Thursday, December 04, 2008

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK # 81: Qonto (Bandai; 1978)

It was Christmas morning in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. The year: 1978. The big present of the season (and, perhaps, my of my young life...) was the Atari VCS that my wonderful parents had purchased for my sister and me.

But also lodged under the Christmas tree with care were two small boxes with my name on them. I opened them and was perplexed (but happily so...) at what I found.

The toys were Japanese. So I couldn't read the labels. But that's okay, I could see through the "bubble" and was enticed by what I saw.

One toy was a little white metal robot named "Qonto" (known as Tonto in some circles.) In the other box was his silver-and-gray metal "space saucer" which could fire missiles. Both were made by Bandai.

I didn't know it at the time, but these two unique toys came from a Japanese Star Wars rip-off movie entitled Message from Space.

Now, even at the time, I knew of the title. I had seen commercials for the movie on television and become sotra obsessed with it. For one thing, it looked like there was a space pirate ship in it (replete with solar sails...) I had desperately wanted to see the movie for my ninth birthday (December 3rd, 1978), but I remember that when we arrived at the theater (the only bloomin' theater in New Jersey showing the Japanese import...), the movie had already mysteriously left the premises. It seemed I was destined never to see it...

Still, I had Qonto and his space saucer to play with. I never knew how they fit into the film's plot, yet the toys were cool enough on their own. Qonto had removable hands, for instance, and you could "plug" in various attachments, such as laser weaponry. And you could open up the robot's skull and there was a cooling fan ensconced there, over a circuitry decal. Which again, I thought was neat.

I haven't thought much about Qonto and his space saucer in years, but last week, I ventured up into my attic -- I'm attempting to weed through my collection.

And what should I find?

A very worse-for-wear Bandai Qonto and his space saucer. These days, Qonto is missing one arm and all his attachments, but boy did these toys bring back some serious memories.

Anyway, below is a youtube video of a variaton on the Qonto I owned. Below that is the Message from Space trailer, and if I'm not mistaken, you can catch a glimpse of old Qonto there too.

Finally, I have to add that Joel -- who has shown more interest in cars, trucks, tools and sugar harvester combines (!) -- than in my toys, has become absolutely consumed with Qonto too. He can say "Qonto" and "saucer" and keeps asking me to see "robots."

His indoctrination has begun...


  1. I had that exact saucer as a child! I loved playing with it and always wondered where it came from!

    Mystery solved, thanks John!

  2. Lee Hansen2:52 AM

    A lot of the starship action scenes were used in a laserdisc arcade game back in the 80s.

  3. FYI, that game's name was Astron Belt. It had a sequel called Galaxy Ranger.