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Film / Fugitive Alien

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"It's an intriguing mix of genocide and modern dance!"
Joel Robinson, Mystery Science Theater 3000

In this sci-fi flick edited down from the 1978 Japanese TV series Star Wolf, our hero, Ken Shinsei, is a, well, Star Wolf: part of a Proud Warrior Race of Super-Soldier Space Pirates from the planet Valnastar (or "Valna" for short), who can't let you do that. During a Valna raid on the planet Earth, Ken suddenly hesitates to shoot a child he finds in the street when the child's mother runs to "Ken" — triggering a flashback to Starwolf Ken's Parental Abandonment issues. When his best friend, a fellow soldier (possibly also named Ken -- the dub isn't clear) tries to shoot both of them, Ken attempts to stop him, and the gun goes off. Ken is immediately marked as a traitor to the Valna, and barely escapes pursuit by his former comrades by faking his own death in The Asteroid Thicket. He's rescued by the passing Earth starship the "Bacchus 3". Alcoholic Captain Joe discovers evidence that Ken is a Star Wolf Raider, but hides it from the rest of the crew, who still don't quite buy his flimsy cover story. After singlehandedly saving the Bacchus and its crew from a Star Wolf attack, Ken is brought back to Earth under "protective custody". He escapes.

The fugitive alien tries to hijack the Bacchus to escape, but he gets caught by a very drunk Captain Joe. He has his reasons — he just learned that he'd lost his wife and child in the Valna attack, just when he was planning to retire. Despite his anger at what Ken's people did, Joe actually listens to Ken's story, and is convinced enough to end up "inviting" Ken, who is STUCK HERE!, to join the rest of his crew: Rocky the pilot, some other guys, and Tammy the morale officer. Ken accepts. At first, Rocky distrusts Ken, and he even tries to kill Ken with a forklift and fails, which would at least hint that Ken's a Star Wolf; but later they become friends. Tammy has an unrequited crush on Ken.

Meanwhile on Valnastar, Rita, the sister of Ken's dead friend — and also Ken's girlfriend — is ordered by Valnastar ruler Lord Halkon to avenge her brother's death by finding and killing Ken. The Bacchus 3 visits the planet Kararru, populated by Japanese people pretending to be Arabs, on a diplomatic mission. Ken disobeys orders, leaves the ship, and gets himself thrown in prison. Via two-way radio, Captain Joe orders Ken to find a colonel from the planet Seysar in the same prison and break him out. After accomplishing this mission, Ken abruptly runs into Rita. But Rita still loves Ken, so she can't bring herself to kill him. Rita is then killed when she and Ken are attacked by Karraran guards. She blames Ken with her last breath. Ken and the Seysarian colonel make it back to the Bacchus 3. The story ends here until the sequel, Star Force: Fugitive Alien 2.

In the sequel, the Bacchus escapes a Negative Space Wedgie and reaches the planet Seysar with the colonel. Their mission: infiltrate a military base with said colonel's help and sabotage a secret weapon being developed there. Despite the colonel having a fatal attack of conscience over, let's face it, betraying his homeland, the mission is a success. Fast forward to the end of the series: everyone has new uniforms, Ken finds someone who might be his Missing Mom, and the final battle between Ken and Lord Halkon rages in the skies...

The original Japanese serial was based on the Starwolf trilogy novels by Edmond Hamilton, who also authored most of the Captain Future stories; Hamilton cooperated with the production of both the series and an anime version of Captain Future.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 versions of both films, please see the following episode recaps:

Fugitive Alien has examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Tammy is a very pretty lady and a sweet person and all but her attempts at wooing Ken consist of either giving him too much attention or annoying him with probing questions like "Who's Rita?" She's very socially inept concerning wooing guys and never gets around to outright professing her feelings to Ken. Needless to say, she gets stuck in the "friendzone".
  • Adaptational Heroism: In Hamilton's original novels, John Dilullo ("Captain Joe")'s team of mercenaries is just that, a dangerous and well-trained team of operatives and killers. Morgan Chane is also a much darker anti-hero than Ken, being a ruthless pirate who killed a fellow Starwolf out of self-defense rather than to save anyone, and would happily have continued a life of piracy if his fellow Starwolves hadn't turned on him. He does ultimately lighten up a very little bit, though, mostly due to a growing respect for Dilullo.
  • Adataption Name Change: Morgan Chane from the novels is changed into Ken in the Toku version.
  • The Alcoholic: Captain Joe, a running gag on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
  • Alien Invasion: The film opens with one of these, although it's not very successful. It's implied they had to abort it due to the whole mess with Ken (and they had to chase him).
  • "Arabian Nights" Days: Karraru is a planet of this and ruled by a goofy, eccentric, fey Sultan.
  • Bar Brawl: Ken gets into one in the first film when some drunk Karraran mooks pick a fight with him.
  • Batman Gambit: Rocky's attack on Ken with the forklift was meant to be this, to force Ken to reveal that he was, indeed, from Valnastar.
  • Big Bad: Halkon.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: The Sultan (a tiny giggling fey guy) and his vizier/right-hand man (a tall grim-faced man who looks like Jimmy Carl Black of the Mothers of Invention).
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: Ken is exploring one on Karraru when he decides to get a drink at a tavern... then two drunken Karraru soldiers decide to pick a fight for no good reason.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation:
    • Several dials/meters on the Bacchus 3 are labeled hilarious things, such as: Space Speed, Cabin Air Presser, Tenperature, Sunny Side, and Other Side.
    • Or the members of the Bacchus 3 wearing jumpsuits emblazoned with the badge "Security Guard".
    • The computer actually shows a shipping manifest.
      • From freakin' UTAH!
    • The Constellations as Locations is likely due to this. It's possible that "Constellation" refers to "Solar System". It's similar to how the dub of Gamera vs. Guiron refers to planets as "stars".
  • Constellations as Locations: It's implied that stars in the same constellation are actually close to each other instead of just looking that way from a specific point in space, as if space were two-dimensional.
  • Decoy Damsel: A woman who looks like Ken's Missing Mom is forced to be this by Lord Halkon so he can lure Ken away to kill him and leave the scientist and his daughter unguarded for capture.
  • Expy: Ken #1 suddenly transforms into Han Solo at the end of the second film.note 
  • Electric Torture: Dan endures this after getting captured by Seysarians in Part Two.
  • Evil Laugh: Despite being one of the heroes, Captain Joe's hearty laugh sounds disturbingly like this.
  • Forklift Fu: An infamous action scene, afterwards scored with an instrumental of the show's theme song.
  • Genki Girl: Tammy. It is part of job of being the morale officer. Actually, that was just a Double Entendre. She's the computer expert.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Ken is impulsive and passionate about everything and has a temper to match, more than inclined to start the fists flying at the smallest bit of provocation. Good Ol' Captain Joe can also be pretty fiery himself.
  • Heavyworlder: Ken and anyone else from Valna. Apparently it kicks in pretty fast, since his parents were from Earth but he's strong even by Valna standards.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: The Seysarian Colonel. He's rescued by Ken in the Karraran jailbreak and becomes a tool for the Bacchus 3's mission to destroy the Seysarian superweapon. The Bacchus 3 crew isn't up-front with their true intentions for him at first (Ken physically attacks him when the Colonel deduces that Ken was a Star Wolf). However, when the Seysarians refuse to acknowledge the colonel note  and fire on the Bacchus 3, he agrees to help the Bacchus 3 crew in revenge. Then, during the mission, at the last moment, the Seysarian Anthem plays and colonel gets second thoughts.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Decoy Damsel who passes for Ken's Missing Mom when Halkon throws his sword, javelin-style at Ken, getting Impaled with Extreme Prejudice as a result.
  • I Have Many Names: The Star Wolves (who are called either 'Star Wolves' or 'Valna Raiders'). Also their planet: is it Valna, Valnastar or Valna's Star? (In the original novels its name was "Varna," but the translators were either unaware the show was based on a pulp series in English, or didn't care.)
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: How the colonel deduces that Ken was really a Star Wolf/Valna Raider. Earlier, everyone is discussing a black hole that emerged between their ship and the planet Seysar. Ken then states a way that they can go through the black hole and survive... knowledge that only a Valna Star Wolf would know.
  • It Works Better with Bullets. The captain never keeps bullets in his gun, which makes it easy for him to overcome Ken when he grabs it out of his holster.
  • Leitmotif: The theme song, heard in instrumental form many times.
  • Left Hanging: the fate of the scientist and his daughter (who were forced develop a superweapon for Lord Halkon) who got captured by Valna mooks later in the sequel. We also never find out the true fate of Ken's parents.
    • However, due to weird editing, and Ken describing their situation in past tense when dragging in the woman passing as his mom (to explain herself), it's implied that the scientist and his daughter somehow escaped off-screen and are fine.
  • Little Useless Gun: While the Seysarian's superweapon is a gigantic, several-stories-tall flashy thing in a silo, Lord Halkon's superweapon appears to be about the size of microwave oven and can be carried around.
  • Love Interest: Rita is a straight example while Tammy (whom one might assume would eventually become one) is a subversion.
  • Meaningful Name: People drink a lot on the Bacchus 3. Especially Captain Joe.
  • Mister Big: The Ruler of Kararru is a tiny man but is still an autocratic ruler who's more than happy to have Ken beheaded (when Ken disobeys Joe to wander around, enter a market, get in a Bar Brawl and get captured in a Treasury).
  • Negative Space Wedgie: In Part Two, the Bacchus 3 approaches Demeter's Star, unaware that it's in the process of going supernova. As a result, the engine shuts down and almost everyone succumbs to heatstroke. However, Ken, with some help from the colonel, manages to fix the issue in the nick of time.
  • Neutral Female: Tammy is basically this (at least in the "movies"). Her purpose in the story seems to consist of pining for Ken and staying behind on the Bacchus 3 while the other guys go out and have adventures. Subverted slightly in that she's the Communication's Officer using the Bacchus 3 as the "home base".
  • Not Now, Kiddo: In The Sequel, when the Bacchus 3 approaches a star called Demeter's Star, they are unaware that it's going supernova. This causes the engines to shut down and the interior of the ship hot enough to make everyone faint. The colonel tries telling them ahead of time but the crew locked him in a cell after an altercation and refuse to listen to him. It isn't until it's well into the situation that Ken finally listens.
  • Punctuality Is for Peasants: The goofy, fey, diminutive Sultan of Kararru keeps Capt. Joe and Rocky waiting a really long time before his big, gong-accompanied appearance.
  • Ret Irony: Inverted. Just as Captain Joe was getting ready to retire and settle down with his family, his wife and daughter are killed by Valna Raiders.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: The attacking aliens wear blond wigs and white makeup. Even worse: In several scenes the wigs are very clearly part of their helmets!
  • Satellite Characters: Billy and Dan.
    • They only get slightly more focus in the second "movie" when one of them gets captured and tortured by the Seysarians.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Try to figure out how the setting is organized. The ship can reach speeds of "Mach 56," planets are part of "constellations," and that's just the beginning.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
  • Space Clothes: They appear to be made out of vinyl.
  • Space Jews: Did anybody else find it odd that the evil alien races are all made up to resemble non-Japanese people? The Valna Raiders and Seysarians have pale makeup, Rita also has very long blonde hair, and there was that one sort of Arab sheikh guy...
  • Space Romans: The Space Arabs don't seem to be that evil in and of themselves, especially contrasted with the Wolf Raiders; they're just transparently a Counterpart Culture.
    • Then there's the Seysarians, who are basically Nazis/Fascists and who are revealed in the sequel (through a loudspeaker speech by their leader) to want to conquer not only Karrarru but every other planet (even Valnastar). If their superweapon hadn't been destroyed, they might have become a credible challenger to the "Big Bad" throne.
  • Spiteful Spit: The Karraran ruler, as he lounges around eating grapes, pulls this on Joe & Rocky when surveillance video shows Ken getting caught in the Treasury in the village market.
  • Stab the Scorpion: Subverted for Wangst. After Ken succeeds in using Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand to persuade Rita not to kill him, he starts trying to persuade his old lover that they can't be together anymore — and suddenly he grabs his gun, turns around and fires in Rita's direction. Naturally, he was aiming at a Space Arab watermelon-headed mook about to attack; but Rita gets fatally wounded in the crossfire, and she dies in Ken's arms, cursing his name for killing her.
  • Starcrossed Lovers: Ken & Rita.
  • Super-Strength: Ken and the other Star Wolves all have this. Oddly enough, it seems to come and go, since Ken also gets beat up or overpowered a few times by non-Valnas (It's stated in the sequel that he's half-Earthling so that might explain it... or maybe the writers were just crummy).
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: "Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha... YOU'RE STUCK HERE!!"
  • Theme Music Power-Up: The Star Wolf series opening theme, used in the famous forklift scene.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: There's a super-weapon that can blow up a universe.

"Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, a-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha... YOU'RE STUCK HERE!"