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Back when Godzilla was stomping Tokyo for the first time, the big guy's studio decided to make a horror film about sailers who wash up on an island and are victimized by giant mushrooms. Seymour, host of the great late-night horror-fest "Fright Night," liked it so much he showed it repeatedly as noted below. Joe Bob Briggs of MonsterVision noted that it had the same director as the original Godzilla (1956) and called Motongo "that under-appreciated favorite of mine."
The Golden Turkey Awards by Harry and Michael Medved says:
This horror classic was directed by the incomparable Inoshiro Honda, the same man who gave the world "King Kong Escapes", "Monster Zero", and "Godzilla's Revenge." This time his story concerns 7 merry Japanese voyagers whose yacht is blown off-course to a mysterious fog-shrouded island. Fortunately, they find an abandoned ship that has all the comforts of home and decide to camp out there.
Alas, this touching idyll is interrupted by the ravages of hunger and they begin to scour the enchanted isle in search of yummies. A strange type of fungus is quickly discovered, but the abandoned ship's captain's log indicates that it isn't kosher. Unfortunately, one of the voyagers just can't help himself--he must have that mouth-watering fungus. Noticing no adverse side effects, some of the other folk recklessly dig in. Shortly thereafter, some of the women think they see giant mushrooms roaming around the forest, but they decide it is merely a Fig Newton of their imagination (and roaming charges hadn't been invented yet). As one crew member aptly comments, "Everything seems pretty weird."
What these chumps don't realize is that there is a substance in the fungi which destroys nerve tissues and slowly but surely turns human beings into giant, ambulatory clusters of mushrooms. One of the crew members (Akira Kubo) is miraculously preserved from this transmogrification, and it becomes increasingly difficult for him to enjoy meaningful interaction with his friends. As every sci-fi fan knows, walking mushrooms can only chirp and giggle like demented chipmunks. Finally, the one "normal" survivor is rescued and taken back to civilization.
At the film's conclusion, we realize that he has been narrating the entire story from his padded cell in an insane asylum where he was committed for telling the story of a mushroom named Matango. The Japanese psychiatrists refused to believe that any self-respecting fungus would take such an insipid name. Our hero finally turns to the camera, as a close-up shows mushrooms sprouting from his face, and whispers the film's unforgetable climactic line, "I ate them!"
A very special Golden Turkey, stuffed with mixed green salad and basted in Green Goddess dressing, is presented to this Japanese tour-de-worst. "Mushroom People" takes itself so much more seriously than other vegetarian fantasies ... that it wins the award, stems down. This saga proceeds in the solemn tone of a film with a message -- in this case warning all shipwrecked travelers never to eat a mysterious fungus unless it has been approved by the Board of Health. If not for the wide distribution of this film, walking, talking clusters of mushrooms might be running around enchanted deserted islands in every corner of the globe.
Not surprisingly, "Mushroom People" has built up a loyal cult following among bad-film fanatics. In Los Angeles, one late-night TV movie host (Seymour) aired the film a half-dozen times in the same year. During intermissions, the host entertained his fans by making phone calls to "Pizza Fella" who was in the process of being strangled by a mushroom who stubbornly resisted immersion in tomato sauce. He also introduced a singing-dancing vaudeville act known as "The Mushroom Tabernacle Choir." We'll take ours with anchovies and sausage -- but hold the vegetables.