Message From Space (1978)
Ask me today if I would like to watch Star Wars and I will look fairly disinterested. By Star Wars I mean the film that started the whole thing. I refuse to call it by any other name that`s been bestowed on it by it`s creator. Having said that, ask me to watch a Star Wars knock off and I’ll turn the DVD player on and get to it in the hopes of a good laugh. Starcrash anyone………
This Japanese Star Wars knock off comes to us from the Toei company by way of United Artists. For international flavor they have cast Vic Morrow as a General from Earth who it turns out has been chosen along with 7 others including his own midget robot and Sonny Chiba turning up in a bullhorn helmeted Samurai outfit. Their mission is to stop a deadly planet with a space ship propelling it towards Earth and our annihilation.
On board the deadly ship is a leader clad in black with his own version of storm troopers who look to dominate the universe.
Thankfully there are a couple of young guns helping Morrow’s cause who are wizards behind the controls of their fighter planes with enough bravery to go along with their skills. There is even a Princess along for the ride and a schooner that is equipped with sails and jet propulsion to move it through space. It`s all rather bizarre and one can`t help but wonder what the hell Vic Morrow is doing in the middle of this unabashed Star Wars rip-off. Then again Vic turned up in Great White which was a Jaws rip off right down to the exploding shark finale from Italy.
Despite the terrible dubbing and borrowed plot some of the starship models come off fairly well in the effects department. Especially when things start exploding and blowing up. There`s also a samurai duel between Sonny Chiba and our Darth Vader wannabe that ends in a glorious fashion. Apparently this was a high budgeted film in it`s native country and considering the look of Toho films from this era I guess it shows in relation to the Japanese industry of the time. Other than the exploding ships and a few of the designer sets, that`s still not much of a recommendation.
Anytime there is a film that turns into a runaway smash we`re always going to get the knockoffs and Roger Cormans of the world cashing in on their popularity. For every Jurassic Park there is a Carnosaur so it`s no different with Star Wars I guess. One thing I don`t quite understand is why more films are not blocked for outright plagiarism. The only time I recall a film being blocked was the Jaws ripoff that Morrow appeared in, Great White and of course Murnau`s Nosferatu.
I am not saying this is basically a scene for scene rip off but there`s no doubting where the film got it`s ideas and many images from. But then wasn’t the center of Star Wars plot taken from Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress?