A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema

By Charles P. Mitchell | Go to book overview

The Last War (1961)

AKA Sekai Daisenso

Rating: **** Threat: Nuclear war

Toho. Written by Takeshi Kimura & Toshio Yazumi; Photographed by Rokuro Nishigaki; Special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya (supervisor); Edited by Koichi Iwashita & Kenneth Wannberg (U.S. version); Music by Ikuma Dan; Produced by Sanezumi Fujimoto & Tomoyuki Tanaka; Directed by Shuei Matsubayashi. Original version, 110 minutes; U.S. version, 80 minutes.


ANNOTATED CAST LIST

Akira Takarada (Takano, communications officer of the Kasagi Maru); Yuriko Hoshi (Seiko, his fiancée); Frankie Sakai (Mokichi Tamura, Sieko's father and chauffeur for the Tokyo Press Club); Nobuko Otawa (Yoshi, Seiko's mother); Chishu Ryu (Ebara, ship's cook on the Kasagi Maru); Yumi Shirakawa (Sanae, Ebara's daughter and kindergarten teacher); Eijirô Tono (captain of the Kasagi Maru); Masao Oda (sweet potato vendor); John F. Kennedy (closing narrator); Hank Brown, Harold Conway, Daniel Jones, Harold Larson (American military officers); Hans Horneff, Roy Leonard, Osman Yusuf (Soviet military officers); Toshihiko Furuta, Shigeki Ishida, Jerry Ito, Seizaburô Kawazu, Nadao Kirino, Chieko Nakakita, Nobuo Nakamura, Toshiko Nakano, Kôzo Nomura, Yutaka Oka, Wataru Omae, Minoru Takada, Ken Uehara, Koji Uno, Yamamura.


SYNOPSIS

In the early 1960s, two similar Japanese films were released within a few months of each other. The first picture was Dai Sanji Sekai Taisen or The Final War (1960) and the second one was known as Sekai Daisenso or The Last War. Both films portray a nuclear conflict between the Western forces, led by America, and the Eastern bloc, led by the Soviet Union. The entire world is destroyed in both films, either by an initial blast or by the fallout, which blankets the planet. Both also present their stories on two levels, through the eyes of officials and military leaders as well as through the eyes of ordinary people, such as a reporter and his fiancée in The Final War, and a naval officer and his finacée's family in The Last War. The Final War was shot in black and white, played briefly in U.S. theaters, and then largely disappeared. The Last War never played in America theatrically, but it has played extensively on television and is relatively accessible. The Last War is considered the finer of the two films, although the English-language version is significantly shorter than the Japanese print.

The Last War begins at sea as the captain of the freighter Kasagi Maru outlines the current options available to the crew. The last war is over, having re-

-98-

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