Mothra introduced the world to the second greatest kaiju after Godzilla. It was 5 years before Ishirō Honda directed another giant monster film. Like Rodan, Mothra is another solo outing that my brother and I likely watched after we were already introduced to the titular monster in the Godzilla franchise. Since it was the 60’s, Toho took a different direction with their next kaiju. Unlike her Prehistoric competitors, Mothra is a majestic female monster from a mysterious island that treats her like a goddess. Honda wanted a more family friendly movie that felt more like a Disney production. Mothra was originally written as a serialized magazine story called The Glowing Fairies and Mothra. As much as I love the fantasy angle, I’m glad the final product wasn’t as strange as it could’ve been.
Mothra is like a combination of King Kong, Godzilla, and Rodan. Like Kong Kong, a Japanese expedition travels to Infant Island where they discover natives and exotic plant life. One of my favorite aspects of Mothra are the 2 miniature fairies referred to as Shobijin (or Small Beauties) who speak on Mothra’s behalf. The Peanuts were a singing twin double act who steal the show in their first acting job. “Mothra’s Song” has been stuck in my head ever since. Comedian Frankie Sakai plays well meaning reporter Fukuda who vows to keep them secret. Kyōko Kagawa plays his camerawoman Hanamura who doesn’t experience the island. Fukuda is joined on the expedition by Hiroshi Koizumi who now plays linguist Chūjō. Like Godzilla, the island is affected by atomic testing that Ken Uehara tests as radiation expert Dr. Harada. Takashi Shimura is also around, but he plays a newspaper editor. Jerry Ito plays the unlikable Nelson who kidnaps the Shobijin to perform in a show.
Mothra slowly became more international with a few Americans added to the cast. Like Robert Dunham as a corrupt Rolisican. Unlike most other monsters, Mothra is mostly justified in her rampage. All she wants is to rescue the fairies. Like Rodan, she hatches from a giant egg as a less than appealing larva. Haruo Nakajima and Katsumi Tezuka were both part of a multi-person caterpillar suit. Mothra uses silk as a weapon, but she’s truly powerful in her final form. After an intense struggle at Tokyo Tower, Mothra transforms inside a cocoon and becomes a beautiful moth-like creature. This version of Mothra was the first scale model puppet. She was made for color thanks to her exotic orange wing patterns and glowing blue eyes. Mothra devastates the fictional New Kirk City with her powerful wings until the heroes figure out a religious connection that gains her favor. Mothra is a whimsical tale that added another iconic monster to the ever-growing roster.