1/19/07

816 Prince of Space

(1959, Children/Action-Superhero, b&w)

We both like it VERY MUCH!

Rating: ****

In a nutshell:

Your weapons are useless against him.

Summary:

Your weapons are useless against me!By day, overall-clad Mickey and his sister shine shoes on street corners with their guardian Wally, which they both like VERY MUCH! In the evening, they go play with Mickey’s friend, the necktie and hot pants-clad Johnny. One night, an alien force interrupts their favorite television program. The beak-nosed, mustachioed Phantom of Krankor appears on the screen to demand the unconditional surrender of everyone on Earth. Quoth he, “Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heeeeeeeeh.”

Johnny’s father, Professor Macken, knows why they have come. The evil Krankor wants to steal the formula for his amazing new rocket fuel. During a press conference he explains the aliens of Krankor mustn’t get it, or the entire universe will fall before them. (One of the smarter reporters wonders how we could have developed a rocket fuel superior to theirs without the capacity for deep space travel, but no satisfactory answer is given.) Krankor lands his flagship (read: lacquered, flame-spurting whole fryer) in a field the next day. His watermelon-esque periscope vaporizes the teams of soldiers sent to meet him, while Macken, Johnny, Mickey, and various members of the press look on.

Another spacecraft (read: single-blade rotary shaver with gun turrets) arrives, disgorging an athletic young man in a square-eyed mask and tiny cape. “Your weapons are useless against me!” he cries, and warns Krankor to depart, or else! Krankor tests the young man’s declaration by opening fire, only to discover his weapons are, indeed, useless against him. The young man reminds him of this fact, and identifies himself as Prince of Space. Krankor decides discretion is the better part of valor and retreats.

Krankor lands again as soon as he’s shaken the Prince’s pursuit. His beak men hide out in an abandoned factory near Macken’s home. Johnny and Mickey see them through their telescope and run to investigate. Fortunately, Prince of Space is there to rescue them, shouting variations on the “useless against me” theme as Krankor tries a series of weapons on him, each one larger than its predecessor. Krankor retreats again.

Johnny and Mickey head down to test site for Macken’s new rocket fuel. Krankor captures them and holds them hostage. He steals the formula and blows up the test rocket. Prince of Space arrives to remind him of his weapons’ inefficacy. He rescues the boys, but Krankor escapes with the formula.

Shortly thereafter, Krankor kidnaps an international cadre of scientists, including Macken and his portly brother-in-law. The whole fryer takes them back to his papier-mache planet, complete with its own giant anthropomorphic rat monster. Under duress, they agree to describe Krankor’s superior technology and recommend unconditional surrender to the governments of Earth. Several trips back and forth later, Krankor discovers Prince’s secret identity (he’s Wally the bootblack) but this information avails him naught, because his weapons are…you know. Prince of Space follows Krankor back to his home planet to gun down the rat monster, save the scientists from execution, and shout, “your weapons are useless against me,” several more times before blowing the whole place to hell. The rescued scientists fly home in the whole fryer, while a children’s chorus belts out a song in praise of PRINCE OF SPACE!

Introduction:

Tom has a bad case of alternate reality-induced hay fever.Crow bursts into tears while playing a rowdy game of Dog and Bear with Tom. When Mike asks what’s wrong, he replies with a long, flowery description of how he was a bear, “maddened with primal terror” that “spewed gore from [his] wounds…but still, bellowing [Tom] came.” The game ended with Dog Tom tearing out his entrails and leaving him to die, and then Servo took it too far. Tom agrees with description, but has to ask, “What’s too far when your entrails are hanging out?” Mike pretends to put Crow’s entrails back in.

Host Segment One:

Crow and Tom play Feline and Squirrel, which goes well, because neither will have anything to do with the other. In the deep space VW, Brain Guy holds the rope while Bobo wanders out into space to, you know, “go.” He hops into a wormhole seeking privacy, and is promptly sucked into the furthest reaches of time and space. Pearl summons up some convoluted logic involving butterflies and slot machines, and has Brain Guy lasso the Satellite to go after him. Reality slowly begins to unravel…

Host Segment Two:

Due to the wormhole’s interruption of the space/time continuum, Mike and the ‘Bots discover that each member of the crew is running about three seconds behind the other. They have a slightly time-shifted argument about a chicken puppet.

Host Segment Three:

Mike comes onto the bridge to declare that the separate universe layers are co-mingling and must be separated before they all die! Fortunately, he knows exactly what to do, but the ‘Bots can’t help noticing he has turned into ventriloquist dummy-ish robot. They laugh themselves silly while Mike makes several futile attempts to explain his plan.

Host Segment Four:

Mike is human again, but the satellite has turned into a nature trail, which runs through a lovely green forest. Crow takes in the scenery while the disoriented Mike has to go lie down. Tom discovers he has hay fever.

Host Segment Five:

They come out the other end of the wormhole. After an extensive check, everything seems to be back to normal—until Mike introduces his wife, the Phantom of Krankor. Mike explains it’s just a joke while he tries to convince Krankor to leave. Krankor refuses; he becomes more and more threatening until Mike says, “Boo!” and frightens him away. Down on a suspiciously Earth-like planet, Pearl and Brain Guy find themselves in a step-and-columned city. A pair of toga-clad natives appears to greet them. “Welcome to Roman Times!” says the man. “Guards, seize them!” cries the woman. To be continued…

Stinger:

Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heeeeeeeeh!

Thoughts:

Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heeeeeeeeh!Quick note about the costumes: They’re silly. Well, of course they’re silly, it’s a kid’s movie from late fifties Japan. On the one hand, I can accept that a certain amount of the silliness is probably due to the rather significant cultural and generation gaps that divide me from the movie’s intended audience. On the other hand, I’ve never seen a film that contained more poorly concealed masculine genitals. If the male cast members of any of the later Star Trek series suddenly gained significant weight, donned prosthetic noses, and suited up without their dance belts, they would still be less horrible to look at than the minions of Krankor. Come on, gentlemen. Cover up that equipment, or at least tuck it out of the way. Some jock straps, a cup here and there, even a codpiece or two would have made them “sad, saggy men in unflattering suits” instead of “avert your eyes from every frontal shot.”

This issue aside, Prince of Space packs more melodramatic silliness per square inch than most of these films can manage per square mile. The exuberantly bad dubbing pushes it all the way through “simply awful” and out the other side to the promised land of “transcendently goofy.” I can’t conceive how anyone could let the ridiculous delivery of “We like it VERY MUCH” get into the English version, or why the man dubbing Krankor’s voice thought saying “heh, heh, heh,” in a flat monotone would sound chillingly evil. The Prince’s oft-repeated refrain is probably from the source material. If the hardest of drinking men took a shot of liquor every time Prince said some variation of “Your weapons are useless,” he would pass out well before the end of the film.

The ‘Bots’ Dog and Bear game is one of my very favorite host segments in the run of the show. Crow’s sniffly, literate monologue is every bit as good as his performance as popcorn magnate Orville Redenbacher back in Episode 212 (back when he was voiced by the able Trace Beaulieu). The time-shifted chicken puppet sketch is also exceptional, and much funnier than I can make it sound in the summary above. They don’t actually say anything funny (except, perhaps, for Gypsy’s line, “My burrito was done before I put it in the microwave”), but the slightly offset dialogue works splendidly. The others are funny enough, but still pale in comparison to the two host segments I’ve just mentioned.

The extreme silliness of the film works well with the Satellite commentary. While the deep space whole fryer cruises slowly over Tokyo, Mike says, “Surrender Dorothy!” When Krankor’s deadly periscope goes up for the first time, Crow says, “I am the lemon zester of destruction.” When Krankor sits in judgment of his captured scientists on a gaudy throne, Tom says, “Krankor is Mary, Queen of Scots.” Also, the crew takes every opportunity to say, “Your weapons are useless,” “We like it VERY MUCH,” and “Heh, heh, heh,” whenever these phrases’ characters of origin appear on screen. It’s a goofy, stupid film with excellent commentary, four good host segments, and two amazing ones. I’ll watch it again.