Matango (1963)

MATANGO (1963)
Article 2122 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-6-2007
Posting Date: 6-4-2007
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Featuring Akira Kubo, Kumi Mizuno, Hiroshi Koizumi

A group of shipwrecked people are stranded on an island with little hope of rescue and with little food. The most common foodstuff on the island are mushrooms, which turn out to have a dangerous and grotesque effect on those that eat them.

This much-maligned Japanese horror movie is looked down upon by those that mistake a silly title for a silly movie. However, even if in its dubbed state, it’s an original and unsettling movie, eerie and frightening, and with some dark messages about human nature. For years I was only familiar with it through the dubbed version, but for this review, i got a chance to see the Japanese language version with subtitles and a beautifully restored and letterboxed print, and it simply makes it that much stronger. Probably the two most surprising things about watching this version were a) discovering that the rather silly “La La La La La” song actually had those lyrics in the original version, and b) that, if the subtitling is truer to the actually dialogue than the dubbing was, the final revelation is significantly different, and possibly more unsettling. It’s very effective and quite satisfying, but I always have problems with one sequence; the sequence where the castaways first encounter one of the inhabitants of the island ends both abruptly and ambiguously, and I wish it had ended a little more clearly.


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