9.24.2009

Battle in Outer Space : 3 of 5

I'm really excited about exploring all of the classic non-Godzilla Toho films, so I was thrilled to read about this new inexpensive DVD set on the Giant Monsters on the Loose blog. The Icons of Sci-Fi: Toho Collection includes the original Mothra (which I previously reviewed), along with two other movies which I'll review separately, starting with the 1959 science fiction film Battle in Outer Space. While this movie doesn't feature any kaiju, it was made by the Godzilla masters (direction by Honda, effects by Tsuburaya, and music by Ikufube), so it really has that Showa era feel. Battle in Outer Space is primarily a special effects showcase with almost no character development at all. Of course, this would normally be a bad thing, but the miniatures and effects shots are so fascinating that they completely make up for it! The plot is pretty simplistic, with aliens from the planet Natal establishing a base on the moon so they can attack the earth using their ultimate weapon, an anti-gravity ray that can lift entire buildings so they crumble to pieces. The governments of the world unite to send two ships to the moon to destroy the base, beginning a long sequence of beautiful shots. I loved the classic rocket and saucer designs, and the various maneuvers (especially using thrusters to rotate the ship for landing) were incredible! The moonscape itself, which is the setting of a nice laser battle, was great (even if their rover vehicles look a bit like wiener-mobiles). This scene also provides the one emotional moment of the film, when Iwamura, who sabotaged the mission while under alien mind control, sacrifices himself to let the other crew members escape. Eventually the aliens do attack, which starts a huge dogfight in space, with exciting effects that are especially incredible when you consider this movie was made 18 years before Star Wars! The destruction of both New York City and the Golden Gate Bridge was pretty impressive as well. This DVD (along with Mothra) contains a brilliant commentary by some of the same kaiju scholars from the Classic Media Godzilla releases, which provides so many fascinating facts that it's almost as good as the film itself. I can't wait to watch the third movie in this set and then move on to other Toho classics!

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