Invasion of the Neptune Men (宇宙快速船, Uchū Kaisokusen) is a 1961 superhero film produced by Toei Company Ltd.. The film stars Sonny Chiba in his third feature film.
The film was released in 1961 in Japan and was later released in the United States on television. In 1998, the film was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Astronomer Shinichi Tachibana has a secret identity as superhero "Iron Sharp" (changed to "Space Chief" in the English dub) and has many children as friends. When they are attacked by a group of metallic aliens ("Neptune Men" in English), Iron Sharp drives the aliens away. The resourceful Tachibana helps develop an electric barrier to block the aliens from coming to the Earth. After several losses by the aliens, they announce that they will invade the Earth, throwing the world into a state of panic. The aliens destroy entire cities with their mothership and smaller fighters. After Iron Sharp destroys multiple enemy ships, Japan fires a nuclear missile at the mothership, destroying it. Sonny Chiba as scientist Shinichi Tachibana / Iron Sharp
Kappei Matsumoto as Dr. Tanigawa
Ryuko Minakami as Yōko (Tanigawa's daughter)
Shinjiro Ebara as scientist Yanagida
Mitsue Komiya as scientist Saitō
Invasion of the Neptune Men is part of Japan's Tokusatsu genre, which involves films in the science fiction and/or superhero films that involve heavy use of special effects.
Invasion of the Neptune Men was an early feature film for Sonny Chiba. Chiba started working in Japanese television where he starred in superhero television series in 1960. Chiba continued working back and forth between television in film until the late 1960s when he became a more popular star.
Invasion of the Neptune Men was released in Japan on 19 July 1961. The film was not released in theatrically in the United States but was released to American television by Walter Manley in the early 1960s.
On October 11, 1997 the film was shown on the movie-mocking television show Mystery Science Theater 3000. In his review of the film, Bruce Eder of AllMovie described the episode as a memorable one, specifically the cast watching the repetitive aerial dogfights between spaceships, and one of the hosts remarking that "Independence Day now seems like such a finely nuanced movie".
In later reviews of the film, Bruce Eder gave the film a one star rating out of five, stating that the film was "the kind of movie that gave Japanese science fiction films a bad name. The low-quality special effects, the non-existent acting, the bad dubbing, and the chaotic plotting and pacing were all of a piece with what critics had been saying, erroneously, about the Godzilla movies for years." The review stated that the films "cheesy special effects and ridiculous dialogue taking on a sort of so-bad-they're-good charm." and that the film was "thoroughly memorable (if not necessarily enjoyable, outside of the MST3K continuum) specimen of bad cinema."
In his book Japanese Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, Stuart Galbraith IV stated that the film "had a few surprises" despite a "woefully familiar script" Galbraith noted that the film was not as over-the-top as Prince of Space and that the opticals in the film were as strong as anything Toho had produced at the time. Galbraith had suggested the effects may have been lifted from Toei's The Final War from 1961.