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.

One comment

  1. UrDad says:

    I thought Message From Space was one of the most weird movies I’ve ever seen, and it cracks me up that you have so much to say about it. We did have fun going to all those quickly made and released silly movies that came out in the wake of Star Wars. Overall, I think they were pretty bad, but hard to forget.

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