Attack from Space (1964)




Three films into the Super Giant series I’m finally starting to feel a little fatigued. Atomic Rulers of the World was a great introduction to the franchise, establishing the bizarre Superman knockoff Starman and placing him in the context of Cold War atomic paranoia. Invaders from Space kept Starman’s world fresh by pitting him against a ludicrous villain, the alien race of The Salamander Men of Planet Kuliman. Attack from Space is where the limitations of Super Giant, a made-for-Japanese-television miniseries that was chopped up & reassembled into four American features, really starts to show at the seams. There’s a sense of monotony & going through the motions in Attack from Space that even Starman, a spandex-clad space alien superhero & intergalactic cop, can’t overcome.

The main problem in Attack from Space is the lack of a compelling villain . The movie begins with the exact footage that begins every entry in the series: an Emerald Place space counsel deciding to prevent nuclear war on Earth by deploying Starman. From there, it’s the villains’ job to keep the to keep the formula interesting. Starman himself, however entertaining in concept, remains as rigidly unchanged as his introduction in each film. The villains of Attack from Space fail to carve out their own niche as a novel Starman foe, as they’re very much reminiscent of the nuclear arms dealers of the first entry in the franchise. The Sapphireans are the baddies du jour in this case, but for convenience’s sake, let’s just call them Space Nazis. They dress like Space Nazis; they salute like Space Nazis; I think even the movie itself has a hard time not referring to them as Space Nazis. There might have been a way to make this villain exciting if they stood out enough from the atomic gangsters of Atomic Rulers, but after the boundless absurdity of the Salamander Men of Planet Kuliman, they play as totally limp onscreen. The Space Nazis kidnap a scientist so he can point his dangerous satellites towards Earth or some scheme that’s just as vague & uninteresting, and the procedure of thwarting their evil Space Nazi deeds leaves little room for surprise & excitement.

There’s very little, if anything, on display in Attack from Space that you can’t see done better before or since in the Starman series, and the exercise ultimately feels pointless because of that lack of novelty. Although it aired in Japan after the broadcast of the titles that made up Invaders from Space (under its own original titles of The Artificial Satellite & the Destruction of Humanity and The Spaceship and the Clash of the Artificial Satellite), American producers placed it directly after the first film in the series, the one it most closely resembles. I think that was a massive mistake, as it would have signaled to me as an audience that Super Giant was a one trick pony. The film transports the atomic strife of Atomic Rulers into space, which makes room for some decent miniatures, explosions, rocket ship designs, and astronaut fashions. If those effects were smashed together with the novelty of Starman’s introduction in Atomic Rulers or with the space alien weirdos of Invaders from Space, it might have been enough for a worthwhile venture. As is, it feels like watching Space Nazis tread water for 70+ minutes in a punishing void of purpose.

-Brandon Ledet