Walter Manley Enterprises was a film importer in the 60's. They'd buy up cheap foreign movies, dub and sometimes re-edit them, and then release them in the US. They imported a lot of sword and sandal pictures like Hercules Vs. the Molloch and Hercules Against the Sons of the Sun. The two films they are probably most famous for are a pair of wretched Japanese super-hero films from the late 50's/early 60's: Prince of Space and Invasion of the Neptune Men. Both of these movies have been riffed on Mystery Science Theater, and now the dubbed versions that received the MST treatment are available on a nice double feature from Dark Sky Films. These films, though they lack any cinematic quality, are a riot to watch. Filled with atrocious dubbing, bad acting, horrible lines and worse special effects, this disc is the perfect thing to pop in when a bunch of friends are over and you're looking for something to do.
Prince of Space:
This is actually two movies edited together: Planet Prince (Yusei Oji) and Planet Prince: The Terrifying Spaceship (Yusei Oji: Kyofu no Uchusen) both originally released in 1959.
In this epic film, the beak nosed Phantom of Krankor (Joji Oka) comes to Earth and demands a new fuel that a scientist has recently invented. When his demands are not met, the Phantom kidnaps a group of scientists and heads back to his planet. Luckily, a mild mannered shoe shine boy named Wally is really The Prince of Space, a visitor from outer space who pursues the Phantom after failing to stop him on Earth.
Invasion of the Neptune Men:
As hard as it is to believe, this movie is actually worse than Prince of Space, but just as enjoyable. When a group of irratating kids see a spaceship land in a field, they investigate and...get captured. Luckily Space Chief (a young Sonny Chiba) shows up to rescue them and send the mute aliens who wear giant silver colored Bugles corn snacks on their heads packing, for a while that is.
Disappearing for the next half hour to 45-minutes, Space Chief lets the kids star in this movie, as they help the government devise an electronic barrier to protect all of Earth's cities. While this works for a while, the aliens from Neptune soon come up with another plan, one that can only be foiled by Space Chief!
Even if you've never seen the MST versions of these films, you can imagine what Mike and the 'bots would say. It's impossible to watch these movies without laughing. I mean just the name "The Phantom of Krankor" is hilarious. Added to that are the irritating kids with deep voices that populate both films and run around helping the hero (don't these kids have parents?) and the outrageous lines that are dubbed onto the poor characters that make these a lot of fun to laugh at.
You really couldn't write worse dialog if you tried. Lines like "That word's the only one I can think of." just don't fall off of trees. One of my favorite quotes from Invasion of the Neptune Men has become frequently repeated around my house. When a scientist is asked about he electronic barrier he's proposed he states: "We've got to invent it the hard way!" What? Is there an easy way? The hard way must be when you invent something without the use of duct tape or a hot glue gun.
The dubbing is atrocious too. There's no emotions in the actor's voices which gives rise to a good number of laughs. The audio track sounds like three guys did all of the voices, lowering their voices for some characters, rising it for others, and putting on ludicrous accents for whoever is left.
The special effects mainly consist of small models on strings being moved against backdrops, and Invasion did use some archival footage of buildings being destroyed after WWII. One has a giant mural of Adolph Hitler on its side, something I don't think was still around in the early 60's.
The two channel mono English soundtrack was acceptable. It quality wasn't wretched, but there were some defects including light background noise and some occasional distortion. These weren't distracting though and added to the charm of the film.
These black and white films are presented with an anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) image. They looked pretty good considering their history. The detail was fine and contrast good. Though there were some spots and print defects these weren't major.
This disc is billed as a "Drive-In Double Feature" and to add to the drive-in feel, Dark Sky has included some vintage drive-in movie reels. There are snack bar ads featuring greasy food and a few coming attractions. I loved the trailer for Espionage in Tangier featuring "Mike Murphy, International Agent". It looks wonderfully bad.
This is a pair of 'so bad they're good' films that are a lot of fun to watch with a group of friends. These Roger Corman quality films have a certain amount of charm and innocence to them and they are really fun to laugh at. If you're the type of person who can have a good time watching Robot Monster or The Crawling Eye, this disc will be right up your alley. Recommended.