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Posts Tagged ‘Ishiro Honda

“The nations of the world must now stay united in the struggle against unknown forces instead of fighting each other”*…

Toho’s [see hereThe Mysterians (1957) is a mammoth sci-fi spectacle, featuring giant lasers, flying saucers, underground domes, alien invaders, and robot monsters. Lying beneath its visual prowess is a set of questions, themes, and ideas that elevate The Mysterians as one of the decade’s most fascinating films. It asserts a warning for humanity: don’t misuse science. For 1957, in the midst of a spiraling nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, the film is chilling; but when examined through the lens of 2020, The Mysterians is arguably even more frightening today.  

In the film, a series of earthquakes and forest fires precedes the appearance of a giant robot, Mogera. The mechanical monster wreaks havoc before it is blown up by the self-defence forces. The next day, a gigantic dome emerges from the ground, and we are introduced to the robot’s creators: the Mysterians. They beckon key scientists to meet them in their base, where they explain themselves as a race ravaged by atomic war. The Mysterians want three kilometres of land on which to live, but they also have an unpleasant stipulation. The Mysterians’ bodies are so damaged by radiation that they can no longer birth healthy offspring; and so, they want to mate with human women. Having already used Mogera to show that conflict is useless, the Mysterians appear to have the upper hand. However, forces from East and West unite, and Earth is poised to take on the Mysterian menace. 

The Mysterians features Akihiko Hirata in a role similar to his turn in Godzilla (1954). Hirata plays the enigmatic Shiraishi, a scientist who discovered the home planet of the Mysterians, Mysteroid. Shiraishi disappears before the Mysterians emerge, and we later discover that he has joined them. Seduced by their scientific achievements, Shiraishi admires the Mysterians; he believes that they simply wish to stop mankind from destroying itself, ignorant to their real plans for conquest. His assertion of science above all else prevents him from considering the ethical horrors that come with the Mysterians’ terms.  

Shiraishi is the personification of director Honda’s concerns over the misuse of science. “At that time I feared the danger of science, that whoever controlled it could take over the entire Earth”, Honda observed…

There’s also something else that makes The Mysterians all the more chilling today. The film’s concern that we could become like the Mysterians may have already come to pass – though not in a way that’s immediately apparent. The Mysterians have gone through an unimaginable horror in the form of atomic annihilation; and yet, they haven’t learned from their own nightmare. Instead of renouncing war or seeking peace, the Mysterians have looked to further conquest. For them, there is no recognition of the horror of war, just the restart of its engine.  

At the film’s climax, when the Earth has successfully fought back the invaders, we see scattered Mysterian bodies in their decimated dome. Many of their helmets are cracked and split, revealing their faces; they look human, with very little to distinguish them from us except their wounds and radiation scars. One looks at their damaged faces and sees a miserable, endless cycle…

The Mysterians is also striking in its depiction of a united Earth, with both Russia and America working side by side. The nations of the world join to fend off the new danger, with earthbound conflicts rendered banal in the face of collective oblivion… Director Ishiro Honda’s [see here] concern was in presenting a united planet – a recurring tenet of his genre work. Of The Mysterians, Honda said, “I would like to wipe away the [Cold War-era] notion of East versus West and convey a simple, universal aspiration for peace, the coming together of all humankind as one to create a peaceful society.” As noted by his biographers (Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski), the visual composition of scenes involving international meetings shows a symmetry that affirms Honda’s egalitarian view; no one country is seen above or below another…

From Christopher Stewardson (@CF_Stewardson), an appreciation of a classic that’s all-too-timely again: “Thoughts on Film: The Mysterians.”

[[TotH to our buddies at Boing Boing]

* “Dr. Tanjiro Adachi,” The Mysterians

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As we think globally, we might recall that it was on this date in 2018 that Sir David Attenborough (a naturalist and producer/host of the BBC’s epic Life on Our Planet) spoke at the UN’s climate summit in Poland. Sir David warned that climate change is humanity’s greatest threat in thousands of years, and that it could lead to the collapse of civilizations and the extinction of “much of the natural world.”

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“Why, the whole world will pay to see this!”*…

 

Willis O’Brien, the stop-motion pioneer who originally brought King Kong to life in 1933, hit the skids pretty hard by the late ’40s. He spent the last decade of his life pitching assorted Kong scripts around Hollywood with little success. Finally, in the early ’60s, the script for a movie he was calling King Kong vs. Frankenstein (which seems an awfully unfair fight, if you ask me) ended up on the desk of Toho Studios producer Tomoyuki Tanaka. Tanaka had always wanted to make a Kong film, but he had no use for O’Brien’s slow and pricey stop-motion animation when rubber suits and miniature sets worked just fine. Still, he bought the script, made one small correction and was good to go.

Directed by Ishirô Honda, 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla would go on to become the most successful Godzilla picture Toho ever made, even if its giant gorilla looked more like an orangutan with mange. The film was such a huge financial hit in both Japan and the States that a follow-up was inevitable. O’Brien had since died, but with Kong now an indelible American icon (even after being Japanified into a mangy orangutan named Kingu Kongu), it only made sense for Toho to make the film as a U.S.-Japanese co-production.

Unfortunately, the Americans they teamed up with turned out to be Rankin/Bass, the insidious duo who’d inflicted Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other holiday-themed nightmares on an unsuspecting public…

More of this monstrous story at “That Time They Built a King Kong Robot.”

* “Carl Denham,” King Kong (1933)

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As we cling to a Wray of hope, we might recall that it was on this date in 1953 that Astor Pictures released Cat-Women of the Moon.

Variety averred, “This imaginatively conceived and produced science-fiction yarn takes the earth-to-moon premise and embellishes it with a civilization of cat-women on the moon … Cast ably portray their respective roles … Arthur Hilton makes his direction count in catching the spirit of the theme, and art direction is far above average for a film of this calibre. William Whitley’s 3-D photography provides the proper eerie quality.”

The New York Times, on the other hand, wrote, “They [the Cat-women] try to get their hands on the visitors’ rocket ship, hoping to come down here and hypnotize us all. Considering the delegation that went up, it’s hard to imagine why.”

Notably, the score was composed by the celebrated Elmer Bernstein,** though his last name is misspelled as “Bernstien” in the opening credits.

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** Elmer was not related to the even-more-celebrated composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein; but the two men were friends, and even shared a certain physical resemblance.  Within the world of professional music, they were distinguished from each other by the use of the nicknames Bernstein West (Elmer) and Bernstein East (Leonard)– and by the fact that they pronounced their last names differently: Elmer’s was BERN-steen, and Leonard’s was BERN-stine.

 

Written by LW

September 3, 2015 at 1:01 am

Beware the Pink Armadillo!…

Blizzards across the U.S. (record snowfalls)… droughts in Russia (worst in a century) and China (likely the worst in 200 years)…  a one-two punch in the Antipodes: a century-worst decade of drought in Australia followed immediately by devastating floods

There’s no question that climate disruption (or “global warming” or whatever one wants to call it) is having real impact: disrupted transit and hammered retail sales in the U.S. (and the U.K.) seem mere inconveniences in the face of drought-driven pressure on global food prices– pressure that’s aggravated the already painful problem of poverty around the world, and that’s surely contributed to the tensions roiling repressive/regressive regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere…  all, scientists suggest, just a taste of the broader and deeper impacts to come if humankind doesn’t heal its relationship with Nature.

And, of course, it is up to us humans.  Nature doesn’t care.  Nature is perfectly prepared to get on with a future sans people.  Memento Mori, Memento Natura…

Thankfully, there are artists to remind us– artists who were, as is so often the case, attuned to the threat even before the scientific establishment.  Consider, for example, Jinzo Ningen Kikaida (a 70s Japanese TV series in the tradition of the great Ishiro Honda), which fielded this crystalline allegory:

Mother Nature’s go-go boots are made for walking– walking all over you.

As we ask not what Copenhagen can do for us, but what we can do for Copenhagen, we might recall that it was on this date in 1611 that Johannes Fabricius discovered sunspots (now reputed to have some impact on global climate); he published his observation on June 13 of that year in  Narratio de Maculis in Sole Observatis et Apparente Earum cum Sole Conversione (“Narration on Spots Observed on the Sun and their Apparent Rotation with the Sun“).

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Loving Godzilla, 17 syllables at a time…

From SamuraiFrog, an arresting (and very amusing) collection of Godzilla Haiku.

“Monsters are born too tall, too strong, too heavy, they are not evil by choice; that is their tragedy”
Ishiro Honda (Kurosawa friend, Toho director, and creator of Godzilla)

Honda on the set of the original Godzilla

As we rethink our attraction to urban centers, we might compose a birthday rhyme for Torquato Tasso, the 16th Century Italian poet; he was born on this date in 1544.  Though Tasso was a giant in his own time– he died in 1595, a few days before the Pope was to crown him “King of the Poets”– he had fallen out the core of the Western Canon by the end of the 19th century.  Still, he resonates in the poems (Spencer, Milton, Byron), plays (Goethe), madrigals (Monteverdi), operas (Lully, Vivaldi, Handel, Haydn, Rossini, Dvorak) , and art work (Tintoretto, the Carracci, Guercino, Pietro da Cortona, Domenichino, Van Dyck, Poussin, Claude Lorrain, Tiepolo, Fragonard, Delacroix) that his life and work inspired.

Tasso

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