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Not Rated
Copyright 1977 Toho Films Co.
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 16 July 2006

The Characters:  

  • Miyoshi - Such a nice guy that other men want their girlfriends to date him.
  • Jun - The sort of girl that rocket scientists drool over.
  • Muroi - Since she could not have Miyoshi, this is who Jun picked as her beau. At the exact moment this guy decides he is a real man he also becomes really dead.
  • Prof Takigawa - He designed a space battleship and, in case that was not enough to get the job done, a planet-buster bomb. Blown to smithereens, then dunked in lava.
  • Jimmy - The American fighter ace with all his boyish charm. Dies during an attack on the alien battlecruiser.
  • Fuyuki - He can disarm an attacker at five yards using only a metal lighter. Killed by a laser machinegun.
  • The Greater Horned Wookie - The race is dying out due to their predilection to petite Japanese women in leather outfits. I am sure we all know how rare those are. Vanquished by a glowing knife.
  • The Emperor of the Galaxy - His first name is "Hell." Also blown to smithereens, then dunked in lava. The treatment completely ruins his cucumber facial.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

We begin with ominous signs for planet Earth. Mysterious electric wave interference is causing problems around the globe, while inexplicable sightings of falling stars are reported in many countries. Whispers of invasion from outer space are beginning to become more than just rumors; humanity is frightened. Well, everyone except Miyoshi, Muroi, and Jun. They celebrate Miyoshi's unannounced return to Japan by going out to dinner. During the meal, the couple tells Miyoshi about their engagement. He is nothing but smiles and hearty congratulations. The Earth is about to be invaded and you are banging my old girlfriend. Great! Hooray!

There must be something I am missing about sake.

Following an interrupted transmission from the U.N. space station, the main characters are faced with the near certainty of alien attackers. Miyoshi stops in to speak with Jun's father about an experimental space battleship named Gohten. The project was halted, but the ship was nearly ready and the crew already trained. The younger man pleads with the scientist to complete the vessel and recall the key players. He is fighting an uphill battle until Dr. Schmidt arrives. Except, it is a fake Schmidt (say that ten times fast). Takigawa immediately realizes this when the imposter proves to be right-handed. A tense standoff ensues before the alien mimic is shot and flees outside, destroying himself by setting off a bomb. Project Gohten is now a go. Go, Gohten, go!

With the cat out of the bag, so to speak, the aliens unleash a full attack against the Earth. Swarms of spherical fighters blast the heck out of everything, including Gohten's base. Lucky for us that the space battleship was built inside a cavern on a remote island. Dozens of alien ships blast away at the island's mountainous terrain with destructive beams. The attack is as ineffective as it sounds. Why not nudge an iron asteroid into the right trajectory and obliterate the island and a few surrounding miles of open ocean?

Oh, and to reach Gohten's base, most of the crew are transported by submarine. Some thought went into that idea, except for the scene with a sub speeding along on the surface. Jimmy refuses to take the boat; he parachutes out of his F-4 Phantom and then dodges laser blasts until he dives off a cliff and swims to the underwater dock. This is a bit silly, but the brief attempt to convey the direness of the situation by shooting a scene at U.N. headquarters comes over well. The U.N. forces are absorbing terrible losses. Unless Gohten can launch (before the aliens blast through the mountain or plain get smart), humanity is doomed.

Gohten does launch just in time, because the fortified construction hanger begins to collapse and enemy ground forces invade the passageways. The bad guys are not bipedal lizards; they are guys wearing black hoods. In any case, the battleship drills its way out of the mountainside (that is why a space battleship needs a drill) and wipes out the alien attack craft with aerial mines. Meaning it launches projectiles that explode in midair, destroying several enemy ships at a time.

The enemy base was previously identified by locating the source of the electric wave interference; it is on Venus. Before leaving Earth behind, the entire crew of Gohten bids the planet farewell. Everyone is there, in case you were wondering, even the Captain (Takigawa) and Miyoshi. No, they do not meet in the Captain's quarters to toast the Earth with a bottle of spring water. Why do you ask?

En route to Venus, the Gohten encounters wreckage from the space station. Muroi flies over and discovers a corpsicle (the subtitled version represents this differently). Actually, the man is not a dead human, but an alien doppelganger. The evil agent takes Jun hostage, escaping via an alien ship that docked with the Gohten. Next time we see Jun she is dressed in a leather outfit and attached to the greater horned wookie by a chain. The crew of Gohten sees all this, because the Emperor broadcasts a message to them from his ship. Something about, "Surrender or I shall chain you all to greater horned wookies until their mating season is over! Fools! Submit, or be submitted!"

Yeah, I know, apparently the aliens use NTSC, just like Japan and the United States.

Following a do or die landing on Venus, the humans dispatch a scout vehicle to pinpoint the enemy base. They find it; the alien ship looks like some sort of war galley (think Greek or Roman), is covered by a forcefield, and is parked partially inside a cave. It also has oars on the side, except that the oars shoot lasers. Completely baffled by the enemy, the men in the scout vehicle (Miyoshi, Muroi and Jimmy, of course) retreat.

The humans plan a bold attack against the Emperor of the Galaxy. Jimmy and Muroi will take fighter craft to destroy the forcefield, while Miyoshi and some others infiltrate the ship via a suspected air duct. (On a spaceship?) Things start off badly when the aliens shoot down the fighter jocks' wingmen, but Jimmy saves the day by slamming into the top of the cave kamikaze style. The forcefield collapses, allowing Miyoshi's team to enter. They dart past a mind-boggling xenos airlock that appears to blink different colors, one of which means anything passing through is disintegrated. Helpful for security, if you are trying to keep out the inhabitants of Oddworld, but I doubt it would help prevent oxygen from escaping.

Miyoshi's fellow commandos are killed off, leaving him to be captured by Emperor Hell. The hero is thrown into an oddly shaped cell with Jun. However, she recognizes the control pad that is inside the holding facility, because she watched the Emperor operate one earlier. Jun gleefully punches in the code and the cell door opens; the pair escapes. Once he hears that his fiance' is safe, Muroi turns into all smiles. Then the enemy ship lifts off and blasts Muroi's fighter out of the sky. It is clear sailing for Miyoshi.

What remains is the all-out battle between Gohten and the Emperor's flagship. The human warship does surprisingly well until the aliens reveal a secret weapon. Badly damaged, Gohten crashes onto the surface of Venus. Takigawa sends the crew off the bridge, ostensibly to perform damage control, but the Captain intends to use the true secret of Gohten. The drill nose is a bomb of frightening power. It works by destroying the very fabric of the universe. Speaking to his daughter while he steers the bomb to the target, Takigawa expresses a hope that its destructive power will never be used again. Oblivion encompasses the professor and his galactic adversary as Gohten accelerates away from Venus before the planet explodes.

I want to like this film more than I do. The music is partially to blame, as it screams, "I am a great and expansive space opera!" The score lends itself well to images of swirling clouds and spacecraft. That the makers of the film knew this is obvious, the credits roll over a backdrop of fog machine smoke intended to carry that same motif. "War in Space" is also decked out with model battlecruisers, lasers, nefarious alien agents, and adventure on the surface of the planet Venus. My problem with it is that, while the recipes for each portion are good, they all feel unfinished. I often think that movies should be shorter, but "War in Space" may have been better off with ten more minutes to develop some portions of the plot.

Yes, I know, who in the heck drills through stuff with a bomb?

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • Space stations should be painted bright orange and covered with strobe lights.
  • Anyone saying "Dr. Schmidt' will develop a German accent.
  • Space battleships are not required to pass emissions.
  • A laser pistol requires cleaning after being fired.
  • Aluminum siding can be used as reactive armor on military vehicles.
  • Neon cutlery easily slices through chicken wire.
  • Basing your security system on "Simon" is a bad idea.
  • Looking like a death-dealing badass is difficult when your job is to press a button.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 6 mins - What color is that phone? Man, but the 70's confuse me.
  • 26 mins - This is either al Qaeda or a terribly confused sect of the KKK.
  • 30 mins - Great strategy to defeat the invaders. They will eventually run out of ammo or get bored with shooting at you.
  • 39 mins - "If you die, I promise to do your girlfriend."
  • 47 mins - Somebody has been filming my dreams again.
  • 60 mins - What sort of crazy launching system is that? The fighters must exit the tube upside down!
  • 75 mins - Shoot the wookie, not the axe! Hey, stupid...I said the wookie!
  • 87 mins - Jun is going to need some counseling. First she saw daddy blow up, then he crashed into a volcano. That should keep the analysts busy for a while.

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note warspace1.wav Radio Operator: "This is United Nations Space Bureau, Japan Branch. We are calling Space Station Terra. Come in Space Station Terra!"
Green Music Note warspace2.wav Takigawa: "I don't think Gohten is necessary. We should have nothing unnecessary for Earth." (I think.)
Miyoshi: "Of course I agree, but if we do not finish Gohten we shall be invaded by another planet!"
Green Music Note warspace3.wav News Announcer: "A Defense Countermeasure Headquarters has been established with Supreme Commander Oshi at its head. His conclusions are that the enemy bases are on Venus. He has requested Dr. Takigawa to complete Gohten as soon as possible."
Green Music Note warspace4.wav Takigawa: "And if you have such a greatly advanced civilization, why do you have to come such a long way to our solar system?"
Emperor Hell: "Our planet is getting very old. Every star is destined to vanish and our planet has reached that final stage of a star's life."
Green Music NoteTheme Song Listen to a clip from the soundtrack.

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipwarspace1.mpg - 3.3m
Gohten and the Emperor's flagship battle it out in the skies over Venus. Now, tell me that the revolver beam cannon is not silly.

Did I mention that they also launch fighters from the same tubes?

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