Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Movie review - "Message from Space" (1978) **

I saw this film on VHS as a kid but could never get anyone to believe me that it existed - a Japanese sci fi with white leads and a scene where some people in space where chasing fireflies... So I thought I dreamt it but when I read that book on New World Pictures I realised I didn't... it was Message in Space.

It's a Star Wars knock off, of course - though interestingly enough it seems inspired by Seven Samurai, the year before New World made their own Samurai knock off, Battle Beyond the Stars. An alien planet is facing invaders; a wise old men sends these eight seeds out into space to recruit heroes to save them which seems to me to be leaving a lot to chance.

God (or some other higher power) is looking after these people because the seeds wind up in very specific places: the spacecraft of some hot rod pilots, the drink of Vic Morrow (as a general who retires after his robot dies... was the robot his lover?), the tomato can of a wacky buck-toothed comic relief.

It's oddly structured. I thought the stakes were going to be all on this race of people on the planet (led by a princess) but about half way through the film the baddies discover about Earth and want that and the movie becomes about Earth... and Vic Morrow and the other leads are from Earth. There's a character who gets a seed who is the brother of the baddy but that brother is not introduced until half way through.

There were some really good bits: the alien people realise their whole planet must blow up if the baddies are to be defeated; an old crone dies as the baddies read about her dreams of earth (they'd never heard of it before?); one of the group is a traitor; I like how the head baddy had an evil crone mother; there's a girl among the pilot heroes.

But a lot of it is very hookey. The seeds have these mystical powers which drives far too much of the story; the special effects aren't very good (though their slap dash nature is part of the film's charm); the film varies in tone.

It's a ramshackle mess, really best watched by kids on VHS in the early 80s, but it is fun.

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