Theatrical poster for Matango (1963)
|Directed by||Ishirō Honda|
|Produced by||Tomoyuki Tanaka|
|Written by||Masami Fukushima
Shinichi Hoshi (adaptation)
William Hope Hodgson (story The Voice in the Night)
Takeshi Kimura (screenplay)
Sakyo Komatsu (uncredited)
|Music by||Sadao Bekku|
|Edited by||Reiko Kaneko|
|Release date(s)||August 11, 1963 (Japan)
1965 (U.S. TV)
|Running time||89 minutes|
Matango (マタンゴ?), also known as Fungus of Terror, Curse of the Mushroom People and Attack of the Mushroom People, is a 1963 Japanese tokusatsu movie. It was directed by Ishirō Honda, and written by Takeshi Kimura based on the story "The Voice in the Night" by William Hope Hodgson (an adaptation credit is given to Masami Fukushima and Shinichi Hoshi, but Kimura threw out most of their contributions). Special effects were by Eiji Tsuburaya.
The movie has developed a cult audience over the years, partly due to its bleakness and unusual themes, particularly when compared to other Japanese fantasy and science fiction films of the same period (with the exception of Honda's 1960 film The Human Vapor).
The film was never released in mainstream American theaters, but probably did have limited exhibition in Japanese-American communities on the West Coast in its original language. The film did have limited release in the UK under its Matango name. When it was released by American International Pictures in 1965, it was directly syndicated on 16mm color film to television as a TV-movie bearing the title Attack of the Mushroom People (the English title is, in fact, placed directly over the original Japanese title painted on stone, part of which is cropped out of the image). With the advent of home video, used TV prints of this dubbed version found their way to well-established public domain dealers such as Something Weird Video, making it available for home viewing in Beta or VHS formats, leading to the film gaining its cult following and reputation as an unusually dark and layered film.
The movie begins in Tokyo, where a man travels to visit a professor who is being held in the psychiatric ward of a hospital. He tells the man that what happened to him sounded crazy but that he in fact was not insane.
A Japanese yacht on a day trip encounters a nasty storm that nearly capsizes it. The crew and passengers include the skipper Naoyuki, his shipmate assistant Senzô, writer Etsurô Yoshida, university professor Kenji, celebrity Masafumi Kasai (the owner of the yacht) and two female passengers, professional singer Mami and student Akiko. The storm leaves their ship in ruin. Without a rudder or sails to steer by, they are forced adrift. A few days after hearing a radio announcement that they were lost at sea, the group arrive at a seemingly deserted island. After spending a day in search of food and water, they come across ponds that seem manmade, full of fresh rain water along with a seemingly endless forest of mushrooms. However, Naoyuki warns them not to eat the mushrooms, as they may be poisonous.
As they cross the island, they come across a shipwreck on the shore. Although it seems to have only been there about a year, the sails are rotted and the ship's interior is covered with a mysterious fungus and mold that has spread throughout the ship. Noticing that the mold succumbs to strong cleansing products, they work to clear it from the ship. In doing so, they begin to suspect that the ship had been involved in some sort of nuclear testing of the polluted waters, forcing gross mutations on various objects including mushrooms. As the days pass, the group begins to grow restless as their supply of food stores start to run low. They try to acquire turtle eggs and birds, though this proves difficult as birds seem to actively avoid the island. With Kasai refusing to help find a way off the island and instead stealing from the food stores, Yoshida begins to get edgy, eventually eating the mushrooms on the island instead of eating the potatoes and seaweed they are able to find to sustain themselves.
One night, as Kasai is raiding the food stores, he is attacked by a grotesque-looking man who promptly disappears after encountering the group, leading them to believe that something is very wrong with the island. Shortly after Yoshida and Kasai fight over Mami's affections, Yoshida goes crazy as a direct result of the mushrooms' influence and pulls a gun on the men. When he is locked in Kasai's room. Naoyuki decides that they must leave the island in order to survive, but the others disagree, so he departs on his own. Mami frees Yoshida and they attempt to take over the ship, shooting and killing Senzô in the process. Kenji and Akiko manage to wrest control from them and force them off the ship. Kasai travels out to the yacht only to find Naoyuki missing and a note left behind, explaining that Naoyuki is responsible for the deaths of the group and that he has jumped overboard. On his way back, Kasai is confronted by Mami, who entices him to follow her into the forest. Perpetual rainfall had caused wild fungal growth, and Kasai realizes that those who had been eating the mushrooms turned into mushrooms themselves. Due to its addictive nature, no one can escape the mushrooms once they take a bite. Kasai is last seen collapsing as mushroom beings swarm him.
Meanwhile, Akiko and Kenji are attacked in force by the mushroom people. They are separated and Akiko is kidnapped. As Kenji tracks her down, he discovers that she has been fed mushrooms and is under their influence along with Mami, Yoshida and Kasai. Kenji attempts to rescue Akiko but he is overwhelmed by the mushrooms and flees without her, making his way onto the yacht and escaping the island.
Several days pass before Kenji is finally rescued. As he waits, he begins to wonder if he should have stayed with Akiko on the island. He turns toward the audience, his face covered in fungal growth, and states that it wouldn't have made a difference if he had stayed or not, but he would have been happier there with his love. The screen fades as Kenji notes that humans are not much different than the mushroom people, and the camera pans over a night-lit Tokyo.
Matango was issued on DVD by Media Blasters in the United States on March 15, 2005. The DVD featured a generous selection of extras, including commentary by the film's male lead, Akira Kubo; production sketches; an interview with special effects team member Teruyoshi Nakano; and other features.
Three variants of full-scale Matangos appeared in some of the Hyperspace locations in the video game Godzilla: Monster of Monsters, which produced smaller, floating mushroom creatures for Godzilla and Mothra to destroy. If enough damage is inflicted to the large Matangos, they stop producing these creatures.
Episode 236b of the Keroro Gunsou anime parodies the title of the movie and its plot (albeit very loosely). In the episode, Tamama eats some mushrooms he finds in the mountains, which he later learns were possibly a type of space poison mushroom that will turn a person into a mushroom person (however the mushrooms he really ate only makes a person dance).
The name "Matango" is given to the home village of the mushroom people in the video game Secret of Mana (US)/Seiken Densetsu 2 (JP).
A beverage named Matango is featured in the Mecha chapter of the video game Live A Live that can temporarily bring out a person's latent psychic powers in high doses.
John Blackburn's novel A Scent of New-Mown Hay has a Nazi scientist devising a bioweapon, supposedly too horrible even for the Third Reich's leaders to use, which transforms the women it infects into lumbering semi-intelligent fungal monstrosities. (Infected men merely experience what appears to be a mild flu.)
|Akira Kubo||Kenji Murai|
|Kumi Mizuno||Mami Sekiguchi|
|Hiroshi Koizumi||Naoyuki Sakuda|
|Yoshio Tsuchiya||Masabumi Kasai|
|Kenji Sahara||Senzō Koyama|
|Hiroshi Tachikawa||Etsurō Yoshida|
|Miki Yashiro||Akiko Sōma|
|Hideyo Amamoto||Skulking Transitional Matango|
|Jiro Kumagai||Medical Center Doctor|
|Akio Kusama||Medical Center Doctor|
|Yutaka Oka||Medical Center Doctor|
|Kazuo Higata||Medical Center Doctor|
|Katsumi Tezuka||Medical Center Doctor|
|Keisuke Yamada||Mushroom Monster|
|Tokio Okawa||Mushroom Monster|
Sometime between 1963 and 1965, Toho had the film dubbed in English in Hong Kong. This international version was picked up by American International Television in 1965. Since the film wouldn't play in US theaters, AIP-TV left Toho's English dub intact and added a new Attack of the Mushroom People title card. AIP also reworked the credits sequence, but otherwise, the film is unedited. This version played for many years on late night TV. The Media Blasters DVD uses the same dubbing, but the edits are not retained.
- Wingrove, David. Science Fiction Film Source Book (Longman Group Limited, 1985)