“The Mu Empire will rule the world.”
Susumu (Tadao Takashima) is a photographer. He and his assistant Yoshito (Yu Fujiki) are on a night photo shoot when they see a car drive off a dock and go into the ocean. They report the incident to police detective Ito (Hiroshi Koizumi). Susumu then spots Makoto Jinguji (Yoko Fujiyama). She is the daughter of the deceased Imperial Captain Jinguji (Jun Tazaki). She is being followed by a suspicious person.
Makoto’s guardian and her father's former superior, retired Rear Admiral Kusumi (Ken Uehara) is confronted by a peculiar reporter. He claims that Makoto’s father is not dead but it working on building a new submarine. Then a fake taxi driver tries to kidnap Makoto and her guardian Kusumi. He claims he is an agent working for the empire of Mu. Makoto and Kusumi are saved by Susumu.
Back again at detective Ito’s office a package arrives for Admiral Kusumi. The package contains a tape that claims the Mu Empire plans on taking over the world. They want Makoto’s father Jinguji to stop working on his submarine, Atragon. The UN realizes that Atragon may be the only way to save the world from the Muans.
Makoto’s stalker is captured. He turns out to be a soldier under Makoto’s father Jinguji. He brings Makoto, Susumu, Kusumi and the reporter to an island where Makoto’s father has been working on his submarine for the last 20 years. They make an appeal to Jinguji to help defend the world against the Mu Empire, but Jinguji vows that his submarine is only to be used to restore the Japanese Empire. Unless they can change Jinguji’s mind, the world may end up bowing down to the Mu Empire instead of the Japanese Empire.
“Atragon” was released in 1963 and was directed by Ishiro Honda. The film was produced by TOHO studios. Godzilla is not TOHO’s only product. The movie is loosely based on a story “The Undersea Warship” by Japanese science fiction writer Shunro Oshikawa in 1900. The adaptation was done by Shinichi Sekizawa. Much liberties were taken.
Atragon is the Swiss army knife of submarines. It can drill into the Earth, it can saw stuff, it can dive to the bottom of the ocean, it can fly like a bird, it can send an electric charge to its hull, and it has a freeze ray.
In addition to the really cool submarine there are other great special effects done by Eiji Tsuburaya. The underwater Mu Empire is beautiful, the explosions are great, and the miniatures are good. The only drawback was the god Manda. It looked a little too much like “Reptilicus”. I’m fine with a dragon and normally I would be fine with Manda. It’s just that the rest of the special effects were so good that I expected more from a god.
The movie started, not exactly slow, but a little complex. There were a bunch of characters that were different threads to the plot. They all come together but for awhile it seems like not much is going on. There is; however, lots of spy stuff and some strange happenings. The pace picks up and then it gets real good. It goes from spy movie to science fiction adventure.
Reportedly director Honda and special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya decide to give Manda a dragon-like appearance because 1964 would be the year of the dragon.