Atragon (海底軍艦 is a Kaitei Gunkan, lit. Undersea Warship)1963 tokusatsu science-fiction and fantasy film produced by Toho, loosely based on the 1900 Japanese adventure novel The Undersea Warship: A Fantastic Tale of Island Adventure written by Shunro Oshikawa. The film was released to Japanese theaters on December 22, 1963 and to American theaters in December, 1964.
A taxi driver ignores his passenger's request to stop, burning his hand when he tries to grab him. Meanwhile, two photographers, Susumu Hatanaka and Yoshito Nishibe, are in the middle of a shoot with an actress near the ocean. She screams when she sees what appears to be a monster climb onto the dock, emitting steam. Susumu scares the creature away with his camera flash, then nearly gets hit by the taxi as it drives off the pier.
The next morning, the car is lifted out of the water. Susume and Yoshito speak with Detective Ito about what happened, along with the real driver, who claims to have been strangled by the burning hands of the same creature before his car was stolen. A reporter joins them, and they are all astonished to find that no bodies were found in or around the car. Their statement to Ito complete, Susumu and Yoshito are distracted by a beautiful woman stepping off of a nearby ship, who they view as a potential model. She ignores Susumu, but he manages to take a picture of the license plate of the car she left in. Another man in a nondescript outfit watches her leave from a distance.
Ito visits Susumu and Yoshito at their office and reveals to them that another man emitting steam has carried out a kidnapping, this time abducting an engineer at a dam. The other man was an engineer too, and both were experts on cave-ins. Their conversation is cut short by a brief earthquake. The woman Susumu and Yoshito spotted turns out to be Makoto Jinguji, the adopted daughter of former Admiral Kusumi, who now runs a shipping company. The two receive a visit from the reporter from the docks, Uoto Unno, who brings up the I-403, a powerful submarine that the Imperial Japanese Navy launched the night the Pacific War ended. He claims that its captain, Kusumi's right-hand man Hachiro Jinguji, is still alive. Kusumi dismisses him, saying that Jinguji died during the war, but Makoto wonders if her father really could be alive. She questions why he had to leave her to go off into battle; Kusumi explains that his love for his country won out over his family.
Yoshito tracks down Makoto's car and tails her with Susumu in tow. The man from the docks watches them go, and Makoto reveals to Kusumi that she's noticed him following her. Their driver turns out to be the same man who abducted the first engineer. He holds them at gunpoint, along with Yoshito and Susumu once they catch up, and explains that they will be taken to work as slaves of the Mu Empire. He identifies himself only as Mu Agent No. 23. Kusumi scoffs at the idea that the legendary kingdom said to have sunk into the Pacific Ocean millennia ago is real. Yoshito attempts to attack the agent with a wrench, but he catches it and heats it up with his touch. The creatures from before rise out of the water, revealed themselves as Mu frogmen, and a Mu Submarine arrives to pick them up. Just as they are about to depart, Susumu kicks the gun out of the agent's hand. As they fight, Kusumi picks up the gun and tries to convince the agent to come with them. Instead, he dives into the water, evading multiple shots.
While speaking to Detective Ito, the four receive a package labeled "MU" from the agent, which contains a film. Played before the Japanese government, it details the history and technological prowess of the Mu Empire, which once ruled the world and plans to do so again. It also shows the I-403 on display in their undersea city. However, the Mu were unable to capture Jinguji, who they believe is constructing an even mightier submarine called the Gotengo. They demand that humanity halt the Gotengo's construction and allow themselves to be subjugated once more. The United Nations meets about the film, but determines it to be fraudulent after only ten minutes of deliberation. A Mu submarine responds by blowing up a ship with homing mines, then carrying out devastating attacks against Venice and Hong Kong. The crew of an elite nuclear submarine called the Red Satan dives after a Mu submarine in the hopes that it will lead them back to Mu, only to be destroyed by the extreme water pressure.
Meeting with several military officials who express interest in the Gotengo, Kusumi admits that Jinguji revolted from the Imperial Japanese Navy. Their conversation is interrupted by a call from the police station, where the man tailing Makoto has been detained. He is uncooperative at first, but gives his name as Warrant Officer Amano once Kusumi states his rank, and reveals that Jinguji is still alive. An earthquake rocks the police station as Mu Agent No. 23 again demands that humanity surrender, having placed a tape in the broadcasting room. Amano refuses at first to give out Jinguji's location, but Makoto, Kusumi, and the reporter from the docks convince him otherwise. The agrees to take Susumu, Yoshito, Ito, Makoto, Kusumi, and the reporter to the site. Agent No. 23 reports their trip to the High Priest of Mu. The kidnapped engineers respond to a cave-in at a power room as the High Priest leads scores of Mu in a prayer to their god, Manda.
After a flight and three days of sailing, the group has nearly reached Jinguji. Makoto tries to sort through her complicated feelings towards her father with Susumu's help: she feels no bitterness towards him, but his motivation remain a mystery to her. Like Kusumi, Susumu ascribes Jinguji's lack of contact with his daughter to old-fashioned patriotism. The reporter quietly drops a small white orb into the sea and a Mu submarine picks it up. Their destination is an island, where they are soon met by Jinguji's troops, who lead them to their base. Captain Jinguji meets with them, thanking Kusumi for covering up his revolt but finding himself unable to speak with Makoto. He announces that he'll be testing the Gotengo tomorrow, but refuses to use it in service of the United Nations, only a resurgent Japanese navy. Makoto and Susumu storm out of the room, with the latter calling him "war crazy."
Despite their misgivings, the group watches the Gotengo's trial run. Not only does the drill-nosed submarine successfully submerge, it follows that up by taking flight. Jinguji announces that they will test the Zero Cannon tomorrow. He explains to Kusumi that the Mu attacked the I-403 and he and his crew used it as bait to escape their clutches. However, they accidentally left a blueprint of the Gotengo behind. Kusumi attempts to persuade Jinguji again to fight the Mu, but he still refuses. That night, he speaks with Makoto, who declares that she hates him for turning his back on mankind. After she leaves, he gives Susumu an old photo of himself and Makoto as a child, and tells him to take care of her. The reporter shows his true colors as an agent of Mu, knocking out Makoto with an electric shock. After revealing that he planted a bomb in the Gotengo's hangar, he shocks Susumu as well and flees with them both as prisoners. The blast demolishes the hangar.
In Mu, the Empress oversees a massive ceremony conducted by the High Priest. He presents Makoto and Susumu to her, and she orders them sacrificed to Manda. They are thrown into the same cell as the engineers, and Agent No. 23 invites them to open the window, revealing Manda himself, a massive sea dragon. Back on the island, Jinguji's men struggle to clear the rubble covering the Gotengo. The Mu continue their campaign against the surface world, sending troops to Mt. Mihara to carry out rocket attacks. After working in the mines, Susumu manages to steal several sticks of a powerful explosive.
The Mu Empire warns the world of impending attacks on New York City and Tokyo. Using the Gotengo's drill, Jinguji frees it from the ruined hangar and orders it into battle against the Mu, having realized his mistake. The JSDF mobilizes and oversees the evacuation of Tokyo. Suddenly, the Ginza and Marunouchi districts are leveled by an earthquake as a Mu submarine opens fire on ships in Tokyo Bay. It retreats as the Gotengo arrives on the scene, with the super-submarine giving chase.
In Mu, Susumu uses the dynamite to take the Empress hostage. As they change into diving sets, she secretly sets off a charge to release Manda. The monster seems to have them trapped, but the Gotengo gets his attention with a barrage of torpedoes. The group uses the distraction to swim toward the submarine and climb aboard. It surfaces, and Makoto reconciles with her father. The Empress is defiant, declaring her empire's supremacy. Jinguji prepares to attack the main Mu power generator, but the Gotengo must face Manda first. The serpent tries to constrict the submarine, but its electrified hull repels it, leaving it open to blasts from the Zero Cannon. The monster is quickly rendered immobile as the Gotengo advances, drilling into the generator room.
Jinguji's troops plant explosives, using handheld versions of the Zero Cannon to freeze Mu soldiers in their tracks. The Gotengo fires its Zero Cannon at the machinery until it stops moving, then withdraws. The bombs detonate, starting a chain reaction which destroys the entire Mu Empire. A Mu submarine escapes, but its rays miss their mark and the Zero Cannon quickly halts its attack. The Empress dives into the sea, swimming into the flames to share the fate of her people.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Ishiro Honda
- Written by Shigeru Komatsuzaki and Shinichi Sekizawa
- Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka
- Music by Akira Ifukube
- Cinematography by Hajime Koizumi, Sokei Tomioka and Teisho Arikawa
- Edited by Ryohei Fujii
- Production Design by Takeo Kita and Akira Watanabe
- Assistant Directing by Koji Kajita
- Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya and Teruyoshi Nakano
- Based on the novels The Undersea Warship: A Fantastic Tale of Island Adventure by Shunro Oshikawa and The Undersea Kingdom by Shigeru Komatsuzaki
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Tadao Takashima as Susumu Hatanaka
- Yoko Fujiyama as Makoto Jinguji
- Yu Fujiki as Yoshito Nishibe
- Jun Tazaki as Hachiro Jinguji
- Ken Uehara as Admiral Kusumi
- Kenji Sahara as Uoto Unno
- Hiroshi Koizumi as Detective Ito
- Akihiko Hirata as Mu Agent #23
- Yoshibumi Tajima as Tome Amanoshome
- Hideyo Amamoto as High Priest of Mu
- Tetsuko Kobayashi as Mu Empress
- Hisaya Ito as Shindo
- Susumu Fujita as Self Defense Force Commander
- Minoru Takada as Government Official
- Ikio Sawamura as Taxi Driver
- Akemi Kita as Rimako
- Nadao Kirino as Kidnapped Scientist
- Tetsu Nakamura as Warship Captain
- Yukihiko Gondo as Military Official
- Yutaka Nakayama as Sailor
- Shin Otomo as Government Official
- Koji Uno as Police Officer
- Wataru Omae as Police Officer
- Katsumi Tezuka as Mu Henchman
- Shoichi Hirose as Mu Henchman
- Yasuzo Ogawa as Mu Henchman
- Osman Yusuf as Mu Henchman
Titra Sound Studios English Dub
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Bernard Grant as Susumu Hatanaka
- Lucy Martin as Makoto Jinguji
- Larry Robinson as Yoshito Nishibe
- Bret Morrison as Admiral Kosumi
- Kenneth Harvey as Detective Ito
- Jack Curtis as Mu Agent #23
- Peter Fernandez as Hachiro Jinguji's Lieutenant
Weapons, Vehicles, and Races
- Main article: Atragon (film)/Gallery.
- Main article: Atragon (Soundtrack).
Screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa based Atragon on the 1900 Shunro Oshikawa novel The Undersea Warship: A Fantastic Tale of Island Adventure, in which Japanese naval officers secretly built a drill-nosed submarine on a remote island to serve their country's imperialist ambitions. However, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka wanted the film to be set in the present, making their motivation anachronistic. Sekizawa chose to lean on that anachronism, with the character of Captain Hachiro Jinguji blindly determined to serve an empire that no longer exists, inverting the book's nationalist themes. He may have also been inspired by Affirmations of the Greater East Asian War by Fumio Hayashi, first published in 1963, which argued that the Japanese empire was a means to "liberate the Asian people from the Western powers" and recent reports of Japanese holdouts throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands who either did not know that the Pacific War had ended or did not care. The villains became the fantastical Mu Empire, taken from Toho illustrator Shigeru Komatsuzaki's book The Undersea Kingdom. He submitted his first draft on August 10, 1963; following revisions and storyboards by Komatsuzaki, his final draft was approved on September 5.
Because Toho wanted Atragon in theaters before Christmas, the film had to be rushed to completion in less than four months. Director Ishiro Honda led one unit to film the drama scenes, while special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya took charge of two units to compensate for the compressed schedule. The Gotengo was portrayed by models in five different scales, ranging from 4.5 meters in length to 30 centimeters, while the marionettes depicting the Mu Empire's monster god Manda ranged from 5 meters to 20 centimeters. The 4.5-meter Gotengo was commissioned from a shipbuilding company for ¥1,500,000. Its moving parts were operated through both radio and manual control, as it was large enough to fit a person inside. The Mu Empire's destruction of Tokyo was achieved by a truck pulling away the support beams of a raised set. Unfortunately, the driver sped away too quickly, causing the entire set to collapse at once instead of in a gradual wave. After contemplating the seemingly ruinous take, Tsuburaya decided to salvage it in the editing room, as he had shot it from six different angles using remote-control cameras. He also spliced in a few shots of buildings collapsing from Mothra. Stock footage was also used to depict satellites (The Mysterians and Battle in Outer Space), establishing shots of world capitols (The Last War), and Japanese emergency mobilization efforts (Mothra again). The Mu submarine's Tokyo Bay raid was shot in Toho's "Big Pool" from 3:00 to 4:00 PM to ensure optimal lighting, again with the six-camera setup. The set for the Mu throne room was built in Toho's largest soundstage, with the empire's ceremonies involving 600 dancers.
- Undersea Battleship (Literal Japanese title)
- Giant Dragon Manda (巨竜マンダ Kyoryū Manda, Japanese 8mm title)
- Atoragon (International title)
- Ataragon (France)
- Agent 04 of the Submerged Empire (Agente 04 del imperio sumergido; Spain)
- Atragon, Supermen of the Seas (Άτραγκον, οι σούπερμεν των θαλασσών Átrangkon, oi súpermen ton thalassón; Greece)
- Atoragon, the Atomic Supersubmarine (Atoragon, el supersubmarino atómico; Mexico)
- U 2000 - Descent of Horror (U 2000 - Tauchfahrt des Grauens; West Germany)
- Japan - December 22, 1963; August 1, 1968 (Re-Release)
- Italy - 1964
- United States - December 1964
- Mexico - September 9, 1965
- West Germany - November 12, 1965
- Barcelona, Spain - May 1, 1967
- Madrid, Spain - August 24, 1968
American International Pictures gave Atragon a successful U.S. theatrical release, beginning in 1964, with minimal changes and an English dub recorded by Titra Studios. The film's U.S. title Atragon, derived from Toho's international title Atoragon, seems to have been intended as a new name for Manda, combining the words "atomic dragon" or "Atlantis dragon." However, Titra's dubbing and AIP's promotional materials refer to the Gotengo by this name instead. This shortening from four to three syllables was the choice of AIP, since several foreign markets released the film as Atoragon (Mexico) and Ataragon (France). Although the film was in constant television syndication until the early 1980's, Atragon was not released on home video in the United States until Media Blasters' DVD in 2005.
Toho VHS (1982)
- Tapes: 1
- Audio: Japanese
- Notes: First home video release of a Toho science-fiction film.
Tokyo Shock DVD (2006)
- Region: 1
- Discs: 1
- Audio: Japanese (2.0 Mono, 5.1 Surround), English (2.0 Mono, 5.1 Surround; international dub)
- Special Features: Audio commentary by assistant director Koji Kajita, trailers
- Notes: Out of print.
- This film's titular warship, the Gotengo, has appeared in numerous pieces of media since its debut, including the films The War in Space (as the Gohten), Godzilla: Final Wars, Super Fleet Sazer-X the Movie, as well as the OVA Super Atragon (as the Ra) and several Godzilla-related video games.
- Manda, the sea serpent kaiju introduced in this film, would later be featured in the 1968 film Destroy All Monsters, and would go on to become one of Godzilla's numerous kaiju co-stars in both film and non-film media.
- Atragon was re-released in Japan on August 1, 1968, as a co-feature to Toho's Destroy All Monsters, in which Manda also appeared. The film was edited down to 75 minutes. The re-release version is included as a special feature on Toho's Blu-ray release.
- In 1995 and 1996, Toho released a two-part animated adaptation of this film titled Super Atragon.
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- Craig, Rob. American International Pictures: A Comprehensive Filmography. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 43. 2019. ISBN: 9781476666310.
- Steve Ryfle and Ed Godzizewski. Ishiro Honda: A Life in Film. Wesleyan University Press. p. 203-204. 2017. ISBN: 9780819577412.
- "Atragon: A Toho Classic Revisited" by Ed Godziszewski, published in G-Fan #21 (May/June 1996)
- Galbraith IV, Stuart. The Toho Studios Story: A History and Complete Filmography. The Scarecrow Press, Inc.. p. 251. 2008. ISBN: 9780810860049.