“A strange signal arrives on the Earth disturbing all communications, while an UFO appears above the Antarctic sea. Captain Alex Hamilton is sent with his spaceship and crew to the space outside the Solar System to find the origin of that signal. They reach an unknown planet where a giant robot enslaved a whole population of humanoids by taking their psychic energies. The robot’s got his eyes on the Earth, too..” (courtesy IMDB)
This week’s presentation offers us starship troopers in tight white outfits who save the world and get the girls, mysterious alien beings in blue makeup, super-sized spaceships and a computer called WIZ! No, it’s not an old episode of Jason Of Star Command, unfortunately, but rather a lost schlocky classic from late twentieth century Italy called War Of The Planets (1977), and in this particular case, war really is hell! Lock and load! Fire in the hole! Cocks away! Cabbage crates coming over the briny! Grab your egg-and-fours and let’s get the bacon delivered! You know, of course, this means war!
War Of The Planets, also known as Cosmos: War Of The Planets, isn’t so much a tour de force as a tour de packagé. The story is lame, the acting is terrible, the dubbing is worse, and there are more minor characters than a Charles Dickens novel. For all the rubbish evident in this film, the one thing that redeems it and makes it totally worthwhile is the schlock value. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite this tacky in decades.
One of the major problems with War Of The Planets is the huge number of throw-away characters who shuffle anonymously across the screen to their inevitable doom. The one character that dominates the film is the seemingly indestructible Captain Alex, played by John Richardson. You may remember him being far more sophisticated and articulate playing Tumak in One Million Years BC (1966).
As with many Italian films from this era, everyone in this movie is actually speaking English, but their accents were so thick that the dialogue was re-dubbed by voice actors so it would be understandable. This practice was so common, when Mad Max (1979) was re-dubbed for American audiences a lot of people thought it was an Italian production. Although the cast and crew is chock-a-block full of relative unknowns, the one face you might find familiar is Captain Alex’s current squeeze Meela, played by actress Yanti Sommer. She’s just another minor character, much like the rest of the supporting cast, but fans of the Trinity westerns starring Bud Spencer and Terence Hill might recognise Yanti Sommer as the girl who played Trinity’s girlfriend in Trinity Is Still My Name (1971).
The music is strange and disturbing, but only because it’s totally inappropriate. The giant alien rock-em sock-em robot seems to be made from only enough pipe organ parts to play Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, and the rest of the soundtrack could put Tangerine Dream in a coma, except for the inexplicable moments of bad disco. But enough of my whining, pictures whine louder than words – let’s settle down to watch Captain Alex get the girl and save the universe in the hilarious conclusion of War Of The Planets!
I have a personal philosophy I’d like to share with you. I believe anyone can appreciate something beautiful – that’s easy. But to find beauty in something so incredibly ugly takes uncanny sensibilities and intelligence. In the same way, if you like prophetic science fiction, big-budget special effects and good acting, then you probably didn’t enjoy War Of The Planets.
However, it is notable for winning a special Vatican-sponsored award for ‘Least Raunchy Sex Scene In A Cheap Italian Film’, and it helps spread the important message that if you’re traveling near the speed of light, always wear a seat belt. So I don’t feel like I’ve completely wasted your time by discussing War Of The Planets for your pleasure this week. Anyway, please join me next week when I have the opportunity to throw you another bone of contention and harrow you to the marrow with another blood-curdling excursion through the Public Domain for…Horror News! Toodles!
War Of The Planets (1977)