After the success of Rodan the year before, the venerable team of Ishiro Honda, Tomoyuki Tanaka, Eiji Tsubaraya, Akira Ifukube, and an incredible list of soon to be genre staples came together for The Mysterians. It would be a few years before the Godzilla series began a decline with countless alien invasions, giving this film a unique spot in the Toho kaiju film history. It's a decent invasion film, seemingly made to capitalize on the awe-inspiring effects Tsubaraya was capable of.
That's the biggest flaw the film could be stuck with. The battle between the humans and the Mysterians ends up becoming a dull laser fest that refuses to finish. Having come to Earth to mate with our woman, the invading forces should have more in their arsenal than just a dome with a laser strapped to the top of it and some unimpressive flying saucers. Their plans to take over must not have been particularly grand or they may have brought heavier firepower.
Thanks to Godzilla creator Tanaka, they did. Feeling the film needed a giant monster (like most of the films from Toho in the same era) he devised Moguera. The name is never spoken in the film, leaving it to the audience's imagination. It's a stereotypical 1950's giant robot, complete with a spinning antenna on his head. It's a bulky suit, worn by always excellent Haruo Nakajima, but the thick legs and body make it obvious how difficult the suit was to move in.
It's also a mystery to the film, seemingly defeated within the opening half hour, then making a barely noticeable appearance near the finale, only to be crushed by the armed forces machinery. It feels like it was added at the last moment, and that ends up being a significant piece of trivia. There should have been more scenes involving the robot, especially to break up the war involving a stationary dome.
The human drama is minimal, even though there are countless actors here who could have carried the film. There's no attempt to deepen the relationship between the lead characters, even though it's at a critical point, as the aliens desire the main group of females for breeding. There's not much time to deal with any of these issues as the film moves at a quick clip and ends at 88-minutes.
If it's not an action sequence, it's explaining to the audience what's going to occur in the next one. It's rare for a Toho sci-fi film to involve the US army, usually relying on the ingenuity of Japanese scientists to defeat whatever foe the face. That's still the end result even with the American military, as the first appearance of the maser tanks (though different from what they would become) still seems to be devised by the Japanese. There is still the radioactivity and H-bomb scares in place too, a sure sign this one was headed by Honda.
This is a rare major special effects film from Toho (and the usual crew) that manages to be boring in overly long battles. It doesn't matter how many different angles you can show a laser shooting from a dome. That doesn't make it exciting. The battles for a little while show hopelessness, and then descend into a dull back-and-forth struggles that take forever to conclude. Not even one of Ifukube's best scores and the Toho Scope format can make this a classic. It simply makes it a fun little journey that needed better padding. (*** out of *****)
This is an unusually bland transfer from Tokyo Shock, muted and lifeless. Black levels are the major culprit, carrying a murky tone. The overall print seems to have degraded, losing most of its original luster and focus. Special effects sequences, with all of their different elements in place, have taken a beating. Darker scenes, aside from the black levels, have entire segments ruined by severe fading on the top and bottom of the screen. (*)
There are a multitude of audio options, including an all-new accurate English dub (5.1), Spanish dub (mono), and original Japanese (5.1 and mono). There's a soundtrack only cut as well. There's not much use of the speakers aside from the center channel in any of these mixes. There's occasional soundtrack activity in the stereo channels, but with all the action, none of the sound effects manage to find a way into the rears. Instances of heavy bass are noticeable, though not very effective. Dialogue is cleaner in the dubbed version simply because it's new. (**)
The special features pick the disc up from the rut it's in, including an informative and fun commentary with Koichi Kawakita and Shinji Higuchi. They would work on the Godzilla series in various ways as it went on. They discuss their personal experiences with the film early and leave the rest to dissect the special effects. Both have a great time watching the film, making this not just informative, but fun too. Storyboards and a photo gallery play at their own pace to the soundtrack. A trailer gallery looks at this film and some of the other related recent releases. (***)
Even with all the complaints, it's the oddball charm these movies have, whether you grew up with them or are watching them for the first time that makes them infinitely watchable. They're just great to kill some time with, perfect for kids and adults, and create new fans. Even if you're too jaded to get past the non-CG special effects, it's hard to deny that The Mysterians is one of the best from Toho outside of their main franchise.