MESSAGE FROM SPACE (1978)
Message From Space is Japan’s answer to Star Wars, though there are actually few similarities as this colorful and deliriously fun space adventure is actually based on a Japanese legend, The Legend of the Eight Samurai. Message tells the tragic story of the planet Jillucia, which is ravaged and conquered by the Gavanas, led by tyrannical leader Rockseia XXII (Mikio Narita) and his henpecking mother (actor Hideyo Amamoto in drag). The Jillucians send out a distress call in the form of eight glowing seeds which legend says will lead eight warriors, picked by the gods, to come to their defense. Jillcucian Princess, Emeralida (Etsuko Shihom) leaves to follow them and gather the warriors to return with her. Soon a ragtag group of both would-be and reluctant defenders, including retired drunk, General Garuda (Vic Morrow), exiled Gavana, Prince Hans (Sonny Chiba) and a bunch of space racing slackers, are off to Jillucia to take on the invaders who have now set their sights on Earth.
Directed by the versatile Kinji (Battle Royale) Fukasaku, Message From Space is a fast moving and delightfully silly and fun space opera with an abundance of entertainingly cheezy SPFX and numerous battles and action sequences, as this unlikely group of heroes go up against an almost invincible empire. You can have a real blast if you go into it with the right mindset and the right beverages. Vic Morrow’s drunken space general and his faithful robot sidekick are worth watching it for alone. There is also some really imaginative art direction and spaceship designs, including a ship that resembles an old sea galleon. Message looks more like a live action Manga then a Star Wars clone with it’s art deco sets and space samurai costumes.
A really fun Saturday night film fest flick that would make a great double feature with Roger Corman’s Battle Beyond The Stars. Also starring Philip Casnoff, Hiroyuki Sanada, Peggy Lee Brennan and Masazumi Okabe as Aaron, Shiro, Meia and Jack respectively, the young space slackers who become heroes. Message has just become available for the first time on a beautifully remastered DVD from the awesome people at Shout Factory!
A campy , fun 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) star galleons