MESSAGE FROM SPACE (1978) was designed as Japan’s answer to STAR WARS. It was directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who’d directed THE GREEN SLIME nine years earlier (see my entry of April 22, 2012). I remember seeing it in a neighborhood theater (the Loew’s Paradise) in late 1978 and enjoying it a great deal. On a technical level it may not be as good as STAR WARS, but it certainly pleased me a lot more. I was taken with the baroque imagery created by its mix of historical styles in the design of its spacecraft, costumes, sets and spacescapes. That space-traveling sailing ship was the clincher.
I was also moved by Vic Morrow’s performance as Garuda, a world-weary ex-General who’d resigned from the Earth Federation’s military after losing his R2D2-like robot sidekick, Beba I, and getting reprimanded for making unauthorized use of a spaceship to send the deceased robot into orbit. ( It’s never clear how the first robot “died” or why he simply couldn’t be repaired. Besides, Garuda’s got another one, Beba II, all lined up to take his place.) Morrow invests his character, a disillusioned old warrior, with a level of emotional layering that we don’t often find in American characters created for Japanese films.