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Interesting Curio That Overcomes Its Pretentiousness
I was fortunate to obtain a widescreen subtitled edition of this 1961 movie, which is really the proper way to see it, devoid of bad English dubbing and rearranged sequences etc. In its original version, there are some great SFX sequences by Japan's master Eiji Tsubaraya, who was responsible for all the Godzilla movies, but rather than shock the viewer for its "graphic" depiction of nuclear war, as the filmmakers hoped to do, they just come across as neat-interesting in the "Armageddon" way of filmmaking that we see today. What makes "The Last War" more entertaining then films of today like "Armageddon" is that the acting is better (at least the Japanese actors), and there's just a greater sense of style in films from this era then what we see today.
Not that the movie is without flaws. The anti-nuclear war message is delivered in a very pretentious fashion, and its depiction of how the war breaks out is, as noted below, totally ludicrous with no context offered as to why tensions are escalating between the "Federation" (i.e. NATO and the US) and the "Alliance" (i.e. the USSR) in the first place. Scenes of the "Federation" and "Alliance" at their military bases are shot in English and feature very bad amateur "actors" mouthing dialogue that no one with a real grasp of the English language would ever have written (the Alliance commander at one point utters a dated exclamation, "Egads!" among other things) We also get that nice coat of whitewashing of Japan's aggressive past as an Imperial power that infests every Toho sci-fi movie that gets on a soapbox about the evils of atomic weapons. And the ending blatantly plagiarizes the ending of "On The Beach" to not good effect.
Still, I recommend owning a copy of this in the original widescreen subtitled format, just as a fascinating curio piece and also the chance to see some great special FX for the day in full splendor. Along with "Gorath" and "The Mysterians" it shows how there was much more to Toho FX movies of the 50s and 60s then just Godzilla and other giant monsters.
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