Battle in Outer Space (1959)


Introduction

Battle in Outer Space (宇宙大戦争, Uchū Daisensō, lit. ’The Great Space War’) is a 1959 Japanese science fiction film directed by Ishirō Honda, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya.

Outline

In 1965, a series of mysterious and devastating incidents are happening on Earth. These incidents range from a railroad bridge levitated off the ground causing a train wreck in Japan; an ocean liner lifted out of the Panama Canal by a waterspout, destroying it; severe flooding in Venice, Italy; and the destruction of the J-SS3 space station.

A UN-connected international meeting is called at the Space Research Centre in Japan. Major Ichiro Katsumiya, Professor Adachi and Dr. Richardson open the conference and describe the disasters, adding that the survivors suffered from extreme frostbite. Dr. Richardson theorizes that some unknown force lowered the temperatures of the objects so as to lower the Earth’s gravitational pull, thus making the objects easier to lift, regardless of their size and weight. Katsumiya determines that such an action could only be accomplished by a force beyond the Earth.

Dr. Ahmed, an Iranian delegate at the meeting, reacts as though suffering from a severe headache and slips away. Ahmed walks outside to a courtyard in a daze. Etsuko Shiraishi sees him and watches in horror as he is enveloped in a red light coming from the sky. Astronaut Iwamura comes in and Etsuko tells him what happened but Ahmed is nowhere to be seen. Back at the conference, it is believed that aliens might be behind the disasters and it is suggested that the Earth be prepared militarily.

Dr. Ahmed appears and tries to sabotage the heat ray experiments held at the meeting. He is caught before completing his mission. He briefly takes Etsuko hostage and warns that the Earth will soon become a colony of the planet Natal. Ahmed’s hand is injured and he makes a run for it. However, a Natal saucer appears near the centre and vaporises him, but forensics find a tiny radio transmitter that was put in him. The transmissions locate the suspect aliens on the Moon.

The UN decides to launch two rocket ships, called SPIPs, to the Moon on a reconnaissance mission. En route, both ships are attacked by remotely controlled meteors called ‘space torpedoes’. Iwamura, the navigator of SPIP-1, is also under mind control by the aliens. He is caught trying to disable the rocket’s weapons and is tied up. Both SPIPs avoid the meteors and are given a warning by the Natal not to land on the Moon, but it is ignored. Once the rockets land on the Moon, the two teams look for the alien base in lunar rovers. Meanwhile, Iwamura has untied himself and blown up SPIP-1. They find a cave on foot and locate the Natal base in a deep crater. Etsuko is temporarily captured by the Natal but is rescued by Katsumiya. A beam weapon battle erupts as the teams attack the base. The Natal base is destroyed, freeing Iwamura from the aliens’ mind control. Feeling guilty, Iwamura stays behind to give covering fire, allowing the SPIP-2 to escape.

Back on Earth, the world prepares for a final conflict against the Natal. Rocket Fighter Planes (based on the North American X-15 experimental rocket plane) and Atomic Heat Cannons are built to counter the invasion fleet. Eventually, the Natal saucers and their mothership approach Earth. Squadrons of Scout Ships (converted into Space Fighters) are sent up into space and engage in a massive dogfight with the saucers. The Natal mothership launches Space Torpedoes that hit New York and San Francisco. The mothership descends upon Tokyo and lays the metropolis to waste with its anti-gravity ray. The remaining saucers and mothership advance on the Space Research Centre. But the Atomic Heat Cannons finally destroy the mothership and Earth is saved.

Cast

  • Ryô Ikebe … Major Ichiro Katsumiya (as Ryo Ikebe).
  • Kyôko Anzai … Etsuko Shiraishi (as Kyoko Anzai).
  • Minoru Takada … The Commander.
  • Koreya Senda … Professor Adachi.
  • Len Stanford … Dr. Roger Richardson.
  • Harold Conway … Dr. Immerman (as Harorudo Konwei).
  • George Whitman … Dr. Ahmed.
  • Elise Richter … Sylvia (as Erisu Rikutâ).
  • Hisaya Itô … Kogure (as Hisaya Ito).
  • Yoshio Tsuchiya … Iwomura.
  • Nadao Kirino … Gravity Man (as Hiro-o Kirino).
  • Kôzô Nomura … Rocket Commander (as Kozo Nomura).
  • Fuyuki Murakami … Inspector Iriake.
  • Ikio Sawamura … Lantern Man.
  • Takuzô Kumagai … Alien (as Jirô Kumagai).
  • Katsumi Tezuka … Alien (as Katsumx Tesuka).
  • Mitsuo Tsuda … Alien (as Mitsuo Isuda).

Release

Battle in Outer Space was released in Japan on 26 December 1959. It was released in the United States in an English-dubbed version by Columbia Pictures in 1960 where it was a double feature with 12 to the Moon.

Trivia

  • This film was the first Japanese science fiction film which had the original Japanese cast and crew listed on the posters and other advertising material in the United States.
  • The exterior of the “Science Centre” was actually Japan’s National Sports Centre that was built for the upcoming Tokyo Olympiad.
    • The structure was new and had a slightly futuristic look.
  • For a number of years the US distributor, Columbia Pictures, had been unable to furnish 35mm release prints for theatrical showings.
    • This was apparently due to all of the Eastman Colour release prints fading to red.
    • This film was not released on home video in the United States until 2009.
  • In the movie, a reference is made to the “Sea of Rains”.
    • This is the Mare Imbrium, the second-largest “sea” on the moon, and one of the largest impact craters in the solar system.
    • In the “Man in the Moon” image of Western folklore, Mare Imbrium forms the man’s right eye.
  • A different cast had to be brought in for this movie because the original actors were unavailable except for Harold Conway, who portrayed Dr. Immelman.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Ishirô Honda … (as Inoshiro Honda).
  • Producer(s):
    • Tomoyuki Tanaka … producer (as Yuko Tanaka).
  • Writer(s):
    • Shin’ichi Sekizawa … (written by) (as Shinichi Sekizawa).
    • Jôjirô Okami … (story) (as Jotaro Okami).
  • Music:
    • Akira Ifukube.
  • Cinematography:
    • Hajime Koizumi … director of photography.
  • Editor(s):
    • J+Kazuji Taira.
  • Production:
    • Toho Company.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Toho Company (1959) (Japan) (theatrical).
    • Columbia Pictures Corporation (1960) (UK) (theatrical) (dubbed).
    • Columbia Pictures (1960) (USA) (theatrical) (dubbed).
    • Columbia Film-Verleih (1960) (West Germany) (theatrical).
    • Kamerafilm (1961) (Norway) (theatrical).
    • SPE Films India (1960) (India) (theatrical) (Columbia Films of India).
    • Anolis Entertainment (2017) (Germany) (DVD).
    • Mill Creek Entertainment (2015) (USA) (DVD) (Vintage Sci-Fi 6 Movie Collection).
    • Mill Creek Entertainment (2020) (USA) (Blu-ray).
    • Sinister Film (2012) (Italy) (DVD).
    • Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (2009) (USA) (DVD).
  • Release Date: 26 December 1959 (Japan).
  • Rating: U.
  • Running Time: 90 minutes.
  • Country: Japan.
  • Language: Japanese.

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