Welcome to our weekly field guide to 1950s horror and sci-fi movies and the creatures that inhabit them. This week: it's Starman to the, um, rescue in Attack From Space.
Attack From SpaceDirector: Koreyoshi Akasaka, Teruo Ishii, Akira Mitsuwa
Cast: Ken Utsui
Alternative titles: Oh Man, This Is Weird; Planet of the Rising Son
Pleasant amounts of cheese and silliness.
Hero Starman looks a lot like a guy who makes doughnuts.
Evil galactic fascists raise arms in Nazi salute and appear to shout: "Hi!" or possibly: "Oy!".
Cheesy shots of Starman flying over Japan are almost cool.
Dubbing appears to have been done by the evil Suferians.
Young children play a vital role in saving humanity (sigh).
A little heavy on the narration.
SYNOPSIS: In response to the threat of intergalactic nuclear war, the High Council on the planet Emerald breaks into a spontaneous modern dance performance. Following this, it is decided that Starman will be sent to Earth to resist the attack by the evil Suferians, perhaps by showing off his tightly-clad buttocks. He will also carry with him the useful globe-meter, which allows the wearer to do handy things like fly through space and understand primitive natives like you and me. Once the High Council has made this decision, they go back to practicing their synchronized swimming moves. (Sadly, this would not become an Olympic event until many years later.)
Starman, whose perpetually dull expression suggests that he can't decide between the jelly doughnut or the double-chocolate glazed, makes his way toward our grateful planet, creating havoc for the Suferians as he goes. Meanwhile, Dr Yamanaka, a brilliant Japanese scientist working on a secret peaceful rocket project, begins experiencing unexpected problems. His none-too-bright children Kioro and Riuichi, in the tradition of none-too-bright children everywhere, compound these problems by getting themselves captured by evil space fascists who promise to rain destruction on our beleaguered planet. It's around this time that the well-fed Starman waddles onto the scene. He offers his help, in exchange for a couple of doughnuts, which the authorities quickly decide is a bargain too good to pass up.
Starman reaches the Suferian starship that's threatening Earth, and he really shows his douhgnut-power then, knocking over hordes of wildly inept space fascists while shouting epithets as "Hai!" and "Hee-ya!" and "Ugh!" Then it's off to sabotage the ship itself, which he does by bending a screen. Result: BOOM! (That must've been an important screen.) Alas, a space hero's work is never done. No sooner is one spaceship destroyed than another one launches—and that's not even mentioning the Suferian Supreme Headquarters, floating out there in the void like a killer hubcap. Starman makes for it, chasing Dr Yamanaka's hijacked spaceship, and around this time, things stop making any sense at all, although we do get to see more modern dance choreography. Then again, "sense" is a relative term, along with everything else in the galaxy. Didn't Einstein prove that? Which is, pretty much, Einstein’s only connection to what's going on here.
Best line of dialogue: "Ship will cross the fiery Death Star very soon now." (Wait a minute—Death Star? What movie is this, anyway?)
What gets destroyed: A spaceship full of malignant space fascists; a Himalayan mountain; New York; London; Tokyo; a whole pile of space fascists; yet more space fascists; the last remaining dregs of space fascists (though there are probably more).
What gets saved: Earth! Humanity! Civilization! The universe! Doughnuts!
Party game: Play "Dubbing." Choose partners. One partner stands behind the other and gives an impassioned speech. The other partner stands in front and moves his/her mouth, arms, etc in illustration. The partner in front is not allowed to look at the one in back.
Did you know? This movie, although released in the US in 1964, was derived from two episodes of the 1950s Japanese TV show Super Giant. Although I've generally avoided TV-derived work in this column (for example Rocky Jones, Space Ranger), this offering, along with its counterpart Evil Brain from Outer Space, was just too much fun to pass up.
Explain this one: Starman survives the flames of the Death Star because of his "steel body." But listen, if you had a steel body, wouldn’t you want it to look a little more like, y'know—steel?
Somehow their careers survived: Ken Utsui (Starman) played the role in the other three films released theatrically: Invaders From Space, Atomic Rulers, and Evil Brain from Outer Space (all made in the '50s, released in the US in 1964). Utsui also starred in heaps of other Japanese entertainment right up through 2005. Co-director Teruo Ishii's works include such promisingly-titled product as Inferno of Torture aka Hell's Torturers (1969), Screwed (1998), Hell (1999), and Blind Beast Versus the Dwarf (2001). Definitely sounds like someone to check out.
BOTTOM LINE: Not exactly "hard SF," but entertainingly deranged nevertheless.
NEXT WEEK: Tarantula (1956)