The DVD case for The Mysterians aka Chikyu Boeigun (1959) - the IMDb lists a release year of 1957 (12/28/57, to be exact), so maybe 1959 was the year it made it to the U.S. - states `The Greatest science fiction picture ever conceived by the mind of man.' That's seems like a pretty haughty claim, especially for a film made by a studio (Toho) most famous for movies featuring guys in rubber suits crushing miniature buildings...and after watching the film last night, I feel it didn't quite live up to said claim, but still, it was fun nonetheless (besides, would your interest be peaked in a film that claimed something like `Not the greatest science fiction film in the world, but it will do in a pinch'? Probably not...)...directed by legendary Japanese director and Academy Award winner Ishir˘ Honda, the creator of Godzilla, The Mysterians was Toho Studios 1st wide screen sci-fi color release (Rodan was the 1st Toho monster film color release, also directed by Honda...some may claim Rodan is a sci-fi film, and it does have many sci-fi elements, but it will always be a monster film to me). Appearing in the film is Kenji Sahara (King Kong vs. Godzilla, Attack of the Mushroom People), Yumi Shirakawa (Rodan), Momoko Kochi (Godzilla), Akihiko Hirata (Rodan, Gorath, the Mysterious Star), and Takashi Shimura (The Seven Samurai, Godzilla).
As the film starts, we see a village of Asian peoples celebrating something or other, only to be interrupted by a fire consuming a nearby forest. Three men foolishly decide to try and put out the massive fire, with predictable results (do you like your sushi fried?). Later said village suffers yet another disaster in that a giant sinkhole swallows them whole...better luck in the next life, I suppose. An investigation provides little information, except for the presence of radioactivity (that's never a good sign, doubly so in a film like this) and this marks the appearance of what looks like a giant, metal, flightless bird that shoots destructive eyebeams. Whatever was left of the village is now completely gone, and the army soon arrives to deal with the menace. There's the obligatory fleeing of Asian peoples, and the creature is finally brought down, and it is learned that it is not of this Earth. Turns out the creature was controlled by a group of aliens, from the planet Mysteroid (I had a case of mysteroids once...got some cream from the drugstore and it went away) calling themselves, aptly enough, Mysterians, who have decided to take up residence on the Earth, and used the mechanical creature as a demonstration of their awesoma powers. What the heck do these Mysterians, who've arrived from the dark side of the moon (there's a Pink Floyd joke in there somewhere), want? Well, I'll give you a hint, it has something to do with our wimmin...I've come to the conclusion females are among the scarcest commodity in the universe. Anyway, beside the wimmin, they have other demands (I think if they just wanted some wimmin, we probably would have acquiesced, but then they got greedy...let that be a lesson to all you aliens out there), demands the Earth aren't willing to meet, and that means all out war! Whoo hoo! Let the fireworks begin (literally...I think some of the scenes featured actual fireworks)!
I did enjoy this film immensely, but I also had a few problems with it...the biggest fault, I suppose, is the story often gets bogged down as the characters seem to be in a continual state of conferencing and holding meetings, trying to decide how to deal with the aliens. This was certainly one way to dole out the exposition, but if all the meeting scenes were removed, the 88-minute runtime would have probably been reduced to about an hour. I wasn't even born at the time this film came out, but I gotta figure the effects were pretty amazing, in all their full color glory. They still come off really well. The rubber bird suit looked pretty funky (strangely, our handguns have no effect on the creature!), but everything else was top notch, especially the realistic nature of miniatures. Apparently the giant creature wasn't initially part of the story, but the producer decided the film needed a giant creature, so maybe that's why it has an odd fit with relation to the rest of the film. The Mysterians looked pretty cool, sort of like retro Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (who I don't care much for, and probably even less now as it would appear they `borrowed' their costume concept from here). I think one of my favorite elements of the film is the music, created by legendary composer Akira Ifukube. It's very distinct, aggressive (as the aliens), and indicates some operatic influences (think of the effectiveness of Wagner's The Ride of the Valkyries and its usage in Francis For Coppola's Apocalypse Now during the helicopter scene). Seems rare to find a composer these days whose music blends in so nicely with the material on the screen.
The picture, in TohoScope (the early Japanese equivalent of widescreen anamorphic), is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (this was one of the first Japanese films to see such a release), and looks wonderful. There are a few scratches present (especially during the air combat sequences), but I sure this will probably blow away any VHS copy you may possess. As for the audio, there are five separate tracks available in English 5.1 Surround, Japanese 5.1 Surround, Japanese Mono, Spanish Mono, a commentary track featuring a moderator and two special effects artists named Koichi Kawakita and Shinji Higuchi (they all speak in Japanese, but there are English subtitles), and finally you can watch the film with music only. Other special features include a photo gallery, design gallery, storyboards, an original trailer, and previews for Matango - Attack of the Mushroom People (1963), Dogora (1964), Varan (1962), Gappa The Triphibian Monster (1967), and One Missed Call (2003).