Saturday, November 27, 2010

IN THE DUST OF THE STARS (1976)

A spaceship has a rough landing on the planet Tem 4; the astronauts are responding to radioed calls for help. A girl dressed like an old West Indian maiden greets them and takes them to meet Ronk, apparently the leader of the Temians, who meets his visitors while sprawled out on a divan. He insists that the distress call must have been a mistake and invites the crew to a "wild midnight party" (pictured) which plays out like BARBARELLA crossed with a soft-core outtake from CALIGULA. Most of the crew, including the leader, Akala, have fun at the party, but what they don't know is that they were all brainwashed by light beams which played on their foreheads. The next day, Akala's lover Suko, who stayed behind in the ship, becomes suspicious when each of them robotically describes the party as "cheerful and fun." He takes a small probe ship out and discovers hundreds of the native people of the planet, the Turi, who have been enslaved by Ronk's people and are stuck working in intolerable conditions, mining a valuable ore which is sent back to Ronk's home planet. It was indeed they who sent the SOS; can Suko get the crew of the Cynro to help liberate the Turi?

This is another East German DEFA production like THE SILENT STAR, though this one is a little less serious and quite a bit weirder in style. The sets are mostly cheap and artificial in a chintzy Thunderbirds style, though still a notch above many Hollywood B-sci-fi films of the era. The wild party is disco/psychedelic (discodelic?), with writhing dancers, flashing lights, and folks dressed in red leather. Guards are decked out in black leather with 70's mustaches and sideburns. The real leader of the Temians isn't Ronk, but a weird dorky guy (known only as The Chief) who looks more like a low-level office bureaucrat than a dictator; we first see him with thinning blue hair and dressed in an sparkly blue jumpsuit (he changes his hair color frequently) playing a strange musical instrument and making scantily-clad women dance to his tempo. He feels an affinity with Akala, and she tries to use this to her advantage to help the Turi. There are even flashes of nudity here and there. It's a weird movie which I can only recommend to lovers of, well, the weird. [DVD]

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