Running Time: 88 minutes
MPAA Rating: NR
Format: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, 2.0 Mono
Languages: English, Japanese
Subtitles: None
Region: 1
MSRP: $19.95

Own It!
The Mysterians (1957)

As a science fiction trope, the invasion of Earth by advanced alien forces is remarkably simple, and therefore, all the more durable. Some one or something crops up to make our best technology seem lame, turning all humanity instantly into the underdog; differences must be set aside to fight a common enemy. There's really little more to the concept, so the success of the story will depend upon execution, more than anything else - and in the sure hands of director Ishiro Honda (most revered in the states as the director of the original Godzilla movies) The Mysterians ranks as a very fine telling of the tale.

Mysterians begins with odd catastrophes in an isolated village, which is soon explained by the emergence of the title aliens' domed base. At first only wanting a few kilometers of land to host their orphaned civilization, their demands soon involve inter-marrying with Earth women and, oh, yes, we'll just take the whole planet while we're at it. Plucky Earth scientists - including one who was collaborating with the Mysterians but realizes his error - must come up with a way to overcome the aliens' superior tech and kick their primary-colored butts back into space.

Mysterians benefits greatly from a Golden Trio that produced many science fiction hits for Toho in its heyday - the aforementioned Honda, special effects magician Eiji Tsuburaya, and stellar composer Akira Ifukube, not to mention a group of reliable actors familiar to any fan of japanese cinema. Though likely to be sneered at by those inclined toward more high-brow stories or high-tech effects, what this picture provides is high entertainment - perfect fare for a low-stress rainy weekend afternoon.

The Mysterians is the first Toho movie released in a Cinescope-style widescreen format, dubbed - naturally enough - "TohoScope". Previous video releases of the movie here in the states have been limited to the 4:3 AIP-TV version, so seeing this in it's natural form is quite breathtaking. The film elements are almost flawless - the battle scenes show some wear - and the color lush. Purists can finally watch this with the original Japanese soundtrack, and ultra-purists can even switch to a mono presentation (though the 5.1 remix in both English and Japanese versions is well done). This is simply a topnotch package in these repects, and almost makes me forgive Media Blasters for their interminable logo sequences.

The wealth of Mysterian goodness does not stop at the movie itself - included are:

  • Photo Gallery - 28 publicity photos, many of the composite-style so popular among Japanese genre movies of the period; crowded battle scenes that exist nowhere in the movie, and absolutely gorgeous in their clutter.
  • Design Gallery - 19 colorful and highly detailed drawings and schematics of uniforms, vehicles and weapons, and:
  • Storyboards - 19 four-frame pages, including a sequence that indicates that the giant robot, Moguera, was once intended to be a more conventional giant monster.

An audio commentary track is also available - Japanese directors Koichi Kawakita and Shinji Higuchi give their perspective on the movie, and share a lot of interesting information about Japanese film history and Toho in general. English subtitles are provided. It is also possible to watch the movie with only Ifukube's score playing.

An original theatrical trailer is provided (in slighly worse shape than the feature, but still remarkably good) as well as trailers for Matango: Fungus of Terror, Dogora, Varan the Unbelievable, Gappa the Triphibian Monster, and One Missed Call. If Media Blasters' presentation of these classics are anywhere near as impressive as that of The Mysterians, they will be well worth checking out.

Dr. Freex, 7/30/2006