The Mu Empire ruled the Earth twelve centuries ago before sinking below the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Now it is ready to rise again and regain its rightful position, subjugating the nations of the world to slavery, but first it demands that Japan turn over the mighty submarine Atragon.
Filled with a fair number of scale-model explosions, a colorful pagan tribe, and a renegade military group, Atragon should be more fun than it is. Sadly, due to a tepid tone and the inability of director Ishiro Honda (Godzilla, The Mysterians, Attack of the Mushroom People) to build momentum or sustain tension, the film simply plods along, accumulating scenes.
From a distance of more than 40 years, however, it is the military sub-plot that holds the greatest fascination. Captain Jinguji (Jun Tazaki) revolted at the end of World War II, refusing to accept Japan’s surrender, and disappeared with a submarine and his crew. Former Admiral Kosumi (Ken Uehara) approved of his actions and helped him cover up by going along with the cover story that Jinguji was killed in action.
When the action picks up, Kosumi is working in Corporate Japan with his old friend’s daughter, Makoto (Yoko Fujiyama). The Mu Empire makes its threats known; somehow they know that Jinguji is alive and is building a powerful new submarine, called Atragon.
Initially, Kosumi doesn’t want to cooperate with the authorities; eventually, after the cities of Venice and Hong Kong are destroyed, he recognizes the greater good that can be accomplished, yet still must convince Jinguji that the interests of humanity must come ahead of nationalistic concerns.
Those themes must have resonated strongly in post-war Japan, and they lend a degreee of poignance to the often silly, if soberly related, story.
Production credits were likely state of the art for their time. Giant sea snake Manda is not impressive, but the cool-looking submarine Atragon has plenty of funky working details. Akira Ifukube’s stately musical score is a definite bonus.
Media Blasters has produced a very fine edition for Region 1 viewers.
Video: The enhance anamorphic picture looks very clean; the colors appear a bit soft, so nothing will zap you in the eye with brilliance, but appear to have been rendered accurately. That makes for a pleasant viewing experience. The film appears to be presented in its original aspect ratio (2.35:1).
Audio: Multiple audio tracks are provided — English Mono and DD 5.1, Japanese Mono and DD 5.1. I listened to the Japanese Mono version, which is perfectly adequate. Note: currently I have no means to test the newly-created DD 5.1 tracks.
Subtitles: The removable yellow English subtitles are large, easy to read, and well timed, with no noticeable glitches or misspellings. However, they are positioned near the bottom of the picture and spill over below the frame; that should not pose a problem for owners of 4:3 display devices, but 16:9 owners (such as, newly, myself) may be grumpy.
Features: An audio commentary with assistant director Koji Kajita is included. The original theatrical trailer is also provided.
Credits and Details
Originally released by Toho Company.
Japan. 1963. 96 minutes.
Directed by Ishiro Honda.
Screenplay by Shinichi Sekizawa; original story by Shunro Oshikawa.
With Jun Tazaki, Ken Uehara, Yoko Fujiyama, Tadao Takashima, Kenji Sahara.
Released on DVD by Media Blasters.
Region 1. NTSC. 2006.