Thursday, May 6, 2010

Toho Classic Sci-Fi Top 10

Last year, I ranked My Top 10 Godzilla movies, according to my own highly subjective criteria. That list, as you'll recall, only covered the "classic" period of the character. I thought it could be fun to make a similar list for Toho's non-Godzilla SF movies from that timeframe. To make this easier to manage, I included the qualifications that the movie had to have an English version available, and it had to be from 1955 to 1970. Things start to get a little fuzzy in the 1970s with disaster movies and such. There is one Toho film from that decade that I feel belongs with my classic era, and so I'll give an HONORABLE MENTION to :

THE WAR IN SPACE - Toho's STAR WARS cash-in managed to also make it into (Japanese) theaters in 1977. At heart, this flick is more a callback to things like ATRAGON and BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE than Lucas' franchise. I'm sure I will be unable to resist covering it in more depth in future times, but suffice to say that I like this movie a lot despite the fact that it isn't a patch on any of the movies it wants to emulate. It has its feet firmly entrenched in Toho's old school, and I appreciate that a lot.

Now then, here we go with MY...


10 - THE SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN (1960) : Talk about kicking off with an obscurity! I can't help it - I have a fondness for this flick featuring a fadeaway felon. Yes, I did that on purpose.

9 - BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1959) : Well, this one might rank higher with its amazing SPFX if I cared much about the characters. Chalk part of the problem up to the somnambulant English dubbing for the U.S. version.

8 - ATRAGON (1963) : Who doesn't love flying supersubmarines? Too bad Manda was only an afterthought, or it could have been even more epic!

7 - MOTHRA (1961) : Certified classic, with great performances and an enchanting story. Not only has Mothra grown on me over the years, but so have the Peanuts.

6 - THE MYSTERIANS (1957) : The grand finale battle is a touch static at times, but I have a lot of fond memories of this one from my old VHS with garish color and warbly sound.

5 - KING KONG ESCAPES (1967) : Loosely based on the 1960s Kong cartoon, and also (I believe) the first Japanese monster movie I ever saw.

4 - THE H-MAN (1958) : This type of film usually isn't the sort that rates this high for me, but there is a lot to like about it as far as I'm concerned. That it is genuinely creepy in places is a nice bonus.

3 - RODAN (1956) : Toho's first color monster movie is still one of my favorites. I'd say it's one of my favorite 1950s sci-fi movies, period.

2 - FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD (1965) : Nick Adams! Kumi Mizuno! Frankenstein! And a random giant monster, because what the hell, why not? Essential.

1 - DOGORA THE SPACE MONSTER (1964) : Boy howdy, I'm sure I'd get flak over this selection if anyone really cared much what I wrote here. I just can't help it, though - I LOVE this movie. It wants to be a perfectly ordinary gangster movie, but the damn giant space jellyfish keeps showing up. And what more can be said about Mark Jackson, Diamond G-Man? How about that I wish someone would write his further adventures?

Here's the rest of the movies that didn't quite make it. For the most part, I approve of all of these films!

HALF HUMAN (1955/1958)
GORATH (1962)

And though I don't really consider it "sci-fi", I'll also toss in a mention of THE LAST WAR (1961).

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