Message from Space, starring Vic Morrow, Mikio Narita, Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Shihomi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Philip Casnoff, Philip Casnoff
Synopsis of Message from Space
From a captive planet two million light years away, came a desperate message from space… Help us! On the verge of annihilation, Kido, the leader of the persecuted Jillucians, sends his beautiful granddaughter, Emeralida, to find the eight legendary brave warriors who alone can stop the steel-skinned hordes of the Gavanas Empire! This disparate, rag-tag group (a drunken general, a deposed prince, space hot rodders, a hoodlum, a royal retainer, and a broken-down robot) must band together before it’s too late before the Gavanas can reach their next target: Earth!
Review of Message from Space
Space walnuts! Flying space schooner! Space fireflies! A strange mixture of Star Wars rip-off, Anime cliches, and other tropes. All of these combine to make Message from Space more than just a low-budget Star Wars clone. Message from Space is silly, campy, cheesy – and enjoyable. It’s one of those movies that you will watch with friends and a tub of popcorn, for equal parts enjoyment and snarking about the movie.
Where have I seen you before?
- Vic Morrow (Combat! )
- Sonny Chiba (Kill Bill! )
- Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine)
- Etsuko Shihomi (Sister Street Fighter)
- Tetsuro Tamba (You Only Live Twice)
- Philip Casnoff (Sinatra)
- Hideyo Amamoto (King Kong Escapes)
Editorial review of Message from Space courtesy of Amazon.com
Delirious is the best (perhaps only) word to describe 1978’s Message from Space, director Kinji (Battle Royale) Fukasaku’s science fiction adventure that borrows from Star Wars(1977) for its central premise of an outer space war with an evil empire while adding a host of bizarre embellishments. Penned by a team of writers led by legendary manga creator Shotaro Ishinomori (Kamen Rider, Cyborg 009), Message filters the Lucas film through elements of the epic 19th-century samurai novel Nanso Satomi Hakkenden for its story of the peaceful planet of Jillucia, which sends out eight seeds in order to recruit warriors to aid them against the invading forces of the Gavanas and their leader, the metal-skinned Emperor Rockseia XII (yakuza film vet Mikio Narita).
Opposing them are a motley crew culled together by the seeds, including the hard-drinking General Garuda (Vic Morrow), exiled Gavanas prince Hans (martial arts superstar Sonny Chiba, who also choreographed the film’s fight sequences), Jillucian princess Emeralida (Chiba’s frequent costar Etsuko Shihomi of Sister Street Fighter fame), and a trio of speed-loving space jockeys (Lost‘s Hiroyuki Sanada and American actors Philip Casnoff and Peggy Lee Brennan).
The resulting adventure is a crazy quilt of Star Wars set pieces manqués, anime tropes, and moments of pure accidental surrealism, from the Jillucian seeds (which resemble nothing more than glow-in-the-dark walnuts) and Garuda’s robot companion Beba-2, who appears constructed from cardboard boxes, to a whoda-thunk cameo by Chris Isaak (!) and Emperor Rockseia’s nagging mother, played by veteran actor Hideyo Amamoto (King Kong Escapes) in drag.
Such elements have made Message from Space a favorite among camp and “bad movie” devotees for decades, but unlike the infamous “Turkish Star Wars” (Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam) or Italian carbons like Star Crash, the picture also possesses the genuine naive charm and boundless energy of Saturday afternoon cartoons or serials, as epitomized by its most memorable image, the schooner-shaped Prayer Star (the construction of which helped to skyrocket the film’s budget to record-setting heights).
Shout Factory’s DVD presentation offers the English-language version of Message from Space released in America by United Artists in 1978, which is virtually identical to the Japanese version, with Morrow and the other stateside actors providing their own voices. A 16-page booklet about the film’s production, written by Japanese genre film experts August Ragone and Patrick Macias, is also included, while the disc itself features the American theatrical trailer, a still gallery, and bios on the main players. –Paul Gaita