Atragon (1963)

Genre: Japanese Science Fiction

This film has it all! - a group of Japanese Word War II soldiers who can't except that the war has finished, a lost civilization, a giant sea serpent, a flying submarine and apocalyptic destruction.

After two engineers mysteriously disappear, there is an attempted kidnap of Admiral Kosumi (Ken Uehara) and his niece, Makoto Jinguji (Yôko Fujiyama). Luckily they are saved just in the nick of time by a photographer (Tadao Takashima) and his assistant.

Back at Admiral Kosumi’s shipping company, he is told by a reporter that his brother, Captain Jinguji, who was believed killed at the end of the war, is in fact alive. Captain Jinguji is also Makoto’s father who she hasn’t seen since she was aged two.

Admiral Kosumi receives a package containing a roll of movie film and when projected finds out it has been sent from the long lost Mu Empire, which had disappeared 12,000 years ago.

The Mu Empire says that it will conquer the world and that it has a captured a Japanese World War II submarine which had belonged to Captain Jinguji. They say they also have the plans to a super submarine called the Atragon, which they had found in the captured submarine.

Meanwhile, Admiral Kosumi is approached by a strange man who they believe is from the Mu Empire, but when he’s confronted he admits to everyone’s surprise that Captain Jinguji is still alive and he is part of Captain Jinguji's missing military unit. Eventually the man agrees to lead Admiral Kosumi, Makoto, the photographer and his assistant, and a reporter to meet the missing Captain.

It turns out Captain Jinguji (Jun Tazaki) and his soldiers are living on a deserted island and they can’t except that World War II has finished. During there time there they have been building the Atragon submarine.

In the meantime, the Mu Empire begins attacking shipping around the world and Admiral Kosumi begs Captain Jinguji to use his new submarine to save the world, but Captain Jinguji stubbornly refuses saying that the Atragon will only be used for the benefit of Japan.

The Mu Empire begins to inflict mass destruction upon the world and in the meantime Captain Jinguji’s daughter, Makoto, who he had been shunning, is kidnapped by the Mu Empire and unbeknown to him is about to be fed to a giant sea serpent. Now Captain Jinguji is left with the dilemma to rescue his daughter and to save the world using the Atragon.
Death and destruction

This is a great adventure/science fiction movie and has everything.

The Mu Empire has the appearance of an ancient Egyptian civilization and they are situated in a submerged kingdom beneath the Pacific Ocean. When ever the film cuts to them, they are taking part in elaborate rituals in giant temples full of chanting and women wailing and singing. Even though the Mu Empire looks primitive, they actually have sophisticated technology including giant submarines that can shoot destructive laser beams.

The Atragon is a giant flying submarine which has a revolving drill like front allowing it to burrow deep into the ground as well as travelling through the sea and air.

The destruction of the world is what you would expect from a Japanese movie of this type, with model sets exploding, burning and cities collapsing due to earthquakes.
The Atragon

Directed by Ishirô Honda who was one of the driving forces behind Godzilla. His trademark was to frequently show scenes of people being overwhelmed by an ambush of crowds, human or inhuman, based on a fear he had while stationed in China during World War II.

The movies of his I have enjoyed are The H-Man (1958), Attack of the Mushroom People (1963) and Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), but he has also been involved many more of which many may be familiar to you. One notable film is Latitude Zero (1969), which again features a civilization living beneath the sea and involves a super flying submarine. Latitude Zero was notable for having an American cast sharing the lead roles and was one of the first roles for beautiful actress Patricia Medina.

Ishirô Honda is one of the leaders in Japanese Monster/Fantastic cinema and because of this, I've kept meaning to buy a copy of the first English language book on his remarkable career, Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda. Now I'll probably finally get around to buying it.

In the meantime, if you want to enjoy some great family viewing, you can't go too wrong with Atragon.

There's more information about the DVD here.

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