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Not Rated
Copyright 1963 Toho
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 25 June 2005

The Characters:  

  • Kenji Murai - Being a professor, he is intelligent, strong of will, and full of integrity. Crazy out of his mind too, by the film's end.
  • Akiko Soma - Student at the university that Mr. Murai teaches. Guess who she falls in love with? Love does not save her, she becomes a mushroom.
  • Fumio Kasai - Wealthy president of a powerful company and intellectual vampire. Embraces mushroomhood.
  • Naoyuki Sakeda - The bitter yacht captain who drowns himself when he is unable to escape the island.
  • Mami Sekiguchi - She is supposed to be an entertainment vixen, but comes off as more a vapid slattern. One with the fungus.
  • Senzo Koyama - This guy has issues, but gets shot to death. (That does save on counseling.)
  • Etsuro Yoshida - What could this cast be missing? Oh, yes! A shallow writer who is the first to give in to the mushrooms' decadence.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

We begin with the happy group on Mr. Kasai's yacht. Yoshida is working on a new novel (though Mami tosses half of it into the ocean before breaking into song), Soma is puking (with Murai consoling her), the sailors are working, and Kasai is barely minding the wheel. Everyone is enjoying themselves, relying on the fragile truce that exists between the rich and the working class to prevent bloodshed.

The party ends several hours later when a terrible squall hits the small yacht. Despite his passengers having little or no experience at sailing, Sakeda orders them onto the deck to help lower sails and batten hatches. The real hoot is noticing that not one of the landlubbers is wearing a life preserver. Being lost overboard in a storm like that would be a very bad thing. However, being lost overboard in a storm like that, with no life preserver, would be marginally worse. While we are on the subject, Kasai's insistence that his yacht could ride out any rough seas they might encounter baffles me. Waves of twenty feet in height would make me very worried to be aboard the small vessel. Anyway, the ship is bashed around, the engine compartment floods, and it loses the main mast.

But, the yacht does not sink. Give Kasai one.

Adrift and unable to radio for help, the battered companions spend their days lying listlessly in their bunks. This seems to go on for a long time. When you think the next scene might bring some relief from the boredom - nope, still adrift. I, myself, was pretty darn happy when land was sighted. Not a moment too soon, because the rations have run out and everyone is weak from hunger.

With the yacht anchored offshore, all of the characters swim ashore. They are decent swimmers, because nobody strips down to a bathing suit to make the swim. Heck, most of them even crawl out of the surf still wearing their hats. Do you wear a big floppy hat while swimming? Me neither. Anyway, they continue making sound decisions by climbing to the top of the island's volcanic peak. This is done in full clothing, in the tropics. Can someone tell me why these people are purposely burning calories with such abandon?

The vantage point does reveal a derelict ship on the island's opposite shore. The ship is really bewildering, because it looks like a steel-hulled sailing ship. What in the world is going on? Ignoring the audience's confusion, Kasai's party boards the boat to investigate. They find that almost everything is covered with a thick carpet of meaty fungus. Also discovered is the ship's log, various instruments for studying radioactivity, and some canned food. I think that the goal was to insinuate this was some unknown country's vessel, which was studying the fallout from Pacific nuclear tests. Nobody bothers to tell us why it had sails, vice screws. If it is supposed to be an inconspicuous spy ship, what is up with the sails?

American Commander: "Anything suspicious in the area?"
Intelligence Officer: "Nope, just a clipper ship that must have been blown off the trade routes."
American Commander: "What, one of those again?"

Yeah, I bet that happened all the time.

During the initial inspection, the castaways take an unbalanced interest in cleaning up the derelict ship. They have shelter and have found fresh water, but food is a big worry. It was funny to hear them talking about cleaning up the inside of the ship prior to finding food. Or, quite importantly, learning what happened to the previous crew. Murai finds the answer to the mystery in the ship's logbook. The crew disappeared, one by one, when they went inland to search for food. Also, the giant mushrooms that cover the island contain a chemical that harms the nervous system (another tidbit from the logbook).

The little group needs to start working as a team, but never manage to get the ball rolling. One problem is that nobody wants to do the boring things. I mean, some of them do gather edible roots and turtle eggs. However, Kasai is more interested in cleaning and caring for the rifle that he found on the ship. A rifle is great, if there are birds or animals to shoot. Not much use on the island in question. The rifle seems important, which calls to the nature of the businessman. The largest obstacle to the little company is selfishness. Some of them hoard food, while others raid the larder when everyone else is sleeping. For example: Mr. Kasai buys turtle eggs from Koyama for 5000 yen each. Both of these guys are scoundrels.

"Attack of the Mushroom People" is heavily padded with these little character establishing scenes. Rather disappointing for any lover of monster movies who popped the movie in and expected to see mushroom men. This is addressed shortly, but by now you are well past the film's midway point. The first encounter with a fungi creature does make for a genuinely frightening scene. All of the castaways are sleeping (except for Kasai, who is stealing food for the stores). A shadow in the porthole of the women's quarters and an ominous tread on the decks above sets the mood. Suddenly, when Kasai is accosted; he scrambles away from the shuffling horror as he cries out for help. Then, the entire group huddles together, but they all see the abomination after it opens the cabin door.

Cut to the next morning, with the characters all arguing if the midnight apparition was just a mass delusion. Do not get me wrong, some of them are showing signs of mental illness. Akiko is hearing voices, Koyama starts to gloat out loud about raping the women, and Kasai locks himself away in his room. When they are together it results in constant bickering. Oh, and Yoshida starts eating mushrooms. They make him a little less than rational. The microsociety's breakdown comes quickly once the barriers start falling. And, one by one, the people with little willpower begin eating the mushrooms.

Consuming the mushrooms does a little more than just impair your judgment. Strange growths start appearing on those afflicted. From what I can tell, they turn completely into a walking mushroom. The most insidious part is that the mushrooms are highly addictive, driving the hapless fools to eat more and more (thus hastening the process). Eventually, Murai and Akiko are the only uncontaminated humans left. Unfortunately, the malevolent fungus monsters have grown bold and switch to more aggressive tactics. There will be very little left of humanity when the movie ends.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • Sometimes having a girl who will not kiss you is a good thing.
  • Pleasure yachts come standard with velcro tabletops and glasses.
  • Businessmen like to mark their close associates with gold pendants.
  • During the Cold War, Japan was not a member of the Free World, nor the Communist Block.
  • Nothing beats carbolic acid when it comes to cleaning mildew.
  • It is okay to drink methanol, if you cut it with water.
  • When someone is dead, all of the money falls out of their pockets.
  • Happiness is a warm fungus.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 4 mins - I am guessing that they could not afford the lyrics.
  • 13 mins - "I wear my sunglasses in a typhoon. So I can, so I can, keep salt water out of my retinas."
  • 17 mins - George Kennedy is the captain of that freighter! Run! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, RUN MAN!
  • 25 mins - Surely, that ship has been there longer than one year.
  • 42 mins - Maybe you should not be shooting at vague movement in the fog. Unless you make everyone wear bright yellow rain slickers all the time.
  • 49 mins - Why is it that none of the men look scruffy? Oh, never mind.
  • 79 mins - Have a tuber, it will make you feel better...
  • 83 mins - I have had mornings like this. Just substitute Jehovah Witnesses for mushroom monsters.

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note matango1.wav Murai: "Matango, a kind of mushroom. It's probably a new species that was found on this island."
Sakeda: "We're in luck if this thing is edible."
Green Music Note matango2.wav A group discussion about the food situation.
Green Music Note matango3.wav Koyama: "That broad goes into the jungle with the writer quite a bit. Seems to me that they're doing more than just carrying water."
Mami: "Why don't you mind your own business?"
Green Music Note matango4.wav Akiko: "Hey, can't we eat the mushrooms now?"
Murai: "That would really be the end of us."
Akiko: "But, Mami and Kasai?"
Murai: "Fool! They're half mushroom!"
Green Music NoteTheme Song Listen to a clip from the soundtrack.

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipmatango1.mpg - 3.1m
Mami lured Mr. Kasai to the heart of the mushroom kingdom, then the horror started.

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Comments:Write CommentPages: 1 [2] 3
Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People
Reply #9. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by JGreeb
I remember seeing this movie in the 70's (my pre-high school years) on a local UHF station (CH 45 out of Cleveland) that would show B-grade horror movies on Saturday afternoon (the host was called SuperHost- wore a cape and everything).  All I remember is the people turning to mushrooms after eating them.  However, the movie made a big enough impression that I still remember it after all these years and probably kept me from eating mushrooms until I was in college.  
Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People
Reply #10. Posted on December 07, 2005, 08:27:44 PM by Peter
I think this is a great movie! THe rain and smell of mushrooms! If only this movie could be released in Australia so people can buy it! A spoky film
Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People
Reply #11. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Stefano Jodice
It's worth to remember that "Matango" was directed by Inoshiro Honda, (disciple of Akira Kurosawa) the author of the original, 1954 B/W "Godzilla" movie.
Re: Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People
Reply #12. Posted on January 10, 2008, 09:23:34 PM by chris conley
This is actually a very good movie from the creator of godzilla. I'm glad that Tokyo Shock released a widescreen uncut japanese language print of this recently this film is very eerie and belongs in the b movie circuit not the z movie it's kind like lord of the flies and is very emotional in it's orginal language.
Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People
Reply #13. Posted on January 13, 2008, 12:34:06 AM by Xenorama
Is this the edited American version or the longer Japanese version? The longer Japanese version is suppose to be better. Whatever?! One does wonder whether the creators of "Gilligan's Island" were aware of this film, before creating "Gilligan's Island.

there is no "edited American version".  they are both the same movie, nothing was cut from the US tv release. 

Honda was in the movie business before Kurosawa, but was drafted and Kurosawa got more time in the industry.  neither was a disciple of the other.

Re: Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People
Reply #14. Posted on April 07, 2008, 10:01:27 PM by Chris Conley
Why is everybody hitting this film hard this is good certainly better that manos the hands of fate or plan 9 from outer space and this is not a z grade picture your missing the inner symbolism towards drugs and danger towards them which inshiro honda put into this film this is a underrated classic a minor classic you should watch in japanese then its  better the american dub loses the great acting the japanese actors have
Re: Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People
Reply #15. Posted on April 08, 2008, 06:18:23 PM by Flangepart
Thematicly intresting...but it still makes me want to order pizza.
Re: Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People
Reply #16. Posted on July 05, 2008, 02:41:58 PM by Cinematic Manic
It seems to me there are three reasons that people deliberately watch these quality of movies:

1. They are goddam funny. You have to love the badness and appreciate it for its true entertainment value.

2. Nostalgia. I remember this beauty from my teenage years.

3. To have friends over, get a little "confused" and have a ball making fun of them.

The psychedelic scene alone is worth it. This is a gem of a movie. Wonderful.

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