Friday, December 20, 2013

Matango: Attack Of The Mushroom People, Gilligan's Island on Hallucinogens

A yacht on a day trip encounters a freak storm which almost capsizes them.  The wounded boat makes it to an uncharted island.  The skipper, his trusted first-mate, a writer, a professor, the wealthy yacht owner, a glamorous singer, and a nice looking female college student must forage the island to survive and hopefully repair the yacht.  Sound familiar?  You are wrong!  A few years before "Gilligan's Island" was released, "Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People" (1963) horrified Japanese audiences.  I remember seeing this movie on Creature Feature on Channel 56 in Boston in the early 1970s, and it terrified me.
The rest of the plot:  Our castaways find apparent shelter on a wrecked vessel that apparently was involved in nuclear testing in the waters surrounding this mysterious island.  The entire island and this wreck are covered with a mysterious fungus that permeates everything.  No sign of the crew...of course.  The only food available are the numerous mushrooms which grow everywhere.  When crew members of this wreck come back to visit the new castaways, they are hardly human.  Eating the mushrooms turned them into humanoid mushroom people.  Our castaways must battle these monsters, their own starvation, and each other to survive.  Who will survive?  I won't ruin the ending, but it is a creepy one.
The acting is good, and the dubbing is not bad.  This movie never had an American release, so UHF channels were the only place to see it.  Today the DVD is available, and the quality is terrific.  The fungi-creepiness is in spectacular color.  The movie is very well shot, and the suspense is maximized.  I will never forget the scene when a mushroom person pays a visit to the newly occupied wreck, and we the viewer watch the door-knob slowly turn, knowing a horrible sight is just on the other side.
The sets deserve some sort of award.  The fungi-infested island and wrecked vessel are some of the creepiest (there's that word again) sets ever put on film.  If the mad-cap comedy of "Gilligan's Island" only serves to annoy you, catch "Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People."

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