***/**** Image C+ Sound C- Extras C Madness A
starring Vic Morrow, Sonny Chiba, Philip Casnoff, Peggy Lee Brennan
screenplay by Hiroo Matsuda
directed by Kinji Fukasaku
by Walter Chaw Essentially a big-budget, feature-film version of Calvinball if Bill Watterson were a manga artist undergoing a psychotic break, Kinji Fukasaku's balls-insane Message from Space is a very special brand of genius. It honours no structural logic that I can discern, though it does have a kinetic kid-logic, the kind honed from endless summer afternoons tromping around with your buddies, making shit up and being happier than you'll ever be again in your life. Message from Space captures that headiness, that heedlessness, the sort of reckless creativity that charts the course between memorable films by someone like Ed Wood and forgettable films by every other hack with the same level of talent but not the same joyful dedication. I'm not saying Message from Space is a good movie--I can't even say that the reasons for its existence are particularly honourable (it's an obvious Star Wars cash-grab). But I can say that Message from Space is crazy-energetic and has more delightful moments packed into it than a dozen "normal" movies. I also wouldn't underestimate its influence on a generation of kids Star Wars-hungry during that three-year gap between the first film and The Empire Strikes Back. Herein, find the source of Will Ferrell's Ron Burgundy at least, and, incidentally, the better version of Mel Brooks's Spaceballs (and Stewart Raffill's The Ice Pirates).