Invasion of the Neptune Men [Uchu Kaisoku-sen] (1961)

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re in that classic Toho space-aliens-attack-the-Earth movie, Battle in Outer Space: all the important leaders are gathered, making their plans to fight the aliens…

And a bunch of children come rushing into the room.

Okay, this is a children’s film about an alien invasion, and we are given some justification for their presence — one of them is the son of the top scientist at this research center, and his friends are all studying science with one of the other scientists, Tachibana, who just happens to be played by Sonny Chiba, so we know he’s the hero.  But, if you stop and think about it rationally those kids have no business being anywhere near such an important place.

But then, if you’re thinking rationally about it, you are watching the wrong movie anyway.

The Aliens are from Neptune, of course, and they are one of the better parts of the film, with these faceless, cone-shaped metal heads with glowing lights and Robbie the Robot rotating antennae, and some sort of halo around the leader’s head.  The effects are also reasonably good, which is more or less what we expect from a Toei film of the era.  Mind you, most of the epic destruction was borrowed from their little seen film, The Final War/World War III Breaks Out from the year before (which was, yes, a copy of yet another Toho film, The Last War).  However, this is only fair as scenes of attacking flying saucers from this film were added to pad out that one when it came to the American market!

Incidentally, this is also why one of the things the aliens destroy is a large mural of Adolf Hitler!

As this is a children’s alien invasion film, they are helped by the mysterious character the kids nickname “Space Chief.”  For some reason, they don’t seem to notice that he’s also played by Sonny Chiba.  I find it rather strange that the film never seems to acknowledge this either, at least not the American version, and there is just one hint towards the end of the film, when Tachibana joins the scientists right after Space Chief leaves and someone says something like “oh, there you are.”  Were they planning to save the strange story of how he became a Scifi Superhero for the next film?  Was there a bit of backstory that ended up on the cutting room floor?  Or did anyone care enough about this thing to worry about such things?

Oh well.  MST3K took their best shot at this one and there certainly is room for a bit of mockery here.  However, we are talking about a Sixties tokusatsu kids’ film made in Japan, something which is bound to be a bit strange from our Western point of view (one notes, for example, that, despite all the snide comments about the children’s clothes, they look exactly like the kids in just about any other Japanese film).

Perhaps this is a film best left to the Tokusatsu fanatics out there, or to those fascinated by Japanese culture.

But the kids will probably love it.

After all, it was made for them.

 

 

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