Monday, July 25, 2016


It's the year 2116 and Ray Peterson, star reporter for the Interplanetary Chronicle of New York, has been assigned to get a story about Space Station ZX34. On the transport ship taking him to ZX34, he bonds with the pilot, Al, who nicknames the young man "Leech" and lets him know that he will be seen as a "parasite" by the cosmonauts (called this though everyone seems to be American, or at least English speaking). Sure enough, Ray immediately pisses off Commander George with his cocky attitude. On a refueling spacewalk, Ray saves the life of Cosmonaut Y13, but also causes the loss of a large amount of the precious fuel (hydrazine), so he's in Dutch even more. Turns out Y13 is a lovely young woman named Lucy, but she's also George’s girlfriend—love triangle, anyone? George is also acting a little strange, and soon we find out why; their mission has changed. Rocketship A2 has malfunctioned: communications are down, the crew is dead, it's out of control and speeding towards Earth, and its photonic energy source will cause it to blow up our planet.

This fairly obscure film is hailed by some critics as the forerunner of the 60s Italian sci-fi movie craze, led by director Antonio Margheriti (aka Anthony Dawson) who made this film and the later, better known WILD, WILD PLANET among others. This is harder to slog through than his mid-60s movies, partly because this is less stylish and a lot less campy fun. It takes itself seriously but would have aged better if it had been a little silly. Actually, there are a couple of nicely campy moments. When Lucy has a heart-to-heart talk with George, moments before the possible space apocalypse, about her love for Ray, she says, "I love him, George. But love has no meaning now, George." There's something about her flat delivery and the repetition of George's name that made me crack up, but I don't think I was supposed to. Another fun scene is when Ray reminds Lucy that, yes, the date is officially Earth Day 359 but it's also Christmas—and then "Deck the Halls" plays on the soundtrack.  Of course, these are the kinds of things that make a movie an unintentional camp classic, but there's not enough of these scenes to go round, though some may find the terrible special effects worth a laugh or two.

Rik Van Nutter is fairly unlikable as the hero Ray, David Montresor is one-note as George, and Gaby Farinon is bland as Lucy. That leaves the actor with the unlikely name Archie Savage as Al—perhaps the first black character in Movieland outer space—as the saving grace of the cast. There are some plot loopholes that left me mystified, the biggest being that, in the beginning, it is stated that Ray is heading to Galaxy M-12, but they actually appear to have never left our solar system. Or maybe I was confused by the bad dubbing. The print I saw on Amazon streaming was in terrible shape; worst of all was the badly faded color, leaving the movie in shades of green and purple. This is a little fun, but I can only recommend it to die-hard 60s SF fans. Aka SPACE MEN. [Amazon]

No comments: