The War in Space (1977)

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Credits for The War in Space
The War in Space soundtrack


The War in Space
The Japanese poster for The War in Space
Alternate titles
Flagicon Japan.png The Great Planet War (1977)
See alternate titles
Directed by Jun Fukuda
Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, Fumio Tanaka
Written by Hachiro Jinguji (story);
Hideichi Nagahara, Ryuzo Nakanishi
Music by Toshiaki Tsushima
Production company Toho Pictures, Toho Eizo
Distributor TohoJP,
Gold Key EntertainmentUS (TV syndication),
Video ActionUS (home video)
Rating Not Rated
Budget ¥500 million[1]
Box office ¥889 million[1]
Running time 90 minutesJP
(1 hour, 30 minutes)
87 minutesUS
(1 hour, 27 minutes)
Aspect ratio 2.35:1
Rate this film!
3.00
(10 votes)

The War in Space (惑星大戦争,   Wakusei Daisensō, lit. "The Great Planet War") is a 1977 tokusatsu science fiction film directed by Jun Fukuda and co-written by Hideichi Nagahara and Ryuzo Nakanishi from a story by Tomoyuki Tanaka (under the pen name "Hachiro Jinguji"), with effects by Teruyoshi Nakano. Jointly produced by Toho Pictures and Toho Eizo, the film stars Kensaku Morita, Yuko Asano, Hiroshi Miyauchi, Katsutoshi Atarashi, Masaya Oki, and Ryo Ikebe. Toho released it to Japanese theaters on December 17, 1977.

Plot[edit | edit source]

It is the fall of 1988. A massive alien spaceship, the Daimakan, deploys numerous Hell Fighters which chart a course for Earth. The planet has been experiencing electric wave interference in the midst of a near-miss by a comet, and the United Nations Space Federation's Japanese Branch is struggling to contact Space Station Terra. Space Federation member Koji Miyoshi returns home from the U.S. to find that his friends Reisuke Muroi and Jun Takigawa have gotten engaged. Because of Miyoshi's history with Jun, they're apprehensive about telling him, but he wishes them happiness. Their dinner is interrupted by a call from Dr. Matsuzawa, chief of the Japanese Branch, who has received reports of UFO sightings across the U.S., sparking mass panic. Shortly thereafter, Mikasa of Space Station Terra gets through with an alert about strange transmissions being sent from Venus to Earth and vice versa. The Daimakan, which he likens to a "Roman ship," suddenly appears and rams the station.

With an invasion appearing imminent, Miyoshi visits Jun's father Masato on behalf of the UN to ask for the aid of the space battleship Gohten. The weapon—which was worked on by themselves, Muroi, Jun, and an American named Jimmy—was never fully completed, with the UN dissolving the unit three years ago following another invasion scare. Miyoshi believes that the aliens are using fragments of the comet that fell to Earth as landing posts. Masato receives a call from Matsuzawa that his protégée, Professor Schmidt, was killed in the U.S. while investigating the UFOs. A man claiming to be Schmidt visits Miyoshi that same night, explaining that he spread rumors of his death following an assassination attempt. He too wants Gohten in the air as soon as possible, and asks Masato to turn over the plans in his possession so it can be finished, but Masato exposes him as an imposter after noticing that he's holding his cigarette lighter with the wrong hand. The fake Schmidt draws a gun and tries to abduct Masato just as Miyoshi, Muroi, and pilot Kazuo Fuyuki arrive. They disarm him, but he self-destructs before they can apprehend him, revealing himself to have been an alien wearing a latex mask.

After learning that the aliens are headquartered on Venus, Masato agrees to finish the Gohten with his old team. They converge on the island where the ship is housed via submarines. The Hell Fighters rain down lasers on the island, along with New York City, San Francisco, Moscow, Paris, London, and Tokyo. Though the Gohten's hangar weathers the assault, Masato orders his team to complete the ship in three days. Jimmy arrives via fighter jet, ejecting just before Hell Fighters shoot it down. Alien infiltrators storm the base on the final day; Muroi, Jimmy, and Miyoshi manage to kill them with laser pistols before they can capture Masato. The Gohten launches as the hangar finally collapses, clearing a path with its Head Laser Beam. Hell Fighters from around the world converge on the ship, but it easily destroys them all with explosives.

The Gohten departs Earth, preparing to bring the fight to the aliens on Venus. During its voyage, Jimmy is devastated to learn that his family was killed during the aliens' attack on New York. Muroi tells Miyoshi to take care of Jun if he doesn't survive the operation. The Gohten spots a piece of Space Station Terra while nearing Venus, and Muroi ventures out to recover any bodies aboard. He returns with an alien disguised as a dead Mikasa, who reveals himself as another wave of Hell Fighters closes in. He takes Jun hostage and orders the Gohten to stop before exiting the airlock into a waiting fighter. The aliens' leader, Commander Hell, then contacts them from the surface, showing Jun restrained by the hulking Space Beastman. His race hails from the dying third planet of the Yomi system, Messiah 13, and views Earth as a suitable replacement. Unfazed by his threats, Masato directs the Gohten to land on Venus. Miyoshi leads a scouting party in a Land Rover which spots the Daimakan with raised shields. Jimmy films it before it trains its cannons on them, and they barely escape. Based on the footage, they decide to enter it through the monstrous figurehead. Miyoshi and Fuyuki are assigned to the raiding party, while Muroi and Jimmy prepare to attack the ship from the outside in Space Fighters. Though tasked with destroying the ship's power source first and foremost, Miyoshi is also determined to liberate Jun.

Muroi holds off multiple waves of Hell Fighters while Jimmy brings down the Daimakan's barrier, but at the cost of his life. Cameras aboard the ship soon detect the raiding party; Miyoshi is disarmed by Commander Hell and thrown into a cell with Jun after the rest are shot. As the alien leader again tries to convince Masato to surrender, she figures out how to open the door to their cell. After Miyoshi recovers an alien rifle and one of his fallen comrade's laser knife, they face the Space Beastman. His axe absorbs every blast from the rifle and slices it in half, but Miyoshi fells him with a perfect throw of the knife. The pair flee the Daimakan and return to the Gohten. After shooting down Muroi, the alien flagship faces off against Earth's greatest weapon. The Gohten inflicts heavy damage, but the Messiah 13 aliens counter with a powerful ray that knocks it out of the sky. With all of the ship's lasers, missiles, and rockets offline, Masato reveals to Miyoshi and Jun the Gohten's ultimate weapon: an unfathomably powerful ether-based explosive he developed in secret, hidden inside the drill nose. Determined that the weapon never be used again, he pilots the drill into the Daimakan, with Commander Hell glimpsing it just before it detonates. The ship plummets into a volcano, setting off a series of explosions that signal the end of Venus. Miyoshi consoles Jun as the Gohten escapes the planet.

Staff[edit | edit source]

Main article: The War in Space/Credits.

Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.

Cast[edit | edit source]

Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.

  • Kensaku Morita   as   Koji Miyoshi, UN Space Federation member
  • Yuko Asano   as   Jun Takigawa, UN Space Federation member
  • Ryo Ikebe   as   Dr. Masato Takigawa, space engineer and Gohten captain
  • Masaya Oki   as   Reisuke Muroi, National Defense Squad flight instructor
  • Katsutoshi Atarashi   as   Tadashi Mikasa, Space Station Terra personnel
  • Hideji Otaki   as   Dr. Matsuzawa, director of the UN Space Federation's Japan Branch
  • Akihiko Hirata   as   Oishi, National Defense Squad commander
  • Isao Hashimoto, Tsuyoshi Endo   as   UN Space Federation researchers
  • Hiroshi Miyauchi   as   Kazuo Fuyuki, National Defense Squad pilot
  • Shoji Nakayama   as   National Defense Squad staff
  • Goro Mutsumi   as   Commander Hell, Messiah 13 Third Planet of Yomi Alien leader
  • Sen Yamamoto   as   Gohten pilot
  • Go Endo
  • William Ross   as   Dr. Schmidt's imposter (Japanese voice actor: Osamu Saka)[1]
  • David Perin   as   Jimmy, NASA pilot (Japanese voice actor: Michihiro Ikemizu)[1]
  • Takashi Kanematsu   as   Tetsuo Kusaka, National Defense Squad pilot
  • Futoshi Kikuchi   as   Goro Minato, National Defense Squad pilot
  • Bunji Hayata   as   Gohten controller
  • Osamu Murashima, Susumu Otani, Junichi Eto   as   pilots
  • Yosuke Takemura   as   communication operator
  • Shinji Kawabata, Koichi Yoshida   as   controllers
  • Toshikazu Moritagawa
  • Riichi Moritagawa   as   Ishiyama, head of Gohten artillery team
  • Shinichi Yoshimiya   as   radio operator
  • Isao Setoyama   as   radar operator
  • Yu Naoki   as   copilot
  • Mammoth Suzuki   as   Space Beastman[2]

Appearances[edit | edit source]

Monsters[edit | edit source]

Weapons, vehicles, and races[edit | edit source]

Development[edit | edit source]

After attending a mid-1977 showing of Star Wars in either Hawaii[3] or Japan,[4] Toho Pictures producer Tomoyuki Tanaka asked renowned science fiction writer Sakyo Komatsu for a screenplay for a similar film that could be completed before the Hollywood blockbuster opened in Japanese theaters the following year. Komatsu assembled a team of writers, but they fell too far behind schedule; Komatsu's interest in a space opera film would ultimately come to fruition with Bye-Bye Jupiter, however, released by Toho in 1984.[3]

The project developed into an unofficial remake of Atragon, with Tanaka himself writing the story under the pen name Hachiro Jinguji, the captain of the Gotengo from that film. The War in Space featured a similar drill-nosed warship, the Gohten, this time in opposition to alien invaders instead of an undersea civilization. Special effects director Teruyoshi Nakano, who saw Star Wars with Tanaka, suggested setting the climax of the film on Venus, feeling a planet with an atmosphere would allow for more brilliant explosions than outer space.[4] The first draft of the script was turned in by Hideichi Nagahara on September 13, 1977 and differed significantly from the final product. Several characters bore different names, such as the captain of the Gohten being named Jinguji, the aliens' commander being called Kira, and the commander's right-hand man being named Hell. Furthermore, the aliens were said to originate from a globular cluster in the Hercules constellation and had a base on Venus which was "reminiscent of a Shiva temple." Venus, which was described as both a fiery inferno and lush with plant life, was to house a carnivorous plant that would menace the heroes in a jungle, as well as a slug-like monster. The Gohten's ether bomb which blows up the planet at the end of the movie was also absent.[5]

Nagahara co-authored a second draft with Ryuzo Nakanishi, which was submitted on October 3. This version of the story was almost identical to the finished film, though the Space Beastman was described only as a "large man"; the movie would ultimately depict him as a shaggy alien creature. After minor revisions, Nagahara and Nakanishi's final draft was turned in nine days later on October 12.[5]

Production[edit | edit source]

Released in theaters just 66 days after the script was completed, The War in Space had an extremely tight production schedule. To compensate, the drama unit was split into three teams, while the special effects unit was divided in two.[2] According to assistant effects director Eiichi Asada, the drama and effects scenes were shot nearly concurrently, which was abnormal for Toho's tokusatsu of the time. Asada also recalled that both shoots wrapped after less than 30 days of work each.[6] Stock footage from Battle in Outer Space, The Last War, Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, Submersion of Japan, and Prophecies of Nostradamus was employed for the Hell Fighters' attack on Earth.

The Gohten was designed[7] and modeled by Yasuyuki Inoue of Alpha Planning.[8] Two miniatures were produced of the craft: a 2.4-meter long, 1/80th scale model and a 1.2-meter long, 1/160th scale one.[8] Its main foe, the Daimakan, was based on ships from ancient Rome, with its oar-like cannons inspired by the many pirate films Teruyoshi Nakano had seen.[4] Only a 1-meter version of the full ship was built, with certain sections recreated in greater detail for close-ups.[4]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Main article: The War in Space/Gallery.

Soundtrack[edit | edit source]

Main article: The War in Space/Soundtrack.

Alternate titles[edit | edit source]

  • The Great Planet War (惑星大戦争 literal Japanese title)
  • The Great Planet War: THE WAR IN SPACE (惑星大戦争 THE WAR IN SPACE, alternate Japanese title)
  • War in Space (United Kingdom; Guerra no Espaço, Portugal; Guerra en el Espacio, Mexico; Rat u Svemiru, Yugoslavia; πόλεμος στο διάστημα, Greece)
  • Galaxies Year 2000 (Galaxias Año 2000, Spain)
  • Space War (Australia; Guerra Spaziale, Italy)
  • The Space War (La Guerre de l'Espace, France; French Belgium; De Ruimte Oorlog, Dutch Belgium)
  • UFOs Coming! (UFO'Erne Kommer!, Denmark)
  • The Great War of the Planets (Der große Krieg der Planeten, West Germany)
  • Planet Wars (Planeternas Krig, Sweden)
  • Space Wars (United Kingdom)

Theatrical releases[edit | edit source]

  • Japan - December 17, 1977   [view poster]Japanese poster
  • West Germany - January 18, 1978   [view poster]German poster
  • France - March 8, 1978   [view poster]French poster
  • Italy - March 10, 1978   [view poster]Italian poster
  • Denmark - March 27, 1978   [view poster]Danish poster
  • Sweden - June 26, 1978   [view poster]Swedish poster
  • Spain - July 21, 1978   [view poster]Spanish poster
  • Finland - August 7, 1978   [view poster]Finnish poster
  • Australia - January 8, 1979   [view poster]Australian poster
  • Portugal - October 10, 1979   [view poster]Portuguese poster
  • Yugoslavia   [view poster]Yugoslav poster
  • Mexico   [view poster]Mexican poster
  • Lebanon   [view poster]Lebanese poster
  • Belgium   [view poster]Belgian poster
  • Greece   [view poster]Greek poster

U.S. release[edit | edit source]

In 1981, Toho's English-dubbed international export version of The War in Space was acquired by Gold Key Entertainment for use in their Galaxy series of local television syndication packages, which also included other, older Toho titles such as The Mysterians and Latitude Zero. Three minutes of footage, consisting of the opening introduction of Koji Miyoshi's return to Japan and the set-up of the love triangle between him, Jun Takigawa, and Reisuke Muroi, was deleted, bringing the runtime down to 87 minutes. Gold Key's TV prints rendered the film's title card in white, and left the opening Toho Eiga-Toho Eizo screen, along with the film's end title, textless.

Video Action gave the film a home video release on VHS in 1984. This release restored the three minutes previously cut in Gold Key's release, and used a different assembly of the international export version that included the text for the Toho Eiga-Toho Eizo and end titles, and also rendered the film's title card in red. A brief shot of Muroi saying the line "Jimmy" during the assault on the Messiah 13 forces on Venus is missing from the print used.

In 2006, Discotek Media gave the film a DVD release, which included the English dub, again with the "Jimmy" line missing, and the audio re-edited to account for its loss.[9]

Video releases[edit | edit source]

Toho DVD (November 26, 2004)[10]

  • Region: 2
  • Discs: 1
  • Audio: Japanese
  • Subtitles: Japanese
  • Special features: Audio commentary by Goro Mutsumi, Teruyoshi Nakano interview (32 minutes), theatrical trailer, theater pamphlet, 8-page booklet

Discotek DVD (April 25, 2006)[11]

  • Region: 1
  • Discs: 1
  • Audio: Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Special features: Teruyoshi Nakano interview (32 minutes); 5-page booklet; gallery of production and publicity stills; trailers for The War in Space, Lupin III: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy, and Mikadoroid
  • Notes: Out of print.

White Pearl Movies Blu-ray (November 8, 2019)[12]

  • Region: B
  • Discs: 1
  • Audio: Japanese, German, English (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0)
  • Subtitles: None
  • Special features: Two trailers for the film (2:17 and 1:26), opening credits of the American version (2:55), scenes deleted from the German version (2:50), image gallery
  • Notes: All versions of the film conform to the German version.

Toho Blu-ray (September 21, 2022)[13]

  • Region: A
  • Discs: 1
  • Audio: Japanese (Mono DTS HD Master Audio, 5.1 remix)
  • Subtitles: Japanese
  • Special features: Audio commentary by Goro Mutsumi, Teruyoshi Nakano interview (32 minutes), behind-the-scenes footage, Japanese and international trailers, still gallery
  • Notes: Presented in 1080i.

Videos[edit | edit source]

Trailers[edit | edit source]

Japanese The War in Space trailer
West German The War in Space trailer
U.S. The War in Space TV spot

Miscellaneous[edit | edit source]

The War in Space English export version opening and closing (red title version)
English/texless visuals from the
export version of The War in Space
Dialogue missing from most releases of the English dub

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • Despite being produced as a Japanese answer to Star Wars, The War in Space contains only a few parallels to the Hollywood blockbuster. The Space Beastman strongly resembles Chewbacca, although he is a villain instead of a hero. Conversely, it is the heroes who are responsible for destroying a planet instead of the villains. Two weapons share traits with a lightsaber: the Space Beastman's axe, which absorbs laser fire as Luke Skywalker's lightsaber did in the original film, and the Gohten raiding party's laser knives, which glow blue when engaged. Both effortlessly slice through objects as well. The Land Rover's R2 Antenna may have also been a reference to R2-D2.
  • Director Jun Fukuda nicknamed the Hell Fighters "spinning eggs".[4]

References[edit | edit source]

This is a list of references for The War in Space. These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: [1]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "The War in Space". Toho Kingdom. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Motoyama et al. 2012, p. 199
  3. 3.0 3.1 LeMay, John (2019). Terror of the Lost Tokusatsu Films: From the Files of the Big Book of Japanese Giant Monster Movies. Bicep Books. ISBN 978-1734154634.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 "Interview with Special Effects Director Nakano Teruyoshi" featurette on Discotek's The War in Space DVD.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Motoyama et al. 2012, p. 198
  6. Homenick, Brett (15 November 2022). "RISING THROUGH THE TOKUSATSU RANKS! Eiichi Asada Reflects on His Career as an Assistant SFX Director in the 1970s and '80s!". Vantage Point Interviews.
  7. Ozawa et al. 2018, p. 276.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Ozawa et al. 2018, p. 161
  9. [1]
  10. Amazon.co.jp: 惑星大戦争 (2004) 東宝
  11. Amazon.com: War in Space (1977) Discotek
  12. Tooze, Gary. "The War in Space Blu-ray - Kensaku Morita". DVD Beaver. Retrieved 22 January 2023.
  13. "惑星大戦争 [Blu-ray]". Amazon.co.jp. Retrieved 6 July 2022.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

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