The Mysterians, Ishirô Honda's fourth special effects extravaganza for Toho sees the director deviate from from the successful Kaiju formula of his previous monster movies for something more akin to HG Wells' War of the Worlds, with planet Earth fending off an invasion force of radiation stricken aliens looking to relocate from the cold wastes of Mars to the more agreeable terrestrial climates and kick-start their civilization using healthy human females... For all the comic book pulpiness of the plot, The Mysterians is a lavish well-mounted production, with bright, garish photography and art direction (as was the Japanese taste), the film notable for being Toho's first feature shot in 'scope. Admittedly the state-of-the-art special effects have greatly diminished over the years, but the film still boasts some fine model work - like the Mysterians' souped-up flying saucers - wonderful to behold in motion as they zip across the sky in attack mode. Although not a monster movie in the strict sense of the genre, there is a little kaiju icing around the sides with an appearance early on in the film of a colossal bird-like robot monster which reduces towns to ash in the firestorm left in its wake.
Flying Atomic Heat Projectors... fire !
But beyond deadly automatons, death rays and melted tanks, the film delivers grave tidings of the hazards of nuclear energy, the itinerant aliens might well be considered tragic, made homeless after their planet was annihilated by nuclear war (and in a nice bit of popular science, the fragments of the destroyed planet have resulted in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter). The film is given considerable weight too by the casting of Takashi Shimura, imparting a sad-eyed melancholic look throughout. Ultimately, the film is most successful for striking the right balance between juvenile and smart clever science fiction and in this regard is far more accomplished than say the Star Wars prequels whose plots are most likely incomprehensible to their intended audience. Incidentally, the film has left its own dent on popular culture, the Mysterians themselves look like a forerunner for the Japanese TV superheroes Super Sentai (or the Power Rangers if you prefer), while the Mysterians name was borrowed by 60's garage rockers Question Mark and The Mysterians. Interestingly, Gerry Anderson's late 60's creation Captain Scarlet battled a deadly foe called The Mysterons, a race of intergalactic aliens who used Mars as base to attack Earth. Perhaps, Anderson had Honda's film in mind when he conceived his models and marionettes series and used a bit of judicious tweaking to avoid the ire of MGM ?