Zombos Says: Very Good
Have an insatiable appetite for radiation-laced mushrooms and 1960s Japanese horror-fantasy? Why not invite everyone over for a Matango Mushroom Party! It's fun and nutritious! Just get out the Fondue pot, light up some Tiki torches, and follow the instructions below for a groovy party your friends will never forget.
1 lightly greased DVD-player
1 fresh copy of Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People
1 Fondue pot
3 cups Velveeta cheese
2 cups Tenshi cheese, cut into small cubes
Enough Shiitaki mushrooms to feed 10 to 15 horrorheads
Enough beer, wine and Saki to inebriate 10 to 15 horrorheads
While the cheese is melting in the Fondue pot, put on Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People. Make sure everyone has their beverage of choice and is comfortably seated. Get the Shiitaki mushrooms ready while they enjoy this cinematic delight. Whenever any of the characters onscreen munch on a mushroom, have everybody yell "Matango!" and dip their mushrooms into the melted cheese. Yummy. You'll have more fun than mimes at a karaoke party!
Inspired by William Hope Hodgson’s short story, A Voice in the Night, a crew of seven soon-to-be castaways are enjoying a nice sunny day aboard a wealthy man's yacht. There's the professor, the professor's demure girlfriend, an alluring actress in a big hat, a mystery writer, a disgruntled skipper, some tough guy who never takes off his sunglasses—must be a gangster—and Gilligan
Just kidding about Gilligan.
Before the bikini-clad, ukulele-strumming actress can launch into her next song, with more lyrics like "lalala" dubbed over and over again with “lalala,” a storm (thank god for us and the other listeners) suddenly whips up. As the sea starts getting rough, their tiny ship is tossed and the skipper yells for everyone to come on deck and lend a hand. Everyone, that is, except the two women aboard. Apparently 1960s women were pretty helpless when it came to helping out during crisis situations at sea.
The writer gets tangled up in the rigging and things go from bad to really bad. The not so brave and sure skipper yells for everyone to go back down below deck since they're fairly poor deckhands.
Apparently 1960s men were pretty helpless, too.
Lack of courage and seamanship from the not so fearless crew lands them on the shores of a mysterious island covered in dense, swirling fog. Uppermost in everyone's mind is the need for food, so they start foraging. They continue to move deeper into the island to find water and come across another, much larger, ship run aground.
Obviously a romance novelist, the writer stays with the girls while the others board the mysterious ship to investigate. A greenish, reddish fungus is everywhere, and the sure-footed skipper slips on the slimy stairs landing on his poop-deck.
"It's weird," says one of them.
Yes, it is.
They soon discover it's an atomic energy research vessel. There are Geiger counters and mutated specimens in jars, so they assume the missing crew was doing radiation research of some kind. They find a big crate labeled "Matango," pry it open, and find a giant mushroom inside. The crew is nowhere to be seen.
I’d like to see what Iron Chef would do with that fungi!
Bored with waiting, the girls board the ship. Naturally, they're the first ones to notice all the mirrors in the staterooms are missing. In the captain's quarters, a red, powdery, fungus is piled deep across the entire room. Before anyone can sneeze, the professor covers his mouth and nose and grabs the logbook. More searching yields few canned goods.
The once cheery group of seafaring friends is now surly and hungry. They need food badly so they start assigning hunting and gathering tasks. The wealthy guy slacks off while the others go about their business. The writer builds a signal fire and starts daydreaming a nightclub flashback, a nifty gimmick to get more scantily-clad singing girls into the movie and pad the running time.
Pop Quiz! Name one other Japanese radiation-themed movie with a lengthy nightclub dance scene. (See answer at the end of this review.)
Two others go hunting with a rifle and come across the broken mirrors, piled neatly, in the forest, creeping them out. As they watch, a bird does a sudden one-eighty and flies away.
"Even the birds don't want to hang around here," quips one of them.
Walking a little farther, they come across mushrooms. The logbook was pretty explicit about not eating any mushrooms on the island, so they just look longingly at them. A shadowy figure ahead of them causes momentary panic, but they gather their wits and head back to the research ship empty-handed.
After cleaning down a stateroom or two with the carbolic acid they found on the ship, they bed down for the night. Outside, the incessant rain dampens more than just their spirits. The action kicks in when one of them sneaks off to horde some of the canned food, only to run into a very knobby-looking, potato-headed individual. As the hoarder runs, falls, and screams (I thought only women did that in horror movies), the others race to see—gasp!—Mr. Potato Head.
Discretion being the better part of valor, they all run the other way and lock themselves in their sleeping quarters. Finally a woman screams as we get another glimpse of Starchy, the spud-looking guy (although he’s supposed to really be Mr. Mushroom guy.) Come morning they all think it was just a hallucination brought on by their hunger and dire predicament. The continued bleakness of the fog, the rain, and the lack of food starts to bring tempers to flash point, and their once friendly relationships deteriorate into everyone for him or herself. The writer drinks some courage and heads off with a rifle to find Mr. Potato Head. He doesn't find him, but he does find lots of tasty, juicy mushrooms. Will he eat them?
Matango! Don't forget to dip.
When he returns, they have to lock him up because he wants to shoot everybody. Making matters worse, the skipper takes off in the repaired S.S. Minnow (my rough translation of the boat’s name) with the remaining canned goods. As the others continue to fight among themselves, the actress lets the writer out of confinement. Once again, he goes for the gun and they have to wrestle it away from him. Having no other recourse, they banish writer and actress from the tribe and send them into the jungle.
More rain, more fog, more bleakness, and more mushrooms, growing larger by the minute due to the hot, wet climate. The wealthy guy just about had it when the alluring actress shows up as pretty as ever. "I haven't been hungry since I left," she coyly says. He eagerly follows her to the mushrooms. He sees the writer is already chowing down, and starting to turn lumpy, but he gives in to his hunger and starts munching.
Matango! And dip, everyone!
"Oh, by the way," she tells him, "you'll become a mushroom, too." But he doesn't care because, as he eats the mushroom, a wave of euphoria comes over him, leading to even more flashbacks of scantily-clad women dancing in a nightclub.
Only two are left now, the professor and Maryann—sorry, I mean to say the professor’s girlfriend. He sees the boat the skipper sailed off in bobbing up and down offshore. He swims to it and finds a message written by the skipper: "I died at sea." Wondering if the skipper wrote that before or after he kicked the chum-bucket, the professor heads back to the research vessel. More potato heads show up, and as he tears off one fungus-filled arm in his desperate struggle against them, they carry off his girlfriend to the magical mystery mushroom forest. He races to save her, but it's too late; she’s already munching on a mushroom.
Matango! Dip and munch!
She smiles at him. He tries to drag her away from the really big mushrooms with arms and legs surrounding them, but to no avail. Eventually, he flees alone, back to the boat, and away from that hellish island. While there may be layers of metaphor and allegory lacing this story, I haven't a clue as to what those might be. On the other hand, the weird color-spectrum of lighting, the mysterious and moody sets and ever-present fungus, and the surreal surrender to a mushroomy fate (rice pastry is used for the edible ones), all blend into an effectively off-beat and unsettling entry in the horror-fantasy genre that's pure Lovecraftian in tone and mood.
So start heating up that Fondue pot now and grab a copy of Matango! You and your friends will be glad you did.
*Pop Quiz Answer: The H-Man (1958).
Need a mime for your party? Check my website.
Posted by: Mark Wenzel | April 03, 2007 at 11:47 AM