Now that Force Friday came and went, we still have so much time on our hands until the premiere of ‘The Force Awakens.’ Little can be done to make time move faster, but if you’re out of things to watch and have an open mind, ‘Message from Space’ might be a solution. The 1978 Japanese space epic is today’s Throwback Thursday, a look at sci-fi of the past.
There’s no denying that ‘Message from Space’ can be construed as a Japanese version of ‘Star Wars’. The similarities are just too blatant despite some pretty valid arguments from a few Netflix reviewers saying ‘Message from Space’ is more akin to ‘Flash Gordon.’ (George Lucas actually tried to make a Flash Gordon movie, but when that didn’t work out he created ‘Star Wars’.)
Kinji Fukasaku, who would later direct the critically acclaimed ‘Battle Royale’ in 2000, directed ‘Message from Space.’ The film was pretty expensive for its time, costing $6 million to make. Prominent manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori (‘Cyborg 009’) co-wrote the script and helped with the production design. American actor Vic Morrow (known for the TV show ‘Combat!’ and as well as his tragic death on the set of ‘Twilight Zone: The Movie’) plays the Han Solo/Ben Kenobi hybrid, General Garuda.
In the Andromeda galaxy, the Gavanas Empire invades the planet of Jillucia. Kido, the leader of the Jillucian tribe, sends out eight glowing Liabe seeds into space hoping it will reach those chosen few that can help. Kido’s granddaughter, Princess Emeralida along with a warrior named Urocco follow the seeds to lead them to their saviors. The seeds find their way to the reluctant heroes, including two young moppy-haired roughriders, Shiro and Aaron.
Sometimes the movie seems to think that being in space is the same as being underwater (i.e. you can swim through space.) Also, there are a few locations and costumes that come straight out of ‘Barbarella.’ But from the second opening title flashes and you hear the main score that is incredibly similar to “Princess Leia’s Theme,” you totally know what you’re in for.