The Undersea Warship – Atragon

3 07 2012

If you had the world’s most powerful, most dangerous warship, what would you do with it? Well you could do whatever you wanted with it. Also what features would you put on it? Well in this case let’s say it’s a submarine, you would of course add a torpedo launcher, some kind of really good propulsion system, a way to make it fly and of course a whacking massive drill on the front of it, or would you? Well you would if you were the captain of the submarine in this film.

Directed by The Great Ishiro Honda, Atragon is a Japanese Monster Movie that is not a Godzilla film (King Kong vs Godzilla was released one year earlier and was the film that really kicked off the Godzilla series). Although it is an interesting thing to point out that both Manda and the Gotengo would later star in the Godzilla series. It is also an interesting point that what I like to call the Big Four (Tanaka, Honda, Tsuburaya and Ifukube) who made the original Godzilla film are all present in the production of this film.

The film starts off with a strange man seen coming out of the water by a couple of Photographers who spook him when they photograph him, suddenly a car drives into the water and a lot of steam comes from the Water. The next day the car is fished out of the water but the police find the story hard to believe. A peculiar writer goes to see a retired Japanese admiral and asks question about the I-400 submarines including I-403 which was captained by Captain Jinguji. The reporter also claims that Jinguji has been building another. Jinguji’s daughter, Makoto is present also. Later on Jinguji’s daughter and the former admiral are in a car which is not taking them to their destination, they arrive at the beach where the driver turns out to be an agent for the Mu Empire and plans to take the 2 as slaves, however the photographers from earlier turn up and disarm the agent who retreats in to the sea. A package is sent to the admiral with a roll of film in it which tells the story of the Mu Empire, also becomes apparent that the Mu Empire have the I-403.

Several cities around the world are destroyed by earthquakes created by the Mu Empire. The forces of the world ask the former admiral if he can get in touch with Jinguji after the worlds most advanced submarine is destroyed by the Mu Empire. The Admiral has no idea how to get in touch with him, but then someone who has been stalking Makoto is captured who turns out to be someone who works for Jinguji. He initially refuses to help them but later decides to show them the way to his base. The former Admiral, Makoto, the photographers, a policeman and the strange writer go along. After 3 days of travelling they reach the island and meet the mysterious Captain Jinguji. The next day they all see his magnificent submarine Gotengo.

They spend the rest of the day watching the submarine as it undergoes its first test run. The former admiral tries to convince Jinguji to use it to help save the world against the Mu Empire but Jinguji wants to use it to get Japans pride and power back after its defeat during World War 2, it appears that this is all he wants to do. Then the strange writer turns out to be a Mu agent and kidnaps Makoto and one of the photographers. As a result of this action it is enough to persuade Jinguji to attack the Mu Empire.

Makoto and the photographer are taken to the Mu Empire and discover the giant serpent God Manda. The Gotengo goes on the attack while the Mu Empire cause an earthquake which causes a crack underneath Tokyo causing most of the city to fall into it. Makoto and the Photographer along with some other prisoners take the Mu Empress hostage and escape with the use of some diving equipment; however Manda prevents them from escaping until the Gotengo shows up and distracts the giant serpent. Using the Gotengo’s freeze cannon the Serpent is dispatched quickly. The Gotengo then attacks the Mu Empire itself by drilling into the nation’s heart and uses its freeze cannon again to destroy the nation from within. The Gotengo escapes and the Mu Empress swims off to die with her country.

The films ending is a bit abrupt and could have been executed better. However this film does have the story telling style of Ishiro Honda, he doesn’t expect you to know things before hand and so he tells the story like he would to someone who has come to see a film for the first time. While he has made some better films than this, his essence is in this film from start to finish. The film’s story as a whole has some nice bits in it including the Japanese defeat in WW2 as well as the mention of Japan’s secret weapon during WW2.

The scenes with the Gotengo are brilliant in particular with it being the best piece of special effect in the film. It is a shame though that more of it is not seen which would have been nice, but the scenes you do see are a continuous treat. The Gotengo would make another appearance later in the film Godzilla Final Wars where it would also have a fight with Manda. The fight with Manda could have gone on for longer I think but then again how is a submarine supposed to fight a giant serpent.

The cast themselves are a nice bunch but the actress playing Makoto (Yoko Fujiyama) is the best particularly when you combine her with her mysterious patriotic submarine captain. The Mu agents also have a nice intimidating, commanding look to them. Now while all of these things are great the real treat with this film is the soundtrack provided by Akira Ifukube, the main title in particular is a nice blend of mystery with an intimidating military feel. The soundtrack is not only for the film it is also for the submarine and it is amazing when you combine the two together. Look at the Gotengo and listen to the music at the same time, it is incredible and one of Ifukube’s best pieces during the 1960’s.

All together the film is a nice blend of Sci-Fi action, World War 2 patriotism and Monster Movie with some delightful scenes and characters with the main theme tying it all together in a nice but powerful way. Ok, it is more than likely you have not heard of this film, well, you have now so why don’t you go and watch it, Seriously. Ok it is not as good as Godzilla films from the same time but is another case that TOHO know what they are doing when it comes to making Monster movies and also shows that it is not just about Godzilla. You may enjoy it, you may not but it is one of those world cinema films you have more than likely not heard of but are missing out as a result, a real treat.




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