Well, this has been sort of a holy grail in recent years. I remember seeing this movie in the Leslie Junior High School auditorium sometime in the early ’70s. It was on a weekend, probably a Saturday, and I can’t remember whether it was before or after I started attending Leslie in 1972. In fact, I didn’t remember a thing about it, except that it creeped me out. (I’ve always been a weenie when it comes to horror films.) Well, okay, I also remembered that lots of the kids thought this one was pretty funny, in a cheesy way, and that’s certainly the reputation the film has. (See Glenn Erickson’s review for a representative bashing.) Still, my friend Craig Smith and I have often talked about how much fun it would be to see this again as an adult.
In the meantime I had also discovered that director Kinji Fukasaku was a pretty interesting genre film-maker, so I was curious if the movie might be better than its reputation. Now having seen it again, courtesy of Warner Archive’s remastered MOD release, I’m not prepared to go that far, although I do think it’s much more interesting visually than Erickson allows. There’s certainly plenty of cheese, starting with the theme song. It’s also definitely a kids film that can’t really escape the simple concepts, let alone the cheap, goofy design of the rampaging alien monsters. The story is one cliche after another, borrowing from every movie that preceded it, from Forbidden Planet (1956) to The Blob (1958) — or Toho’s The H-Man (1958), which also took ideas from The Blob — to Wild, Wild Planet (1965). (One thing I hadn’t realized is that it was produced by the same guy who produced Antonio Margheriti’s Italian sci-fi cheesefests. More on Wild, Wild Planet in the future.) How Fukasaku and Toei got involved, I’m not sure. This was shot at Toei Studios in Japan, yet all the main actors are American. An early international production, I guess.
Well, I still found this a lot of fun, despite the cheesiness. It doesn’t have the gothic atmosphere of Bava’s Planet of the Vampires (Terrore nello spazio, 1965), but by gum it has some of that ’60s sense of color, not all of it green.