneur pulls a Carl Denham, snatching the fairies up to use as an attraction, never suspecting that their god might be real and dangerous. The priestesses sing a song to Mothra, awakening her to tear apart Tokyo, and later the fictitious New Kirk City (I wish Toho’s continuity department would take us back to Rolisica some time), looking for them.

But why is it important? Aside from introducing Mothra, the second most iconic Toho monster and only one save Godzilla to get her own franchise, aside from introducing military super weapons to fight the giant monsters (okay, there was a little of that in The Mysterians), aside from bringing elements of the fantastic and magical into what had been a purely science fiction genre? What makes Mothra important is that it changed the tone, and made the movies more accessible to children. Mothra is not a malevolent monster that we’re supposed to pity when destroyed, no, she’s actually good, and survives the end of her picture. And yes, a giant moth, something graceful and fragile as a terrifying creature is absurd; this willing suspension of seriousness paved the way for the monster wrestling match that was King Kong vs Godzilla, and almost every kaiju flick that followed. Mothra‘s legacy is making giant monster movies fun.

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