Sci-Fi Sundays is back! This week Ash Loydon takes a witty and irreverent tour through the highlights and lowlights of Alfonso Brescia’s Star Odyssey (1979) – aka Sette Uomini D’oro Nello Spazio.
Amazing what you find when idly flicking channels…I just came across what looks like a ‘n’th generation VHS copy of Alfonso (The Beast In Space, War Of The Robots) Brescia’s little seen Italian sci-fi masterpiece Battaglie Negli Spazi Stellari (aka War Of The Planets) on Information TV (UK Sky Channel 212, fact fans).
This lo-fi sci-fi blockbuster stars the fabulous John Richardson as the cream jump-suited, womanly-hipped Captain Alex Hamilton.
Hamilton is a kinda rougher (and considerably swarthier) penis-nosed version of Jim Kirk, shouting at his computer, disagreeing with his superiors and leaving it till the last possible minute to save battery-acid-scarred crew members from certain death.
Unfortunately the picture quality was so washed out as to make it almost unwatchable, so I only made it as far as Commander Armstrong (the wonderfully drunk Romeo Costantini) giving our hero a bollocking for refusing to investigate a scary alien signal that’s interrupting Earth’s entire communication network. I then switched off.
“Look, it’s probably just static or the gypsies” replies our hero to his superior. “Plus we’re all a bit tired and want to come home for a holiday!”
If I can be arsed, I might dig my old VHS rip out for a re-watch, if only for an early appearance of what looks like Hollywood heart throb Ed Harris painted green and wearing tiny pants playing a scary alien.
Until then this will have to do…
Sette Uomini D’oro Nello Spazio (aka Captive Planet, Metallica (no, really), Space Odyssey, Star Odyssey. 1979).
Somewhere in the inky blackness of space on a mysterious planet, a gathering of powerful aliens – known locally as the Lords of the Galaxy – are busily bidding on various planets and suchlike to buy their wives as novelty Crimbo pressies.
The biggest offer of the day is a very familiar small blue/green planet named Sol 3, a planet in which the spiky-headed, lank-haired Lord Kev Korda is very interested in.
You see, if his bid is successful (it’s kinda like an intergalactic Ebay, but with fewer overpriced Doctor Who toys) he plans to use the natives of this world as cheap labour throughout the galaxy.
Confident as he is of getting the winning bid he’s already set up a number of window cleaning businesses and off-licenses in readiness of his takeover. Which is nice.
But just to make sure he’s definitely gonna win, our pen-faced pal is not above using his almost Derren Brown-like mind powers (well, a torch in front of his eyes) to scare his main rival away from the bidding table.
100 million credits poorer (but a whole lotta planet richer), Kev boards his spaceship and relaxes with his battered VHS copy of Cosmos: War of the Planets as he travels to view his newly acquired prize. Hang on, I’m mistaken, it’s not actually some clever self-referential nonsense regarding a character in one movie watching the director’s earlier work… it’s just Brescia being cheap and using old footage to save him shooting any new effects stuff.
Scanning his new toy to find out what he’s actually purchased (yes, I know: it’s a wee bit like not looking at a new house till you’ve paid for it, but who are we to judge these aliens?), Kev discovers that not only has the planet ‘widespread traces of pollution due to chemical combustion and nuclear waste’, but most of humanity live either underground or in sea-cities due to the surface being used for growing food and feeding livestock.
Yup, the lefties have inherited the Earth.
And down at Earth’s fantastically minimalist (or just cheap) space command centre, Admiral Steve (probably… the subtitles are atrocious), being understandably shocked by the huge spaceship approaching, launches a fantastic interceptor craft to say hello to the visitor.
But Lord Kev, being a 100% patent bastard, responds by blasting it out of the sky.
Mightily annoyed by this frankly outrageous act of aggression, humanity decides to throw everything they’ve got at Kev’s ship – but even the combined fire-power of the entire planet is useless against him and serves only to make Kev a wee bit annoyed.
There’s only one thing for it: Kev unleashes a terrifying barrage of grainy, black-and-white stock footage of exploding buildings, erupting volcanoes, cats looking nervous and archived newsreel shots of the battle of Britain in order to convince the human race that he is, in fact, ‘the daddy’.
London is totally destroyed, as is most of Australia (no loss there then), and (bizarrely) the Okinawa stadium, leaving the Admiral no choice but to call upon the maverick (not to mention “independent, stubborn and undisciplined”) scientist Professor Barry Morey, a forest-dwelling genius whose “intelligence puts him about two centuries above anyone else” and whose collars would enable him to fly at least two hundred miles above them too.
Desperate doesn’t even touch it.
Anyway, Admiral Steve begrudgingly phones the Professor, polishing his ego by telling him that he’s Earth’s last hope and its greatest ever scientist/lover/kazoo player, etc. before asking him if he can suggest anything to stop the terror from space.
Seeing as Earth is so desperate as to ask a balding, urine-stained hippy-type for help, it comes as a wee bit of a surprise to hear that the planets government and military have refused to give him any cash, support or even a shiny new commode for his troubles if he agrees.
I even watched this bit twice to see exactly how this magnificent piece of reverse psychology works but I still couldn’t figure it out, so I’ll put it down to being an Italian thing.
Luckily the Professor’s hearing is going, meaning he misses everything except the “you’re great, please help us” bit, and decides to give it a go.
Analysing the alien ship he quickly discovers that its hull is constructed from a strange substance called iridium, which, it turns out, is virtually indestructible.
As is the way in such movies, the Professor has the only other example of this rare metal locked in his garage, a keepsake from his research days when (and this is a scary coincidence, so sit down now) he and his team of geeks were working on a way of breaking down iridium to its base molecular structure.
For what purpose I’ve no idea.
Earth’s only hope is that the Professor can round up his old workmates (who all disappeared around the globe after the Professor was discredited for wetting himself in a funding review) and pick up the research where they left off.
If only he had access to a spaceship and daredevil pilot, it’d certainly be better (and more exciting) than catching the bus looking for his ex-colleagues.
Enter (OK if I must) the Professor’s beautifully bouncy – and scarily bouffanted – niece Irene (Sommer – in the city probably), whose boyfriend, Jeff, happens to be a hunky space pilot.
Even better is the fact that he spent the night at the house and his spaceship is parked outside!
But how can the kindly scientist convince him to help in his quest?
Would you believe that the Professor has the same spooky mind powers as Kev?!?
Within minutes Jeff is eating an onion as if it were an apple and flying off to round up this sci-fi A-Team, whilst the Professor gets down to some serious ‘work’ in his lab.
First on the list is the roguish mercenary-cum-chemist (and first love of Irene…yes, it really is that convoluted, so I’d suggest that you begin taking notes… I know I did) Dirk Laramie (Dell’Acqua), who now spends his days fleecing alcoholics out of their dole money in seedy backstreet bars.
Yup, you guessed it, Dirk too has the very same scary mind powers as Barrie and Kev and has been using them to cheat at cards.
Obviously when the local council estate scum whose giros he’s been taking find out about this, they decide to administer a darn good kicking, which gives our man a chance to show off his sexy street fighting skills to impress his buxom ex, though if I’m honest Jeff seems much more enamoured with him than Irene is.
Meanwhile back in the main plot Lord Kev has unleashed an army of face-stomping alien Nazi’s across the planet to collect ‘worker units’ and, in a scene of ball aching badness, attack the planets sub-tropical continent, capturing 2000 dark-skinned human units to use as slaves.
Hmmm, see what they did there?
Whilst all this political musing is going on, Irene is off enjoying herself at a community centre boxing match where ex-scientist-cum-pugilist Bill Norman (the late, great Garko, looking for all the world like a pervier, cancer-riddled Sporticus from Lazy Town) is having a girly slapping match with the frighteningly realised warrior robot Hercules (some poor guy in a Mickey Mouse gimp suit).
Being surprisingly fit for someone so close to deaths door, Norman beats the crap outta poor Hercules before donning a silk disco jacket and joining our merry band.
Deciding to bring a couple of buddies with him, Norman leads the gang to a deserted junkyard (the producer’s garden) where they meet up with a couple of dwarfs dressed in silver painted bins decorated with the contents of their mums kitchen drawers and topped off with Orville The Duck sex masks.
Norman, keen to justify why the film’s overworked – and underpaid – designers would foist such monstrosities on an already threadbare production is quick (maybe too quick, if you ask me) to point out that not only do our plastic pals have a full range of human emotions but they’re also fitted with some kinda energy conversion bollocks that allows them to phase out of real space so that laser fire passes right through them (a wee bit like chocolate does with me).
Oh, and I forgot to add that due to their emotional chip the pair are in love.
Meanwhile, back at the space command centre, it appears that Kev’s spaceship (despite being big enough to comfortably hold the entire population of Earth plus a shed load of stormtroopers) is actually impossible to track via radar, showing up only when it lands to grab some slaves.
Have they tried turning the monitors on?
No-one dares make this suggestion for fear of interrupting Admiral Steve’s Oscar-worthy performance as he grimly reads the list of humans already captured by Kev, his stunned comrades looking on in mild apathy.
Hiroshima (how’s your luck?), Russia, the Arabs and, rather oddly, “those farmers in the United States of Africa” have all been captured, leaving only the good ol’ US of A, half of Govan and the West Midlands left to battle against this thoroughly bad man.
Whilst all this shit – as you youngsters say – is going down, our heroes (in case you thought I’d forgotten about them) are heading towards the notorious ‘Moonspace’, a space age Alcatraz orbiting the moon (obviously) in order to break out two other members of the aged professor’s science club, some middle-aged bloke named Sean and a sexily square-faced lady going by the name of Bridget (‘played’ by the infamous – well, around here she is – Malisa Longo, aka Malisa Lang, one of Italy’s greatest and most moon-headed, exploitation stars and one of the few reasons to sit through this film).
The pair are being held in a ‘suspension ray machine’ designed to keep them awake but unable to move (why? you may ask), giving the lone guard a great excuse to quietly perv over her prostrate form whilst rubbing his leather clad thighs.
Ah, so that’s why.
Unable to control his sexual desires any longer the guard turns off her suspension machine and gazes lustfully as she emerges from within, stretching and cooing like your mum after a particularly hard bingo session whilst complaining about how long it’s been since she had a real man (hang on, that’s exactly like your mum the morning after bingo) before slinking up to him and giving him a big girly kiss.
With tongues and everything.
Well not everything… but you get the gist.
Of course, this is all just a ruse so she can release all the prisoners and escape herself in the ensuing sexual confusion.
Freed from their frozen confines, the thawed out felons vent their frustrations by instigating a bitch-slapping fest of epic proportions, as perky prisoners and leathery guards alike slowly kick and punch each other before taking it in turns to roll around the floor gurning and dribbling.
Don’t fret, though, because the breakout is eventually subdued before it gets too embarrassing and/or homo-erotic, and everyone involved is given a slap on the wrist before being put back in their cells.
Luckily for us (and the plot), our merry band have been pencilled in for a meeting with the prison’s governor about releasing Sean and Bridget.
A pity then that he refuses to let them go free.
Remember though, Dirk has those scary mind powers, so it’s only a matter of time before he persuades the guv to let them go (and convinces him that he’s a dog), meaning that finally (thank heavens) the science squad is fully assembled and they can head on back to the Professor’s house and prepare to kick some alien arse.
Which in Bridget’s case involves getting trussed up in a skin tight leather dominatrix outfit.
Will our heroes defeat the evil Kev?
Will there be anyone left on Earth to save?
Will our robot pals ever consummate their relationship?
And, most importantly, will Kev be able to sell on Earth at the next space auction?
Alfonso Brescia’s space epic, with its powerful social message regarding colonialism and the ethno-centric belief that the morals and values of the colonising power are superior to those of the peoples being colonised, is a little seen gem of the Italian sci-fi genre.
Forget 2001 and Interstellar because if it’s high concept/budget busting intergalactic adventure you’re after, then this is the movie for you.
I mean the social commentary is there alright, but it’s buried alive beneath a slurry pile of skid row acting, cheap robot suits, borrowed effects and scratchy old stock footage of Second World War battles.
Was this a clever way of comparing Lord Kev’s jackbooted minions to the Nazi Stormtroopers of yesteryear, or just a lack of anything remotely resembling a budget?
Though if you need a clue, it’s the latter by the way.
But if, like me, you get bored with trying to justify a love of shite cinema by over-intellectualising every single thing about it, then there’s always the sight of Malisa Longo dressed up like a transvestite hooker as well as the Amazonian delights of Yanti Sommer’s cleavage to keep you occupied.
And just in case you think I’m being sexist then don’t forget that all you female viewers can gaze lustfully at the professor’s yellowing bald pate and wibbly wobbly man-breasts.
For everyone else there’s a pulse pounding fart-tastic synth score and the chance to see some once great (OK, once so-so) actors, such as Gianni Garko and Chris Avram, reduced to playing second fiddle to a couple of dwarfs in dustbins.
And be honest now, what more could you want from an evening’s entertainment?
MoM Rating: 3/10 (or 7/10 for unintentional amusement and entertainment, if you’re a lover of terrible cinema!!!)