So if you missed reading the blog for it, Destroy All Monsters is my favorite movie in the Godzilla franchise, and one of my favorite movies of all time. However, when I first watched it as a kid, I was somewhat confused because there were four monsters that I had not seen in any of the previous Godzilla movies. I soon learned about the other movies that Toho had made where these monsters came from but aside from Mothra and Rodan, many of these movies were not to be found on the video rental shelves. Flash forward to 1998, and I become a regular shopper on a sight known as eBay, where, being the “Godzilla snob” that I am, I am able to not only find all of the Godzilla movies on VHS in the original Japanese version with English subtitles, but I am also able to find some of these other Toho movies to add to my collection. Atragon was the second such movie that I bought.
The plot: A photographer, Susumu, and his assistant, Yoshito, are taking pictures of a swimsuit model on the docks when they see a figure emerge from the ocean in a cloud of steam. Suddenly, a car drives past them and plunges off the pier, with steam billowing from the ocean as the car disappears. The next morning, the police investigate the crash as they believe a missing engineer might have been in the car, but discount Susumu and Yoshito’s story. As they are leaving the docks, Susumu spots a woman leaving a nearby ship and takes her picture, as he wishes for her to be his next model. Later that day, after developing their photos, Detective Ito shows up at their office and tells them that another engineer was kidnapped by a person witnesses said was “steamy” when an earthquake suddenly occurs. Meanwhile, retired Rear Admiral Kusumi, now the president of Kokoku Shipping Co., receives a visit from a reporter from True Story magazine, who questions Kusumi about a sub, the A-403, and it’s commanding officer, Captain Jinguji, who supposedly died in WWII, but the reporter claims Jinguji is still alive. Yoshito, who had been asked by Susumu to locate the girl, calls Susumu ad tells him he located the girl, who happens to be Captian Jinguji’s daughter Makoto. Susumu arrives at Kokoku Shipping just as Makoto and Kusumi get in a car and leave so they decide to follow them. Makoto and Kusumi’s driver turns out to be an agent of the Mu Empire and takes them to the ocean, where he plans to take them to the Mu Empire. Susumu and Yoshito arrive and manage to stop the agent, who swims out to a waiting sub. The next day, a reel of film is sent to the police department from the Mu Empire, where they claim to have managed to survive for thousands of years at the bottom of the ocean. The Mu Empire show the A-403 but claim that Captain Jinguji had abandoned the sub and is working on building a new sub. The tape then says that the surface world must surrender and Captain Jinguji must stop work in his new sub. After several cities are destroyed, and a UN sub following a Mu submarine is destroyed by diving further than it is capable, the UN decide that Jinguji’s sub, the Atragon, might be their only hope but nobody knows where he may be. When a supposed Mu agent who has been shadowing Makoto is captured, he is revealed to be a naval officer under Jinguji’s command who was ordered to keep watch over Makoto. Kusumi and Makoto manage to convince the officer to take them to Jinguji, and they are accompanied by Susumu, Yoshito, Detective Ido, and the reporter. After traveling for some time, the finally arrive on an island, where armed guards escort them to Jinguji’s base. They finally meet Jinguji, who admits to the existence of Atragon, but he refuses to help as he claims Atragon was built to restore the greatness of the Japanese Empire. Makoto runs off and Susumu, who has grown close to Makoto, chastises the Jinguji for refusing to help the world. The next day, the visitors are treated to the Atragon’s test run, where they witness the sub’s ability to fly as well as submerge. Kusumi again tries to persuade Jinguji to use Atragon against the Mu Empire but Jinguji still refuses. When they get a moment alone, Jinguji tries to make Makoto understand his reasoning but she refuses to listen. Susumu, who had overheard their conversation, tells Jinguji that he is a “ghost with rusty armor” and goes to leave but Jinguji stops him and gives him a picture of himself and Makoto when she was a child before asking that he take care of her. Meanwhile, the reporter reveals himself to be a Mu agent, planting explosives in the base and kidnapping Makoto and Susumu as he leaves the island. The two are taken to the Mu Empire, where they are placed in a cell with the kidnapped engineers and told that if they try to escape, they will be fed to the Mu’s god, Manda, a giant serpent-like dragon. When the Mu begin to launch an attack on Tokyo, Jinguji and his crew manage to free the Atragon and head out to face the Mu Empire. The Mu Empire uses an earthquake to destroy the capitol building, and a Mu sub destroys all of the ships in Tokyo harbor, but Atragon arrives and follows after the Mu sub. Back in the Mu Empire, Susumu uses some explosives that he grabbed from when he was forced to work to hold the Mu Empress hostage and they attempt to escape, but the Empress unleashes Manda to keep them from leaving. Atragon arrives and begins firing smokescreen torpedoes at Manda, allowing the 5 people to swim to the sub undetected. Once they are safely on board, Jinguji attempts to negotiate a peace with the Empress but when she refuses, he orders Atragon to attack the heart of the empire. Manda attacks the sub by coiling around it but they electrify the hull to shake the monster loose, then use their Absolute Zero Cannon to freeze the monster into the side of the sea cliff. Atragon then begins to tunnel into the sea cliff until it reaches the Mu Empire’s power plant, where they freeze the power plant, before leaving. The frozen geothermal machinery causes a fiery explosion, which can be seen on the surface of the ocean. Witnessing the end of her empire, the Mu Empress chooses to swim into the explosion and die with her people, rather than go back with Jinguji and the others..
This is a pretty good sci-fi movie. The acting was pretty good as far as I can tell and the dubbing was actually better than some of the other Toho movies at the time. The story itself was also good. Atlantis always gets a lot of publicity as far as being the “lost continent” so it is nice to see another “legendary” lost land mass get some recognition on screen. Now, the idea of an ancient culture trying to retake the planet they feel they should own can seem a bit old, but back in the early 60’s, this was still a somewhat new concept and Toho did a good job with it. The effects were pretty good but I really liked the design of Manda, as it really looked like a traditional Oriental dragon, as opposed to the snake with legs that was in Destroy All Monsters. One thing that always bugged me was the name of the sub. See, in the Japanese version, the sub is called Gotengo but for some reason, the name was changed for the English dubbing. Oh well, it is a small gripe that honestly doesn’t take away from the movie. If you are looking for something new to watch, this is a good classic sci-fi movie that is worth watching.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5