REVIEW: Space Thunder Kids (1990)

An Anime Film

I love bad movies, especially the ones that were valid attempts at good movies that have gone incredibly wrong in a multitude of ways. I used to watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 all the time as a kid (and even now!), which likely warped my mind somewhat. In college I used to occasionally participate in a bad move marathon with some friends, which gave me quite the collection after a while, as I was out looking for movies to bring. Some of the best finds I have ever come across have been in cheap bargain bins over the years, a classic example was when I discovered the notorious film, Robo Vampire in one such bin at my old job. Today’s fine specimen of television ineptitude is perhaps one of the worst things I’ve ever had the misfortune of watching, and it was also the result of one such bin dive. These DVDs were sold at Wal-Mart at one point in the toy aisle as a way to get more home video sales by targeting kids impulse buying power. Boy do I feel bad for all of those kids.

Today’s topic is a collection of movies that were all made by the same company – Digiview Productions.  These actually fall into the “so bad its great category” because I challenge anybody to sit through one of these and not laugh at the crappiness on the screen. Some choice titles include: Space Thunder Kids, Protectors of Universe, Beauty and Warrior, and Defenders of Space. All sound similar, which is funny because, aside from Beauty and Warrior, they all use some of the same footage! Just add a mustache and VIOLA! New character! These are so bad that they ALL make Manos: the Hands of Fate” look spectacular in comparison. I have chosen to review, Space Thunder Kids, as it is insanely terrible.

“The Dark Empire is determined to conquer the universe and get rid of anyone who acts against it. The Space Thunder Kids, made up of three valiant youths, are responsible for patrolling the space and obstructing the invasion of the Dark Army. Doctor Sparta, a scientist, is pursued by the Dark Army after the devastation of his planet. He flees to the Earth and meets Doctor Rhodes, who develops advanced weapons for the Guardian Army. The Dark Army bombards the Earth aggressively and kidnaps Dr. Sparta and Rhodes. The space Thunder Kids come to the rescue with the fighter robots, and together with the aid of the Guardian Army, they successfully save the two scientists and shatter the Dark Empire!”

This explains the plot better than the film does

The movies themselves are apparently from Korea (all sources online are sketchy at best) and have things literally stolen from 1970’s and 1980’s anime. Apparently (after some research) they were made by procuring random cells and action sequences from a dozen odd ‘70s and 80’s TV shows, (these were potentially stolen from dumpsters in Japan outside of the original studios), redrawing a few of them, producing a couple original backgrounds, and fastening it all together with scotch tape into feature films (you actually see scotch tape sometimes), and BOOM quality film!

UPDATE: I found an article with more information, taken from HERE:

“Digiview Entertainment had a deal with Enoki Films to release some of their old dubbed kids-friendly titles such as Thumbelina: A Magical Storyand Huck and Tom’s Mississippi Adventures. Digiview also released several Korean-produced features from the 80s that were made with cels clearly bootlegged from mechaanime TV series that were in production at the time and partially outsourced to Korea. Given fake American credits and dubbed horribly, these films (given laughably generic names like Space Thunder Kids and Defenders of Universe) were pretty much unwatchable. (I had copies of all of them before selling them on eBay last year.) These films were being sold by a Hong Kong-based company called IFD Films and Arts (infamous among bad movie aficionados for producing incoherent kung fu and ninja movies by schlockmeister Godfrey Ho). “

You will be amazed at the fact that a few Transformers, a Gundam, Mazinger, The White Base from Gundam, Space Battleship Yamato, Gigantor (Tetsujin 28), and scenes from a complete ripoff of Tron are all wedged together. now imagine these scenes, but smeared with Vaseline so you can only just make out some of the shapes. due to the cut-and-paste nature of this whole thing, it’s incredibly disjointed, meaning that people and robots from one scene to another might look different, you have to listen for names to ensure you are seeing things correctly. It’s like that film Cloud Atlas, but somehow much much worse.

Even the promotional poster/DVD cover is lifted from other properties. The girl on the left of the cover looks familiar somehow, if I were a betting man, it’s likely Nina Purpleton from Gundam 0083, although I can’t find the exact source image. Then we have a yellow robot that doesn’t appear in the show whatsoever, followed by another anime character that I cannot place, but is probably from an obvious show. The fact that the cover is both misleading and outright stolen from other things is pretty par for the course.

I posted the plot as listed on the back of the DVD cover up above. That synopsis is far more detailed than anything in the movie, and appears to be at least the intention of the editor that cobbled this mess together. All I could ever see is random spaceships from various anime flying around while other ships shoot at them.  In between, random characters would appear and disappear with no warning, only to deliver great lines such as “put your shoes back on, you’re stinking up the assembly” 

After that, we see the bad guys from Star Blazers, now renamed the Dark Army, sending Kaiju monsters from some Godzilla-like anime to Earth.  They were there either to wreak havoc, or confuse the crap out of anyone trying to follow the movie. A group of unnamed kids that look like the pilots from Getter Robo appear and apparently have the ability to change costumes, age, gender and nationality from scene to scene, as they pilot a robot that also changes appearance from scene to scene. It’s hilarious how different the robot looks at various times, no attempt was made to use similar cels, and you just have to assume certain things to make it work in your head.

I mentioned they lifted some scenes from Tron, and by that I meant somebody drew a copy of some of the scenes from the classic Disney film. The Tron scenes, while being weird bootlegs, are actually pretty good quality and outshine the rest of the terrible animation. I have no idea what the source material was unless they literally just copies Tron with wax paper over the TV or something.

If you were wondering if the voice acting would at least be passable, you would be VERY wrong. The voices are in English, but are heavily accented. They almost sound to have come from a Honk Kong dubbing studio, but I truthfully am just guessing. I mentioned some crazy lines that come up in the dialogue, by which I mean half of the film, the other half is explosions. I have posted the film in it’s entirety below, feel free to check in and see where it takes you.

One of the most jarring parts about this film is the fact that despite the hack and slash method of the film’s construction, they were still running low on runtime, so everything is padded out in an egregious manner. There are a handful of scenes like tanks driving on a mountain path, troops running in a hallway, or some bad guy spaceship shooting missiles, where a ten second clip is made into a full minute of looped nonsense. Another of these films, Beauty and Warrior, is even worse, making fifteen minutes of footage into a 30 minute film, but this is so unintentionally hilarious when it happens.

The movie introduces a war plot towards the end that seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the film, a section about a space pirate, and the Tron stuff. If these are all supposed to be various members of the “Space Thunder Kids” battling The Dark Empire, they do a poor job of conveying this as it just seemed like a bunch of unrelated scenes. It’s honestly unfathomable how much of a mess this film is, it’s truly something you need to see to believe.

Overall, I can’t really recommend this for normal people, HOWEVER if you are a masochist and love bad films, you should really watch this. It’s an utterly baffling piece of film history, the fact that some company in Korea obtained some cels from Japan and stitched together a sheer act of entertainment terrorism on the masses. If it was a single incident, that would be one thing, but this was a WHOLE SERIES of films the same company released. If there is interest in this, I can force myself to sit through some of these other DVDs, although, not all at once. I’m afraid I wouldn’t survive a full-on showcase of these things!

Here it is !

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