12 April 2019 | jamesrupert2014
Juvenile Toho Studios space opera
Aliens from a senescent planet somewhere in the Messier 13 globular cluster threaten to take over Earth. As their flying saucers attack and destroy landmarks all over the planet, Professor Takigawa (Ryo Ikebe) and his team are transported by submarine to the secret island base of the 'Gohten', a flying space-battleship that is our only hope. After battling fleets of alien saucers, the Gohten heads to Venus for the final showdown with the malevolent, green-skinned Commander Hell (Goro Mutsumi). Directed by Toho Studios veteran Jun Fukuda (helmsman on some of the worst Showa-era Godzilla films) and featuring Akihiko Hirata (the ill-fated, one-eyed Dr. Serizawa in the original 'Godzilla' (1953)), 'War in Space' is a decidedly lackluster entry into the studio's long-running tokusatsu series. The film lacks the ingenuity and charm of earlier space-operas (such as 1959's 'Battle in Outer Space') and the set design and miniature work is greatly inferior. The Gohten looks like an awkward combination of the 'Go-tengo' ('Atragon', 1963) and the 'Space-Battleship Yamato' (1975), while the invading mother-ship is a chunky, quasi-baroque 'galleon', complete with pseudo oars (similar to the space-sailboat in the dire "Message from Space" (1978)). Even the most generous suspension of disbelief won't overcome the obvious: these are small, poorly-detailed models hanging by strings over an unconvincing Venusian surface. The landmark destruction (always a high point in a film like this) is largely hidden by being superimposed over stock-footage of a submarine, which may be just as well as the quick glimpse you get of the pre-explosion Arc De Triomphe reveals a small, cheap-looking model. Budget cutting is evident throughout the film: despite planning to conquer an entire planet, the invasion seem to consist of one spaceship crewed by Commander Hell, a wookie-wannabe, and a handful of minions (hooded so extra makeup wouldn't be needed); the editing and cutting is amateurish at times (notably when 'Jimmy' survives having his parachute shot up), and most of the sets look like they were put together using mismatched left-overs from other films. The script and acting is pretty bad (I watched a dubbed version, so it's hard to know who to blame), the music horrible, and the film is full of inexplicable moments (was June wearing the skimpy black baby-dolls under her regulation jumpsuit or was there an S/M boutique aboard Commander Hell's flagship?). The film came out the same year as 'Star Wars' (explaining the ridiculous pseudo-wookie) and Toho must have seen the writing on the wall for their style of science fiction adventure - their next tokusatsu outing would be the back-to-the-basics "Return of Godzilla" (1984).