“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more”.
The Gavanas Empire has conquered the peaceful planet of Jillucia. The evil Emperor Samurai Rockseia (Mikio Narita), with his mother Empress Dark (Hideyo Amamotot) at his side, rules with an iron fist. Kido (Junkichi Orimoto), a Jillucian elder, in a last ditch effort, casts out eight Liabe seeds, that look like walnuts, to the universe in the hope of locating eight heroes who can help defeat the Emperor and liberate the planet.
Kido’s granddaughter, the princess Emeralida (Essuko Shihomi) and her warrior guard Urocco (Makoto Sato) follow the seeds as a sort of beacon in order to locate the chosen ones. They escape Rockseia’s clutches on a space pirate ship. The Empress tells Rockseia to follow the pirate ship to make sure it is destroyed.
The first people who find the seeds are two gear head space hot-rod pilots Aaron Solar (Philip Casnoff) and Shiro Hongo (Hiroyuki Sanada) and their sleazy friend Jack (Masazumi Okabe). The next is a washed up military man, General Garuda (Vic Morrow), along with his robot sidekick Beba 2. Another recipient of a magic walnut looking seed is spoiled rich girl, with a wild streak, Meia Long (Peggy Lee Brennan). With three more chosen ones left to find the group of misfits have a few issues to work out between them before they get with the program.
An old woman captured by the Gavanas while they were in pursuit of the princess proves to be an interesting subject for their mind probe. From her thoughts Rockseia learns of a beautiful blue planet. A planet that he believes would be the perfect place for his fortress. They head for Earth.
“Message From Space” was released in 1978 and was directed by Kinji Fukasaku. The movie is a Japanese space opera starring Sonny Chiba and Vic Morrow. It was produced by the Toei Film Company. It’s Japanese “Star Wars”.
Moving at warp speed the movie is a plethora of sci-fi tropes and action sequences. Even when people aren’t doing anything, their doing it fast. There are explosions and lasers and phasers. Fist fights, sword fights and glowing walnuts. Kidnappings, high speed chases and a duel. Not to mention all the Beeps Boops Bops and laser sound effects.
Coming out a year after Star Wars, but at half the budget, American distributors thought they had a winner on their hands. But, no, they didn’t. As a film done in 1978 for 1978 audiences that have seen “Star Wars” it’s awful. But for those who like sci-fi camp from that era it’s got everything you would need. It’s now an unintended comedy more like “Spaceballs” than “Star Wars” but with less jokes.
Made as an “A” movie it quickly settled to “B” grade. The production values were impressive and the sets lavish enough to pass the muster, sort of, but with such a chaotic mix of everything outer space and then some it’s a tough movie to keep up with. With so much thrown at you it’s easy to miss all the bad science and two dimensional characters, but looking at it as 70’s camp it’s a very enjoyable movie. Stupid, but fun. Good enough if you want to gather some friends around and crack open a beer, a little cheese dip and make fun to your heart’s content. And may the Schwartz be with you.