Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 23rd, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, April 4th, 1978
Japanese Title: Uchu kara no messeji
Approximate running time: 105 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1 Widescreen (VistaVision)
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writers: Kinji Fukasaku, Shotaro Ishinomori, Hirô Matsuda, Masahiro Noda
Cinematograper: Toru Nakajima
Composer: Ken-Ichiro Morioka
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Jerry Ito, Vic Morrow, Philip Casnoff, Etsuko Shihomi, Peggy Lee Brennan, Tetsuro Tamba, Hiroyuki Sanada, Mikio Narita, Makoto Satô
Synopsis: The citizens from the planet of Jillucia are forced to flee their when they are invaded by the Gavanas and their diabolical Emperor Rockseia. Jillucia’s only hope for survival rests upon eight individuals who have received the glowing Liabee seeds. Can these eight individuals save the people of Jillucia before they are exterminated by the Emperor Rockseia and her minions?
Message from Space was released shortly after the phenomena known as Star Wars. There are definitely similarities between the two films that cannot be denied but then this is something that is not exactly new. Often remakes are made around the world from box office hits. The source material for Message from Space and the bulk of the plot is actually based on the Japanese serial “Nanso Satomi Hakkenden” and the style of the film as well as some of the character are where the Star Wars connection comes from. Five years later director Kinji Fukasaku would revisit the genesis behind “Nanso Satomi Hakkenden” this time adapting the story more faithfully for his film “The Legend of Eight Samurai’s”. Message from Space also spawned off the television series “Uchu Kara no Messeji: Ginga Taisen” (Message from Space: Galactic Battle) which also starred Hiroyuki Sanada.
Director Kinji Fukasaku is best known for his revolutionary take on the Yakuza genre in the 1970’s. Fukasaku was no stranger to the Sci-Fi genre having directed films like The Green Slime and the end of the world epic Virus. Visually Message from Space looks dated not only by today’s standards but even when it came out the special effects used where rather primitive. Flaws like this is what this film so endearing and so damn enjoyable. Kinji Fukasaku does an admirable job trying to bring this story alive despite the films numerous limitations. Also the Star Wars connection is at times overstated as most of the plot look and characters are far enough removed to be clones.
The cast features American actors like Vic Morrow who is very good in the role of General Garuda. Morrow’s performance is one of the more subdued in the film while most of the cast let loose. The Japanese side of the cast features many famous faces like Sonny Chiba as Prince Hans, Etsuko Shihomi as Princess Esmeralida and Hiroyuki Sanada as Shiro. These three Japan action club members are in top form especially Hiroyuki Sanada whose character is a daredevil pilot. Two other notable lesser roles are Tetsuro Tanba and Mikio Narita as the sinister Rockseia.
Most of the action comes in the form of laser beam and space ships battles. There is some more intimate fighting scenes like a scene near the end of the film wear a sword wielding Sonny Chiba single handedly disposes of dozens of Rockseia’s henchmen. Basically this film is just all over the place and filled to the brim with bizarreness. Ultimately Message from Space is an awful film that can be a lot of fun after downing a few cold ones.