Featured Post

Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Message from Space (1978)

You know for all my love of seventies cinema and as much as I constantly talk about and cover various “sploitation” flicks I’ve never dove into the fertile ground of Star Wars “sploitation”. In case you are wondering what the hell I’m talking about these would be the movies that were inspired by bigger budget successful Hollywood flicks. Jaws spawned movies like Piranha and Grizzly. Other examples would be the Exorcist “homages” like Abby or The Possessed. “Mockbusters” weren’t a new invention, sorry The Asylum, but existed for as long as someone had a camera and an idea how to cash in on what was popular. And there wasn’t anything quite as popular in a post nineteen seventy seven America then Star Wars.

So why haven’t I covered these movies before? Mostly because they are, at least in my experience, quite awful. Not sure if it is an inability for most filmmakers to make a science fiction flick but unlike some of the other examples I’ve mentioned from other movies the ones cashing in on Star Wars are bad. Off the top of my head the only one that I remember sort of enjoying is Star Crash and that is mostly watching Joe Spinell being his own special sort of greasy. But since one of my colleagues on the Bloodbaths and Boomsticks Podcast picked Message from Space and I had to watch it anyway I thought I’d sit down and share my thoughts with you folks here.

Here is my plot synopsis. Some bad guys invaded some good guys planet and in that process apparently made it a terrible place to life. The remaining locals, completely outgunned, have some magic nuts. An old guy throws those magic nuts into space and tells Bootleg Japanese Princess Leia to go protect them. It is at this point where we meet the bad guy, Samurai Darth Vader, who sees the magic space nuts fly away. He doesn’t care until his mom comes in and yells at him, so the sends bad guys after Bootleg Japanese Princess Leia. She has escaped the planet on her wooden sailing ship…because that works.

"Bootleg" Japanese Princess Leia
Following me so far? Then we are introduced to the Teenage Hot Rod gang in Space who are racing around in their “jalopy” space ships. There is a rich girl, who is actually part of their gang I think… it gets confusing. But they get chased by spaceman Roscoe P. Coltrane aka. the space cops. They get away but end up crashing because the magic nuts smashed into their ships. Why? Because they were chosen to save the peaceful folks. We also get to meet military guy, played by Vic Morrow, who quits the military after they make him deactivate his favorite robot friend. Not to worry though he has a new robot friend which I guess is an improved model? He also gets a magic space nut. A few more folks get magic space nuts like Barbershop quartet guy who lost his three partners and the rightful king of the bad guys who rids a horse and happens to be Sony Chiba. I’ll call him Space Hattori Hanzo.

Still with me? The chosen nut heroes go back to the planet to stop the bad guys who have used a memory machine to read a witch’s mind which is code for stock footage of nature. But it is really good stock footage because now they want to invade Earth! So, they fly the planet they have currently wrecked… no you didn’t read that wrong… and start a war. Now the nut heroes not only have to defeat the bad guys, save the good guys, but also rescue the Earth. They do manage that and sail away on the wooden ship. Woo hoo.

What the actual hell did I just watch? Honestly, I’m not sure what the point was with Message from Space. They are clearly “borrowing” from the Star Wars characters with the archetypes. Hell, the costumes the characters wear are very similar to what those they were inspired by wear in Lucas’s flick. That is why I named them the way I did. The big finale of the movie even has then flying thru a gauntlet of laser cannons and fighters so they can shoot the “generator” and blow up the planet, which looks suspiciously like “not a moon” aka. a space station. There is even a musical cue that comes very close to but totally not infringing on some of the John Williams score.

I guess this is a space ship...
When they do their own thing, it gets very weird. What is up with the magic space nuts flying around choosing folks to fight the bad guys? Why the hell was that the choice? Also, when not almost getting sued by John Williams the soundtrack is filled with odd ‘70s music that would have fit better in a Moonshiner being chased by cops type of movie. It is very out of place in what is supposed to be a science fiction flick. All of this is wrapped up in a meandering hour and forty five minute runtime that feels much longer. While I totally get that sometimes things are lost in translation, this is a Japanese production, I’m a huge fan of the Kaiju movies and most genre offerings from Japan. I am also inclined to like anything from Toei. This is the same company that made The Green Slime and I love that movie. When I say that this movie is painfully slow I think that I’m being reasonable and fair.

The one positive that I took away from this one is that the miniature work is good. If you like small models flying around the screen and exploding, then the movie with scratch that itch. I’m a fan of this type of practical effects work and appreciated both the design as well as the execution. That said I found Message from Space to be difficult to get thru and can’t recommend it. It will be a long time before I sit thru another Star Wars “sploitation” again.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

No comments:

Post a Comment