Hey fungi enthusiasts! If you’re looking for something truly stange & spooky to check out this Halloween season (and I know you are) then look no further- It’s time to take a trip of the sea shores of Japan to an uncharted incredibly creepy deserted island in 1963’s psychotronic horror: Mantango! I’m going to admit I haven’t really explored a lot of 1960s horror especially from Japan. However I’m a huge sucker for “stranded on an island” movie concepts and this one looked like it hit all the right beats from the trailer I saw. Essentially it’s like a demented episode of Gilligan’s island and much of the movie actually does actually kinda feel just like it, in all the best ways.
Visionary director Ishiro Honda paints an incredibly atmospheric nightmare landscape on the open sea, with a band of tourists on a fancy yacht who find themselves in the midst of a violent sea storm. Tired and hungry they take refuge on on a mysterious exotic tropical island infested with strange colorful mushrooms. There’s something extremely unsettling yet whimsical about the whole endeavor as the crew struggles to get along and and also find food that’s safe to eat there.
The most of the characters here I found to be a bit on the bland side, but it really doesn’t matter much because the beautiful bizarre portrait on display here of the island itself ends up as the true star of the entire show. The quietness of the foggy remote island lends much to the impending dread in the thick air as soon our cast of characters find themselves with hungry bellies, drawn to consume the beautiful fungi. It’s like they’ve spent the week in the garden of Adam-and-Eve but instead of colorful fruits instead enticed by mind altering fungus!
Matango is somewhat of a slow burn, but it’s a really fun “trip” right from the get go. All of the set pieces from the on the ship and especially the island are truly a spectacle to behold. It really makes me miss real practical sets, as many of the movies now in the fantasy genre just resort to bad CGI green screen backdrops. Being made in 1963, everything has that special earthy but put together carefully by hand look to it of that era, looking like some high budget theme park attraction, blanketed in roaming fogs.
There’s also some some legitimately creepy visuals to behold, every bit of Matango’s landscape looks like at any moment could come alive and grab you. As the tourists become more restless and frustrated it’s clear something sinister has taken hold of their psyche. And while the movie secondary moniker is ‘Attack of the Mushroom People’ I would say that’s a bit of a stretch here. There’s really Not a helluva of a lot of “attacking” going on until maybe the movie’s final 10 minutes, but it’s definitely worth the wait once the mushroom people do arrive.
Even by today’s standards these creatures look quite incredible, feeling like something materilized from a strange fever dream. Matango has definitely peaked my interest in Japanese movies from this era, this is a cool little mind bending bit of eye candy that’s that is most definitely worth a watch this Halloween season if you’re in the mood for something truly unique! I got it on blu ray recently from Far East Flix!
I’ve been watching a lot of Hong-Kong movies lately from the 80s and good lord let me tell you, there are some amazing unbelievable subtitles to behold! So every now and again I’ll pause the screen to take a snapshot to capture some of these in ALL their insane glory! These first two exhibits come from an amazing action movie from 1989 called ‘Pedicab Driver’ starring Sammo Hung! If you’re a fan of wild, over the fucking top martial arts then check this out ASAP and keep an eye open for these unforgettable words of wisdom within the text of their glorious subtitles!
I’m willing to bet that even if you’re a huge fan of fx legend Tom Savini that you likely never knew in 1982 he was flown to Hong-Kong to do special fx on an obscure horror comedy called ‘Til Death Do We Scare’! I never heard of it until a month ago & was completely intrigued. For good reason too, this is one wacky bizarre little mess of a damn movie!
Directed by Lau Kar-wing this essentially follows the story of a down on her luck widow whose husbands keep dying in mysterious & slightly stupid ways on their respective wedding days. For instance one dies by way of random bird flying directly into his freaking mouth at the altar!
Well, I guess, lucky for her the ghosts of her 3 dead stooge husbands all meet in the afterlife & team up vowing to watch over her. What we get here is a totally moronic misadventure, with her 3 former lovers for some reason trying to set her up with a wacky yet I’m assuming unintentionally creepy radio DJ dude. Yep he does his fair share of stalking the beautiful widow, with surprisingly positive results! Who knew stalking could be such a turn on?!
For some reason the three zany ghosts spend a lot of the time in the movie fucking with him, moving chairs around and making him physically unable to take off his pants when getting ready to get some sexy action! They also spend a little time scaring him thank god and that’s exactly where the film’s real star imo, Tom Savini finally enters the scene with those impressive 80s special effects and creepy makeup stylings everyone loves him so much for. In fact part of me kinda wondered, maybe Tim Burton watched this one, because some of these ghost’s wild scare antics combined with Savini’s make up effects bring to mind his classic film Beetlejuice.
On second thought I’m pretty certain Burton never saw a peep of this one! The film kind of shifts gears in its 3rd act and involves our creepy lover boy along with his pathetic best buddy being exiled off to an extra dimensional island of the dead. There everything seems strangely to be made of paper mache(?), paper mache cars, paper mache walls, paper mache staircases, which are NEVER a good thing. But none the less a full on paper mâché nightmare!
So there the two of them (for some unknown reason), face off against the dead’s annoying overlord who’s followed by a gang of well dressed partying ghosts. The finale of the movie is where Savini clearly unloads his trunk of extra props from Creepshow! OOOOH YEAH! Where he helps bring to life a giant blue Chinese vampire and his horde of wicked zombies! I’m guessing Mr. Savini was working with a shoe string budget here, as the fx work is fun, it def does look a bit unfinished. I’m not sure if I was just too stoned to understand the plot correctly or if this thing was just a crazy giant mash up of weird lost in translation mayhem! By the time it was done I was so confused with what I’d seen, but at the same time completely satisfied. Sure I’d hoped Savini was working on a bonafide gem of a lost Hong Kong horror flick of the 1980’s that I could shout on the mountain tops to my fellow cinefiles! Instead I just relished in all the fun Tom Savini must have had while filming this ridiculous mess in 1980’s Hong Kong….