Once again, "the man made from the strongest steel" is dispatched by the Ruling Council of the Emerald Planet to squash evildoers on Earth before the resulting nuclear war pollutes outer space with radiation, as Something Weird presents the last pair of the four Starman TV features cobbled together from a series of short Japanese cliffhanger films.
Invaders from Space has the more pedestrian title but is the superior picture, as a race of sinister salamander men from the planet Koolamon plot to take over the Earth by a variety of means, the most astounding of which is by posing as an avant-garde dance troupe to spread a deadly disease among the audience members! The back-and-forth nature of the storyline almost makes it as frustrating as Evil Brain from Outer Space (in Starman Vol. I), but a cavalcade of horrific images designed to make young children soil their theater seats mark this as arguably the best of the American Starmans.
Atomic Rulers is a far less interesting enterprise, as the villains are simply a bunch of Westerners from the land of Magolia who are building a super bomb to blow up Japan so the rest of the world will know they mean business. Though it is entertaining to ponder that in 1964, you could still carry a nuclear device onto an airliner in your briefcase, the Magolians are a hopelessly vanilla bunch compared to other Starman villains, and the fact that a bunch of orphans keep stealing their nuclear device doesn't help matters at all. In a last-minute attempt to make themselves interesting, they demonstrate a device that will slooooowly decapitate an orphan, but it's too little, too late. One pines for the salamander men, the Super Germ, or even the Space Nazis, and it is a relief when Starman finally vanishes waving into a starfield, as is traditional.
The film elements are in pretty good shape, considering their age and the fact that no one in their right mind would ever consider preserving something like this. Though there's a fair amount of scratches and dust speckling, not to mention the occasional missing few frames, the picture probably looks much the same as it did in 1965. Atomic Rulers is in better shape, proving there ain't no justice.
August Ragone's helpful Starman article from Planet X magazine is reprinted here, just as it was on the first disc (and the typeface didn't get any bigger, either). There is also another episode of the black-and-white proto-anime Prince Planet, which sadly doesn't exhibit any of the charm of the entry on the previous disc. Prince Planet is up against giant Atomic Termites, and his solution to the problem demonstrates that he's seen either The Beginning of the End or The Swarm.
That's followed by a homemade short, Mercury Amazing vs. Vampyrum, which is a couple of kids playing space vampire and superhero. Outside of the vampire's pet Attack Blob, this one is pretty tooth-grinding to get through. The determination is there, and they sure as heck finished what they set out to do, but oh, well. Kudos for the against-type casting of the President of the US as a matronly woman, though.
The next short is Exploring the Moon. Griffith Observatory's Dr. C.H. Cleminshaw and his pal Art engage in an imaginary flyover of the Moon's surface, utilizing some still-impressive astronomical photographs. And this is followed by Bell Labs' Talking of Tomorrow, an animated short where a scientist he must be a scientist, he's wearing a lab coat and smoking a pipe tells us all the wonderful things that await us in the far-flung future of, say, the year 2000. Things they got right: fax machines, teleconferencing, and the home office. We won't talk about the flying cars and helicycles.
Apparently, Something Weird blew their superhero trailer collection on Disc 1 of the series. And in the words of my five year-old, "That makes me sad!" Particularly since the absence of trailers probably made room for the inclusion of Mercury Amazing vs. Vampyrum. Eck.
Dr. Freex, 5/14/2003