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Message from Space (1978) - Blu-ray Review

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Message From Space (1978) - Blu-ray Review

5 beersJapanese film director and screenwriter Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale) has certainly left his mark on filmmaking.  Notable for his extensive use of shaky camera techniques in the 1970s, his influences on film spread worldwide over his lifetime with his final film being one of his most impactful upon the pop culture. 

Fukasaku’s films weren’t always well received, though, and it is his two science fiction flicks that (a) cost and (b) bombed the most.  It is, in fact, hard to say which one, 1978’s Message from Space or 1980’s Virus, was torn apart the most by the disappointed public spoiled by Star Wars' special effects and the critics at the time of its release pissed by its similarities.  They both got unfairly raked over the coals.  Time, though, is a funny thing and, just like a person’s taste, it tends to soften. 

With this in mind, it’s time to revisit some of these low-minded, high-stylized cult classics and gaze deeply into their eyes to see what they REALLY offer.   Scream Factory, recognizing that the cult appeal of Message from Space far outweighs it obvious flaws, have surprised genre fans with a 1080p upgrade of one of the goofiest Star Wars rip-offs to ever hit the silver screen.  To be fair, though, what didn’t Star Wars rip-off?  All’s fair in love and war and, certainly, Lucas' space opera is NOTHING original.  

I couldn’t be happier about this blu-ray release.  I’ve already seen this film four or five times in my life and, hell, I’d LOVE to see it in a proper theater.  While the release is limited to 1000 copies only, it comes highly recommended.  In what other movie can you see Sonny Chiba (of Street Fighter fame) fracture his legs thanks to a swift moving door?  It's painful (even if it is edited out), but you can still see the point of impact.

Starring Vic Morrow (Twilight Zone: The Movie) Message from Space was shredded for being a blatant Star Wars clone at the time of its release.  Okay, I’ll grant the critics that but, when you really dive in to the bewildering style and humor of this space age tale, you begin to notice that it isn’t as similar as we were led to believe.  Sure, there's a rag-tag band of freedom fighers who come to the aid of a defeated planet and, yes, there's an awesome space clunker that zips around space blowing renegrade ships up left and right, but there's an unrelenting sense of space age joy that radiates from this one that is hard to ignore.  It's a misfire, for sure, but that doesn't prevent it from being out of its mind with AWESOMESAUCE.   

With enough variations from Lucas’ film to be its playful self, Message from Space is an enjoyable b-minded romp through a galaxy full of model ships, wires, and disco-inspired costumes.  Oh, it’s cracked all right, but – when approached with the right attitude – there’s a jubilant spirit guiding it that needs to be experienced and, dare I suggest it, praised.    

Originally written by manga champ Shotaro Ishinomori, the epic B-movie opens with the terrifying tale of a threatened planet named Jillucia.  The evil Rockseia XLL (Mikio Narita) has it and its poor people under his thumb.  In retaliation, they send cosmic seeds out across the galaxy for help.  Rockseia XLL, the leader of the silver-skinned armies, and his wheelchair-bound mother – a bizarro tag team of cross-dressing villains right there – are having none of it, though.  He wants all of the magical Liabe Seeds the peace-loving planet have sent out in distress.  It is too late, though, the seeds are out in the cosmos glowing hard enough to be seen and worn as jewelry. 

With three cocky pilots and a burned out general (with his own droid named Beba-1) coming forward as Jillucia’s sole protectors, theirs is a race through the corners of the galaxy to arrive on time.  The film features hyper-realized performances from Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine), Etsuko Shihomi (Sister Street Fighter), and Tetsuro Tamba (You Only Live Twice).  It also has a cameo from singer Chris Isaak who is playing cards at the disco bar in one of the loudest moments in the film.  Now, how the hell did THAT happen?  Anyone?   

Full of spaceships that join together to make an impressive statement of firepower, giant holograms, epic laser shots, and one hell of an explosion, Message from Space is bewildering, wild, and gonzo as all hell.  This movie needs to be experienced.  It might even be one of the best bad movies out there ...

... and you think you know what a space opera is all about.  You haven’t seen anything until you see and hear this Message from Space.

Message From Space (1978) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: PG.
Runtime:
105 mins
Director
: Kinji Fukasaku
Writer:
Hirô Matsuda
Cast:
Vic Morrow, Shin'ichi Chiba, Philip Casnoff
Genre
: Action | Sci-fi
Tagline:
Help Us.
Memorable Movie Quote: "A nut inside a tomato! What's going on here?"
Theatrical Distributor:
United Artists (dubbed)
Official Site:
Release Date:
October 30, 1978
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
September 27, 2016
Synopsis: On the verge of annihilation, Kido, the leader of the persecuted Jillucians, sends his beautiful granddaughter, Emeralida, to find the eight legendary brave warriors who alone can stop the steel-skinned hordes of the Gavanas Empire! This disparate, rag-tag group (a drunken general, a deposed prince, space hot rodders, a hoodlum, a royal retainer, and a broken-down robot) must band together before it's too late — before the Gavanas can reach their next target: Earth!

Message From Space (1978) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Shout Factory Exclusive / Uchu kara no messeji

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray
- September 27, 2016
Screen Formats: 2.0:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Well, it needs a complete restoration.  Released on blu-ray courtesy of Scream Factory, the 1080p transfer won’t win any awards for being the clearest the film has ever looked.  It ain’t bad, though.  I imagine the prints on this one are pretty damaged.  Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.00:1, the film has a lot of weak special effects that the crisp upgrade makes all the more noticeable.  Black levels are strong.  Shadows are effective.  Colors only pop in a few scenes – especially the disco bar – but that really isn’t a problem for a release of this nature.  Be happy it exists on HD, I suppose.  The sound is presented in a standard 2.0 stereo track.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

Nothing really to describe; there’s a trailer, a still gallery, and an essay about the cast.

  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery
  • On-Disc Essay From August Ragone

Message From Space (1978) - Blu-ray Review

 

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