You know what? I was engaging in America’s #1 leisure time activity last night, and guess what it is, it ain’t sex, it’s television. So what you say. So what! I was supposed to be out camping and I was but I didn’t let a little thing like that get in the way of MY leisure time. You see I had my smartphone with me (and what an apt name for the little gadget, get one with the biggest screen size you can). I was merrily ensconced in the supine position in my sleeping bag watching television and eating Reese’s Pieces while the rest of the clan and friends were out freezing their butts off, getting bug-bit, getting smoked out roasting weenies, S’mores, telling stories, etc. No sir, your’s truly isn’t going to be found wasting valuable clicks in the ol’ lifetime game on stuff like that when through the wonders of modern technology I could be sitting by myself watching television.
But this is not the main thrust of this essay. What was I watching you ask? Why Matango of course, crudely translated into English as Attack of the Mushroom People or Fungus of Terror. And what a bit of tasty 1963 Japanese fare it was too. Now I’m sure by now you think you know where this little piece of arcana is going, but you, with your degraded sense of perception are oh so wrong. So stick around if you want to get that Jethro Bodeen 6th grade edecation stretched a bit.
First let’s get a few things about foreign language films straightened out. This Matango affair is a Japanese language film. Now I want to make it clear from the start that this is no art film. Sometimes foreign language and art cinema get confused. See all art cinema is bad. Some foreign language films (most) are art films, but by logic not all foreign language films must be art films. So some foreign language films can be good (but not many). Did you follow that? I hope so, most times I’m not too sure about you.
“The body lay outside an abandoned, boarded-up theater. The theater had started as a first-run movie house, many years back when the neighborhood had still been fashionable. As the neighborhood began rotting, the theater began showing second-run films, and then old movies, and finally foreign-language films.” ― Ed McBain
Unfortunately before TV took over as the #1 entertainment venue, most foreign language film venues (almost all the dreaded “art film” theater) were in the seedier neighborhoods, in the same alley as the porno houses and peep shows, so a lot of people weren’t aware of the few gems that came out of the foreign language cinema. Now your intrepid host here, being a courageous sort, wasn’t afraid of these neighborhoods of ill repute so I actively sought out these far too few baubles on the foreign cinematic charm bracelet. You wouldn’t believe the amount of infantile and prurient fare I had to, um, let’s save that for later. Where was I? My point is we don’t want this Matango confused with some far inferior motion pictures, I would say worthless, from Sweden or Italy made by so-called artistes of the cinema.
Then the next thing we need to make clear about enjoying a good foreign language film like Matango is turning the subtitles off and turning the alternate language track for English on. I know the lips don’t match and the dialog almost certainly doesn’t either, but the last thing we want to do is let something as tedious as reading interfere with our quality leisure time activity. Sometimes you just have to give up one thing for another better thing. Anyway with your reading comprehension I wouldn’t want your enjoyment to be ruined by having to hit the pause button all the time to ask a lot of questions.
What most people don’t know about Matango is it’s based on a piece of classic sea faring horror literature. It’s based on a story called The Voice in the Night by William Hope Hodgson. This is a most creepy early horror story that influenced a lot of later horror stuff and not the usual drivel that was clogging up literature at the turn of the 19th century. Hodgson practically invented the giant sea monster and did invent the attacking fungus genre and the latter is what we have here. See how important he is to modern art? Now with your education and lack of casual reading I wouldn’t expect you to know any of this plus it’s kind of not that well known anyway so I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here.
Well Matango was produced by the far seeing and justly famed Toho studios the visionary folks that also pretty much invented the giant monster flick single handedly. It’s advertised to be in Tohoscope whatever that is. Anyway it is wide screen and in color, real pluses.
Anyway let’s get started. A bunch of high rollers are on a sailing holiday somewhere in the Pacific where their ship is severely damaged in a storm and then becalmed. Eventually they are shipwrecked on an uncharted weird island that just happens to have a creepy hulk of its own with a lot of fungus on it. Can you see a classic in the making?
Well they clean up the old tub and try to make a home out of it until they can get rescued. The island is all covered with little and big mushrooms and fungi and other weird alien looking stuff. They’ve got food but it sort of runs out and those little toadstools look tasty and smell so fresh. Guess what’s on the menu? Shiitake happens! Now you know what happened to all the folks on the other boat, and it ain’t rescue. The usual body snatcher type mayhem ensues.
The movie is in color and the island is filmed in such a freaky color scheme you might think you’ve eaten some ‘shrooms yourself. The transformation pustules are pretty gross to look at so that makes ’em cool while your eating some Reese’s Pieces.
Once this little known classic was over it was nighty-night time for your’s truly no matter what nonsense the others were up to, probably eating the toadstools in the campground or those colorful plate things that stick out of trees since the S’mores were gone, but I know better now. See TV can be informative as well as entertaining.
Anyway, unless they have me tied down and are force feeding me those toad stools I’ll be up early because Saturday morning means just one thing besides breakfast, The Three Stooges!