Wednesday, November 05, 2014


1961  ***

So you've heard me bitching about my October all October, but one postitive result (for me) is that I just relaxed and watched a lot of kaiju flicks.  The giant moth known as Mothra features briefly in the far superior Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster (review pending),  and I thought it would be a good idea to fill in the backstory.

Since moths are one of the easiest bugs to kill you might not think a giant one would be that big a deal, but that's not important right now.  What you need to know is this movie is about massive death and destruction caused by an evil lounge act manager named Nelson kidnapping two tiny, singing women and forcing them to go on tour.  

Nelson!  If there's anything must-see about this movie it's the gonzo presentation of the villain Nelson, whose name is uttered so many times you won't be able to hear "Nelson" again without thinking of his particular brand of pure but pathetic evil.  He may be unique among cinematic villains just in terms of the incredible disparity between his own sense of entitled evil (puffed up by the movie and the characters all around him) and the fact that he's kind of the worst villain ever.

"I'm ordering more tiny outfits!  Mu ha ha!"

He kidnaps these tiny women off their island and sticks them on stage, and people pay lots of money to hear them sing what is basically "Help, Mothra, come get us even though you'll kill everything in your path, including the people listening right now."  And back on the island the natives dance beneath a giant egg until a giant caterpillar emerges to eat Japan.  And while the caterpillar is eating Japan Nelson is still telling everyone to fuck off because it's not his problem.

So Nelson is basically a classic supervillain who only put together about a quarter of his plan.  Sure, he has influence over a city-destroying monster that shrugs off rockets -- which is a good start -- but beyond that he has no lair, no infrastructure to speak of, and indeed no real plan at all besides continuing to make money while the sites of his former shows are in flames.

Meanwhile the caterpillar Mothra makes a giant cocoon for itself, and Mankind rolls in some toy laser trucks to set it on fire.  With the new heat rays they blacken the outside of the cocoon and high five each other on the easy victory and then collectively say "gulp!" when a giant moth comes out.  It's a dark treatise on the hubris of man as he tries vainly to control his own fate while battling a humongous peanut.

Just like in Hamlet

Nelson, meanwhile, having no recourse but to whine and run away, flees to his native country of "Rolisica."  (This is an obvious stand-in for America but I guess Japan didn't want to insult us by implying our country seethes with unscrupulous lounge act managers.)  But Mothra shows up and starts trashing "New Kirk City" and people finally start getting sick of Nelson.  In his crowning moment, Nelson gets distracted while fleeing an angry crowd so he can kick an old man's cane out from under him for NO REASON.

While this is all good fun I can't really recommend Mothra that strongly.  I know kaiju flicks are intrinsically goofy but this one tips the balance, and there's not enough monster-on-city action.  Nevertheless, the portrayal of Nelson really is something else.  Best watched in a group.



Catfreeek said...

Your review always outshines the movie. I was always annoyed by those singing twins and the cocoon does look like a humongous peanut. Thanks for the morning laugh.

JPX said...

You crack me up with your passion for these movies! This line is why I don't watch them,

"there's not enough monster-on-city action"

Isn't that true for all of them? Even the most recent Godzilla only featured the beast for 8 minutes in total. I don't know why they don't just go all out. It would be like making a TV show about Superman where he never really turns into Superman. Oh, wait.

Octopunk said...

"Isn't that true for all of them?"

No way! Several of the Toho films have oodles of such action, occasionally (but not always) aided by reusing footage from earlier flicks.

My viewing of the Godzilla canon has been deliberately random and light over the years, but I think I've seen enough now that I can recommend at least a top three.

And I'll be dealing with this year's American Godzilla soon.

AC said...

lovely review. saw this in my youth, but do not remember Nelson, so clearly must revisit the film.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

I think I need to see this if for no other reason than to see this Nelson fella in action.