Battle in Outer Space, (released in Japan as The Great Space War (宇宙大戦争 Uchū Daisensō?)) is a 1959 Japanese Science Fiction film produced by Toho Studios. Directed by Ishirō Honda and featuring special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, the film starred Ryo Ikebe, Koreya Senda and Yoshio Tsuchiya.
The film is a loose sequel to The Mysterians (1957), jumping ahead several years to 1965, when Etsuko Shiraishi and Dr. Adachi, among others, are now heavily involved in the United Nations Space Research Center in Tokyo. Rather than have the Mysterians return to Earth for this sequel, a new, more sinister race was created: The Natal, diminutive and aggressive beings who wield powerful anti-gravity weapons and mind-control devices.
The film was released theatrically in the United States in the Summer of 1960 by Columbia Pictures
In 1965, a series of mysterious and devastating incidents are happening on Earth. These incidents range from a railroad bridge levitated off the ground causing a train wreck in Japan; an ocean liner lifted out of the Panama Canal by a waterspout, destroying it; severe flooding in Venice, Italy; and the destruction of the J-SS3 space station.
A UN connected international meeting is called at the Space Research Center in Japan. Major Ichiro Katsumiya, Professor Adachi and Dr. Richardson open the conference and describe the disasters, adding that the survivors suffered from extreme frostbite. Dr. Richardson theorizes that some unknown force lowered the temperatures of the objects so as to lower the Earth's gravitational pull: thus making the objects easier to lift, regardless of their size and weight. Katsumiya determines that such an action could only be accomplished by a force beyond the earth.
Dr. Ahmed, an Iranian delegate at the meeting reacts as though suffering from a severe headache and slips away. Ahmed walks outside to a courtyard in a daze. Etsuko sees him and watches in horror as he is enveloped in a red light coming from the sky. Astronaut Iwomura comes in and Etsuko tells him what happened but Ahmed is nowhere to be seen. Back at the conference, it is believed that aliens might be behind the disasters and it's suggested that the Earth be prepared militarily.
Dr. Ahmed appears and tries to sabotage the heat ray experiments held at the meeting. He is caught before completing his mission. He briefly takes Etsuko hostage and warns them that the Earth will soon become a colony of the planet, Natal. Ahmed's hand is injured and he makes a run for it. However, a Natal saucer appears near the center and vaporizes him, but forensics find a tiny radio transmitter that was put in him. The transmissions locate the suspect aliens on the moon.
The U.N. decides to launch two rocket ships, called SPIPs, to the Moon on a reconnaissance mission. En route, both ships are attacked by remotely controlled meteors called 'space torpedoes'. Iwamura, the navigator of SPIP-1, is also under mind control by the aliens. He is caught trying to disable the rocket's weapons and is tied up. Both SPIPs avoid the meteors and are given a warning by the Natal not to land on the moon, but it is ignored. Once the rockets land on the moon, the two teams look for the alien base in lunar rovers. Meanwhile, Iwamura has untied himself and blown up SPIP-1. They find a cave on foot and locate the Natal base in a deep crater. Etsuko is temporarily captured by the Natal but is rescued by Katsumiya. A beam weapon battle erupts as the teams attack the base. The Natal base is destroyed which frees Iwamura of the aliens' mind control. Feeling guilty, Iwamura stays behind to give covering fire, allowing the SPIP-2 to escape.
Back on Earth, the world prepares for a final conflict against the Natal. Scout Ships (based on the North American X-15 experimental rocket plane) and Atomic Heat Cannons are built to counter the invasion fleet. Eventually, the Natal saucers and their mothership approach Earth. Squadrons of Scout Ships (converted into Space Fighters) are sent up into space and engage in a massive dogfight with the saucers. The Natal mothership launches Space Torpedoes that hit New York and San Francisco. The mothership descends upon Tokyo and lays the metropolis to waste with its anti-gravity ray. The remaining saucers and mothership advance on the Space Research Center. But, the Atomic Heat Cannons finally destroy the mothership and the Earth is saved.
In the original story, the Natal were originally tentacled creatures, and in later drafts, insectoids with their own lunar tanks shaped like pill bugs, but these designs were dropped due to the lack of technology to make such creatures look realistic. The lunar tank conflict was changed into a saucer attack, as the Earthmen make their way back to the SPIP landing site.
The exterior shots of the "Science Center" was actually Japan's National Olympic Stadium (Tokyo) that was built in 1958 for the upcoming Tokyo Olympiad. At the time, the structure was newly completed and had a slightly futuristic look.
Columbia Pictures theatrical poster for the 1960 U.S release of Battle in Outer Space.
Battle in Outer Space was released in America by Columbia Pictures and opened in New York City on July 8, 1960 (premiering in San Francisco on August 23, 1960), and was packaged at the top of a double-feature with David Bradley's low-budget space opera, 12 to the Moon and in other markets with The Electronic Monster.
New York Times film critic Howard Thompson gave Battle in Outer Space a mixed, but generally positive review, stating, "The plot is absurd and is performed in dead earnest... some of the artwork is downright nifty, especially in the middle portion, when an earth rocket soars to the moon to destroy the palpitating missile base... the Japanese have opened a most amusing and beguiling bag of technical tricks, as death-dealing saucers whiz through the stratosphere... and the lunar landscape is just as pretty as it can be."
Boxoffice magazine rated the film much more highly, hailing it a "science-fiction adventure drama on a grand scale... and spectacular special effects... can be exploited to attract the youngsters and mature action fans in huge numbers. Like similar Japanese-made thrillers, 'Rodan', 'H-Man' and 'The Mysterians' (all produced by Toho), this can pay off boxoffice-wise if exhibitors stress the amazingly realistic trick photography of flying saucers, moon exploration and a full-scale attack on U.S. cities which results in skyscrapers being destroyed, etc..." and makes note of the film's "explosive action, of which there is plenty, particularly in the climatic battle..." Boxoffice also cited Shinichi Sekizawa's "imaginative screenplay."
Dr. Ichiro Katsumiya - Ryo Ikebe
Etsuko Shiraishi - Kyoko Anzai
Yuichi Iwamura - Yoshio Tsuchiya
Commander of the Self-Defense Forces - Minoru Takada
Kogure (Engineer), SPIP-1 Crew - Hisaya Ito
Dr. Kenjiro Adachi - Koreya Senda
Dr. Roger Richardson - Leonard Stanford
Dr. Immelmann - Harold S. Conway
Dr. Ahmed - George Wyman
Silvia - Elise Richter
Okada, SPIP-1 Crew - Nadao Kirino
Captain of Space Fighter Squadron - Kozo Nomura
Inspector Ariake, Secret Service - Fuyuki Murakami
Railroad Track Inspector - Ikio Sawamura
Lieutenant General - Jiro Kumagai
Maritime Self Defense Forces General - Katsumi Tezuka
Air Self Defense Forces General - Mitsuo Tsuda
Adjutant - Tadashi Okabe
Lieutenant Pearce, SPIP-1 Crew - Malcolm Pearce
Araki, SPIP-1 Crew - Yasuo Araki
Welch, SPIP-1 Crew - Leonard Welch
Sato, SPIP-2 Crew - Koichi Sato
SPIP-2 Crew - Rinsaku Ogata
SPIP-2 Crew - Osman Yusef
SPIP-2 Crew - Heinz Bodmer
SPIP-2 Crew - Yutaka Oka
JSS-3 Communications Officer - Kisao Hatamochi
JSS-3 Crewmember - Yukihiko Gondo
JSS-3 Crewmember - Yoshiyuki Uemura
U.S. Army General - Ed Keane
Mrs. Richardson - Dona Carlson
Science Center Engineer - Shiniro Hirota
Tokaido Express Train Engineer - Yasuhisa Tsutsumi
Tokaido Express Train Pilot Engineer - Shigeo Kato
Executive Producer - Tomoyuki Tanaka
Screenplay - Shinichi Sekizawa
Original Story - Jojiro Okami
Director - Ishirō Honda
Visual Effects Director - Eiji Tsuburaya
Cinematography - Hajime Koizumi
Production Designer - Teruaki Abe
Conceptual Designer - Shigeru Komatsuzaki (uncredited)
Lighting - Rokuro Ishikawa
Sound Recordist - Choshiro Mikami and Masanobu Miyazaki
Music - Akira Ifukube
Assistant Director - Koji Kajita
Film Editor - Kazuji Taira
Film Development - Far East Laboratories
Production Manager - Yasuaki Sakamoto
Still Photographer - Issei Tanaka
Optical Photography - Hidesaburo Araki
Visual Effects Photography - Sadamasa Arikawa
Visual Effects Production Design - Akira Watanabe
Visual Effects Lighting - Kuichiro Kishida
Composites - Hiroshi Mukoyama
Columbia TriStar (Sony)
Released: August 18, 2009
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic (2.35:1) Widescreen
Special features: Audio commentary by Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski
Sound: Japanese, English
Note: Contains both original Japanese and English versions of the film; Only available as a triple feature with The H-Man and Mothra.