The Shapiro Files

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Walnuts in Space

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley/Canoga Park area of Los Angeles in the late 70's early 80's. This was not the most glamourous of neighborhoods. For example, one of the area's landmarks was a decaying movie house that showed double-features of second-run films for only .49¢. I recall seeing lots of different movies there during my childhood (Saturday Night Fever, Hair, and Ragtime all come to mind). But the movie I most fondly remember seeing there was some sort of post-Star Wars rip off I saw with my father that somehow involved glowing walnuts. Yes, glowing walnuts.

At first I was bored out of my mind. I may have even dozed off. But then characters in the film started discovering glowing walnuts (apparently sent from space) in their beverages and elsewhere and these discoveries seemed to signify something important to those who found them (I don't remember what). It was at this point in the film that the audience began laughing — timidly at first, but eventually quite uproariously. When it was over, my father kept saying that he really couldn't tell if the movie was supposed to be a comedy, but that it was one of the funniest movies he had seen in a very long time.

Over the ensuing years, my father would bring up the "walnut movie" from time to time; but neither of us had any idea what it was called. And when we asked people about it, no one knew what we were talking about.

Enter Google.

I started thinking about the movie yesterday. It's just one of those things that crosses my mind on occasion. So I typed "70's sci fi movie walnuts" into Google. and lo and behold, the results gave me exactly what I was looking for. After 25 years, I now know what that crazy walnut movie was! It was a 1978 Japanese production called Uchu kara no messeji that was released in the U.S. as Message from Space. Here are all the details from IMDB. It hasn't been officially released on DVD, but it looks like there are some DVD-R copies floating around on Ebay. I'll see if I can get a winning bid. I'm sure the movie is horrible. But if there was ever an opportunity to regain — even for just one brief moment — that lightening in a bottle that was my childhood, this must be it!

The glowing walnuts await.

UPDATE (August 27, 2011): Six years later, I just discovered that this piece of late-70s nostalgia (and a wonderful memory from my childhood) is now available via Netflix streaming. Will wonders never cease?


  • I have these moments all the time...when I think of a song or movie from my childhood and can't quite think of the exact name...

    It drives me NUTS!

    Good Blog...

    The Egel Nest

    By Blogger Bradley Egel, at 10/21/2005 9:53 PM  

  • Thanks! Yep, the Internet is an amazing thing. It's incredible just how much I've been able to recapture from the vague vestiges of childhood memory by way of wondrous Google. For example, I remember how much fun I had learning the alphabet in kindergarten via some funny inflatable letter-shaped cartoon characters that were each accompanied by a theme song my teacher played on her little record player. My teacher always made a big deal about introducing each new character (usually one or two per week) and I was always excited to see "who" we were going to meet next. For years after, I asked people if they had any memories of learning how to read from such "letter people"; but as with all of these types of inquiries, I was always met with blank stares.

    And then one day I typed in--you guessed it--"Letter People" in Google and voilĂ ! I learned all about a PBS educational program that aired mainly on the East Coast (I went to kindergarten when my family was still living in Long Island, NY) called Alpha Time Letter People. The company that made the TV show also produced lots of tie-in educational materials for school use. My teacher subscribed to the Letter People "huggables" series, which were cool vinyl inflatable figures of each of the 26 Letter People characters. Examples: Mr. S Super Socks (my favorite), Mr. T Tall Teeth, Miss A A-Choo, Mr. L Lemon Lollypop, etc. Since learning the official name of everything, I've gone on Ebay from time to time and have seen a few listings for the huggables. They're usually way too expensive (I guess there's lots of people who have similarly positive memories of learning how to read from the Letter People program). However, I have successfully managed to get a couple of CDs of all the Letter People theme songs that I hope to use with Melody and her sibling(s) some day!

    By the way, you can see photos of the "huggables" and learn more about the program and TV show here.

    By Blogger Steve Shapiro, at 10/24/2005 9:42 AM  

  • Oh my gosh! My mother used something like that with me! She made up stories about each letter! : )

    By Blogger Irina Tsukerman, at 10/24/2005 11:21 AM  

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