Today I watched Ishiro Honda’s Battle in Outer Space (1959)
In the near future of 1965, a wave of strange disasters heralds an alien invasion from a race known as the Natal. These extra terrestrials use powerful anti-gravity technology and have established a forward base on our moon. Since they have demonstrated an obvious hostility towards humans, the nations of Earth rally together and pool the resources of their space programs to launch an attack on the moon base in an attempt to halt the invasion. This film is technically a sequel to The Mysterians though it is hardly necessary to watch that film to enjoy this one, it only serves to explain humanity’s heat ray technology.
This film is another showcase of Ishiro Honda’s obsession with science as much of the dialogue is techno babble of some sort or another. He has demonstrated in other films like Godzilla and Frankenstein Conquers the World that he is not some blind science sycophant and that he understands many of the ethical issues of science and research. This film is very celebratory of science though, the theme is about all the people of Earth coming together and getting behind a global scientific and military effort. Unfortunately to express a level of universality, the film sacrifices a lot of character development. This film is about a community confronted with a problem, so the individual gets a little ignored along the way.
Thankfully the film maintains a consistently high level of entertainment, mostly because of the classic Eiji Tsuburaya produced special effects. This is top level effects work and it showcases why these old films still have a large cult following to this day. It is also classic in it’s use of old school rocket ship and ray gun art design, sure it is goofy today, but the energy and creativity poured into the various vehicles and costumes cannot be denied. And it all comes packaged with another wonderful Akira Ifukube score, the man who defined early tokusatsu sound design and whose influence is truly vast.
This film is quite entertaining, but you have to be in the mood for pure old school space pulp to really get into it. The lack of character development hinders the drama, but the plentiful action and beautiful effects work kept me entertained throughout. The final battle in particular is a real marvel of miniature destruction, the alien mothership attacks Tokyo with one of those big alien tractor beams and I have no idea how they managed to get the miniature city to break apart while defying gravity, trick photography and miniature effects at their best. 4/5