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MATANGO (ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE, 1963) – Episode 135 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“I was confused. I couldn’t decide what to do. Then… I ate them!” Oh, oh. Join this episode’s Grue-Crew – Chad Hunt, Daphne Monary-Ernsdorff, and Jeff Mohr, along with guest host Dirk Rogers – as they journey to a Pacific island and attempt to resist the lure of the deadly mushrooms found in Ishirô Honda’s Matango (Attack of the Mushroom People, 1963) from Toho.

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 135 – Matango (Attack of the Mushroom People, 1963)

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Synopsis: A group of pleasure-seeking young people is stranded on a mysterious island when their boat crashes. One by one they succumb to the lure of the deadly mushrooms.

In this episode, your Classic Era Grue Crew is joined by Dirk Rogers, a special effects artist with KNB EFX Group and a long-time friend of the show. As the guest host, Dirk chose Matango for this episode’s topic and with the movie’s use of effects – miniatures, suits, prosthetics, set dressing – it’s easy to see why this is one of his favorites. 

Dirk was originally drawn to Matango because it featured a lot of the same players from the Godzilla films. He loves the damp (shall we say moist?) atmosphere, the use of color reminiscent of Mario Bava, the sets, and the miniatures. He’s always loved Matango and feels the English title, Attack of the Mushroom People, doesn’t represent the depth of what you get from the film. Dirk also provides valuable insights into the effects work and the documentation of who did what during the production.

Matango is probably Chad’s first exposure to body horror and the horrors of fungus. He loves the way the story ramps up the terror and the cringeworthy fungus-filled sets. As one of Toho’s best, Matango still holds up for him. Daphne is blown away by the colors and the textures of the mushrooms and the fungi, loving it all over again. Jeff agrees that “Attack of the Mushroom People” sounds kind of hokey and doesn’t represent the depth of the story told in Matango. He loves the concept, the story progression, the creepy and downright icky creatures and fungi, and the movie’s cultural and historical relation to the horrors experienced by the Japanese from the atomic bombs of World War II.

Dirk was turned onto the writings of William Hope Hodgson by this movie as it is developed from Hodgson’s short story, “The Voice in the Night.”  During the episode, the crew discusses several versions of this story, all of which are provided through the following links:

If you have been motivated by this episode to catch Matango (and you should be), at the time of this writing, it is available to stream from Classic Horror Movie Channel, Tubi, The Criterion Channel, and various PPV sites. In terms of physical media, Matango is available on DVD.

Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era records a new episode every two weeks. Up next in their very flexible schedule is one chosen by guest host, the one and only Dave Dreher: The Return of Dracula (1958). 

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To each of you from each of them, “Thank you so much for listening!

Jeff Mohr
Jeff lives smack dab in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa and is a long-time horror fan. His first remembered encounters with the genre were The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan gorilla chases, and watching the first broadcast of The Twilight Zone episode, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." While he now qualifies as an old fart, he strives to be an Old Boy. Paraphrasing Robert Bloch, he has the heart of a small boy. He keeps it in a jar on his desk. Jeff has written for and SQ Horror Magazine. He currently writes for Gruesome Magazine and is a co-host of the Decades of Horror podcasts - The Classic Era, 1970s, and 1980s - and the Gruesome Magazine Podcast.