Earth Defense Force (1957)
For this review, I will branch out from the Godzilla series to another Japanese sci-fi movie from the same era. Released in Japan in 1957 under the cool title of Earth Defense Force, this movie was the first of dozens of Toho films that dealt with alien invasion. The cast and crew were familiar, most having worked on the recent and immensely popular Godzilla and Rodan series of movies.
Two years later, the American version was released, now renamed the more marketable The Mysterians. The American version, brought to the screen over here by RKO and MGM, differs a bit from the original. When I purchased my VHS copy of the movie via the internet, I believed that this is what I was getting. That would have been ok, as Americanized versions are almost exclusively what I've been reviewing.
So then I watched it. And watched it again. And then I went to the internet to find out what changes the Americans made when they tweaked it to become 1959's The Mysterians. After researching it, I came to the happy conclusion that what I have is not 1959's The Mysterians, but the incredibly rare original 1957 Earth Defense Force! Bonus! There's really no way that I can call this film The Mysterians, so I'll go with Earth Defense Force. It has English subtitles (thank God) but everything else is unaltered. It runs a slim 88 minutes.
The actual film quality of my tape is somewhere between atrocious and horrible. It came from a Japanese market in San Francisco that apparently deals in bootleg tapes and DVDs. Clearly, it's been copied and re-copied a billion times, the lighting is murky and the definition is fuzzy at best. However, it's good enough to make a very enjoyable viewing experience for me. It's in widescreen format, which is excellent as I detest pan-and-scans, and has English subtitles, which is also excellent because I can't understand Japanese.
As I understand it, this was one of the first Japanese movies shot in the widescreen format, which was all newfangled back in the 1950s. Toho dubbed their version "TohoScope", and made this movie specifically to show off the widescreen format.
As a postscript, I've now watched this movie four times for this review and have come to the conclusion that this is one cool movie. Yes, I know, the FX are laughable, but for 1957 it's a colorful, fast and exciting action movie. I love the battle scenes, and the cool new hardware the most, but the characters seem real and fleshed out. Overlooked as not being a traditional monster movie, this one is a gem.
And now on to our show...
First off, I stole screen caps from a beautiful 2005 DVD of The Mysterians, as anything I could get off that lousy VHS tape was worthless. Cheating, I know, but it's my review.
All right, this was weird. Before the credits, a single frame from the movie (showing the robot stomping about) was displayed on the screen. The word "Overture" was shown and we got about two minutes of Akira Ifukube's march played in the background. Then we get to the credits. I've never seen this before in any movie, even from that era. Perhaps all un-edited Japanese movies had something similar?
The opening credits are all in Japanese script, and they're not subtitled, so I can't really say much. In the background we see a futuristic Space Station spinning out in space. This will prove to be the Mysterian station from which the coming invasion will be launched. I believe it's behind the moon. We also see two UFOs zipping by. I will detail these later when they show up better.
We open with a celebration in a small town near Mount Fuji. This is your typical Japanese rural mountain town, with hearty folk and simple ways. We join them for a few minutes of singing and dancing a group number. This is a well-choreographed bit, with a lot of elaborate dance moves. Toho in the early years showed a penchant for this sort of thing, such as similar dance numbers in the original 1954 Godzilla, and all the movies featuring Mothra on Mothra Island. Oh, yeah, and that crappy dance marathon thing in Godzilla versus the Sea Monster.
There are four people here at this celebration, two men and two women, who will play important roles in our movie. The first man is a brooding, moody, conflicted scientist named Riyoichi Shiraishi. Shiraishi is played by 30-year old Akihiko Hirata, one of Toho's classic leading men. Even by 1957, Hirata had already made a living off of giant monster movies, staring in the original 1954 Godzilla as the tortured Doctor Serizawa and in 1956's Rodan as Professor Kashiwagi. In later years he would star as the crazy Doctor Mifune in 1975's Terror of MechaGodzilla and was tapped by play a large role in Godzilla 1985, but died before filming.
Shiraishi's profession is uncertain, but he's almost certainly an astrophysicist or something similar. He's working on a project for a professor in that field, and is "turning in homework" to him. His youthful appearance, paired with the later known fact that his former fiancee is an assistant for his professor, perhaps meaning that they met while at school together, lead me to postulate that Shiraishi is a Graduate student in Astrophysics.
The other man is a dashing, young, heart throb scientist named Joji Atsumi. Joji is played by 25-year old Kenji Sahara. Sahara had just starred in 1956's Rodan, Toho's great monster movie. Joji is employed at an unnamed University, though his exact field is unknown. He seems to be a jack-of-all-trades scientist, fairly common in these types of movies. He's apparently "involved romantically" with Shiraishi's sister Etsuko, though we see only glimpses of this. Joji is a take-charge kind of guy, very forceful and opinionated. He's the perfect counter balance to all the sit-back-and-watch kind of men around him. When something gritty and hands-on needs to be done, it's Joji who jumps in.
The first woman is Etsuko Shiraishi, played by 21-year old Yumi Shirakawa, a good-looking and talented actress. She had just played the lead heroine Kiyo opposite Kenji Sahara in 1956's Rodan, and would go on to have a long career in entertainment. She has little actual role in this movie, other than "damsel in distress" and "minor romantic interest". She's the aforementioned sister of the troubled scientist Riyoichi Shiraishi. To keep everyone easy to remember, I'll refer to Etsuko as "The Sister" from now on.
The last of the four is Hiroko (last name never mentioned), played by 25-year old Momoko Kochi. Kochi will forever be known as Emiko Yamane, the young heroine of the original 1954 Godzilla, where she was outstanding. Strangely, she did only small roles in movies until 1961, when she stopped acting altogether to focus on stage and theatre. It was over thirty years before she appeared onscreen again, reprising her Emiko role for 1995's Godzilla versus Destoroyah. She also has only a peripheral role in this movie, serving as another "damsel in distress" only, which is a waste of her talents. Her connection is that she was once the troubled scientist Shiraishi's fiancee and a good friend of The Sister and Joji. To keep everyone straight, I'll refer to Hiroko as "The Babe" for the rest of the review.
Shiraishi lives in this small town now, having recently moved here from Tokyo for "health reasons". We will eventually learn that this reason is bogus, however. Joji and the girls all live in Tokyo still and are up here visiting Shiraishi.
OK, it's now night and the town is fully into the celebration. We join Joji and the two girls as they approach Shiraishi, who's brooding off to himself. We wonder why he even came to the party if he's just going to be a killjoy. Relations between Shiraishi and The Babe are strained, and apparently he broke off the engagement suddenly and without much reason. It seems that Shiraishi has been acting real strange lately.
Joji tries to pin him down on a reason, but he walks away. The two men go off together into the darkness at the edge of the festival to talk. It seems that Shiraishi cannot leave this village as he has work to do here. Before we can learn what that is, they see a forest fire on top of a nearby ridge. They marvel at the obvious fact that the fire is burning from the ground up, seemingly through the roots.
Down below, there is chaos as the town reacts to the fire. An alarm bell is rung and everyone snaps to action. Three local men jump on their bikes and race for the fire, determined to put it out themselves. Shiraishi tries to stop the three young villagers, but they're insistent and push through him. Up on the ridge, they realize that they have blundered into a fire bigger than they realized. Soon, they're trapped and presumably killed by the fire.
We now cut to Tokyo, to an astronomical observatory. This is where The Babe works, and where Shiraishi was doing his studies before he left for the country, and presumably this is where they first met and fell in love. The Babe is a secretary for Doctor Kenjiro Adachi, who runs this facility.
Adachi is played by 52-year old Takashi Shimura, one of the greatest actors of any nation of any era. Shimura is best known to us as the noble Doctor Yamane from the original 1954 Godzilla and as a dying politician in Kurosawa's outstanding Ikiru from 1952.
Doctor Adachi's actual profession is murky. He's called Professor, and he's apparently taking homework from people, so I assume he's in academia. His field is certainly astrophysics or something similar, as he's seen in the observatory numerous times and is clearly teaching the subject to at least Shiraishi. Following (and beginning in many ways) a long tradition in Japanese monster movies of a Professor being the main voice of the nation during a crisis, Adachi will eventually be seen making policy for the entire nation. People will look to him for wisdom and advice on a variety of subjects and his words will be taken seriously. To keep him straight with all the other Japanese names, I'll call him "The Professor" for the rest of the review.
Ok, we see Joji coming to talk with The Professor about Shiraishi. They discuss his "madness", and The Professor reads over Shiraishi's latest report, which he gave to Joji to give to The Professor. Joji seems ignorant of the contents, which allow The Professor to explain it to him (and us) in a quick chunk of exposition.
It seems that Shiraishi is championing a radical theory about a group of stars that once existed between Mars and Saturn. Hmmm...is this bad subtitling, or do they mean to suggest that Jupiter was once a star? Certainly he's meaning the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. This is bad science either way. His theory also holds that in "ancient times" there was a planet here as well, called "Mysteroid". Shiraishi is the Japanese Emanuel Velikovsky!
When asked if he believes this as well, The Professor says that he "isn't brave enough to believe in such a radical theory". The Professor is also concerned because Shiraishi's report is "half-completed", and no self-respecting scientist would turn in half-completed work. Remember this...
BTW, the idea that the older generations of scientist are unwilling to recognize any theory that upsets their canon view of the world is fairly common in real life. I've had professors in college tell me that they have built careers on outdated theories that are established and entrenched so deeply that no one cares anymore if they're correct or not. Any "young punk" who comes up with a proposal that reverses the canon, even if it's probably correct, is ridiculed and suppressed. This is very true in Egyptology, where the mainstream study is still mired in the 1800s, despite a wave of revolutionary research that's questioning the old views. I digress.
While they chat, Joji gets a phone call. It's from the University where he works. Apparently, there has been a landslide in the area of Mount Fuji where Shiraishi is living. The Babe visibly perks up with concern; clearly she still has feelings for Shiraishi, despite his madness.
Ok, so now we join Joji and some other scientist dude in a car as they travel up to where the landslide was. They're squeezed into the back seat with a Police Chief. Not a lot of room in that back seat, sure hope they have air conditioning or that's a lot of sweaty man-flesh pressing against each other. The policemen in this movie have hats like 1950s cops, but they all have a chinstrap that just looks incredibly funny.
In the back seat.
They approach the disaster area, which has been cordoned off by the military. Soldiers with M-1 Garands mill around keeping gawkers away. The scientists and a gaggle of reporters arrive in a convoy of a white jeep and a truck. We get a great shot of the truck, a Dodge 3/4 ton pick-up, truly a classic.
They get out and go "wow". The entire area has been jumbled by some unknown force and there are no survivors from the village. The Army detected a lot of radiation in the area the day before (the day of the landslide), but today there is none. This is very strange to them.
Joji, the Police Chief, and two policemen jump in the jeep and head off to look at the area of the mysterious forest fire from before. The area is also cordoned off, but they meet two more policemen and some locals who are near a creek. It seems that the creek is full of dead fish, which have come from upstream. Hmmm...curious. Joji, the Police Chief and the first two policemen get back in their jeep and leave.
They head up a steep, curvy mountain road. Ok, back up. The jeep they're in is a nice Willys with a license plate that reads "0065". Keep this in mind. OK, they're headed up the road when they feel some heat coming from the road. Stopping, they get out and see that the road is steaming with heat. Joji breaks out his Geiger counter and finds that the ground is radioactive. Hmmm...strange.
Suddenly, up ahead they see the side of a forested mountain shifting and sliding. A huge hunk of earth collapses, and out steps a massive robot monster!!!! Cool!!!!
The robot is a Godzilla-looking beast with a silver Michelin-man body and a tail. The head is the best part, having two glowing eyes and an anteater-like protrusion (perhaps the drilling mechanism?). The eyes project twin laser bolts, the robot's only weapons other than brute force stomping. The goofiest part is a pair of rotating rabbit ears on the top of the head, just like on your grandpa's old TV. The robot makes the requisite beeping and whirring noises. The literature gives it a height of 50 meters and a weight of 50,000 tons.
The robot is never named in the movie, but is known in Toho literature as "Mogera". This is the only movie it has appeared in. In 1994, in an homage to this robot, the Mecha in Godzilla versus Space Godzilla was named Mogera. Only the name was similar as the 1994 robot was not meant to be a copy of the 1957 robot. The name Mogera is a throwback from an early concept of the robot that had it being a four-footed creature that looked like a mole. "Mogera" is Japanese for "mole". It's common knowledge that Mogera was not in the original script, but was added at the insistence of producer Tomoyuki Tanaka who felt the movie needed a giant monster.
Ah, so clearly, all the signs from before were manifestations of the robot burrowing underground. The landslide, the radiation, the dead fish, the fire burning from the roots up, all make sense now. We will later learn that this robot came from a secret Mysterian base underground in the same general region.
Now, giant robots are not a common sight here (yet), so the four men react with much fear and shock. Mogera comes down the road towards them, clanking with menace. Instead of jumping in the jeep and fleeing, like they should do, the four of them run down the road. Of course, someone has to fall down and our hero has to go back to get them, showing just how heroic our hero is. The Police Chief falls in a ditch (!!!) along the road and twists his ankle. Joji goes back for him. Watch as the Chief looks back at the advancing robot and screams like a little girl! Priceless!
One of the other cops runs like a banshee, but the other shows some moxie and draws his service revolver. He fires four rounds at the beast and then hides behind the jeep. Bad move. Mogera zaps the jeep with his laser eyes, causing it to burst into flames, presumably killing the poor cop. Mogera's eye beams can't be that powerful, as they just flamed the jeep, not destroyed it. We then get a cute shot as the actor in the Mogera suit kicks a little toy jeep off the road. Joji and the other two beat a hasty escape.
They make it back to safety, grab a bunch of other officials, jump in the Dodge truck and zoom off to what I assume is some sort of government building in some city west of Tokyo. I know it's not Tokyo, but I don't know where it is. The Police Chief gives his report, and everyone is abuzz. They marvel at the fact that pistols had no effect. Hmmm...pistols against a 50,000 ton robot? What did you expect?
The phone rings (it always rings just at the right time in these kind of movies), and we learn that Mogera is now approaching a power plant nearby. Again, I don't know where. They give us a helpful map, but it's so vague that I can't place it.
And we now get our first monster-stomping-a-town set piece. No one does this like Toho Studios and this is a goody. It's nearing night when the attack takes place, the gathering darkness adding to the eerie sight of the robot approaching.
Mogera on the attack.
Joji was also told that The Sister is here in this town, having come to see him and now staying at a local hotel. This fact leads to one of the most startling scenes I have ever seen in a Japanese monster movie. We see The Sister in the bath tub, relaxing with the windows open. She is clearly topless, though we don't see anything over PG-13 rated. The mere fact that we have a tantalizingly naked young girl in a monster movie from 1957 is amazing.
Anyway, as she bathes, over the treeline looms the head of Mogera! The Sister screams and begins to freak out. Mogera is a peeping tom! Joji is now outside the bathroom door. He yells at her to hurry up and get out, but doesn't go in. Quickly, The Sister comes out, showing a very nice pair of slim legs, and they both leave.
Back to the game, where Mogera is now trashing the town. In an effective bit, he knocks down a power tower, which sparks and snaps on its way down. The lights in the foreground also dim out, which is cool. In so many Godzilla movies, most of the lights stay on despite all the damage to the power grid that the monsters do.
The population panics, the military orders a general evacuation. We see throngs of civilians fleeing the robot. In a Toho trademark, we see a pair of red firetrucks race by, sirens blaring. We see some policemen shooting their pistols and Mogera lasering the road in front of them. Again, we note how seemingly weak the robot's beams are. They seem to cause very little actual damage other than creating a puff of fire.
Mogera's laser beam eyes!
Back at the civic building (gonna call it the HQ for a lack of a better term), they're trying to call in the Army, but it seems there is much confusion. Both the First and Third Battalions are in the area, but neither is in position yet. The man on the phone is sounding increasingly frantic as he tries to get some units into the battle.
Ok, Mogera is now fully involved in the town, fires burning brightly and people streaming away in terror. We even see the robot use his eye beams a few times to set buildings on fire. The edits are weak, with frequent changes from day to night in the cuts, but we will excuse that. I know how difficult it is to create an effective shot in nighttime conditions, especially one of people doing anything. They use the night effect during the monster rampage to mask the fake buildings and dorky robot suit, I'm sure, and it works fine.
The aforementioned firetrucks are now going into action. In an act of extreme bravery, the firemen begin spaying water on some burning buildings as Mogera is nearby. One of the hoses sprays directly on the robot, which gets his attention. One of the two hose crews bolts early, but the other tarries too long and Mogera blasts the firetruck with his eye beams, causing it to burst into fire.
We see that Joji and The Sister are fleeing with the rest of the populace. As they go they discuss what is happening. Joji is sure that Shiraishi's studies have something to do with this. This is quite a leap, as so far nothing has pointed to a Mysteroid origin for the robot. There's nothing to suggest at this point that the two are even related.
After some initial confusion and delay, the first elements of the Japanese Self-Defense Force are now in action. This is nice, as in most monster movies, the Army is fully-deployed within minutes of the monster first appearing, here there is some lag time. We see three to five jeeps and maybe two or three large troop trucks drive into the area. One of the jeeps has a .50 cal HMG on top and another has a 106mm recoilless rifle mounted.
They offload about a platoon of troops, who rush into the area and begin setting up. In another neat bit, they fight against the flow of civilians going the other way, setting up their weapons while the people rush past them.
The soldiers are armed with standard 1950s weapons, which is to say they are armed almost exactly like an American Infantry platoon from the 1950s. They have US style uniforms, web gear and helmets, and carry M-1 Garand rifles. The platoon has a large number of crew-served support weapons, however, probably more than in a normal situation. I'm sure they brought all the heavy stuff for the monster rampage. We see a BAR, at least three M1919 .30 cal light machineguns, a 60mm mortar, at least two 106mm recoilless rifles, and at least two M2 series flamethrowers (!!!).
Flamethrower in action.
BTW, the level of involvement in the film by the Japanese Army in these movies always amazes me. The Army provides a lot of men and material, as well as putting on full fire drills for the film studios. I don't honestly know if most American films of the same era could count on that much active participation by the US Army.
Anyway, the Army starts to unload on the advancing robot with everything they have. Tracers flash through the air, puffs of explosions blossom around the beast. The flamethrowers send streams of burning fuel in his direction, which is a unique thing for a monster movie. It all looks pretty good, for the era, but the robot keeps advancing. Hey, now we see that there are at least three wheeled trucks each with a multiple missile tube rack on the back. The rockets zip out from the toy trucks like the bottlerockets they are. We see Mogera zap one with his eye beams, bursting it into fire. The flaming truck then rolls backwards over an embankment. Cool!
We see that there's a large railway bridge across a ravine, and the Army is using this as their last line of defense. We see sappers wiring the bridge for demolition, even as throngs of civilians still run across it to safety. I sure hope their plan works, because if it doesn't then they will be trapping uncounted numbers of civilians on the other side of the ravine with the rampaging robot.
Joji and The Sister make it across the bridge. They just happen to look up and see three glowing lights racing across the sky in formation, heading towards Mount Fuji. They have little time to postulate about what they were.
Just as the robot is stepping onto the bridge, the sappers blow the charges. The robot is carried down into the ravine with the bridge ruins and is destroyed. Yes!!! Score a rare victory for the humans in a giant monster attack!!! We do have to wonder how the bridge would have supported the huge weight of the robot, explosive charges or not.
With the robot menace handled, we now go to a meeting of the Japanese Diet in Tokyo. Joji is here addressing the congress on the robot. Hmm...so this young scientist is the spokesman for the entire scientific community? This is pushing credibility. Joji tells them that "the explosion blew a piece off the monster", which he holds up, and that analysis proves it is a new chemical substance. This substance is unknown to human science, so it must be extraterrestrial. He further states that the monster was not a living thing, but a robot controlled by "electric waves".
That's all they know for now. Seeing Mogera in action, I wonder how anyone could have thought it was anything but a robot. I wonder about the "the explosion blew a piece off the monster" line, as it suggests that the robot escaped. When last we saw it, it was crumpled at the bottom of the ravine, but perhaps it managed to revive and escape. That might explain why all they have to go on is a few scraps of metal and some theories. Later in the movie we will see what I thought was another Mogera robot in action, but perhaps this is the same one?
We cut now to the observatory where The Professor is watching the Moon through the big telescope. He sees four UFOs emerging from behind the Moon and heading for Earth. He takes a photo of it for proof. Joji arrives at that fortunate time, and checks out the photo. The Professor states that Shiraishi outlined all this in his half-finished report. In that, he said that the Mysterians have an "artificial satellite" behind the Moon that they go to first, before they come to the Earth.
Hmmm...just how did Shiraishi know this? What did he study? Where did he get his information? Even Velikovsky used ancient texts and art to base is theories on, did Shiraishi have some sort of archaic Japanese documents to work from? Without an explanation, and once we see how quickly he turns traitor later in the movie, we can make a case that Shiraishi has insider information, perhaps provided by the Mysterians themselves.
Joji then tells him that he saw three UFOs the other night. The Professor is angry that he didn't tell him sooner, but Joji says that a scientist must have proof before he speaks. The Professor sighs and says that this matter is bigger than anything and that "a scientist can't be concerned with honor or shame" when the entire human race is a stake. The Professor then states that he will release all of Shiraishi's reports to the world so that everyone can understand what is happening.
We next get the standard parade of newspaper frontpages, announcing the discoveries. They are all in Japanese but they have the photo of the UFOs near the moon and a picture of The Professor on them.
Ok, now we go out to some lake out in a valley. I'm not sure exactly where it is, but it's clearly somewhere between Mount Fuji and Tokyo. The Professor, Joji and a gaggle of other scientists, reporters and military men are here.
We see that they arrive in a white jeep and a white Dodge truck. Yes, the same white jeep and truck that we have seen all movie. The jeep even has the same license plate, even though it was totally destroyed by the first attack of Mogera. Apparently, Toho was trying to keep down on costs by only having a few vehicles rented.
Shiraishi's report pegged this lake as the site where the UFOs take-off and land. He's supported by the fact that no fish are ever caught here and sometimes waterspouts can be seen coming out of the lake.
As they chat, they suddenly see off near the lakeshore a disturbance in the earth. Dirt is being churned and tossed in the air, and something is coming to the surface. It's a large glowing dome!!! You've guessed it, so I will tell you that this is the Mysterian base, a massive underground facility with only this retractable dome exposed on the surface. [Editor Pam: I'm speculating on just how much energy it took to raise this dome, and I'm wondering why they couldn't just build a tunnel to it instead. Didn't the Mysterians have any way to get in and out when it was underground? Or did they just raise it and lower it whenever anybody wanted to go anyplace, and if so, why didn't anybody notice this large structure appearing and disappearing? We see that the ground around the dome is significantly disturbed every time it's raised or lowered.]
The Army has an element of the First Battalion here, the heroes of the fight with Mogera. The scientists and reporters huddle with the soldiers and watch in amazement as the dome hums and glows out on the open plain.
While they are watching, an amplified voice booms out from the dome. The voice tells them that they don't want all this fighting to get worse and they want to talk. They list off five names of men they will negotiate with. These just happen to be the five scientists that are standing here at the moment! Hmmm...strange. Even the scientists wonder how they knew their names. Other than The Professor and Joji, the other three men are Masao Noda, Tsutomu Koda and Nobu Kawanami. They will just be faces for the rest of the movie, so don't bother remembering their names.
The Army is leery, but the men insist and head off. The visual makes it seem like they have to walk a mile to get to the dome. That's a lot of walking across broken ground and scrub for these old men. Scale is hard to do when using primitive blue screening, I guess. I should note that The Professor is wearing a bright white suit with a black bow-tie, a very 1950s look.
Egress to the dome is through a rounded door masked with pink fog (no joke!). A voice tells them to take a cloak, as it is chilly inside. They grab these spiffy high-collared Vincent Price cloaks just inside the door and gear up. So they enter the base, passing through a series of large, smooth rounded tunnels. They eventually end up in a conference room filled with sci-fi flashing lights and futuristic furniture.
There they meet the Mysterians. They look like Power Rangers. Really. They seem to be wearing motorcycle helmets with dark visors and satin racing outfits, very, very similar to the Power Rangers. They do have flowing capes, which are cool. There's some sort of color-coded method to the outfits. "Command Mysterians" wear red, "Middle Management Mysterians" wear yellow, "Security Mysterians" wear powder blue, and so on. Other than that, they are Oriental-looking men.
Not the Mysterians.
They meet the Mysterian Leader here, and he will do all the talking for their side. The leader of the Mysterians is played by 30-year old Yoshio Tsuchiya, a well-known Japanese actor. He was the passionate Rikichi in the great 1954 epic The Seven Samurai, and used this success to get his first sci-fi role, as the leader of the Mysterians. Ishiro Honda offered him the lead role, but he turned it down to play the Mysterian leader. Honda also wanted him to play the role with his helmet off, so that audiences could get to know him, but Tsuchiya insisted on having the helmet on. He would play a similar role in 1965's Godzilla versus Monster Zero, as the Controller of Planet X, also with a goofy head piece. He's still acting to this day, mostly in stage plays.
Ok, back inside the dome, where we get the Big Revelation Scene. This is where the aliens lay out their background and plans in a few minutes of tidy exposition. They say they're indeed from Mysteroid, the "fifth planet of the solar system", and they're here to find a new life. A hundred thousand years ago, their planet nuked itself in an atomic war, decimating the population and tossing a wrench into their gene pool. A few survivors made it to Mars where they have been living since. The problem is that their population is dwindling. The legacy of the nuclear war has meant that a whopping 80% of the babies born are mutated.
They sent Mogera to show the earth how much more advanced their technology was, and how futile it would be to oppose them. Hmmm...seems their robot didn't do a whole lot in the end, and even ended up possibly destroyed in a ditch, right?
The Leader tries to work the scientist versus general angle, telling them that science knows no racial boundaries and they have to work together to keep the generals from waging war on them. He makes it clear that if the humans use nukes, then they will nuke them back, which will destroy the Earth.
They do not wish war, but are willing to put up a fight if not given what they want. And what they want is pretty simple--just the three square kilometers of land surrounding this dome. Just a little homestead to start a new life. Oh, yeah, and they're going to need some human girls to mate with. Hot ones. In fact, they have already picked five young lovelies that they're going to want delivered ASAP. The Leader hands them a photo, clearly taken at the celebration at the village way back at the beginning of the movie. Two of the five girls are familiar to us--The Babe and The Sister. Why these five? Certainly they can find hotter girls.
Clearly, this is unacceptable to The Professor and the others, especially to Joji as he isn't going to like giving up his girlfriend. He gets a bit lippy and the Mysterian Guards have to draw their sidearms on him. The Leader ends the meeting here, ushering them out to go and convince the Earth leaders to agree to their demands.
So we have another conference of scientists and generals. So that's pretty much it then. The Army has no choice but to attack the Mysterian dome, and even the scientists have to agree. The aliens came here with their big robot, smashed a bunch of stuff and didn't leave their insurance card. Nothing else will avenge the deaths and loss, even if the task is heavy.
While all this is being planned, we join The Babe and The Sister as they sit and watch it all on TV in their house. We aren't sure whose house it is, but that's unimportant. Joji comes to visit them, bringing the bad news about them being earmarked by the Mysterians for some cross-species lovin'. Needless to say, neither of the girls is thrilled about the prospect. Joji assures them that the police have posted extra guards around their house and they will be safe. None of us believes that.
As they chat, they suddenly hear Shiraishi's voice!!! It's coming from the television, which blurs out to show Shiraishi sitting at a fancy desk, wearing a Mysterian outfit!!! It seems he's not dead, and in fact is working for the Mysterians now. He went over to their side after studying the advanced science and technology of the aliens and determining that humans couldn't compete. They are so advanced that they can hijack TV signals for their own purposes, as proved by him being on their screen. He seems cocky and self-assure, and tells Joji to use his influence as a scientist to get the Army to stop their planned attack. He says, "Don't get involved in a war you can't win.", which is sage advice for Japanese audiences a decade following the defeat in WWII. Hmmm...why didn't he just appear to the world's leaders instead? If he wanted to stop the attack, why just show himself to Joji? It's as if he doesn't really want to stop the attack, but just to perhaps soothe his conscience.
Shiraishi on the telly.
Ah, that's how the Mysterians knew the five scientists' names when the dome first emerged. Shiraishi must have seen who was there and given their names. See what you learn when you pay attention? And now we can say with certainty that the Mysterians were in contact with him before they landed, and saved him when the landslide destroyed the village. We wonder just how much of the Mysterian plan was concocted or at least suggested by Shiraishi. And he sure doesn't seem all that concerned that his own sister is pegged to be an alien sex slave. Perhaps he doesn't know about this yet? Later events might prove that he doesn't know this.
As Shiraishi's image fades back out, the original program fades back in. In many ways, it's more interesting than the Shiraishi hijack. It's a commentary about how we humans must accept that space is not an empty void, and we must put aside our petty national differences if we are to survive. The audio of this is played over a wide shot of the two girls crying at their fate. The Babe simply puts her face in her hands, a very powerful image. This is one of the most emotionally effective scenes in the entire movie.
So Joji makes an effort to get The Professor to halt the attack, halfhearted at best, as he knows that nothing can stop it now. The Professor is surprised to learn that Shiraishi has gone quisling, but doesn't seem angry. He can understand Shiraishi's motives, even if they're misguided.
And so the battle begins. You can just feel that this is not going to end well, that it's going to be a slaughter. It's the same feeling you get when you watch Faramir's suicide charge in The Return of the King, only with better music. A few general notes about the coming battle, and the other battles in the movie as well. The bluescreening is horrible, truly terrible in some scenes. The model tanks are as fake as they come, and the energy beams are clearly scratched on the negatives with an unsteady hand. The attack is specifically said to take place at 10:00pm, but there are frequent daylight shots mixed in with the twilight shots. As with most Japanese movies of this type, the editing is swift in the battle, with numerous cuts and reused footage. I will try and keep a running total of the figures, but keep in mind the difficulties.
All the build-up to the coming battle took place in earlier scenes, which I didn't detail at the time. I wanted to have a full listing of the Japanese forces involved right before the action kicks off. The First Battalion has moved up a considerable amount of assets, and we hear that elements of the Engineering Corps are also in the area. We see all these in a mix of stock footage and model work. I'll note each unit separately.
Armor: We see eight tanks, four M4A3E8 Shermans and four M24 Chaffees. These will be the only tanks we see for the rest of the coming battle, certainly all the Japanese Army would allow for the filming. They'll be represented by stock shots and cheap plastic models. The four Shermans have large numbers on the turrets, helping us keep track of them. They are 235, 228, 226, and 225.
M4A3E8 Sherman tanks.
M24 Chaffee tanks.
Artillery: There are also four six-wheel trucks each hauling a 75mm howitzer, and two tracked prime-movers each hauling a big M2 155mm howitzer. As well, there are at least two wheeled radar sets, presumably to guide the bigger 155mm projectiles, as they're set up next to those cannons. We also see four Honest John surface-to-surface missile launcher trucks. As these are essentially single-shot platforms, we can assume that every scene of one being fired represents a separate platform.
Air Force: The Japanese Air Force gives it a go, as well. We will see a flight of four F-86F Sabres and a flight of four F-104J Starfighters. The Sabres are a mix of models, stock and reuses from 1954's Godzilla. They appear to have clean wings with no ordinance in most shots, but in some are firing these dinky little rockets. The rocket scenes are stolen from the 1954 movie. The Starfighters all seem to have clean wings, as well, but clearly have the wingtip fuel tanks attached.
The action starts with a Sikorsky S-51 observation helicopter ("Recon Plane 2000") hovering over the battlefield. From this scene we get the exact location of the Mysterian dome, longitude east 137 degrees, 47 minutes and latitude north 35 degrees, 35 minutes. Feel free to map that out.
The coming battle will be lengthy and bloody, with much gunplay and zapping lasers. The Mysterians fight back with a "Gamma Ray" projector on the top of the dome, which looks like scratching on a negative and acts like a blowtorch placed just off-screen melting plastic models. They also use three UFOs to combat the air attacks.
Should probably detail the UFOs now. They are pretty cool for 1957, shaped like a conventional flying saucer, but with some fins and stubby wings that are uncommon to these types of movies. They zip around the sky at blinding speeds. Later, we will have a scene where we can estimate their size. They are relatively small, perhaps only five meters wide and crewed by just a couple of Mysterians. Each UFO fires an energy beam of some sort that looks like a stream of glowing Cheerios.
Each unit takes a turn at the dome, and each fails. The final totals are below.
Armor: First off, in the battle we only see a Chaffee for a brief one-second shot, so all the action involves the four Shermans. The Shermans fire a total of 21 rounds of 76mm. Two tanks (228 and 226) get melted by the Gamma Ray, and 225 gets swallowed by the ground (see below). Tank 235 presumably escapes, as do the four Chaffees.
Artillery: The artillery fires 14 rounds of 155mm and one round of 75mm. They lose one M2 155mm howitzer and two radar sets to the Gamma Ray. All four of the Honest John rockets are fired, and I think they all miss, impacting on the ground near the dome. Perhaps the Mysterians can jam the missiles' tracking systems.
Air Force: The UFOs and the Gamma Ray take a severe toll on the Air Force. Of the four Sabres, two get flamed by UFOs and another is lost to the Gamma Ray. Of the four Starfighters, one each is lost to a UFO and to the Gamma Ray. There are no dogfights, and only two of the Sabres manage to make rocket runs on the dome, to no effect. [Editor Pam: I'll point out here that a gamma ray's energy is not in the visible spectrum and thus looks nothing like what the Mysterians are firing. Of course, I can't guarantee that what we humans call a gamma ray and what the Mysterians call a Gamma Ray are the same thing. I guess there's nothing to prevent them from calling a lead projectile a Gamma Ray, for that matter.]
A Saber falls to the Mysterian return fire.
The effect on the dome is nil, as it is either made of some impregnable substance or is protected by a force field. It is impossible to separate what type of ordinance hit the dome, as we just get shots of explosive puffs on the dome. I can say, however, that a total of 24 explosions are seen impacting on the dome, plus numerous near misses. The UFOs do not take any damage, which is not surprising.
The best part of the entire battle is the "charge of Tank 225". In the closing shots of the battle, the Sherman tank 225 rolls towards the dome. We join its crew via a terrible bluescreen as it charges, firing its main gun. As it approaches the dome, the ground in front of it suddenly begins to swirl and sink. The Mysterian dome is descending below the surface now, and the displacement of earth around it has caused a whirlpool effect. Tank 225 is sucked down into the ground, the tank commander bailing out at the last second. In almost every one of these movies, the Japanese Army is just nameless faces being stomped by the aliens and monsters. Here, for a refreshing change, we get to know one crew of soldiers, if even for a brief moment.
The charge of Tank 225.
So the battle is over now, the entire thing taking a little under five and a half minutes of screen time. The First Battalion is routed, their asses handed to them by a superior enemy. No shame in that.
We cut now to another meeting, where the scientists have somehow analyzed the Gamma Ray and have come to some conclusions about it. They deduce that it is a "strong gamma ray of 10,000 renkens per hour." [Editor Pam: Unless the scientists have developed an entirely different system of radiation measurement from the one commonly used, "roentgens" is the right way to spell it, but as I recall, the subtitle did say "renkens," so maybe they did. And that's a whopping amount of radiation, yet nobody in the area is showing signs of radiation effects.] Hmm...ok. "Its source energy is 10 to the 27th power on the earth scale." Hmmm...what the hell? What is the earth scale? "Overall it has the same destructive power as the great Kanto earthquake." Hhhh...seriously, what the hell? How can you equate a stream of particles to a geologic plate movement? It is like comparing the amount of coke snorted by Courtney Love to the number of pages in the dictionary. It is just an incredibly inaccurate comparison. BTW, the "great Kanto earthquake" was in 1923 and it leveled most of Tokyo. It was about an 8.3 on the Richter scale, which is pretty damn big. We just saw the Gamma Ray melting tanks, not obliterating them, but just melting them slowly. In no way imaginable are the two comparable.
Anyway, we now get an overflight of three UFOs, announcing to the people of Japan that the Mysterians are pissed the Army attacked them. They are, however, peace loving aliens and will only act in self-defense. All they want is the 3 klicks around the dome. All this makes the Japanese Army seem like crazy warmongers. Propaganda works well to the masses.
From here we go to what I will assume is the HQ of the Japanese military. We see the commander of the First Battalion reporting in, head down and total shame in his body language. His unit was crushed and he feels personally responsible. The head General soothes him.
Here we meet two more characters, both military men. The first is General Morita, overall commander for Japanese military forces. The other is Captain Teko, who is played by 19-year old Hisaya Ito. He started acting young, being a samurai in The Seven Samurai at age 16, and having numerous roles in Toho blockbusters into the late 1960s. They will play the part of the military for the rest of the movie.
There is another officer here, the head of a scientific team. He presents the plans for an "Electron Cannon" which his unit has been developing. This is hoped to be the weapon to combat the Mysterians.
Blueprint of the Electron Cannon.
And now we have another parade of newspaper frontpages (wow, twice in one movie) that announce the dire straits the world is in. The first three are in Japanese, so they help me not. The fourth is a French language paper called Le Soreil Matin. The headline reads, "Le Mysterian! L'ennemi ou L'allie?!". The fifth paper is the English language The Liberal Times, whose headlines read, "Focus is on UN Conference. Tonight in Philadelphia the President makes a speech."
We then have a nice scene where The Professor addresses a bunch of reporters ahead of the UN conference. He tells them that all nations must work together, as the whole world is in danger. He asks the obvious question, "Would they come all this distance for just three kilometers of land?" I was wondering when you would ask that.
Back now to the Mysterian dome where we get the second Big Revelation Scene, this one where we learn that the supposedly peace loving aliens are really bent on global domination. But we already knew this, didn't we? We join the Leader as he explains to Shiraishi that they are currently constructing a massive underground base beneath the dome. A planagram on the wall shows it to be huge and expands out like roots. He says it will take "500 earth hours" to fully complete, and when it is done "the entire east coast" will be under their control. By east coast, he means the east coast of Honshu, of course. Shiraishi looks shaken, clearly this was not what he signed up for. Hmmm...he is wearing a helmet here...why? He doesn't need to wear it, unless it allows one to understand the Mysterian language. I had to watch it several times before I realized that it was Shiraishi there. Why did they have to make it so confusing?
All right, back to the humans. We join the Japanese military staff again as they meet with two representatives of the United States scientific community. These are Doctors Richardson and Immerman. Doctor Immerman is played by George Furness, a British citizen living in Japan. He served as the western-appointed lawyer defending Japanese politicians against war crimes in trial following WWII. As with several other men, he parlayed his success in the courtroom into bit roles in Japanese movies. He would have a short film career, ending in 1962.
Meeting with the western diplomats.
The two westerners are both bilingual, speaking very good Japanese as well as English. Despite this, there are several shots of a translator in the same room. The subtitles are only for the foreign words. The Americans tell them that they have launched a satellite from Arizona to keep tabs on the Mysterians. Hmmm...Arizona, eh? They don't have facilities in Arizona, so perhaps this is something super-secret.
They chat a bit more, letting us know that they knew Shiraishi from a space conference in Geneva. Joji asks them if they want to talk to him. He goes and turns on a TV. A variety show fades to the image of Shiraishi sitting at his Mysterian desk again. Hmmm...I hope that Joji set this up beforehand, otherwise we have to believe that Shiraishi has been sitting at this desk for some time waiting for a call.
Shiraishi is in full-bore quisling mode here, spouting Mysterian propaganda and sneering at the human attempts at understanding their advanced science. You just want to slap him. He derides the human race for wanting to control lesser species through science and for building nuclear weapons.
At no point does Shiraishi show any remorse or fears that the Mysterians are evil. In a scene just a minute ago, he looked positively aghast to learn of their nefarious plans. Perhaps when they edited the film, they put that scene earlier than they originally meant to. That would explain Shiraishi's apparent easy in this scene.
He then shows them a graphic of the Mysterian Space Station (remember, from the opening credits?), and gloats that it is stationed 42,000 kilometers above the earth. From there, the UFOs have complete air superiority over the entire globe. "Who controls the earth...you, or the Mysterians?" Shiraishi brags. Shut the hell up! Hey, didn't they tell us before that the Mysterian Space Station was behind the moon? Did it move into earth orbit recently? I am confused.
Mysterian Space Station.
Shiraishi concludes with the brash statement that "science rules". The screen then fades back to regular programming. Which, by the way, seems to be some "Stupid Pet Tricks" variety show. Nice to see that even with aliens invading the country, people still want to watch trash TV.
Ok, all that pretty much convinces the world that they have to fight back or soon be under the boot of the aliens. We now go to a United Nations building in Tokyo, where all the various heads of state are coming for a meeting. We see that the meeting is being held at a large building sporting a sign that reads, "Defence Force of the Earth Head Quarter", above a few lines of Japanese. And, yes, the typos "defence" and "head quarter" are actually on the sign. Now, in real life, the UN has been HQed in New York City since 1945, so we wonder why the HQ of the Earth Defense Force is in Tokyo? In these movies, all important world offices are in Tokyo, though.
So now we get a few shots of the dignitaries arriving at the meeting, pulling up in cars. The only way to tell the nations apart is by the little flags on the hoods. I am not an expert on 1950s cars, but there are some beauties here.
The American representative arrives in a cool Dodge sedan with massive tail fins. The English rep arrives in a sleek black Jaguar (that's got to be worth some cash today). The Russian and Chinese reps also arrive in Dodge sedans. Hmmm...I wonder if Dodge paid a fee to have their cars featured here?
Ok, inside the meeting, all the suits are being briefed on the situation. We see a pair of representatives wearing Indian headwraps, so perhaps India is here too. On a big screen is a stylized cross-section of the Mysterian base under the dome. Hey, where the hell did they get that? That looks exactly like the one we saw inside the dome earlier! Weird, maybe they did some seismic surveying and came up with this. Or maybe that American satellite had some sensors that could detect this sort of thing.
The discussion turns to the aliens' weaknesses. The Gamma Ray on the dome, they say, "cannot focus on objects in the sky". Hmmm...but we clearly saw it swat two jet fighters in the first battle. Perhaps something got lost in the translation? They also think that the alien bodies might be affected by heat, as evidenced by the cold temperatures inside the dome, as reported by the five scientists. The meeting adjourns with the resolution to study these two aspects more and to continue working feverishly on the Electron Cannon.
Ok, back out to the plain where we see the dome is now rising back to the surface. The Japanese Engineer Corps has constructed a series of tunnels and trenches throughout the area to keep a watch on the base. We go inside one of these observation tunnels now, where we see some soldiers and Joji (???) watching the dome. I guess Joji is here doing something scientific. They call HQ when they see it emerge.
Hmm...something is missing here. We now cut out to an airfield where a special plane is being prepped. A line of dialogue from the tunnel scene before suggests that maybe something was edited out of the final version, something that would provide a better segue to what we are about to see. Oh, well. Apparently, the Earth Defense Force (hereafter called the EDF) has constructed several large warplanes, and these will be used to attack the dome next.
The airships, and that is the best description as they look like WWI zeppelins with rocket motors, are totally sci-fi. They are also seriously cool--the Japanese sure know how to make interesting futuristic weapons for these monster movies.
These are the airships Alpha, Beta and Beta 2. They are identical in almost every way. They look like giant ICBMs that fly horizontally, with big fins and a glassed canopy in the nose. They can hover in mid-air and take off vertically, though there seems to be no obvious mechanism present to allow this. There are no vectoring nozzles or anything. In a neat bit, the front wheels are copies of B-29 nose gear, trust me. They are painted in a great blue-over-tan scheme. They are 200 meters long, a stat I got from a fansite, but it seems to match what we see pretty well. On the side are painted "WORLD AIR FORCE", in English, mind you, and the Greek letters for Alpha and Beta. They have a crew of at least six, in an airliner arrangement, with space for several passengers.
Their armament seems pretty weak, though I am sure we don't see everything it has. It has a large bore cannon of some sort mounted in the nose, and a retractable rack of six air-to-ground missiles, and that is about it. Later, we will see it retrofitted with the Electron Cannon.
We first see one in a truly nifty scene of an airfield full of Sabre jets, with the huge airship looming in the background. The foreground shot of the jets is from 1954's Godzilla, with the airship neatly inserted into the shot via a split-screen effect.
Maybe the best shot in the movie.
The Alpha is sent to recon the dome and see what kind of response they get. In broad daylight, the airship hovers over the dome. A Gamma Ray shoots up, but misses wide right. We see that inside the craft are The Professor and a few other scientists, along to observe. They state that they have determined that the Gamma Ray is "only at half strength above 3,000 meters". Ah, that's why the low flying jets were hit. I still think that a half strength hit from the Gamma Ray would cause some damage. [Editor Pam: And gamma radiation doesn't abruptly drop by half at a given distance, but I think it's obvious by now that although the aliens may call their weapon a Gamma Ray, it's in fact nothing of the kind.]
BTW, the Alpha's captain, Captain Sugimoto, is dressed like a 1950s airline pilot. In fact, no one aboard seems to be acting like they are in a combat ship. They all sit in standard seats and there are no masks or anything. They must have some serious inertial dampeners...
The airship's cockpit.
Ok, we see that the Alpha was testing the waters. Now that they proved that the Gamma Ray has a weakness, they call in the Beta. The Beta is an identical airship and will be the one to make the attack on the dome.
Realizing that their Gamma Ray isn't cutting it, the Mysterians call in some CAP. We see three UFOs entering the airspace, heading for the Beta. The Beta engages them with its nose cannon. We see it shoot about 20 to 25 projectiles, which seem to have proximity fuses as they explode in the air around the UFOs. They are ineffective here but the UFOs do not take any offensive action.
The airship's missile rack.
The Beta then makes a bombing run on the dome. A rack of six missiles is jettisoned, all impacting around the dome. The dome shoots back, two Gamma Rays lance up. The second shot slashes into the Beta amidships. The airship explodes in a dramatic fireball, leaving nothing but flaming debris. Damn... In an outstanding move, the soundtrack, which had been blasting a military march, suddenly goes deadly quiet the instant the Beta explodes. We are left with a moment of shocked silence as what we just saw sinks in. Nicely done.
The action ends, with the Alpha hightailing it out of the area. We are never told what happened. Did the Beta drift below the 3,000 metre range? Did it just take a half strength ray that was enough to do the deed? These are questions that need answering if there is to be a next raid by these airships.
Ok, the Beta's bombing run on the dome caused some collateral damage to the observation tunnels close to the dome, the one where Joji was in. There is a cave-in and some soldiers are hurt. Joji and the men struggle out of the tunnel and lament the day. Joji says that even "temperatures of 3,000 degrees cannot hurt the dome". Hmmm...what? Something must have been cut out here, what is he talking about? He then says sadly that "maybe they cannot defeat the Mysterians." Keep your chin up, Joji.
Then a gust of wind hits them from below. In an act of providence, or a plot contrivance, the cave-in exposes a way into the subterranean depths of the Mysterian base. If this is a natural cavern or an alien access tunnel, we don't know, but you would think that the Mysterians would keep better watch over their perimeter defenses.
We next get a short scene where we learn that the Electron Cannon is complete, they are just looking for an effective way to mount it on an airship.
We then get another short scene of the Mysterian Leader upping the stakes. Perhaps part of the original plan, or perhaps a response to the repeated human attacks, the Leader announces to the world that they are now claiming a 120 kilometer area around the dome as a total human-free zone. Yikes! This includes all of Tokyo! Dastardly aliens!
"Oh, yeah, and we want the cheat codes for GTA San Andreas, too."
Back at the HQ, the hawks are pushing for the use of nuclear weapons. The Professor, perhaps not realizing that the entire human race is at stake, continues to preach against the use of atomics. He says that they don't want to make the Earth another Mysteriod. This actor gave almost exactly the same speech in 1954's Godzilla.
Just then, the American Doctor Immerman arrives, bringing the plans for a new weapon developed by his nation. It is the Markalite Gun, a big-ass reflecting dish on a four-legged chassis. It has the dual abilities to shoot out a nasty ray and to absorb and dissipate the Mysterian Gamma Ray. The diameter of the dish is given at 200 metres, which seems way, way too big, especially in light of later graphics. I would hazard to guess that it should have been 20 meters.
Blueprint for the Markalite Gun.
This is a neat hook, as in almost all of these movies the super weapon that defeats the threat comes from a Japanese scientist. That the Americans have developed this one shows the "world effort" more than in other films. Where did they come up with the goofy name "Markalite"?
The problem is that it only has an effective range of 1.5 kilometres, meaning that it has to be virtually right next to the dome to have any use. It is Captain Teka who suggests that it also be mounted on the airships, and they set that plan in motion.
We see a big C-124 Globemaster II cargo plane touching down in Japan, carrying the Markalites from America. This is a huge plane, I just love the big cargo planes of this era. It has Military Air Transport Service on the side. We then see a shot of the Alpha airship at rest, so I assume that the installation is in progress.
OK, we now go and tie up some loose ends. Remember this whole mess started when the Mysterians wanted a certain five hottie earth chicks? Well, much earlier some dialogue stated that they already have three of them in their possession. This leaves The Sister and The Babe. All this time they have been hanging out in the same house, under guard. It has been so long, that they probably think they are out of danger, that the Mysterians have other things to worry about than two little girls.
They would be wrong. Their location has never been a secret, as evidenced by Shiraishi being able to talk to them on their TV. In the dark of the night, we see two UFOs brake to a hover over their house. A crewman from each descends to the ground in what appears to be some sort of reverse tractor beam. The UFO crew are dressed in blue satin jumpers with these terribly oversized bubble helmets. A very, very bad look, they look like extras from Spaceballs.
The girls are captured!
The two girls are taken without a fight. In typical 1950s fashion, they simply faint at the sight of the aliens. The police guards are helpless and can only watch as they are tractored back into the UFOs, which whisk off. One of the guards says, "Damn it!", which is an uncharacteristic bit of swearing for a Toho movie.
Back at the HQ, the command staff is getting worried. The kidnapping of the chicks is a sign that the Mysterian plan is near completion. They need to act quickly if they are to regain the initiative. The problem is that the Electron Cannon is still not ready yet, meaning that any attack will have to rely on the Markalite Guns. The problem with that is that the Markalite, for some reason, can only operate for "seven hours and five minutes", before running out of power. The ideal thing would be for them to use both weapons together, but there is precious little time. They decide to go on with the attack using the Markalites and hope and pray that the Electron Cannon can be completed in time.
They also have to evacuate all the humans within the 120 klick radius that the aliens claim, this means all of Tokyo. I always love watching the "evacuation scenes" in this type of movies. I love watching the crowd, where if you look carefully (slo-mo on DVD helps) you can see a lot of neat things. Like people laughing and smiling, people staring at the camera, even film crewmembers with audio booms and the like. You can also see some cute girls.
Back to Joji now, who is talking with The Professor. He is telling him about the cave entrance he found. The Professor says it hurts him about the girls, but they can't stop the attack for the sake of two women when the entire race is in danger. Joji, being the dashing leading man, can't accept this and heads off on his own to save the chicks.
Dressed in blue jeans, a cream jacket and the most out-of-fashion fedora ever seen in a movie, Joji goes out alone into the valley and enters the cavern. Hmmm...if a lone man could penetrate the dome from below, then surely they could get a squad of sappers with some demolition charges or even a platoon of soldiers into the dome, right? It makes no sense that the Mysterian protective systems would not extend down into the earth. Perhaps they felt confident that they could detect and stop any dangerous, large-scale incursion from underground? And why didn't Joji tell the military about the tunnel? Surely that information would be vital for the coming attack. To withhold this sort of potential advantage seems selfish to the point of treason.
Ok, the Markalite system has apparently been operational, or at least past the prototype phase for some while. We see that they have a ready-made delivery system, consisting of a rocket booster with wings, with the dish mounted in a circular capsule behind the wings. The wings boast red stripes and "ML-1" on them. For the coming battle, the movie's last, we will see three of these rocket delivery systems used, plus the two dishes that are to be mounted onto the airships Alpha and Beta 2. Since it is doubtful that they would hold back anything in this last battle for human survival, we can assume that they only have five working examples of the Markalite system.
On a related note, we have to wonder about the battlefield utility of the Markalite. Certainly it was either completed or near completed before the Mysterians arrived, so it was planned for some purpose other than combating aliens. With a fragile delivery system, a range of just 1.5 kilometres and a lifespan of just seven hours, what exactly was the Gun designed for? Perhaps it was designed for some sort of close-in static defense, though the pitifully short range would be useless in that role. If a nuclear weapon was inbound, 1.5 klicks would be well within the blast radius.
Anyway, the final battle is now set. The humans will be using the three ground Markalite Guns and the two airships, plus help from a battery of missiles. At the same time, Joji will be conducting his one-man commando mission through the caves.
The first test of the Markalite comes when the airship Alpha approaches the dome. Two Gamma Rays lance up to hit the ship, but the rays are absorbed by the Markalite. There is no visible dish on the airship, so perhaps they installed it in panels or sheets on the underside of the ship. This arrangement seems to have no offensive capability, it only protects the airship.
The airship deflects the Gamma Ray.
We see the three Markalite rockets split apart in midair, and the Guns descend on their own. They have powered descending rocket motors and look a lot like the Apollo moon landers as they come down, landing a few hundred meters apart. We see the Mysterians watching this on their screens, but they don't do anything to interfere, perhaps thinking they cannot harm them. I think we are supposed to think that the Alpha is a diversion to allow the Markalites to get in position. This is silly when you see it on screen, but it apparently works.
We also see three UFOs come down to land in the lake, diving beneath the waters. Ok. I assume that there is some entrance to the underground base via the bottom of the lake. I wonder why these UFOs were not sent to engage the enemy? This seems like a throwaway shot inserted in here for no good reason.
The three Markalites open up immediately, firing near continual bursts of scratchy white energy at the dome. We wonder where the power source is, as there seems to be nothing visible. In the entire battle to come, we count a whopping 31 direct hits on the dome by the Markalite Guns. Despite it all, the Mysterian dome is still powerfully shielded and doesn't seem to be affected adversely at all.
The Markalite Guns firing.
The airship Alpha is still in the area, but contributes nothing to the battle. Well, it does absorb three more Gamma Ray blasts. No damage is seen. The Professor is aboard, by the way, and is an interested observer.
At the same time, the battery of surface-to-surface missiles opens up. They are long but slender missiles, with two sets of fins, fired from deployable launchers mounted on six-wheeled trucks. These seem to be models built for the movie and do not represent any real-world weapon system. As they are single-shot, we can assume that each launch represents a launcher present. We see eight total launches, though they seem to have no effect on the dome at all. As a neat note, there is a M2 series halftrack at the launching area, probably serving as a support vehicle for the missiles.
The missiles fire.
For their part, the Mysterians pump away with the Gamma Ray, though to no effect. Most of their shots at the Guns hit the ground, looking a lot like Ghidrah strafing with her beams. Only once do we see the much-touted ability to reflect the ray back.
With the dome still unhurt, the Mysterian Leader comes on their screens to gloat some more. He tells them to cut it out, or he will take "drastic measures". The humans reply that they will stop attacking if the Mysterians agree to leave earth. This is not an option.
OK, while all this zapping and ray gunning is going on outside, Joji has penetrated the base with surprising ease. There is apparently only one guard in the cave, and Joji strangles him unconscious (!!!). This fight is lame, as the alien just holds up his hands and falls to the ground. Perhaps the Mysterians are physically very weak, maybe from the difference in gravity on Mars, or maybe just a different physiology. Anyway, Joji now has a ray pistol.
He makes his way to the power plant room, completely unseen by anyone apparently. He sneaks up on one Security alien, dressed in a powder blue helmet and cape, and jumps him. At gunpoint, he makes the alien tell him where the women are being held.
Cut to the women, who are languishing in a large cell. The Babe and The Sister are here, as well as at least eleven other young girls in the 18 to 24 demographic. Hmmm...in about four places the Mysterians said they just wanted five girls. I guess they decided to get them some more, eh?
Bevy of babes.
A Mysterian enters the cell, wearing a yellow helmet and cape. It is Joji, though we wonder where he got the yellow duds as the guard we just saw him thwack was wearing powder blue. Clearly he must have knocked out another along the way. He leads the girls out of the cell and down into a cave under the base.
Hey, this looks familiar...Isn't this Luke Skywalker, dressed as a Stormtrooper, rescuing Princess Leia?
Back up above, we now see what the Leader meant by "drastic measures". The lake starts to overflow, the water rising rapidly by some unknown alien force. The water quickly floods the valley floor, washing away trees and buildings. It also swamps and knocks over one of the three Markalite Guns.
The muddy water then sloshes over a small village, trashing it completely. Some of the worst bluescreening you will ever see is on display here, as the water is shown washing over a bridge and across a street in two shots. Truly terrible special effects work. We also wonder about all the people we see running in these shots. Certainly a village so close to the Mysterian dome would have been evacuated by now? If not, then somebody has to answer for this disaster.
Back in the dome, the power suddenly begins to dim and spark. We see that Joji is now back in the power plant room. He now has on his civilian outfit, the one he came in wearing. Hmm...clearly the editing was done in a hurry here, as the yellow outfit he was wearing is now gone. They obviously cut and pasted these scenes together after they were shot, without any concern for wardrobe continuity.
Joji starts to shoot all the fancy power equipment with the ray pistol, blowing them up in sparkling showers of smoke and flame. Throughout the base the lights flicker and aliens run around like mad. Joji continues to zap away.
Hey, isn't this Obi Wan Kenobi shutting down the Death Star's shields?
This gravy train can't last, however, as the Mysterians converge on Joji quickly. He tries to shoot his way out, but his gun jams (?). In a comic bit, he then throws the gun at one of the Mysterians, who reacts like he just threw a bag of poop at him. Surrounded, he gives up. Things look dire for Joji, when a Command Mysterian in a yellow outfit comes up and takes over. He sends the other guards away and leads Joji off alone.
We see that this Mysterian has forced Joji to take them to where he has left the women in the cave. Pretty wimpy of Joji to lead the bad guy to the women, realizing that this means certain death to his girlfriend and the rest.
But then the Mysterian speaks...it's Shiraishi the quisling!!! He has had a change of heart, the Mysterians having double-crossed him by planning to destroy Tokyo. You see, this is why the whole dark helmet idea is bad, especially for the Mysterians. He tells them to run away, as he is going back to finish what Joji started with the power plant. In the time-honored tradition of movie villains who have a turn of heart, Shiraishi is going to sacrifice himself to save humanity, aware that there is no going back for him now.
Shiraishi says his final goodbyes.
He hands Joji a sheaf of papers, the second half of the Mysteroid research paper. He tells him to give it to The Professor. Hmmm...so the Mysterians allowed Shiraishi to continue writing his paper even inside the dome. One wonders what is in the report, it must be juicy.
His sister runs to him, but he warns her off. His former fiancee also approaches, tears in her eyes, but he steps back haltingly. The scene is powerful, and you can tell that Shiraishi doesn't dare even let the women he once love touch him for fear that he will lose his nerve to do what he must. Shiraishi leaves, yelling back at them some flowering words of warning. He says they should "reject evil and embrace love!"...
Back up top, two new players have entered the battle. The first is the airship Beta 2, carrying the finally finished Electron Cannon. The Beta 2 is identical to the other airships, though we wonder about the name. Wouldn't it have been easier to name it "Gamma" in keeping with the whole Greek alphabet thing? Perhaps it was but they quickly renamed it the Beta 2 in honor of the lost Beta 1? The Russians do it all the time, why not the Japanese?
The Electron Cannon is a smaller weapon than I would have thought, mounted in a glass turret on the underside of the forward fuselage. It shoots a red burst of energy. We see the Beta 2 beginning her attack, absorbing three hits from the Gamma Ray in the process. So, the Beta 2 must be equipped with the Markalite panels also, right?
The Electron Cannon firing.
The second newcomer is another Mogera robot, burrowing up from underneath the ground. We see it first from an underground perspective, and we see it clawing with its hands and the "fins" on its back spinning like a saw blade into the dirt. It emerges right beside one of the Markalite Guns, and in a truly funny scene, the Markalite Gun topples over on top of it. This is the last we will see of the robot, so we are left to assume that the impact of the Gun destroyed or incapacitated it.
The second Mogera?
And is this really another Mogera, or the same one we saw before? There is ample evidence that the first one escaped after falling into the ravine. We also wonder why the robot hasn't been in action before this? Surely it would have been useful in the other attacks by the humans. Perhaps, if it was the first, the repairs were just completed.
Shiraishi heads back into the power plant room. He starts to ray gun the transformers and control circuits, exploding everything in gouts of flame and smoke. Five Mysterian guards run up, but Shiraishi shoots them down, disintegrating them completely. He goes back to shooting the power banks. Hmmm...interesting ray pistol, that can disintegrate and cause thermal damage at the same time.
With the power failing from within, the Electron Cannon begins to have an effect. The Mysterian base is breached, smoke and flame are everywhere. Mysterians lie dead all over the place, and the others stumble around very slowly. In fact, they way they stumble around leaves us to think that maybe the temperature rising due to the fires have made them sluggish. Remember that whole aversion to heat thing?
We also get a look at the actual faces of some of the dead and dying aliens. They are radiation scarred and quite ugly. Are we to believe that radiation burns are some sort of hereditary feature carried over a hundred thousand years? Really? I also feel sorry for all those girls, they were real close to having to shack up with some dog ugly alien dudes.
We see the Mysterian Leader and some of his lackeys stumbling towards the UFO hanger, determined to escape back to their Space Station. We see Shiraishi stalking them, he draws a bead on the Mysterian Leader, but then slowly lowers his pistol. Clearly, he hasn't the heart to kill this man, perhaps realizing that the entire Mysterian race has suffered so much already.
The Dome then explodes in a massive fireball, tossing debris and creating a mushroom smoke cloud miles high. Shiraishi dies with some of his honor redeemed. Joji and the girls have come out of the tunnel into the valley by now, and they watch the dome burn.
Out of the lake emerge nine UFOs, which head up for the stars. Since they are so small, they can't be carrying more than two dozen Mysterian survivors at the most. The Beta 2 gives pursuit, and with the Electron Cannon, they manage to shoot down three of the UFOs. The other six escape and make it to the Space Station.
On the ground, Joji and the girls watch the dogfight with interest. They then notice the twinkle of the Mysterian space station up in the air. Joji laments the fact that the Mysterian threat is still there and the Earth will have to remain on guard. Indeed, the ending screams for a sequel, but none will ever come. The Mysterians were defeated this time, but clearly they remain a powerful threat to us.
The camera pans up into space as "The End" appears on the screen. That's all, folks. Well, that was a pretty cool movie. I highly recommend this one, in any version.
Written in July 2004 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda.
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that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...