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Invasion of the Neptune Men

Entry updated 8 May 2023. Tagged: Film.

Japanese film (1961). Original title Uchū Kaisokusen; vt Invasion from a Planet; vt Space Chief; vt Space Greyhound. Toei Company. Directed by Koji Ota. Written by Shin Morita. Cast includes Sonny Chiba and Kappei Matsumoto. 75 minutes. Black and white.

The six boys (see Children in SF) in a school science club admire their lecturer, the young Scientist Mr Tachibana (Chiba) of the Japan Earth Science Research Center, but admit he is a bit of a wimp: if he had but the strength and fighting skill to accompany his intelligence, plus a cool outfit and sports car, he would make a fine hero: they even come up with a name – Iron Sharp. We then cut to such a Superhero, hear a song praising him and see his sports car can also fly. The kids now go to watch a satellite pass overhead, but observe a Rocket ship landing instead. As they approach four Aliens attempt to capture them, but Iron Sharp (Chiba) appears in his flying car, forcing them to retreat back into their Spaceship, which lifts off. Elsewhere a metallic noise is heard and electronic machinery starts going backwards; later, nuclear plants (see Nuclear Energy) in Japan and the USA explode – the Soviet Union is blamed and war seems possible. However, the children had found a piece of metal at the landing site and taken it to Tachibana; on examination this contains "logium and pagium" (see Imaginary Science) – Elements not found on Earth, causing a fellow scientist to exclaim "the spaceship came from Neptune!" (see Outer Planets). Dr Tanigawa (Matsumoto), head of the Research Center, announces their discovery, urging nations to unite against the invader (see Invasion) – and reveals he has invented an electro magnetic barrier that will shield the planet (see Force Field; Invention). It proves successful – another Neptunian vessel's missiles cannot penetrate it.

Nevertheless, the original Neptunian spaceship is still underneath the barrier: dressed as soldiers (though their faces are not quite right), some of the aliens penetrate the Research Center where the force field generator was built. They are armed with guns that disintegrate their victims, leaving only outlines against the walls. Iron Sharp stops the soldiers from shooting the children, though they do succeed in causing an explosion – but we learn the generator had already been relocated. An attempt to freeze the Earth also fails, so the Neptunians release numerous small flying saucers (see UFOs) which destroy much of central Tokyo, though they are eventually shot down by Iron Sharp in his flying car. Some key equipment is damaged, but Tachibana manages to repair it, allowing Tanigawa's "Alpha electro magnetic rockets" to be fired, destroying the Neptunian spaceship. At the end the children, after promising to ensure that as scientists they will not let Japan lag behind America and the Soviet Union in the space race, sing the Iron Sharp song.

Iron Sharp appears to have been invoked by the Science Club's wishes: indeed, aside from harrying the flying saucers, he mainly just rescues the kids, seemingly unnoticed by anyone else except for the Neptunians (nonetheless Tachibana and Iron Sharp's appearances never overlap). Saving the Earth is mainly the result of Tachibana's and Tanigawa's efforts. Some of the special effects showing Tokyo's destruction seems to be from the World War III movie World War III Breaks Out (1960; original title Dai-sanji sekai taisen: Yonjû-ichi jikan no kyôfu); however, the American version of that film, called The Final War and released some years later (but now possibly lost), is reported to have footage added from Invasion of the Neptune Men, causing confusion over the extent and direction – which seemingly goes both ways – of the borrowing. The scene in Invasion of the Neptune Men (which might be in The Final War too) showing the destruction of a building displaying a giant cut-out of Adolf Hitler could suggest a third film's effects were also involved. In another scene an American newscaster's name is shown as "Richard Matheson"; whether this is in tribute to the author or a coincidence is unclear.

The American version of Uchū Kaisokusen, dubbed and edited with some new material by Walter Manley Enterprises, was sold directly to Television as Invasion of the Neptune Men (1964); changes include renaming Iron Sharp as Space Chief, replacing a reference to Yuri Gagarin with John Glenn and adding more scenes of rockets launching. This English dub, in terms of writing and performance, is bad. The original is a forgettable but adequate children's movie whose special effects are cheap but effectively executed, particularly the destruction of Tokyo; the 1964 version is one of the films justly mocked by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988-1999) television series. [SP]


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