Sunday, May 26, 2019

Johnny Sokko and Giant Robot in Voyage Into Space

By Doug Gibson

Voyage Into Space is an absolutely bizarre 1970 or so Japanese monster-rama that involves a young boy, Johnny Sokko, having control over a crime-fighting, flying Giant Robot. Sokko and Giant Robot work for the Unicorns, a UN-type spy ring trying to save the world from the extraterrestrial evil, Guillotine, his various sidekicks, including "Spider" and Dr. Botanus. The "army" of Guillotine is "the Gargoyle Gang," a group of military types who resemble Nazis. (Watch the clip below)

This is a weird movie but unbelievably entertaining for young kids and nostalgic adults who recall seeing it when they were young kids. I saw this film when I was 7, 8 or 9 and we used to talk about it on the playground in school. It stars no one you ever heard of, the special effects are pretty bad, the acting terrible, the dubbing weak, but it's strangely cool. There's a 1960s' counterculture aura to this film. Several of the baddies dress like they stepped out of a Roger Vadim film. Guillotine raises a whole host of monsters and some are pretty interesting. One is a giant plant; another is a giant eyeball (I kid you not).

Voyage Into Space, the film, was one of American International Pictures Television's most popular options, and as I mention, I saw the film often on TV as a child. I only saw Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot as a series once as a child, on  a low watt UHF station, Channel 52, in Southern California. It apparently was not as successful in the U.S. as a series. Several years ago the series aired on Hulu. Now various episodes can be found on YouTube, Facebook ... The movie and series are incredibly surreal. It has a campy charm and old fashioned Japanese monster thrills that demands a cult.

But still, this film, released by American International Films to TV only, is woefully cheap. The battling monsters don't match up to the same size in close ups and far-away shots. In one scene, Johnny Sokko and a Unicorn agent wash up on the beach with their clothes fully dry and pressed and their hair neat. Johnny Sokko's dubbed voice sounds a little like Bea Arthur of The Golden Girls. The Giant Robot hero is very cool, though, and the film's theme song is catchy. My son, who like his dad loves the film, hums the theme song daily.

Voyage Into Space is actually about four episodes, including the first and last, culled from the 30 or so-episode series from the late 60s called Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot. For more than a generation, you couldn't find Voyage Into Space on VHS or DVD. I spent decades wondering what had happened to my favorite Japanese color monster film. Today, with the Net circling the globe, it's easy to find. Watch it above

It's a great film, particularly if you have a fondness for the Japanese monster genre, and your kids will love it. ALSO,ENJOY THESE GIANT ROBOT CLIPS!

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