Battle in Outer Space (1959)

Also known as
Uchû daisensô

Japan

Starring
Ryô Ikebe as Maj. Ichiro Katsumiya
Kyôko Anzai as Etsuko Shiraishi
Koreya Senda as Professor Adachi
Minoru Takada as The Commander
Leonard Stanford as Dr. Roger Richardson

Directed by
Ishirô Honda

Running Time:
Japan: 93 min | USA: 90 min

 

 





































Review and Summary

Produced in 1959 by Toho Studios, the same makers of Godzilla and other great monster pictures of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, Battle in Outer Space is made in that same strong manner. Japanese Sci-Fi, like British Sci-Fi, just has a great “flavor” to it that makes it “comfort food”. Battle in Outer Space is like a great dish of Breaded Zucchini, Mozzarella, and Buffalo wings all wrapped into one appetizer.

The movie starts off with 3 UFO’s barreling on toward and destroying a space station. What’s great is that the space station looks like something off the pages of the Von Braun and other space designers of the 50’s (see this article). As the station blows up, the title and opening credits are over all of the jetsam and debris, very nice touch. Next we have a number of incidents on earth where gravity is controlled or removed causing all kinds of mayhem. This is backed up nicely with a montage from various news outlets around the world.

One of the constants in Japanese Sci-Fi is that of being the world’s leaders in space and also facilitating or hosting the conference for the world to work out what to do for the crisis. I’m not belittling them or anything, I just find it is the common theme across any movie of this genre. It would just be nice if the world really worked that way, and not be massively silo’d.

As the delegates meet, we see one start to act strange, he’s having headaches and has to leave. Another funny thing here is that he is the delegate from Iran, and he is also wearing a white turban. He is witnessed being beamed away in the rock/sand garden, but even that gets interrupted. Later we see him show back up, acting way suspicious.
So why is everyone gathered here?? Well two things. First the Japanese Space Research Center has developed Nuclear Rockets, no not wessels. The second is that they also have developed a highly powerful Laser weapon that may be the salvation from the Alien threat. So we get to see tests of both. Here is where Toho’s strength in continuity comes out. The Laser’s sound and look are all something you will have seen in many of its movies, I love it.

Now for whatever reason, a security group shows up looking for our suspicious delegate. They never really explain how they know to track him down. But I just go with the flow. After several plots and chase scenes, we find out he is under control of the aliens, and see that once they fry him, he leaves behind a chip/device that was in his head. Early “X Files” like here.

Based on all of the events and the delegates attack, a multinational team is put together and the mission is set to go to the moon and destroy the base the aliens have established. In the meantime, we have an “Armageddon” like Ben Affleck/Liv Tyler moment with 2 of the stars sitting out in the field gazing at the stars and the ships. However, one of the other crew interrupts them, he’s the playboy of the crew. As he speeds away in his sporty red car, the aliens nab him and wire him up for control. This can’t be a problem right.

Both ships launch, nuclear powered no less. Once in orbit, we have the standard “idiot who forgets about being weightless” gag. Only problem I have is that they don’t really address how they do cope with it, and are walking around normally in the ship. But its 1959 and it’s not a big issue. We get some really good space shots of earth and beauty passes by the ships themselves. Not to mention a good “fly thru the space station” debris.

Just to take a moment, I want to throw out there a bit of respect to the special effects crew for this movie. Eiji Tsuburaya is the mastermind of this effort. He was Toho’s master SFX when it took more than a PC and software to make it work. Some have attributed his talent and vision to his skills as a pilot. His talent is right up there and has been acknowledged as being alongside that of Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen, all great company.  Interestingly enough, he was born in Fukushima prefecture. Eiji died in 1970 from a sudden heart attack. His grandson continues his legacy in running his SFX Company.

The entire trip from earth to the moon is just a wonderful piece of work. All very believable, even with some of the smoke and flames of the day. During the trip there is an ambush by the aliens, and the deep resonating voice of the alien chief is heard telling them to turn around and not approach. Here is where that great laser/ray gun comes in handy. Nice battle scenes and even a few space torpedoes. All and all a good one, as well as our first encounter with mind controlled astronaut trying to sabotage the ships weapons at the height of the battle.

Once they get to the moon, the beauty shot of the ships landing is great. The deployment of the hardware (tanks) and the astronauts to the surface is another great piece of work. The matte paintings remind me a lot Chesley Bonestell’s work. All around the scenery on the moon shows good consistency and presentation.

So now to the business at hand, which is find the alien base. Using the tanks they traverse the lunar surface and stumble across some saucers going back to base, they in turn follow them.  Once there they go on foot the rest of the way in. There are a couple of things here that come across as a little bizarre. One is the aliens. They look like the Oompa Loompa’s long lost cousins. Seriously maybe they could have done a bit better here. But it is consistent with a lot of the other Japanese films of the time.

So while this is going on, our wired astronaut is used to destroy one of the ships, and is about to destroy the other before he is stopped. You would have thought they would have really tied him up way better. But his work to destroy the second ship is going on as the groups attack the alien base.

The battle between the astronauts and the aliens is fairly good. We see a few different uses of the ray guns. And it’s a pitched battle that they finally succeed in burning out the base. Once this happens the wired astronaut’s radio control is burned out and he realizes what he has done and begins to repent for it.

As the ground groups make their way back to the ships, they are attacked by the aliens who escaped before the base was burned out. Along the way they lose one of the 2 tanks, and all have to pile into the surviving one. Once they get back to the ships, they find the one destroyed, and the other under attack from the same saucers who have been following them. Suddenly we get a lone astronaut out in the foothills taking them on. Yes it’s our almost red shirt formerly wired astronaut, now making good for the bad he did. Of course he knew it was a one way trip. So as the surviving crew and ship make their escape, he makes his sacrifice. They return to earth, but it’s not over yet.

The last act of the movie is really something that you would have expected to be going on when they first found that they had an Alien Infestation Issue… Building out a bunch of space fighters and prepare for the final invasion.  So the world unites.. hey its 1959, and imagine that no Ronald Reagan speaking at the UN.

So now they start building rocket fighters.. all that look like X-15’s. Not to mention that they are all slung shot into the air when launched. Its kinda really bizarre to a point. What ensues is the last climatic space battle between earth forces and those of the aliens. Oh, by the way, those large radio telescope like guns that they love to use as ray guns, yeah they are in this.

Its touch and go there for a bit, but the Terran forces reign supreme. Overall this is a great movie. The model work and attention to detail really make it worth the viewing. The plot/story is there and it does progress well. The acting in it is really rather level and no one goes off the deep end in overacting.

 

 



If you liked any of these movies you will like this movie.
     Moontrap (1989)
     The Green Slime (1968)
     The First Men in The Moon (1964)
     The Mysterians (1957)
     

 

If you want to add this movie to your collection as well
     here are some places you can find it..

          Amazon.com DVD



 
Willys Vaults Ratings
"Bug Eyed Monster"
7 out of 10

     All Im gonna say is whomever designed the creatures obviously had a bad acid trip
     the night before while watching Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka.

I See The Wires"
10 out of 10

     I give it a 10 out of 10 for the master piece that Tsuburaya created. Watch for the
     saucers to show up in several other Toho space opera's

"Man In Rubber Suit"
7 out of 10

     I give them a 7 in this department. Again Willy Wonka and Mutant Oompa Lompa's..

"Oozing Mess"
5 out of 10

     I give them a 5. The melting of the Iranian scientist just did it.
 

"Cheesy Acting"
7 out of 10

     I give it a 7 on the Cheesy scale. Typically this is a big factor in these movies.
     But in this case they only went to cheese after they started the final space battle.
     The pilots were only missing the leather helmets.

Total Summary
Score
36 out of 50

     Overall Battle in Outer Space gets a 36. It’s a great flick and its very
     entertaining. The model work and detail is awesomeI highly recommend it.

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