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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review: THE WAR IN SPACE (1977)

We're nearing the end of the Shōwa era of our list (HERE) and it just so happens to correspond with the release of a certain film ...

Today's movie is War in Space (1977).

I was going to have my son, James, go first.  The following exchange happened instead:
"Are there any monsters in it?" 
"Then I don't think it should be on our list."
Well.  True, we've been sticking with kaiju movies, predominantly, but I included tokusatsu films (that's "special effects" films) on the list because the early films were important in the development of Toho.  And ... because some of them included monsters.

So.  I'll go ahead and review it by myself:
Knowing the year of this film's release, coupled with the title, I thought I could guess how it would go.  Truly, though, the only thing it has in common with Star Wars is that it, too, came out in 1977. 
So-called "Roman" aliens invade the Earth, forcing the military to rush an advanced battleship-airship-spaceship (with a giant drill on the front) to be finished up. 
Yes.  Replace aliens with the Mu Empire and much of the movie feels like a retread of Atragon.  Why they felt the need to stick so close to the distinctive design of that earlier film is beyond me.  It's distracting and unnecessary ... unless we're supposed to think the films are connected.  I don't believe so, though. 
The special effects are nothing to write home about.  The alien vessels feel more toy-like than usual and the montagey assaults on world cities don't do anything to increase the tension or tragedy of what we're (supposed to be) seeing. 
And the score ... oof.  Whereas John Williams' Star Wars score is timeless and orchestral, War in Space's score feels straight outta the late '70s.  It's painful. 
Other than redoing so much of Atragon, what other missteps were made?  Well, there's "Commander Hell," the Roman emperor-like alien leader of the galaxy (according to him, anyway).  The American fighter pilot known only as Jimmy.  The revolver-like means of launching shuttles.  Oh, and there's this guy: 
Some sort of horned Wookiee-beast holding the female lead captive.  (To be fair, this was several years before "Slave Leia" entered our collective nerd lexicons.) 
I nearly forgot.  The movie ends when our heroes blow up the planet Venus. 
The War in Space ... maybe it's for the best that James sat this one out.  1 out of five atomic breath blasts.
Here's the trailer:

Up next, another space tokusatsu, Message from Space.

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