In the late 1950s, Japanese special effect films (also known as “tokusatsu”) were gaining in
popularity.  One character ruled this genre in nine films.  His name was Super Giant, and he was
brought to life by actor Ken Utsui and production studio Shintoho Co. Ltd.  Super Giant was a
significant figure in the history of Japanese cinema; for many, he was the first major superhero to
appear on film.  By 1964, America wanted in on Super Giant’s action, so Walter Manley
Enterprises bought the rights to the Super Giant films, edited all nine of them down to four TV
movies and renamed Super Giant as Starman. This summer, I’m hoping you’ll join me on a journey
to rediscover Starman, starting with the 1964 movie Atomic Rulers of the World.

      Atomic Rulers of the World takes the first two Super Giant movies and combines them into a
single film.  This is a fairly intuitive move because Super Giant 2 was a continuation of Super Giant
1’s story.  Atomic Rulers opens with the high council of the Emerald Planet reacting to nuclear
contamination that is coming their way from Earth’s atomic tests.  This is one of my favorite high
councils ever.  These costumed characters gesture with great conviction because most of them
lack mouths to move, and some of them resemble the Pairans from the 1956 Japanese film
Warning from Space.  They give Starman a “Globe-meter” to wear on his wrist that gives him the
abilities to fly, to detect radiation, and to speak and understand all languages.

      There is a plot to the rest of the film, but mostly this movie is an excuse to show off Starman’s
abilities.  For strarters, Starman is serious and his fighting style is stiff, though he always wins.  
Sometimes, his acrobatics are impressive; sometimes they are a little too nonchalant.  Starman
also has super strength; he can bend guns like rubber and stop a car with his bare hands.  Bullets
don’t hurt Starman.  Starman sometimes flies like a jet plane, with his arms extended to the side
and behind him. At other times, he flies like Superman.

      Perhaps most impressive of Starman’s powers is his charisma.  Though often stoic, Starman
has a rapport with nearly everyone, even reformed criminals.  His strongest connections in this film
are with children, likely because they are a huge audience for movies like these.  Overall, Starman
is hard to dislike even with some of the cheesy effects in this movie because so many of the
“good” people in this film like him.

      Watch
Atomic Rulers of the World and check out the most cartoon-looking map you’ve ever
seen in a villains’ headquarters.
Sci-Fi Rewind: Atomic Rulers of the World (1964)
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Director: Teruo Ishii, Koreyoshi Akasaka
Starring: Ken Utsui, Junko Ikeuchi, Shoji Nakayama, Monoru Takada, Utako Mitsuya
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