Wednesday, 22 July 2015

#48 Prince of Space (Yusei Oji) (Wes)



Prince of Space

After the past few substitute movies it was nice to get back to the list again, and especially nice as the next movie was a movie I’ve seen many times before via one of my favourite Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episodes, Prince of Space (Yusei Oji). Like Time Chasers (see here) and Soultaker (here) we couldn’t get the original movie, so we had to watch the MST3K version, which has no complaints from me, but once again I must apologise in advance if I inadvertently use any of their jokes without realising it.
Aliens from the planet Krankor (led by the Ambassador Phantom (Joji Oka) and not by Wee Jimmy Krankie as I would have hoped) want some new super rocket fuel that Japanese scientists have invented (how they know about this fuel, and why they waste so much of their own flying between Krankor and Earth is never really adequately explained though). But when the Krankies (with no sign of Ian Krankie amongst them either) decide to invade Earth they are met by the hero The Prince of Space (I think he’s like Star-Lord and just gave himself a massively grandiose title), who lives on Earth in disguise as a bootblack using the name Wally/Waku-San (Tatsuo Umemiya). When the Phantom realises that his weapons have no effect on the Prince of Space (if only he’d maybe say it in the movie, it would have saved the Krankies a lot of trouble…), he flies back to Krankor and decides to kidnap the scientists instead. So he flies back to Earth, kidnaps them and then returns once more to Krankor. It’s then up to The Prince of Space to rescue them and prevent Phantom from destroying the Earth and all the great things about it. Like children in suits, chickens, underwear and obscure British comedian references from the 80s. Fan-dabby-dozy!

I love superheroes, and I love Japanese cinema, so a Japanese superhero movie in theory should be right up my alley. In practice though I’ve always found the majority of Japanese superheroes to be little more than extended toy commercials. From Ultraman (Not actually a single superhero, but hundreds of superheroes seemingly with the same name), to The Power Rangers (Super Sentai) to The Kamen Riders, every one of them look ready to jump straight from the screen to under your Christmas tree. Even the Japanese version of Spider-Man had a giant robot that he controlled (called Leopardon). Now whilst I understand that selling toys is always going to be a big part of any superhero franchise, I also like to occasionally enjoy good storytelling in a movie I’m watching, I’m kind of old fashioned like that.
Prince of Space is much more like the 1930s American serial superheroes than the modern heroes though. There are definitely hints of Flash Gordon in Prince of Space, with even Phantom being slightly reminiscent of Ming the Merciless. In fact he looks like the love child of Max Van Sydow as Ming and GĂ©rard Depardieu as Cyrano de Bergerac. However unlike Ming, Phantom never seems a plausible threat to anybody in this movie. He talks a big game, but as soon as Prince of Space show up he pretty much just gives up straight away, which is odd as Prince of Space also spends much of the movie running away from the Krankies weapons.

Prince of Space is actually two movies edited into one, Planet Prince and Planet Prince – The Terrifying Spaceship, which explains why the plot goes a little wobbly (the rocket fuel plot gets forgotten, and Phantom just wants to invade the Earth halfway through the movie). This strangely adds to the charm of the film though. It has very a simplistic innocence with its spaceships dangling on wire, false noses that have been attached with spirit gum but not been blended in with the skin, so you can see the edges of them and costumes that include miniature television aerials on the Krankies helmets. The Krankies costumes are also the only thing which spoil this innocence, as whoever designed them obviously spent too much time worrying whether they looked futuristic enough, and not enough time considering whether the actors should be wearing underpants under their leggings.
One of the most perplexing things about this film, but also part of its innocent charm, is that Dr Maki’s (Ushio Akashi) son Johnny/Ichiro (Akira Asami), who bizarrely wears a suit with shorts throughout the movie, and his best friend Mickey/Makoto (Koji Komori) seem to have government clearance to go anywhere they please. After Dr Maki takes them to the first contact with the Krankies, they then take it upon themselves to try to find out when the Krankies are on Earth. You’d think that after so many soldiers were vapourised by the Krankies on their first visit then a responsible parent may at least try to keep them out of harms way, but instead it comes down to Prince of Space to rescue them whenever they inevitably fall foul of the chicken-like aliens (sorry).

The worst thing (and therefore the most fun thing) about this movie isn’t even the filmmaker’s fault; it’s the horrible American voice acting for the dubbing. Whoever was in charge of hiring the people who did the voice acting couldn’t have found a more emotionless bunch if they decided to audition for actors at a Tory party conference after everyone had been replaced by pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The script is literally read out. My favourite part of this being that  Phantom laughs a lot in this film. Well, when I say laughs he actually says "ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha" as though the person dubbing him had never heard anyone laugh before.
Prince of Space is a terrible movie, but in the best way possible. It has a great deal of charm and is hugely fun to watch. If like us you can’t find the original movie, then the MST3K version is well worth watching. Either way though I highly recommend you check this out if you love B movies as it’s guaranteed to make you laugh in the best way possible. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha Ha.