Matango (or, Attack of the Mushroom People)


The dark side to Gilligan's Island (mind you, this came before*). A group from Tokyo set off in the maiden voyage of a millionaire's yacht only to be driven off course by a storm and left stranded on a strange, seemingly abandoned island. The group make due with what they can salvage from an earlier derelict, but personality conflicts and degrading social structures end up threatening their ability to ever get back off the island alive. To complicate their food shortage, an abundance of edible, but neurologically damaging, mushrooms are plentiful on the island. In classic horror fashion, the real damage of the mushrooms is not found out until too late.

One of the first lines in the movie, past a glimpse into the aftermath, is Kumi Mizuno, as Mami, talking about leaving the dust of Tokyo behind. Leaving behind all of the bad things, which she seems to want to replace with the society of Europe. When a comment is made later about leaving behind humanity and finally being free, Mami disagrees, stating that they on the boat are a type of humanity. "Yes," says another, "a better sort." An ironic statement considering the sheer ineptitude that many of the group suffer from.

Ishiro Honda, best known for Gojira and Mothra, uses the shipwreck to explore the themes of displaced social structure and, to some degree, the dangers of hedonism. Without a strong leader, for the captain, played by frequent Honda collaborator Horoshi Koizumi, is unable to maintain any real semblance of control, many give into their inner demons over time.

As the film progresses, the movie is hopeless and bleak. The characters are unable to pull together, and their makeshift society crumbles fast. Many of the kaiju movies of Honda involve strong themes of improvement, ecological rhythm and overcoming obstacles, but in this movie the isolation worsens the human condition, if the characters even have a hope for improvement to begin with, and there is no way to come to grips with an island that has a poisonous fungus as its most readily available food stuff. By the time the "Attack of the Mushroom People" side of the plotline is introduced, the movie has set itself up to do just fine without any supernatural elements. There was never any hope to begin with. The handful of scenes where the mushrooms show their form are extraneous at best, better suited for a movie where a falsity of hope had existed.

Besides this point, there movie has other flaws. There is a rifle that contains an unprecedented number of shots and a sure fire aim. Though they have to swim to shore, somehow their hats, and their tobacco, make it just fine. The vessel they find as a derelict is a large, sail-bearing vessel that is largly metal on the inside and turns out to be a somewhat involved in modern research (maybe metallic interior vessels with sails do exist, though? I admit to not knowing the layouts of time period boats and ships). And, the morning after a night visit by one of the mushroom people, the crew seems to be far too apathetic to the fact that they are not alone and that whatever is out there can easily get aboard the ship. Instead, they make a bigger deal about one of the men trying to take food (they even downplay the first mate's attempt at rape that gets interrupted).

So this is not a Good movie, more like a Eh at best, with bonus points given to its somewhat unique vibe and flavor. This is the kind of movie that it is better to talk about than to watch and, though I will probably regret saying this if it ever comes about, is possibly a perfect movie for a remake.

* While I said that facetiously, you will find that the movie is often ridiculed for being so similar to the TV show, despite a lack of any similarities outside of the stranded boat and despite the fact that this movie came before.

You can watch this movie for free at The Internet Archives.

For more information, you can read it's entry on Wikipedia or entry on

Written by W Doug Bolden

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