Archive for Movie Monday

Movie Monday 002: Message From Space

It has been a tiring week, but I did not want to go two weeks without making a review, so…

This week: Message From Space

Toei And then United Artists: 1978

An ambitious and expensive Japanese movie imported to the US in the wake of Star Wars. The US movie industry was unprepared to supply the publics renewed hunger for sci-fi so they were buying up foreign films.

This movie was bought for a reported 1 million dollars. It probably made about $28 from my dad taking me to see it a couple times. He will remember it as the schlock Japanese sci fi movie with the space ships that were sailing ships with engines on the back. I remember it for the heroes ship with the fantastic fold out fighter bays (that was undoubtedly millennium falcon inspired).

I built a couple models of the ship and the fighters and always lusted after the die cast toys that now go for hundreds of dollars on ebay. I would love to have the model of the main good guys ship again.

This movie is the story of a ragtag group of unlikely heroes summoned by mystical space walnuts to save the planet Julucia from the evil Gavanas.

The plot is moderately ludicrous, the acting amusingly painful (even taking dubbing into account), and the action is very dated. The effects are actually rather good for the time (even if they are used to often ridiculous effect) , and the Star Wars influence on the models and props gives them a refreshing sense of reality.

Message From Space is a movie that is fun despite itself. It is enjoyable for the campiness of it, but it’s also just fun to watch. I loved it as a kid because I had no taste and would pretty much watch anything with a robot in it… I find I love it now for a mixture of the nostalgia and a genuine appreciation for what they were trying to do.

And the ships really are cool.

Characters: D6 : Uninspired archetypes with dubious motivations. Totally useful for space swashbuckling or other slightly silly settings. The enemies are evil for the sake of evil with gratuitous chrome and horned helmets and capes.

Soundtrack: D6 : Nothing special, a mix of 1960s sci-themes and Star Wars inspired orchestral bits. There is a CD out there and it could be fun to have’ but not worth much effort.

Plot: D8 : Ludicrous and clumsy (it is never a good sign when the narrator has to explain what is happening)… But also amusing and pretty well paced out. Not a bad model for gathering together characters and getting them to the action in a somewhat less than serious setting.

Tech/magic/maguffins: D8 : Remarkably fun space ships, swords in space, and tying all the characters together with mysterious seeds that could do just about anything the plot needed them to do at any given moment.

Settings: D6 : A series of locations barely connected to one another in any logical way. Some of them could be lifted for encounters, but I would not recommend using them all in the same plot.

Suggested system: FATE, Savage Worlds, the old D6 Star Wars, Battlestations.

Movie Monday 001: I Married a Monster From Outer Space!

And now it is time for the Movie Mondays to begin.

In these articles I will be delving into the b grade movie archives looking for hidden gems and moments of brilliance In a sea of barely adequate muck. I will be reviewing these films for how fun (or painful) they are, and also how useful they are to mine for games or writing purposes.

Ratings are in dice. From D4 to D20… Because that is how I roll! (I have lost my old icons so there won’t be any yet. Just text. I’ll fix that later if I feel like it.)

This week: I Married a Monster From Outer Space

Paramount 1958

Although the stand alone DVD seems to be out of print it is unlikely that you will have much difficulty finding a copy. In fact, if you are in the habit of buying those “20 sci-fi blockbusters” sets that can usually be found in the bargain bin by the register for $10 or less, you probably already own at least one copy of this film. I am pretty sure I have at least three.

I Married a Monster From Outer Space was not well received in 1958 and has been largely ignored ever since, which is a shame as it turns out to be a surprisingly good film.

The story features newly married Marge Farrell who, soon after her marriage, finds that her husband Bill is not at all himself. He is losing his affection for his wife and seems to have taken up cruelty to animals as a side hobby. Soon she finds out that Bill is not the only man in town who has changed and must figure out who she can trust to fight this menace from space.

A lurid title as well as its posters and other promotional materials point to this movie as the love child of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Mars Needs Women! And this is actually pretty much where the movie starts.

Surprisingly good cinematography and well above average special effects are balanced by solid B grade dialogue and one dimensional stereotypes… But about a third of the way to halfway through the movie it shifts a bit and becomes something a bit more than its parts would suggest.

Hidden inside of well worn tropes and off the shelf characters is an actual science fiction story and a take on the body snatchers concept with more bite than most.

I enjoyed this movie on a level I was not expecting to and while I would not recommend it as an entry into the classic sci-fi genre… I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Oh yeah, and the cars are gorgeous!

Characters: D6 : mostly cookie cutter, but fun for bit parts. The strong female lead for the time is remarkable, as is a particularly creepy policeman.

Soundtrack: D8 : Good solid classic sci-fi mood music. The soundtrack is available in a limited edition cd and if anyone wants to send me a copy I will do a happy dance. I might film said happy dance.

Plot: D8 : a very well worn path, but with some twists to the story worth paying attention to.

Tech/magic/maguffins: D6 : Not much. Ray guns, a space ship you don’t see a lot of and a few bits of alien gear with antennas. It’s saving grace in this category is a somewhat creepy take on the tech behind body snatching.

Settings: D4 : A poorly defined small town USA with not a lot to look at or think about.

Suggested system: gurps atomic horror, call of Cthulhu, or Cthulhu dark.

Overall: D10 : A fun movie a bit of a step outside its place and time. Well worth watching.

FiancĂ© summary: “Fish egg goo is gross.”