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  War in Space, The Destination Venus
Year: 1977
Director: Jun Fukuda
Stars: Kensaku Morita, Yûko Asano, Ryô Ikebe, Masaya Oki, Hiroshi Miyauchi, Hideji Ôtaki, Katsutoshi Atarashi, Akihiko Hirata, Goro Mutsumi, Isao Hashimoto, Shôji Nakayama, David Perin, William Ross
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Miyoshi (Kensaku Morita) returns to Japan and the United Nations base there after a while away to be greeted with his old friends - and Jun (Yûko Asano) his old girlfriend who rejected him in favour of his best pal Morei (Hiroshi Mirauchi), which he does not admit was the reason he left, but probably was anyway. However, there are more pressing issues to he dealt with right now with an electrical storm messing up communication across the globe, and preventing contact with the Japanese space station in orbit overhead. But somehow they get through - and receive a dire warning.

Star Wars was of course the science fiction sensation of 1977, though not in Japan until 1978 so The War in Space was rushed into production by Japanese studio Toho as if to say, hey, we've been making these things for years and nobody made our efforts into worldwide blockbusting hits! Needless to say, this wasn't one either, and has gone on to exist in the shadow of the George Lucas classic in the views of many a sci-fi fan, but was it really that bad? The answer to that was no, it wasn't, not that it was especially accomplished but it did feature some amsuing effects and at least a fraction of the lunacy of some of the better Japanese fantasy epics.

That said, some much prefer the following year's Message from Space if we're talking the Star Wars imitations from the Far East, but The War in Space was a lot more straight forward, and as if taking the "War" part of its inspiration's title literally and rendering this variation more of a military yarn, with much time given over to the kind of morale boosting that many a flagwaver of whatever nation would have indulged in from World War II onwards. The love triangle is pure soap opera, and dismissed late on with a plot twist which purely serves to get rid of one side of it in favour of retaining the status quo for our hero, as if a good old space battle was just what the doctor ordered.

Not that the name of this was entirely accurate, as proceedings begin on Planet Earth and may move out into the solar system, but actually spend most of the time on a different world, Venus to be exact, where the invading aliens have set up their base of operations. The scenes on Earth concern themselves with a sort of spy story as the disguised aliens hide their green skin under rubber masks and try to secure the top secrets of our society all the better to overpower us. Not that they need much help in that department, as we see when shots of assorted landmarks are blown up by the fleet of flying saucers bothering our world, including Tower Bridge and the Arc de Triomphe.

Oddly, these are thrown away in a brief montage rather than presented as the visual highlight, as if director Jun Fukuda was overeager to get out of the atmosphere and set about battling those spaceships. But we needed someone to build one of our own, and lo and behold in spite of the aliens' best efforts we manage to set a Swiss Army knife of a spacecraft named the Gohten which is more than capable of breaking through the defences - and offences - of our extraterrestrial foes. Before long we are on Venus, although our side have suffered a mishap in that Jun has been kidnapped by the baddies and forced to wear a skimpy leather outfit while chained to a huge, behorned Yeti. All the more imperative that our last hope should get to the heart of our enemies and vanquish them, action which takes the form of the now-traditional hark back to another part of World War II, the atomic bombs which ended it. If there's a problem here, it's that little about it seems fresh, but it amuses well enough within its stunted parameters. Music by Toshiaki Tsushima.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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