Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Invasion of the Neptune Men
Quick Plot Synopsis
Why is this movie fun?
After reading about how awful it was supposed to be, it was actually somewhat entraining to look for silver linings or nuggets amid the ample dross. The rocket car has a sort of 50s kitsch cool to it. Sonny Chiba as a lanky young string bean of a nerd is kind of amusing too.
Cold War Angle
Super, Thrice Removed -- Toei Studios' 1961 super hero "Iron Sharp" (Space Chief in the English version), was a copy of Prince of Space, which Toei marketed in 1959. Prince of Space was himself a copy of Toho Studios' serial hero, "Supa Jaiantsu" (Super Giant), who was himself a copy of Superman. Like Prince of Space, Space Chief had his secret mild mannered civilian guise. Walter Manley Enterprises brought Super Giant to American audiences as "Starman," in such films as Evil Brain From Outer Space
Iron Sharp -- In the beginning of the japanese version, the boys lament that their science club advisor, Mr. Tachibana is smart, but too weak and nerdy. They fantasize about a super hero. They decide to name him "Iron Sharp." Curiously, they use the English words, though pronounced: Ion Shop. In the English version, he is dubbed as Space Chief. The original film includes a heroic song and some extended shots of Iron Sharp flying in his rocket car under the credits. The English version cut this useful backstory.
Shifting Credit -- In the Japanese version, Tachibana talks about following up on the success of Yuri Gegarin's flight (in April '61, so very topical) and working with scientists in Moscow on rocket designs. In the English dubbed version, Tachibana is made to say "Major Glenn's" flight (February '62, INM released in '64) and working with a Dr. Strauss. Can't have the Soviets getting any credit in the space race -- to American audiences.
Cathartic Air War -- There is something vaguely wishful in the fight against the Neptune Men. In WWII, Japan did not fare well under American air power. In INM, Space Chief successfully dogfights and shoots down all the invading fighters. Japan's missile defenses successfully destroy the mother ship bomber. Were Japanese audiences enjoying a sort of analogy history as it wasn't?
The Hitler Building? -- The crew of MST3K had great fun with the destruction of a building with a large painting of Hitler on its side. Indeed, it is still a bizarre non sequitur in INM. Actually, the destroyed buildings footage are recycled from a prior Toei film, World War III Breaks Out ('60). Toho's The Last War ('61) was a similar doom story.
Bottom line? INM is not great cinema, but matinee fodder aimed at young japanese boys. They didn't expect deep plots with subtle nuances. Yet, it is not really as bad as its many critics say. Get over the clumsy dubbing and you have a mild story with a hero thwarting some invading aliens.