The Golden Bat (Japan 1966)

Rating: **
Review Date: 11/8/20
Cast: Sonny Chiba

A teenage boy discovers that planet Icarus is on a collision course with Earth, but no one believes him. No one except for a secret UN task force that forcefully kidnaps him and takes him to their hidden lair in the Japanese Alps. The task force is led by Captain Yamatone (Sonny Chiba) and they're building a Super Destructive Beam Cannon that's capable of destroying an entire planet. Because you never know when you're going to need something like that. Unfortunately, they're missing one vital component, which happens to belong to a mummified super hero from Atlantis who has been asleep for the last 10,000 years. Somehow, a chunk of Atlantis rises to the surface, and a young girl named Emily awakens the slumbering Golden Bat from his sarcophagus. Armed with a magic staff and a maniacal laugh, he swears to protect Emily and goes after the space aliens who are responsible for Icarus's deadly trajectory and Earth's impending doom. It turns out that the head villain wants to destroy Earth simply because he thinks no one should exist in the universe except him. Meanwhile, Yamatone and his team have their hands full trying to get the cannon operational before they're wiped out.

It's campy and silly children's fare that pits morally wholesome good guys against faceless bad guys. Golden Bat is totally ridiculous and only shows up 5-6 times throughout the film. He wears a silly looking skull mask with a missing tooth, but it's unclear whether it's a supposed to be a mask or his actual face. His constant laughter is unsettling and makes him sound like a crazy villain. He can also fly, and his magic staff is immensely powerful. However, the villains look even sillier, and Nazo looks like a four-eyed teddy bear with a robotic claw for a hand. The action is well-paced and the visual effects are delightfully tacky, but fun to watch. Sonny Chiba makes an endearing hero and his intensity is perfect for the genre. However, his moral code and motivations are sometimes questionable. At one point, Earth is literally two days away from complete annihilation, and he decides to surrender the cannon - humanity's ONLY chance for survival - to the bad guys if they promise to stop killing hostages. I think he needs to work on his negotiation skills... But the sentiment is reminiscent of "Gamera Vs. Viras" (1968) where the UN decides to surrender Earth to space aliens in exchange for the lives of two young boys. There must be some cultural significance that I'm missing here. Overall, it's lighthearted goofy fun.