Direction: Jun Fukuda
Screenplay: Ryuzo Nakanishi and Hideichi Nagahara
Music: Toshiaki Tsushima
Special Effects: Teruyoshi Nakano
Multiple choice time:
Toho's 1977 film The War in Space appears to be a remake of
a. Battle in Outer Space
c. all of the above
If you're up on multiple choice test-taking strategies, then you know that "all of the above" is often the right answer -- and it is clearly the right answer in this instance.
So what could go wrong with a combined remake of Battle in Outer Space and Atragon? Plenty if the script is uninspired, the effects undistinguished, and the budget undernourished. Toho rushed this film into Japanese theatres to beat Star Wars' Japanese theatrical debut, but the two films really share nothing in common save for a wookie-like creature in War in Space.
If Star Wars was ground-breaking, War in Space was ground-burying. Almost nothing new is seen or heard. The film employs plenty of stock footage from Battle in Outer Space and The Last War to depict world capitals getting blown to smithereens by the evil aliens. Meanwhile, the outer space effects and Venusian vistas are variable -- some good, some awful. But none of them puts even the slightest new spin on the overly familiar set pieces.
Other recognizable kaiju eiga artifacts include one of the aliens wearing the pointy-toed footwear of Monster Zero's Xians, and the "weapon that must never be used" ending (complete with suicidal self-sacrifice on the part of its creator) of course brings to mind Godzilla's Dr. Serizawa and his oxygen-destroyer. No doubt fans of Japanese SFantasy may feel a definite (and justified) sense of déjà vu when viewing The War in Space for the first time.
Toho's depiction of alien villains was frequently over-the-top, but the chief baddie in this sci-fier is mega-loopy. Wearing a Roman helmet and costume (who knows why), the imperious green-skinned extraterrestrial emotes as though auditioning for a 1930's movie serial.
And as for War In Space's music -- oh, my. The best that can be said is that it sounds like the score for a 1970's Saturday morning superhero show. Akira Ifubuke it ain't.
Pacing is another problem. The film often crawls when it should sprint. Towards the end, I was just basically waiting for the thing to end.
Still, all that said, this movie may have terrible aspects, but it isn't a terrible movie -- just a mediocre one. The filmmakers obviously weren't given much of a budget to work with. Taking that fact into consideration, Teruyoshi Nakano's special effects are about as good as they could be under the circumstances, and they are often enjoyable.
One interesting if bizarre aspect of Earth's gohten is that its attack craft are fired from the cylinders of what appears to be a giant revolver! This is like something out of Jules Verne.
Storywise, War in Space is even more uninspired than the special effects, but perhaps Toho thought that re-dressing two of its better genre films (Atragon and Battle in Outer Space) would guarantee a sure-fire winner. It didn't, of course. But it did produce a middling movie worthy of at least one viewing by every right-thinking Tohophile.