Message from Space (1978)

Genres - Action, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Sci-Fi Action  |   Release Date - Apr 29, 1978 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - Japan  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Besieged by the evil ruler Rocksaia (Mikio Narita) and his samurai-like army of Gavanas, the peaceful inhabitants of the planet Jilucia send eight magical Liabe nuts into space in the hope that they will bring back warriors to help them defeat the invaders. What the Jilucians get instead are pilots Philip Casnoff and Hiroyuki "Henry" Sanada, martial arts hero Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba as a turncoat relation of Rocksaia, and a past-his-prime general (Vic Morrow). The group manages to take a stand against the Gavanas, who have also focused their world-domination plans on Earth as well.

Unfairly slagged as a cheap rip-off of Star Wars -- and with its rickety special effects and suspiciously familiar characters, it would certainly seem like one -- this science fiction/adventure film from Japan's Toei Studios makes up for its shortcomings with a devil-may-care energy reminiscent of '40s-era serials. Non-discerning genre fans and children especially will enjoy its frenetic action scenes and loopy plot (which, despite its similarity to The Seven Samurai, is actually derived from a 19th-century Japanese novel). Director Kinji Fukasaku's eclectic career includes the 1968 sci-fi/monster movie The Green Slime, the cult crime film Black Lizard (1967), and the controversial dystopian drama Battle Royale (2000).