“Damn you, Golden Bat! I’ll get you for this!”

One night, while Akira Kazahaya (Wataru Yamagawa) is gazing through his telescope he sees the rogue planet Icarus has changed course and is heading for Earth. No one believes him until he is taken to Captain Yamaton (Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba) at the Pearl Research Institute in the Japanese Alps. It is a secret research facility run by the United Nations to detect unusual activity that may affect the Earth. They are aware of Akira’s knowledge of the universe and recruit him to help with the pending Icarus disaster.

Akira meets Dr. Pearl (Andrew Hughes) who is working on a Super Destruction Beam Cannon. With it he plans on destroying Icarus before it can crash into the Earth. All Dr. Pearl needs is a lens for his devise. The lens must be made of a mineral that is strong enough to withstand the power of the beam. They are searching for that material.

A distress call comes in to the institute. Dr. Pearl’s granddaughter Emily Paird (Emily Takami) alerts the others. The team takes Supercar #2 to the last known location of the call where they find a previously unknown island. One the island they find that the team members who sent the call are dead.

They are soon attacked by a strange squid looking spaceship that rises out of the ocean. On board is a giant velour four eyed rat creature who calls himself Nazo the Ruler of the Universe (Koji Sekiyama). He is responsible for Icarus’ new direction. Nazo’s minions attack Captain Yamaton and the team who must retreat underground in what looks like a tomb. They find out that they are on Atlantis. In the tomb they uncover a sarcophagus containing a skeleton-like creature and a written prophecy. The prophecy says that after ten thousand years a crisis will happen. When it does “I the Golden Bat shall awaken from my ten thousand year slumber to fight alongside you. Pour water on my chest to awaken me.” In his hand they find a jewel that proves to be the mineral they are looking for.

Suddenly, Nazo’s people find the group down in the tomb and attack them. Emily pours some water on the mummy’s chest. The Golden Bat (Osamu Kobayashi) awakens and kills all the minions and forces the spaceship to retreat. He gives Emily a golden bat that turns into a pin. He tells her that if they need him again to call on him and he will appear. The gang returns to the institute and create a lens out of the mineral for the beam cannon.

Nazo sends his three top minions Keloid (Yoichi Numata), Piranha (Keiko Kuni), and Jackal (Keiichi Kitagawa) to infiltrate the institute and bring him the weapon. Piranha disguises herself as team member Naomi Akiyama (Hisako Tsukuba) while Jackal kidnaps Dr. Pearl and eventually Emily. Nazo also gets his hands on the beam cannon but without the lens it is useless. Nazo eventually gains the lens as well. Now it’s up to The Golden Bat to save the Earth from Nazo’s treachery, meanwhile Icarus is still barreling toward the Earth.

“The Golden Bat” AKA “Ougon Batto” was released in 1966. It is a Japanese science fiction superhero movie that for some reason fell off the face of the Earth. The character was created by Suzuki Ichiro and Takeo Nagamatsu in 1931.

The Golden Bat or Ougon Batto made his debut in a kamishibai. He is considered to be the world’s first comic book superhero. The Golden Bat was around before Superman, who appeared in 1938 or Batman who made his first appearance in 1939.

Kamishibai, or paper play, is a form of Japanese street theater and storytelling. This form of entertainment stemmed from Buddhist temples where the monks would tell the history of the monastery using picture scrolls. Kamishibai remained popular until the advent of television. The narrator or kamishibaiya would set up on street corners with hand drawn or painted storyboards on a miniature stage. The kamishibaiya would change the illustrations as the story went along. It was, in essence, a narrated comic book.

The movie was a lot of fun and full of action. It’s campy and the flying effects for Ougon Batto are hilarious. The Golden Bat character is quite good. Looking a little like Skeletor wearing, what I assume is, gold lame and a cape he is one of the strangest superheroes around. Being a black and white movie his outfit looks silver but his name is the Golden Bat so gold lame would be more appropriate.

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