Film Review: The War in Space (1977)

in #aaalast month


In 1977 George Lucas with his Star Wars redefined commercial and technical parameters of science fiction on the big screen. That achievement became obvious in comparison with other film makers that were trying to quickly exploit newly found popularity of the genre by applying special effects which were suddenly made obsolete. One of them was Jun Fukuda, Japanese director who only months after the premiere of Star Wars delivered spectacular space opera of its own under title The War in Space.

The plot is set Autumn of 1988 and begins with an arrival of a giant alien space ship into Solar System. Soon afterwards United Nation Space Bureau loses contact with Space Station Terra and the Earth is affected by electromagnetic waves that affect communication and visited by UFOs that create panic. Experts at Japanese branch of Bureau think that it might prelude to invasion and the hostility of aliens is confirmed when they try to infiltrate Bureau disguised as humans. This is followed by open attack on various cities of the world. The only option for Earth to defend itself is Gohten, experimental state-of-the-art space battleship designed by Professor Takigawa (played by Ryō Ikebe) which had been abandoned in underground base for years. Despite underground base being bombed, Takigawa and his crew manage to put Gohten in service and defeat alien attack vessels, but their formidable mother ship remains on the surface of Venus. Gohten begins long and difficult journey during which aliens manage to kidnap Takigawa daughter June (played by Yuko Asano) and force the crew, which includes her fiance Reisuke Muroi (played by Masaya Oki) and former boyfriend Kojo Miyoshi (played by Kensaku Morita) to conduct extremely difficult and dangerous rescue mission.

The War in Space is made with only a fraction of Star Wars budget and this is most visible with special effects by Teruyoshi Nakano that look dated, although they turn out to be adequate in certain scenes, especially those taking place on the surface of Venus, which is created with a lot of ingenuity. Production design, on the other hand, is less effective in case of alien vessel, which looks a little too much like a Roman galley. Within the ship the most memorable detail is villain’s main henchman in the form of horned wookie armed with laser axe and forcibly holding scantily-clad June as prisoner. Even with these “campy” details the film could have been very good, if not for terrible wooden acting, which is made worse due with love triangle subplot and melodramatic finale. The only thing that makes The War in Space satisfactory to a certain degree is good music and its short running time, which makes its flaws less annoying, especially less demanding fans of old science fiction films.

RATING: 5/10 (++)

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Critic: AA