krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
It's been a while since I last watched an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and commented on it, but since then I've been putting a bit of thought into what I'll watch next. What with a certain thirtieth anniversary having arrived in recent weeks, I thought it might be kind of fun to watch those movies that could be called "Star Wars ripoffs"... (more fun than listening to the "RiffTrax" of the actual Star Wars movies, anyway). To start with, I watched a dubbed Japanese movie... that actually isn't a movie.

"Fugitive Alien" is another one of the Japanese productions featured throughout much of Mystery Science Theater's third season, orignally brought to North America by Sandy Frank. The crew eventually started "riffing" on Sandy Frank himself, ultimately resulting in what I've long heard was an awkward if not unpleasant situation... although, in some ways, it's not that hard to not quite feel sympathetic towards his body of work. Several of Sandy Frank's "movies" were in fact the first and last episodes of Japanese TV shows put together to cash in on a specific market. (That, of course, is somewhat different than taking an animated series and extending it to make it long enough for weekly syndication...) "Fugitive Alien" may have been lucky enough to wind up as a "movie" and its sequel, but it still has a quality both choppy and draggy at alternating points.

As for Star Wars influences, "Fugitive Alien" features zap gun battles, seedy off-world marketplaces, and star fighters with long fuselages and straight wings set well back with pods on their ends chasing a somewhat disreputable spaceship, and at one point the spaceship flies through an asteroid field to escape pursuit... although the effects often have a "transparent" quality to them. (Part of me wonders "what if this had been an anime?" It would look quaint today in a different way from having transparent effects, no doubt, but perhaps it would have competed with "Star Blazers" and become more famous than it is...) There's also the shiny orange and white jumpsuits our heroes wear, costumes that stand out in the "on-location" shooting of our Earth. Still, the hero Ken (who becomes a fugitive alien after refusing to shoot a boy named Ken, which leads to a riff or two that seems to try and stretch a point of confusion) does have to deal with things like the captain and crew of the disreputable spaceship Bacchus 3 not trusting him (one "tries to kill him with a forklift," in a memorable fragment of "riffed" song), and his girlfriend the lovely Rita ("Meter maid!") trying to kill him by just shooting him. Things end not so much on a cliffhanger as just jolt to a stop. Fortunately, Mystery Science Theater has the sequel coming up as well.

Date: 2007-06-03 04:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lazypadawan.livejournal.com
The best Japanese SW ripoff was 1978's "Message From Space." Awesome in its badness and I think it's been on MST3K.

Date: 2007-06-04 01:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] krpalmer.livejournal.com
I've heard of "Message From Space"; it's been referenced in an anime series or two famous for referencing previous science fiction movies... but I'm familiar enough with the MST3K canon (http://www.mst3kinfo.com/daddyo/daddyo5.html) to know that it, unfortunately, never made it to the series.

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