Mothra (1961)

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Credits for Mothra (film)
Mothra (film) soundtrack

Mothra films
Mothra vs. Godzilla
See alternate titles
The Japanese poster for Mothra
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka
Written by Shinichi Sekizawa (screenwriter);
Takehiko Fukunaga, Yoshie Hotta,
Shinichiro Nakamura (storywriters)
Music by Yuji Koseki
effects by
Eiji Tsuburaya
Distributor TohoJP, Columbia PicturesUS
Rating Not Rated
Budget ¥200 million[1]
Running time 101 minutesJP
(1 hour, 41 minutes)
90 minutesUS
(1 hour, 30 minutes)
62 minutesTCF
(1 hour, 2 minutes)
Aspect ratio 2.35:1
Rate this film!
(41 votes)

For the 1996 film also titled "Mothra" in Japan, see Rebirth of Mothra.
A gruesome marvel! From giant egg to giant moth, attacking the whole world with fury! (凄絶驚異!巨卵から大蛾へ全世界を襲う猛威!)

— Japanese tagline

Mightiest monster in all creation! Ravishing a universe for love!

American tagline

Mothra (モスラ,   Mosura) is a 1961 tokusatsu kaiju film directed by Ishiro Honda and written by Shinichi Sekizawa, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Produced by Toho, it is an adaptation of the serial novel The Luminous Fairies and Mothra, published in Weekly Asahi earlier in 1961. It stars Frankie Sakai, Hiroshi Koizumi, Kyoko Kagawa, Ken Uehara, Jerry Ito, and Takashi Shimura, with The Peanuts singing duo of Emi and Yumi Ito as the Shobijin. The film was released to Japanese theaters by Toho on July 30, 1961. Columbia Pictures released an English-dubbed version of the film to American theaters on May 10, 1962.

After a ship is wrecked in a typhoon near Infant Island, a supposedly uninhabited testing ground for Rolisican nuclear bomb tests, authorities are shocked when four survivors are found unaffected by radiation and testify that they were saved by the natives. Rolisican businessman Clark Nelson organizes a joint Rolisican-Japanese scientific expedition to the island, where they discover not only a native tribe but two miniature twin women dubbed the Shobijin. Nelson abducts the Shobijin and takes them to Japan in order to exploit them for publicity purposes, resulting in the islanders calling upon their colossal moth goddess Mothra to rescue them. A group of Japanese citizens tries to rescue the Shobijin from Nelson before Mothra destroys all of Japan in her quest to retrieve them.

Mothra introduced audiences to the titular kaiju, who eventually became Toho's most popular monster character after Godzilla. Mothra would cross over into the Godzilla franchise three years later in Mothra vs. Godzilla, becoming a frequently recurring character in later entries before receiving a spinoff trilogy in the late 1990s. The character Shinichi Chujo from Mothra would later return in the 2003 film Godzilla: Tokyo SOS, with Hiroshi Koizumi reprising his role.


In the waters off Infant Island, a presumably uninhabited site for Rolisican atomic tests, the Genyu Maru II is caught and run aground in the turbulence of a typhoon. A rescue party following the storm finds four sailors alive and strangely unafflicted with radiation sickness, which they attribute to the juice provided them by island natives. The story is broken by tenacious reporter Zenichiro the "Snapping Turtle" Fukuda and photographer Michi Hanamura, who infiltrate the hospital examining the survivors.

The Rolisican Embassy responds by co-sponsoring a joint Japanese–Rolisican scientific expedition to Infant Island, led by Rolisican businessman Clark Nelson. Also on the expedition are radiation specialist Dr. Harada, linguist Shinichi Chujo, and stowaway reporter Fukuda. There, the team discover a vast jungle of mutated flora, a fleetingly-glimpsed native tribe, and minuscule twin girls. These "Shobijin," as Fukuda calls them, wish their island to be spared further atomic testing. Acknowledging this message, the team returns and conceals these events from the public.

Nelson, however, returns to the island with a crew of henchmen and abducts the girls, gunning down several natives who try to save them. While Nelson profits off a "Secret Fairies Show" in Tokyo featuring the girls singing, both they and the island natives beseech their goddess Mothra, a giant egg, for help. Fukuda, Hanamura, and Chujo speak with the girls, who have learned Japanese through their telepathic ability; they express conviction that Mothra will come to their aid. Meanwhile, Fukuda's newspaper has accused Nelson of holding the girls against their will; Nelson denies the charge and threatens to file a libel suit against the paper. Meanwhile, the egg on Infant Island hatches to reveal a gigantic caterpillar, which begins swimming across the Pacific Ocean toward Japan. The caterpillar destroys a cruise ship and survives a napalm attack on a beeline path for Tokyo. The Rolisican Embassy, however, defends Nelson's property rights over the girls, ignoring any connection to the monster.

Mothra finally arrives on the Japanese mainland, impervious to the barrage of weaponry directed at her, ultimately building a cocoon in the ruins of the Tokyo Tower. Public feeling turns against Nelson, and he is ordered to release the girls. He flees incognito to Rolisica, where Mothra, now in her imago stage, immediately resumes her search. Police scour Rolisican capital New Kirk City for Nelson as Mothra lays waste to the metropolis. Ultimately Nelson is killed in a shootout with police, and the girls are assigned to Chujo's care. Observing a religious significance in Mothra's unique symbol, which resembles the Christian cross, Chujo hits upon a novel way to attract Mothra to an airport runway. The girls are returned amid salutations of "sayōnara," and Mothra flies back to Infant Island.


Main article: Mothra (film)/Credits.

Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.


Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.

  • Frankie Sakai   as   Zenichiro "Snapping Turtle" Fukuda, journalist
  • Hiroshi Koizumi   as   Dr. Shinichi Chujo, linguist
  • Kyoko Kagawa   as   Michi Hanamura, photographer
  • Ken Uehara   as   Dr. Harada, radiation specialist
  • Yumi Ito, Emi Ito   as   Shobijin
  • Jerry Ito   as   Clark Nelson, Rolisican businessman
  • Takashi Shimura   as   News editor
  • Akihiro Tayama   as   Shinji Chujo, Chujo's little brother
  • Obel Wyatt   as   Dr. Roff
  • Akihiko Hirata   as   Ship doctor
  • Seizaburo Kawazu   as   General
  • Yoshibumi Tajima   as   Military advisor
  • Robert Dunham   as   Rolisican cop
  • Harold Conway   as   Rolisican ambassador
  • Kenji Sahara   as   Helicoptor pilot
  • Akira Yamada, Takeo Nagashima, Arai Hayamizu   as   Infant Islanders
  • Tetsu Nakamura, Akira Wakamatsu, Hiroshi Akitsu, Hiroshi Iwamoto, Toshio Miura, Osman Yusuf   as   Nelson's henchmen
  • Yoshio Kosugi   as   Ship captain
  • Ren Yamamoto, Haruya Kato, Ko Mishima, Rinsaku Ogata   as   Ship survivors
  • Kazuo Imai   as   Announcer
  • Wataru Omae, Kazuo Higata   as   Officials
  • Shoichi Hirose, Toshihiko Furuta   as   Dam workers
  • Koji Uno   as   Reporter
  • Tadashi Okabe, Akio Kusama, Mitsuo Tsuda   as   Surveyors
  • Mitsuo Matsumoto, Hiroyuki Satake   as   Police officers
  • Hiroshi Sekita   as   Sekida, Orion Maru steering assistant

Titra Sound Studios English dub

Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.

  • Bernard Grant   as   Zenichiro "Bulldog" Fukuda, journalist / General
  • Anthony La Penna   as   Dr. Shinichi Chujo, linguist
  • Bret Morrison   as   Dr. Harada, radiation specialist
  • Norman Rose   as   Clark Nelson, Rolisican businessman



Weapons, vehicles, and races


According to producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, the first draft of what became Mothra was written by Iwao Mori about half a year before production began. The reasoning behind the draft was to create a giant monster movie women would want to see. Tanaka was introduced to writer Shinichiro Nakamura by literary artist Hideyuki Shino, and asked him along with Takehiro Fukanaga and Yoshie Hotta to expand the idea into a novel. The novel The Luminous Fairies and Mothra was serialized in Weekly Asahi beginning in January 1961, and became the basis for the film.

Originally, Mothra was to build her cocoon on the National Diet Building, but Tanaka rejected the idea and the monster's cocoon was instead built on the Tokyo Tower. The idea of Mothra cocooning on the Diet Building was eventually realized in the 1992 film Godzilla vs. Mothra. The film was initially titled Giant Monster Mothra during production and romanized as Mosla on early Japanese speed posters.

Mothra featured the most detailed miniature work of any Toho tokusatsu production to that point, even more sophisticated than that of Godzilla and Rodan. The Ome Kaido, Dogenzaka, and Shibuya neighborhoods that Mothra overruns in her larval stage were reproduced in elaborate 1/20 scale miniatures that were identical to the real locations.

The film was originally supposed to feature American scenes due to a contract between Toho and Columbia Pictures, although the United States was replaced by the similar country of Rolisica in the final film. Due to budget constraints and a number of delays, Toho chose to have the entire film set in Japan and changed the ending so that Clark Nelson escapes with the Shobijin to Takachihonomine instead of his home country of Rolisica. Director Ishiro Honda was hesitant to accept the change, but Toho could not wait for a reply from Columbia and Honda traveled to Kagoshima for two weeks to complete shooting. When shooting in Kagoshima on the island of Kyushu, the staff used a life-sized doll to depict Clark Nelson to depict him falling to his death from Takachihonomine. A mountain climber who found the doll at a later date misunderstood it as a real body and assumed it was a suicide and reported it to authorities, who even sent rescue teams to the mountain. Columbia later objected to the revised ending as a breach of contract, and so Toho reverted to the original envisioned ending set in New Kirk City and the ending was filmed again. According to Honda, the footage shot in Kagoshima was never developed. Toho used library footage of California in its possession to represent the scenery of New Kirk City, and the special effects staff had to quickly build miniatures for the city. Despite the sudden added workload, the staff responded by building elaborate urban miniatures and executing impressive special effects sequences such as winds generated by Mothra shattering windows and plunging a vehicle into a store. Honda said the budget for filming the finale was low, and as such some planned scenes were omitted. Actor Yasuhisa Tsutsumi, whose scene was cut due to the changed ending, was still credited as a "lumberjack" on the film's poster.

New Kirk City was initially named "New Wagon City," but assistant director Hiroshi Waryu pointed out that it sounded too similar to "Newark," a real city in the United States. Jerry Ito suggested the name "New Kirk City," which was subsequently adopted.


Main article: Mothra (film)/Gallery.


Main article: Mothra (film)/Soundtrack.

Alternate titles

  • The Giant Monster (大怪獣物,   Daikaijūmono, first outline title)[2]
  • Giant Monster Mothra (大怪獣モスラ,   Daikaijū Mosura, production title)[2]
  • Mothra the Monster God (U.S. theatrical trailer and TV spots)
  • Mothra Attacks Tokyo! (モスラアタック東京!,   Mosura Atakku Tōkyō, Japanese 8mm title)
  • Mothra Threatens the World (Mothra bedroht die Welt; Germany)
  • Mothra the Indestructible (Mothra la indestructible; Mexico)
  • Mothra, The Wild Goddess (Mothra, A Deusa Selvagem; Brazil)
  • The Invincible Wonder Beast (Furðudýrið ósigrandi; Iceland)

Theatrical releases

Foreign releases

U.S. release

U.S. Mothra poster

Columbia Pictures distributed Mothra in the United States. The English dialogue was dubbed by Titra Sound Studios in New York under the direction of Lee Kresel. Infant Island is referred to as "Beiru Island" in the dubbed dialogue, and Fukuda's nickname "Snapping Turtle" was localized as "Bulldog." Multiple 1962 reviews[3][4][5][6][7], a newspaper advertisement from Bedford, Indiana in 1962[8], and the film's Library of Congress printed card[9] agree on a runtime of between 100 and 101 minutes for Columbia's 1962 U.S. theatrical version. Kathleen Carroll states in her review for Daily News that "these miniature maidens are being exploited by an American hood who forces them to entertain the curious with jazzed-up Japanese songs," which suggests the presence of more than one "Secret Fairies Show" scene and that Columbia may not have cut the second Shobijin song, "Daughters of Infant Island," from the theatrical release. It is highly likely that the original Columbia release was virtually unedited. Despite this, a 100 or 101-minute copy has never surfaced to outright confirm one of these historical runtimes.

The earliest available incarnation of the U.S. version - as seen on television and video before the 1990s, and since the 2000s on TV, video, streaming, and at repertory screenings - is 90 minutes long. The origin and originally intended use of this 90-minute cut is unknown. It is not known whether it was shown in theaters in the 1960s and 1970s. The longest omission from the 90-minute cut is the scene featuring the song "Daughters of Infant Island."[10]

Columbia initially released Mothra on home videocassette in 1984, with a hi-fi audio reissue following in 1986. The company renewed its rights to the film in 1987 and retains its North American distribution rights to this day. In 1988, home video rights were sublicensed to GoodTimes Entertainment, who issued the film on cheaper LP mode tape with the Columbia logo removed. In 1992, Columbia restored Mothra for cable broadcasts and later released this 91-minute restoration, which differed in several regards from the older 90-minute cut, through Columbia/TriStar Home Video in 1995.[11] Sony later released the film on DVD in 2009 in a set with its two other Toho tokusatsu films, The H-Man and Battle in Outer Space. A digital restoration of the 90-minute cut of the U.S. version was performed on a 2K scan of a 35mm preservation negative. This set also included the Japanese cut of the film, marking the first time it was available officially in North America. Mill Creek Entertainment sub-licensed the film in 2019 and released it on a special SteelBook Blu-ray. This release also included both the Japanese and American cuts of the film.


Mothra was a considerable critical and financial success in Japan. It launched the career of screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa, who would go on to write several Godzilla films as well as contribute to Tsuburaya Productions' Ultraman series. The monster Mothra would go on to become a very popular character, appearing in the Godzilla series film Mothra vs. Godzilla in 1964 and countless other films in the series afterward. Mothra eventually received her own trilogy of films in the late 1990s. Mothra also received favorable reviews in the United States when it was released there, with critics praising its cinematography and special effects.

Mothra remains a popular and beloved film among fans of the kaiju genre, due to its unique story and the fact that it introduced the fan-favorite kaiju Mothra, who is considered to be the second most popular kaiju in Japan behind Godzilla.

Video releases

Sony DVD (2009) [Icons of Sci-Fi: Toho Collection]

  • Region: 1
  • Discs: 3
  • Audio: Japanese (2.0 Mono), English (2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Special features: Audio commentary by Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski (Mothra and Battle in Outer Space), trailers
  • Note: Packaged with The H-Man and Battle in Outer Space.

Sony DVD (2013)

  • Region: 2, 4, 5
  • Discs: 1
  • Audio: Japanese (2.0 Mono), English (2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Special features: Original trailer, audio commentary by Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski, 24-page illustrated booklet by Jonathan Clements
  • Notes: The Region 2 version does not mention the audio commentary on the back of the packaging; it is unknown if it was included regardless.

Mill Creek DVD (2014) [Sci-Fi Creature Classics]

Anolis Blu-ray (2019)

  • Region: B/2
  • Discs: 2
  • Audio: Japanese, German, English (2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: German
  • Special features: Audio commentary by Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski (English); audio commentary by Jörg Buttgereit, Bodo Traber and Ingo Strecker (German); audio commentary by Florian Bahr (German); 20-page booklet by Ingo Strecker; American and Japanese trailers; Japanese Super 8 version; photo gallery

Mill Creek Blu-ray SteelBook (2019)[12]

  • Region: None
  • Discs: 1
  • Audio: Japanese, English (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Special features: Audio commentary by Steve Ryfle and Ed Godzizewski, trailers, photo gallery

Eureka! Blu-ray (2020)[13]

  • Region: None
  • Discs: 1
  • Audio: Japanese, English, music and effects track (LPCM 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English (two sets for each version of the film)
  • Special features: Audio commentary by David Kalat; "Kim Newman on Mothra" featurette; image gallery; 60-page booklet with essays by Christopher Stewardson and Jasper Sharp, an interview with Godzilla: King of the Monsters production designer Chris Chambliss, an excerpt from Ishiro Honda: A Life in Film, from Godzilla to Kurosawa by Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski, and contemporary reviews and images
  • Notes: The booklet comes with a version of this release packaged in a hardbound slipcase, limited to 3,000 copies.



Japanese Mothra trailer (mono)
Japanese Mothra trailer (stereo)
U.S. Mothra teaser
U.S. Mothra trailer
U.S. Mothra TV spots
1994 Sci-Fi Channel bumpers


RKO Theatres ad for New York area screenings of The Three Stooges in Orbit and Mothra in Daily News (July 13, 1962)
  • Mothra was theatrically released in Japan as a double feature with Cheers, Mr. Awamori!.[14] Part of this film takes place inside Toho Studios, with appearances from Mothra's larval and imago props.
  • Unlike their previous Toho imports, Columbia did not package Mothra with another movie nationwide. For its first run in Los Angeles County at hard-top theaters and Cal-Pac drive-ins, the film occupied the bottom half of a double feature with Columbia's Zotz! (1962). Though not officially companion features, Mothra and Zotz! were a frequent pairing throughout the U.S. in 1962. For its first run in New York City at RKO theaters, it occupied the bottom half of a double feature with Columbia's The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962) alongside on-stage appearances by Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Joe DeRita.
  • Mothra was re-released on December 14, 1974 as part of the Winter Toho Champion Festival, alongside a re-release of Latitude Zero and the documentary The Burning Man: Shigeo Nagashima, Uniform Number 3. The Champion Festival version of Mothra was edited down to 62 minutes. This event was an attempt to appeal to both children and adults.
  • Mothra is canon to two different continuities of the Godzilla series. Mothra and the Shobijin would cross over into the Godzilla series in Mothra vs. Godzilla in 1964, in which the adult Mothra from this film fights to protect her egg from Godzilla. Mothra soon became a recurring character in the Godzilla series afterward. The film is also canon to the timeline of what has been dubbed the "Kiryu series" films of the Millennium series. Mothra and her attack on Tokyo in 1961 are recounted through stock footage in Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, and Mothra, the Shobijin, and Shinichi Chujo appear in the film's sequel, Godzilla: Tokyo SOS
  • The 1992 film Godzilla vs. Mothra pays extensive homage to this film, with its plot involving Mothra traveling to Tokyo to rescue her fairies from greedy businessmen. Mothra's voyage to Tokyo includes her surviving a napalm attack at sea, while she later builds a cocoon on a famous landmark (this time the National Diet Building) before emerging in her imago stage. Director Takao Okawara even tried to give Frankie Sakai, who played Fukuda in Mothra, a role in the film; however, the actor's schedule prevented this.

External links


This is a list of references for Mothra (film). These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: [1]

  1. Ryfle & Godziszewski 2017, p. 173.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "電脳小僧の特撮映画資料室". Cyberkids1954. Archived from the original on 7 March 2016.
  3. King 1962, p. 3: "(Running time – 101 minutes)"
  4. Tube. 1962, p. 19: "Running time, 101 MINS."
  5. Motion Picture Exhibitor 1962, p. 1: "101M."
  6. Daily News 1962, p. 73: "Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes."
  7. Film Bulletin 1962, p. 16: "100 minutes."
  8. Times-Mail, Indiana 1962, p. 8: "1 Hour and 41 Minutes Of Melodrama!"
  9. LoC 1967, p. 559: "100 min., sd., color, 35 mm."
  10. azog, Dr. McNinja (19 June 2010). "Mothra (Comparison: US DVD - Japanese DVD) -". Movie-Censorship. Retrieved 4 October 2023.
  11. Culver, Brian R. (Fall, 1998). "Many Many Mothras". Kaiju-Fan Issue #9. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. Aiken, Keith (26 April 2019). "Mill Creek Entertainment to Release Kaiju Classic MOTHRA as Special Edition SteelBook Blu-ray!". SciFi Japan.
  13. "MOTHRA [Mosura] [Limited Edition Box Set] (Blu-ray)". Eureka!. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  14. Motoyama et al. 2012, p. 54.


  • "COLUMBIA: Mothra". Motion Picture Exhibitor. Vol. 67 no. 24. Jay Emanuel Publications, Inc. 30 May 1962 – via
  • ""Mothra"". Film Bulletin. Vol. 30 no. 14. Film Bulletin Company. 9 July 1962 – via


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