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Voyage into Space

Japan 1967-68/USA 1970
produced by
Toru Hirayama for Toei/Salvatore Billiteri for AIP
directed by Minoru Yamada
starring Mitsunobu Kaneko, Akio Ito, Shozaburo Date, Hirohiko Sato, Matasaburo Tamba, Mitsuo Ando, Toshiyuki Tsuchiyama
based on the manga Jaianto Robo created by Mitsuteru Yokoyama

Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Voyage into Space are several episodes of Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot edited together to form a feature, which makes the film somewhat choppy plotwise, but it does have a beginning, middle and end at least:

The beginning: Young Johnny Sokko (Mitsunobu Kaneko) and Jerry Mano (Akio Ito), agent of Unicorn, are the only two survivors of a shipwreck - and the ship had been attacked by a dragon-like giant monster called Draculon. Johnny and Jerry make it to an island, which turns out to be the headquarters of the Gargoyles, a criminal organisation from outer space hell-bent on conquering the earth led by Emperor Guillotine (Hirohiko Sato) - which actually sent Draculon to destroy the ship in the first place. On the island, Johnny and Jerry also discover the Gargoyles' Giant Robot (Toshiyuki Tsuchiyama), which looks a bit like an Egyptian pharaoh and which is just about to be activated. Somehow though, Johnny manages to be the first person to talk to the robot, which means the robot will forever do Johnnys bidding - and thanks to that, Jerry and Johnny manage to make it off the island with the Giant Robot's help ... did I mention the robot can fly, actually

The middle: Thanks to his powers over the Giant Robot, Johnny is quickly made an agent of Unicorn, the organisation sworn to fight the Gargoyles - even though Johnny is a pre-teen boy. From now on, he and Jerry are out to thwart many a plan by the Gargoyles to take over the world by means of giant monsters, and they are helped by their Jet packs, all kinds of futuristic gadgets, but first and foremost of course Giant Robot. On the other hand though, the Gargoyles have sworn to hunt down and capture or kill Johnny because of his powers over Giant Robot, and more than once, they almost succeed - but of course, in the end, Giant Robot always comes to the rescue.

The Finale: Unicorn has finally managed to locate the Gargoyles' headquarters, and even though the Gargoyles throw one giant monster after the other at Giant Robot, he comes out victorious. But when the agents of Unicorn are about to put the Gargoyles under lock and key, Emperor Guillotine shows up, circa 100 feet tall (or as tall as Giant Robot) - and suddenly, Giant Robot can#t fight no more, having used up all of his energy in the fights that led to this. It seems the Gargoyles have won, and giant Emperor Guillotine seems undefeatable because each shot at him could cause a nuclear blast ... when suddenly Giant Robot comes back to life - apparently he has managed to tap into an auxilliary power circuit of his - and since he can't destroy Emperor Guillotine on earth, he takes him to outer space and ... KA-BOOM!!!

 

There's something about Japanese giant robot-live action series by and large: Their plots are repetitive and laughable, the special effects are cheap and at times pathetic, and both giant robots and giant monsters are frequently unintentionally funny (e.g. why does Giant Robot look like a pharaoh) ... and yet in their naive approach to the science fiction genre, these series are often entirely charming - something that perfectly sums up Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot, a cheap and naive yet totally enjoyable little series.

A few words about the edited together film Voyage to Space though: In editing together a good five or six episodes of the series, the audience gets a bit of an overload of the Japanese giant robot-charm, and the repetitiveness of the series becomes a bit too apparent to swallow. And why this film is called Voyage to Space is left at anybody's guess, only the tiniest fraction of the film actually takes place in outer space.

All that said though, the film is still good, harmless and pointless fun, though not half as much fun as watching the series in its intended (serialized) form ...

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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starring
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out now on DVD