Star Wars -- a rare root for New Hope
In doing research for my latest ten-minute epic science fiction film set in the 1950s, I went back to the archives of films I watched when I was younger, those amazing films so technically backward few but fanatics like me might still consider them worth watching.
In one old Japanese film, I found amazing similarities to the 1977 classic Star Wars -- A New Hope.
Over the years, of course, I had heard tales of the various influences George Lucas had drawn on to create his masterpiece, from TV westerns to soap operas; I had not found the connection so strong as I did reviewing the ancient Japanese thriller.
Establishing a direct relationship between Lucas’ film and those that preceded it, but as with Steven Spielberg, Lucas to have been strongly influenced by films and other materials, he was exposed to as a child.
In the Japanese space opera, Attack from Space, we find several key scenes and ideas that Lucas incorporated not only in New Hope but in other films in the Star Wars series.
The Japanese film comes straight out of the 1930s Flash Gordon era with the same silent movie style of acting and the same primitive effects.
In this film, we encountered a council of alien races who have come together because of a rapidly advancing war-like species who is advancing through the universe taking over and stripping planet after habitable planet. This council sends their version of a Jedi Knight to save earth which has already been infiltrated by advance spies from this race.
Whereas the Dark Lord in his minions are seeking to recover the plans to their advanced war machine, the evil ones in the Japanese film are seeking to steal the plans that scientists on earth have designed for peaceful purposes.
As in Star Wars, the evil legions capture the scientists and bring them aboard their war machine.
While the use of the term “death star” exists in both Star Wars and the Japanese film, in the Japanese film, it is literally a dying star the Jedi passes though on his way to rescue the prisoners inside the evil war machine. But it seems clear that Lucas liked the term enough to transfer the name to his war machine when he made New Hope.
As in New Hope, the evil ones in the Japanese film decide to demonstrate the power of their weapon. But instead of destroying a whole world as New Hope’s death star does, the evil ones in the Japanese film settle for a mountain range on earth and a few important cities, to encourage the human race to surrender.
While the battle between the evil ones and the Japanese Jedi go on and on, some of the side scenes depicted in the Japanese film also strongly resemble those we later encounter in New Hope.
The male and female heroes of the Japanese film disguise themselves in the garb of the evil soldiers just as they do in New Hope, and try to escape unnoticed by the legions of evil storm troopers that are parading throughout the space ship. As in New Hope, these non-Jedi heroes are soon discovered, and thus begins the never ending conflict that eventually leads to their escape. As in New Hope, they carry away with them the secrets for destroying the evil race.
As in the Star War series, this conflict is rooted in antiquity, part of a long struggle in which we are only witnessing the latest chapter, but hope to see the resolution through the exploits of a great warrior from the past.
While Attack from Space is clearly not the only source from which Lucas drew, is clearly an important one, out of which he derived not only a significant portion of New Hope’s plot line, but some of the back story we later obtain in the subsequently released Star Wars films.