Message from Space

September 1, 2014 at 4:56 pm (8 Heads, Message from Space) (, , , , , , , )

Message from Space – 1978 – Japan

An evil warlord invades a planet of peaceful primitives. To save his tribe, a shaman throws magical seeds into space to seek out eight legendary warriors. Instead, the seeds find some juvenile delinquents, an alcoholic ex-soldier, and a too-cute robot named Beba. After overcoming their misgivings, these rogues defeat the warlord with daring, ingenuity, and spaceship piloting ability.

Message from Space (not to be confused with Warning from Space) is a derivative but rousing space opera. Spaceship dogfights vividly recall Star Wars, but the medieval-like aliens and their outrageous costumes evoke Flash Gordon and sentai series.

At the time, Message from Space was the most expensive movie made in Japan, and it shows. The incredible models, sets, costumes, and props are elaborately ornate, combining the futuristic and fantastical. One spaceship looks like a Chinese junk, and people spacewalk with no protection other than masks. Likewise, the outrageous evil warlord is part robot, samurai, and wizard.

Message from Space’s special effects are also great. Dynamic space battles depict squadrons of fighters dodging nimbly about. Massive battleships are consumed by flames in breathtaking scenes of destruction with truly excessive amounts of pyrotechnics. Earth’s moon is destroyed! A planet transforms into a spaceship! In the finale, three lone ships fly down a tunnel to destroy the planet’s core. Images in this scene seem to be taken verbatim from Return of the Jedi (1983), but Message from Space predates it.

Message from Space was directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who also directed Battle Royale (2000). Shotaro Ishinomori (well-known manga artist and creator of Kamen Rider) helped write and design it. Despite top billing, Sonny Chiba has a small role as Prince Hans (not Han Solo), and is mostly just there to participate in a sword fight.

Rating: 8/10 Shrunken Heads. No shortage of awesome spectacle.

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