by Kris Tronerud
Black Rose Mansion • Directed by Kinji Fukasaku • Shochiku Studios • 1969
Exactly 30 years ago, I found myself crouched down in a neighborhood theater to watch what was being openly marketed as a Star Wars ripoff with my ten year old son, frankly not expecting a whole lot beyond an amusing Saturday afternoon hangout with the kid. What I got was an intensely colorful, surprisingly heartfelt sci-fi saga that straddled the line between Space Opera and Fairy Tale a lot more fully than did Star Wars, and whose fanciful, if not exactly realistic special effects achieved a palpable sense of childhood wonder on about a zillionth of George Lucas’ budget. Starring Vic Morrow(!) and Sonny Chiba, Message from Space had believable, well drawn characters, and was alternately thrilling, funny, touching, scary and goofy, in about equal proportions. Welcome to the world of Kinji Fukasaku.