30 January 2014 | Al_The_Strange
Among Toho's repertoire of gargantuan and highly-destructive kaiju, who would have ever thought that a giant moth would become one of their most endearing characters? In the years that would come, Mothra would make an appearance in seventeen films, including a bunch of Godzilla films. In the beginning, though, the lepidopteran made its debut in this old-fashioned monster flick.
1961's Mothra runs pretty evenly, allowing the story to breathe adequately before dishing out some modest mass destruction. The film's first acts, with scientists exploring Infant Island, remind me greatly of Skull Island from King Kong; the manner in which they use the fairies as a sideshow is not too far off from Kong either, only instead of unleashing a giant monkey's wrath, the fairies sing and summon a giant larva. It's weird stuff, but the film plays everything out with a straight face. This film ultimately sets the pattern for future incarnations of Mothra (you seriously can't have Mothra without the singing fairies, the larva, or without specific phases of attacks). As the original feature, however, the only formula this film adheres to is that of the classic monster picture, with a bit of adventure thrown in, and it's neat that way.
The story's pretty much outlined above; it is a well-structured plot with a cast of alright (and sometimes goofy) characters. With all the fairies and monsters on display, I always felt that Mothra was a grade more unbelievable than most other monster movies, but thanks to the film's earnest tone, it works as a fine and dandy fantasy (and it's pretty neat to see such fantasy being opposed by modern and ultramodern weaponry). The story touches upon a few themes concerning capitalism and greed, but is never overbearing.
This film uses solid, quality photography and editing. Acting is good from the original cast (but might be marred heavily by the English dubbing if you chose to watch it). Writing gets the job done pretty well. This production shows its age, but still uses fine-looking sets, props, and costumes. Special effects are a bit rough, but for its time, they are smashing. Music is not bad either.
No matter how silly or fantastic it gets, I have a soft spot for Mothra, especially in seeing her future clashes with Godzilla and other monsters. The first and most original Mothra film presents the basics of Mothra-lore, which in turn echoes parts of the original King Kong, and would stand proudly next to classic monster flicks like Godzilla. Fans of the genre should give this original film a rent.
4/5 (Entertainment: Good | Story: Pretty Good | Film: Good)