• Mothra (Mill Creek Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: July 9th, 2019.
    Director: Ishiro Honda
    Cast: Furanki Sakai, Hiroshi Koizumi, Kyoko Kagawa
    Year: 1961
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    Mothra – Movie Review:

    Directed by Ishirô Honda, the man behind the original Godzilla/Gojira, and released by Toho in 1961, Mothra opens when a typhoon wreaks havoc off the coast of Japan. In the ensuing chaos, a ship wrecks on the shore of Infant Island that was once used as an atomic testing site. When the four crew members are eventually rescued, it’s assumed they’d be suffering from the effects of the radiation but, amazingly enough, this is not the case. The four credit the ‘beauties of a lost tribe’ that call the island home with keeping them safe and helping them to heal. The catch to this? The island was claimed to be completely uninhabitable.

    Armed with this news, Japanese authorities get a team together to launch an expedition to the island. Here they discover two teeny-tiny little women – the Shobijin fairies (Yumi and Emi Ito) - who they capture and bring back to the mainland where their new captors hope to profit off of them, freakshow style. What the mainlanders don’t realize is that the Shobijin fairies were actually the protectors of a large egg. When they’re essentially kidnapped, they summon Mothra, who hatches out of the giant egg, first attacks as a larva/caterpillar thing and then fully transforms into the giant moth we all know and love, launching an attack on Japan that no one could have possibly seen coming!

    Far more colorful and a little more family friendly than its scaly predecessor, Mothra is a whole lot of fun. It features some great creature design work, loads of Toho’s trademark miniature sets and vehicles (that are, of course, properly trashed by our titular beastie) and an interesting twist in that Mothra, while clearly a ‘monster,’ is essentially the hero of the story out to save Shobijin who are clearly being exploited by modern Japanese society. Then, of course, there’s the genuinely weird but undeniably cool presence of the Shobijin. Yumi and Emi Ito, who were actually a pop duo called The Peanuts, do a great job here, creating some interesting characters and using their vocal abilities to create some genuinely weird sounds to nice effect.

    The rest of the performances might not be amazing, but they’re fine. It’s the effects and the monster itself that is the main draw here, and one that level the movie delivers. The picture is well-paced and we wind up with the right mix of monster mash mayhem and human drama, one not overshadowing the other too much to offset the picture.

    Note that Mill Creek’s Blu-ray includes both the one-hundred-and-one-minute Japanese cut (with the proper Toho logo) and the ninety-minute U.S. cut (with the vintage Columbia Pictures logo) of the film. The U.S. version omits the scene where the priests ask the populate to pray and the scene where Senchiro crosses himself as are some bits with the newspaper editor and the newspaper headlines. Additionally, the titles are all presented in their respective languages and there are also some other slight trims to the U.S. cut in some of the attack scenes and the scenes with the military responding. The basic plot is pretty much the same and the changes clearly aren’t as drastic as, say, those made to the U.S. version of Godzilla but yeah, they’re definitely there and it’s great to have both versions included. Even if the Japanese version is the superior cut, it’s nice to have the English version for nostalgic reasons.

    Mothra – Blu-ray Review:

    Both version of Mothra arrives on Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment in an AVC encoded 1080p presentation framed at 2.35.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc. The English version shows some noticeable telecine wobble early in the film as well as minor print damage and scratches throughout. The Japanese version looks much better and quite a bit cleaner, showing only the odd speck where and there. Either way, we get pretty solid detail here and nice color reproduction throughout. There aren’t any issues with compression, noise reduction or edge enhancement to complain about, and there’s plenty of natural film grain here, resulting in a couple of very organic, authentic looking presentations. Yeah, fine, the matte paintings and miniature work are more noticeably just that than they were on the older versions making the rounds, but that doesn’t matter. The picture quality here is quite strong.

    Both cuts get DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks, and optional English subtitles are provided for the Japanese version of the movie. Both tracks show the limitations of the source, and range is often times limited. Sound effects can come across as a tad harsh – but those familiar with the film won’t be put off by any of this, the movie is simply a product of its time in that regard. Balance is fine throughout while dialogue stays clean and clear and easy to follow. No real problems here at all. The Japanese track is, obviously, the more authentic of the two and it sounds a bit cleaner than the English dub, but they bot have their place in Mothra history and it’s great that they were both included here.

    The main extra on the disc is a feature-length commentary from Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski, the two man who penned Ishiro Honda: A Life In Film From Godzilla To Kurosawa, that is available over the English version of the movie. It’s a good track, very informative if a little formal in its delivery. These guys clearly know their stuff and they offer up plenty of detail about how Honda wound up in this project and how the picture compares to other Kaiju films that he was involved with. They provide the usual details about the cast and crew as well as some insight into the effects work, the score, the performances and the storyline itself. It’s quite an interesting talk, and a very thorough one as well.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are a teaser for the feature, a trailer for the film and still gallery. Menus and chapter selection are also included.

    Special mention should also be made of the beautiful steelbook packaging that has been created for this release. The front panel uses art from the original one-sheet, which stretches over to the back quite nicely. When you open the steelbook up, there’s a really neat drawing that shows an important scene from the movie showcasing the scientists and the twins. The exterior is printed with a nice metallic paint, it looks fantastic. On top of this, we get a neat, transparent slipcover that fits overtop of the steelbook with the title printed on the front and disc detail on the back. All in all, it’s a very attractive packaging job.

    Mothra – The Final Word:

    Mill Creek has done a nice job bringing Mothra to Blu-ray. The commentary is a solid one and the packaging is gorgeous. The movie itself, clearly the most important part of any release, is presented in very nice shape and in both versions. The film itself holds up well, it’s a really fun, entertaining giant monster picture well worth checking out.

    Click on the images below for full sized Mothra Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. David H's Avatar
      David H -
      This is a pretty cool release. Nice review Ian! I was swayed by the packaging, which is terrific, but I thought the movie still held up really well.