Star Odyssey (1979)
This is the third in a trilogy of low-budget, lower-effort, lowest-quality Italian science fiction movies that I've reviewed this month, following 1978's War of the Robots and 1977's Cosmos: War of the Planets. What all three of these movies have in common is a general suckiness and a total disregard for the emotional and mental state of viewers hapless enough to fall prey to them. 103 minutes of pain, folks, 103 minutes of terrible pain...
Star Odyssey was released in Italy in 1979, and over the last twenty years has remained a stain on that nation's conscience. I think they should give us all free Alfa Romeros and pasta salads, or we will have George Bush invade them. Before and since receiving richly-deserved public domain status, the movie could be found under a number of titles, including Captive Planet, Metallica and Space Odyssey. The version I will be reviewing today is titled Star Odyssey released on DVD in 2003 by b-movie specialists Brentwood Communications.
This is one of those movies that has drifted so far into the depths of hell that finding any information on it is very difficult. The glorious IMDB has only the barest outline, and a thorough Google search turned up virtually nothing. As such, I can't even come up with a reliable cast list past a few main characters. That's probably for the better, however, as I'm sure the actors involved with Star Odyssey would just as soon remain anonymous.
And now on to our show...
Oh, first off, in the first two movies I went with a Star Trek theme. I don't think that will work with this one, despite some shared ideas.
We open out in space, on a foreign world, where we see that a group of powerful and wealthy space aliens (the "Lords of the Galaxy") are having an auction. These are all freaky looking aliens with weird hairdos.
They're bidding on a number of planets around the galaxy. The best planet up for sale is Sol Three (wink, wink), a lovely little planet on the edge of the galaxy with lots of trees and lemurs and igneous rocks. It also has a large population of humanoids, which are "the rarest of all lifeforms".
One of the bidders is a powerful alien dude with some seriously wicked face make-up who looks like Hellraiser from Clive Barker's Hellraiser movies. I think his name is "Kess of Kobo" but the poor sound quality and lack of subtitles makes it impossible to be sure, so I'll just call him Hellraiser.
Kess of Kobo!
His interest in Sol Three is a bit more devious than just looking for a summer home for his mistress. He wants to use the humanoids for slave labor throughout the galaxy. He even has a number of contracts for these slaves already set up.
We also see that Hellraiser has some sort of Spooky Jedi Mind Powers, which allow him to both win the bidding and nearly kill his main competitor. These Powers are shown by close-ups of his eyes, which are glowing dots inserted on the film negatives, very hi-tech. In the end, Hellraiser wins the bid at 100 million credits.
So, Hellraiser gets into his stock-footage-from-Cosmos: War of the Planets spaceship, manned by reused-costumes-from-War of the Robots crewmen, and heads off for his newly-bought planet.
That's Earth? Doesn't look like Earth.
As he arrives in our solar system, he does a scan of our planet. This is apparently at least a hundred years or more in the future (probably close to 300) and human civilization has developed quite a bit. From the scan they determine that it suffers from "widespread traces of pollution due to chemical combustion and nuclear waste". Further, that our planet's technological level is about at the level of these aliens about 1,800 years ago (!). The human population is said to be 10 billion "units", most all living in underground or seabed cities as the surface is mostly turned over to agricultural concerns to feed all these people.
We're explicitly told that this is First Contact, the first alien encounter humans have had. Unfortunately, it doesn't go well from the start. The spaceship is encountered by a patrol ("Unit P of Reconnaissance"), who try and intercept it with a small spacefighter ("Spacehunter A-74B"). The aliens detect the approaching "indigenous space vehicle of a primitive chemically-propelled design" and just zap the fighter, blowing it up real good.
We go down to Earth Space Command, where everyone is understandably in quite a tizzy. The Admiral in charge laments, "Man meets an alien race at last, and greets them by disintegrating our vessel". The military begins to "insert central computer link into defense system circuit" and ready "outer belt perimeter defenses" and the "automatic inner defense ring of Earth" and make sure the "automatic system is on emergency intracking and targeting phase" and calls "red emergency all sectors". Wow! That's a lot of technobabble! It gets better. They rev up the weapons, including "atomic cannons", lasers, and "Earth-based nuclear artillery", which are guided by "hyper radar".
If your defensive displays are just multi-colored lights, then you are toast.
Ok, need to introduce a dude here, a military officer assigned to the Command Base who watches all the action. He's an arrogant, posturing, strutting Lieutenant named Oliver "Hollywood" Carrera. He got the derisive nickname "Hollywood" because it's said that he acts like he's an actor on some American space hero television show. We will learn later that his arrogance is just a front and he's a coward (though a comedic one) at heart. It's clear that everyone in the military either hates him as a pretty boy REMF or just ignores him. He also has this goofy pencil-thin mustache that makes him look like Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties.
Anyway, all the combined firepower of Earth is useless against the alien ship, which shrugs off hits without effect. Hellraiser gets annoyed, however, and unleashes a barrage of black and white stock footage clips of exploding buildings, volcanoes and WWII allied bombing raids in a show of force to convince the humans that resistance is futile. Back at Space Command, they report that London, England and Acre, Turkey have been "knocked out" and there are "no survivors" in Adelaide, Australia and the Okinawa base is "just a junkyard".
The Admiral is down to his last card, to call upon one Professor Morey, perhaps the planet's smartiest smartyhead scientist who has a "degree of intelligence that puts him about two centuries above anyone else". Unfortunately, the Professor has fallen outside the legal community, so to speak, and is a pariah in the scientific community now. It seems he's too "independent, stubborn and undisciplined" to color within the lines.
The Admiral grudgingly contacts the Professor at his home somewhere in a forest, and asks him if he would help them with the alien problem. In one of those moments that makes you think that the screen play was written as a group project by a preschool class, the Admiral tells him that he will receive zero governmental or military support or funding for his efforts. What the hell! So the Professor, the "last hope for the Earth", has to save the world while working under the system? Does the government want humanity to be wiped out by these alien slavers?
Ok, lets visit the Professor now. He's a old bald man with a penchant for high-collared capes and spouting rambling diatribes and platitudes. To add to his mystique, we see that the Professor also possesses the same Spooky Jedi Mind Powers that the Hellraiser alien has! Going to have to explain that one later (but in the end they never do explain where he got these powers...). He uses them to do big things like convince Lieutenant Dudley Do-Right to help him, and little things like open cabinet doors.
The Professor is indeed going to try and devise a way to defeat the aliens, mostly because he relishes the challenge more than any sense of human solidarity. The problem is that analysis shows that the alien spaceship is made of a substance called "indirium", which is apparently impenetrable. As well, only a tiny quantity of this substance is known to exist on Earth, and the Professor has it.
What he needs to do is reassemble the "old team", a group of men and women who used to work with the Professor back in the old days. Two of these, both super-smart chemists, were doing research on indirium years ago. If he can get them back on the job, then maybe they can find a way to defeat the spaceship's indirium armor. The problem is that all these former team members have scattered across the globe since the Professor was discredited and lost his governmental backing (apparently he still lacks it).
The Professor has a pretty niece (of course) named Irene, who happens to be boinking Dudley Do-Right. She's not really that pretty, actually, but perhaps my opinion is clouded by her massive hair-do. This two-foot high Elizabethan beehive, combined with a cleavage-baring flowing-robe outfit makes her look like an extra from Shakespeare in Love or a refugee from a Renaissance Fair.
The Elizabethian Niece.
The Professor tells his Elizabethan Niece to go and round up a couple members of the old team that are still here on Earth. The others he will find other ways to find. He has to put the Spooky Jedi Mind Powers on Dudley Do-Right to get him to help them, but that works out ok.
First the Elizabethan Niece goes to get Dirk Laramie, a Han Solo-type of scruffy mercenary who's currently hanging out at a seedy bar somewhere. We see that oddly-nicknamed "Dirk the Gambler" has the same Spooky Jedi Mind Powers that the Professor and the Alien Leader have (hopefully they will explain this later? Unfortunately, they never do explain this...), and is able to cheat by reading cards and fogging minds. This gets him into a lameass fist fight with a bunch of redneck boys who want their money back. Here we learn that Dirk is a rough and tumble sort of dude, good in a fight and able to woo the ladies at the same time. In the end, the Elizabethan Niece offers him a deal he can't refuse, to get back with the Professor and do something worthwhile. Oh, and I guess that Dirk the Gambler and the Elizabethan Niece used to be lovers or something, but that's over now. Well, it's over for her, but you get the impression that he still wants to bang her.
Dirk the Gambler.
In a little interlude, we see that teams of alien Stormtroopers are landing at various points across the globe and collecting slaves. We see one such raid in the "sub-tropical continent", where 1,600 "dark-skinned units" have been picked up and all "damaged or unsuitable elements have been destroyed" leaving a "sample group" of 1,000 units. These 1,000 Africans are brought aboard the alien spaceship (which must be very, very big) and stored in Hold 6, Container 4. I'm sure this is a blatant reference to the slavery issue on Earth, which Italy was no bystander in. I hate it when my sci-fi movies try and be all socially relevant.
Meanwhile, the Elizabethan Niece (who is now channeling Signorney Weaver) next goes to a boxing match to find Bill Norman, who's fighting against an android named Hercules IV (well, just a guy in a gray suit with a metal helmet). Norman is a whirling dervish of a fighter, leaping and bounding around (without the aid of wire-fu or CGI or Tarantino's ego) and delivering punches and kicks with a ferocious energy. He wins the fight (despite 10-1 odds) and meets up with the Elizabethan Niece, who he knows already.
Norman is played by 44-year old Gianni Garko. Back in the late 1960s he was famous in Italy for a series of spaghetti westerns where he played the reoccurring character of Sartana. By 1979, however, his career was clearly in decline. What compelled to appear in this horrid movie is a mystery, but it might have had something to do with gambling debts or a head injury. As I watched this movie (and died a little on the inside...) I couldn't help but notice the similarities between this character and Sportacus from the Saturday-morning kiddie show Lazy Town (a personal favorite of my son and I).
The Elizabethan Niece and Sportacus (who's has taken to wearing a satin jacket with the letter "j" on the back) now go to a car wrecking junkyard (!) to find two friends of his. These are two child-sized androids named "Tilt" and "Tilly", certainly kids wearing spray-painted cardboard robot costumes with knobs and dials glued on. As to why they're of any value to this operation, it seems that they have some sort of energy conversion ability that allows them to phase out of real space so that weapons pass right through them. Sure.
As well, they're in love! Sportacus explains that they were early prototype robots designed to mimic human emotions, part of a "far-out experiment". One was female and the other male, and they're life partners, devoted to each other with a sick passion usually reserved for teenagers in Kansas. They're in this junkyard because they made a "suicide pact" to end it all for some reason that neither can remember (maybe because they couldn't have children?). Any respect I might have had for this movie (and it was very slight) is instantly washed down the sewer drain with the appearance of these two robots.
This is my favorite cap, I think because of the cute look on her face.
In another little interlude, we go back to Space Command, where we learn that they're having great difficulty tracking the alien ship as it moves around the planet. It has a "radar scrambler" and it's acceleration is so rapid that "it appears to vanish" and it can reach a velocity of "several parsecs". Wow! That's fast, almost as fast as the Millennium Falcon which made the Kessel Run in less that twelve parsecs! Steal from the best, I always say.
A report then comes in that the ship has landed near Hiroshima, Japan and has hauled off 800 slaves from there. I wonder if they picked Hiroshima for any "social relevant" message. We do learn that this is the 24th raid they have carried out, suggesting that around 19,000 to 24,000 humans have already been captured and are being held on the ship (which must be really, really, really big). The Admiral names off some of the other people groups that the slavers have hit, including "those farmers in United Africa" and the Russians and the Arabs.
Alright, so Dirk the Gambler and Dudley Do-Right are tasked to go and bust the two chemists out of space-jail, where they're being held on some trumped-up charges. They "borrow" a spaceship from a military base and fly to "Moonspace", an orbital prison somewhere in the area of the moon, the "Alcatraz of the heavens". Again, I'd like to point out the terrible plot inconsistency of our heroes having to work outside the law to save their own planet! I wonder how many different screen writers worked on this, and how many different screen plays they kit-bashed together to make this movie.
Anyway, while they're coming, we go inside Moonspace to meet these two chemists. One is a middle-aged man named Shawn James and the other is a hot young babe named Bridget Langdon. I don't know about Shawn, but Bridget is played by 29-year old Malisa Longo, one of Italy's most notable exploitation movie queens. Longo had juicy roles in 1977's Cosmos: War of the Planets and 1978's War of the Robots, as well as a host of low-budget high-skin horror and nunxploitation films over a 30-year career.
These two are being held in a cell block under "suspension rays" that keep them awake but inert. As the scene opens, the lone guard is lustily gazing at the hot Bridget. He turns off her ray and out she comes, stretching and looking all sexy. She complains that she's not had a man in ages, being all cooped up in that cell. She saunters up to the guard and puts the moves on him, giving him a passionate slobbery movie kiss. We all see where this is going, don't we?
"Hey, sailor, how 'bout a good time?"
Of course, she takes the opportunity to hit the buttons to release all the other prisoners in the cellblock from their suspension rays. Out they pour, to be met by a bunch of guards rushing down to answer the alarm. A massive row develops, with prisoners and guards swinging and biting and kicking and punching and acting badly towards each other. The break-out is contained eventually, and everyone is put back in their cells.
Back to Dirk the Gamber and Dudley Do-Right, who have by now arrived and are talking to the Warden (a Ron Jeremy-lookalike) in his office. Using his Spooky Jedi Mind Powers, Dirk the Gambler gets the Warden to release Bridget and Shawn into their custody.
Ok, so now the whole team is reassembled, and we go down to the Professor's house. To recap, here is the Professor, his Elizabethan Niece, Dudley Do-Right, Dirk the Gambler, Sportacus, Bridget, Shawn, and the two android lovers. What a Dream Team! Look out Justice League!
I should note here that Bridget has changed into a sexy, skin-tight leather dominatrix bodysuit (!) that makes her look like a background extra from Barbarella, Queen of the Galaxy. I don't know why, but I like it!
So while the two chemists work on the indirium, the rest of the guys go outside into the forest around the house and emplace some explosive mines. I guess they're worried about alien invaders, or maybe human interference. Since they're effectively outlaws, perhaps they're more worried about their fellow humans.
Ok, sometime later the alien spaceship is flying out in space over the planet. Hellraiser "senses a contact with an alien brain" from the surface below, like Darth Vader sensing Obi-Wan's presence on the Death Star. It's the Professor, who also has that Spooky Jedi Mind Power thing, remember? Now curious and concerned, Hellraiser comes to the surface himself, accompanied by a host of silver-suited gold-haired android Stormtroopers.
Down at the Professor's house, we see that the Elizabethan Niece is outside, bringing some food to the guys laying the mines. The Stormtroopers grab her and knock her unconscious. Hellraiser checks her out, but doesn't think that she's the one that he sensed from orbit. He orders his troops to take the house and bring him all the humans alive.
And so we have a battle royale as the Storm troopers (at least 30 of them) rush the house, while Dirk the Gambler, Dudley Do-Right and Sportacus attempt to fight them off. The aliens are armed with laser guns and "light sabers" (hehehe...) while the humans have ray guns and 1970s porn star mustaches. Sportacus has the most luck, thanks to his gymnastic abilities and the alien's total lack of small unit tactical combat skills. He himself destroys five Stormtroopers and damages five more, while the other two guys only damage two Stormtroopers between them. Even the mines have little effect, probably because they seem to be very weak charges that produce little more than a puff of smoke. Dudley Do-Right shows his true colors here, running for cover when the shooting gets dangerous, and is mocked terribly by Dirk the Gambler.
Golden android Stormtroopers!
In the end, superior numbers force the humans back to the house. In a desperate move, they all take pills that cause them to collapse into a death-like state. The Stormtroopers check the bodies, but because they scan as corpses, they leave them there and go back into the woods to report to Hellraiser. In a neat bit, they also totally ignore the two lovestruck robots, as they're only here to find humans.
Hellraiser is angry at this, and he still feels the presence of the alien brain somewhere near. He decides to put a "brain lock" on the still-unconscious Elizabethan Niece and let her go, she will act as an unknowing spy for him. The aliens then return to their ship.
Back in the house, everyone has revived and is patting themselves on the back for the ruse. Sportacus has managed to capture one of the alien's light sabers and they decide to try and make copies of it. Their ray guns seemed to have little effect, but Sportacus was able to cut them up bad with the saber. They also tell the Professor about the Stormtroopers being androids, which Sportacus found out when he sliced one open. The Professor pauses and says, "That means life is relatively rare on their world." No, it doesn't mean that. It could just as easily mean that they send android soldiers out to fight so they don't loose lives.
The Professor then says he's going to use his Spooky Jedi Mind Powers to try and keep the alien spaceship from taking off (What has it been doing all this time, just sitting there in the forest?). We see that he can project a "telepathic net" over the ship, holding it to the ground. Hellraiser and the Professor then engage in a mental war at a distance, in which the Professor manages to hold his own.
"Arg, this movie is hurting my brain!"
Hellraiser is impressed, and wants to capture this human with a brain so advanced. He will study the brain, imprint it on his slaves, and make them all as powerful, and that way he can dominate the galaxy...
(I'm really having trouble finishing this review. I think after this one I'm going to take another break, maybe do something else for a month or so. I'll start writing more reviews eventually, but I'm just a bit burned out right now. I'm going to wrap this review up pretty quickly, sorry.)
That night, the brain-locked Elizabethan Niece zaps the Professor with a stun gun, and some aliens enter the house and take him away. This is witnessed by the two lovestruck robots, who raise the alarm.
Determined to go after the Professor and the Elizabethan Niece, the rest of them rush to the lab where Shawn has made indirium-threaded suits and copies of the light sabers for them. Thus armed, they set off after the aliens.
By the time they get there, the Professor is aboard. The Elizabethan Niece comes to her senses once Dirk the Gambler shoots the brain lock bracelet off her arm (with a ray gun shot, in the dark, from about twenty yards!). So our heroes storm the spaceship, aided by the two lovestruck robots who help open the doors. Inside the hallways, they're mobbed by saber-swinging androids and a ferocious melee ensues.
In the end, they rescue the Professor and all get off the ship just before it takes off. So they all then rush to the spaceport to take a number of specially-modified space fighters out after the fleeing aliens. There's this lameass space battle, where the five fighters engage the big alien ship and a 16-ship slave convoy coming from Hellraiser's homeworld in a slowly-paced dogfight. Sportacus and Dudley Do-Right are blown to bits, but only Hellraiser's ship survives the fight. Dirk the Gambler and the Elizabethan Niece rediscover their love and get all mushy.
Yep, that's a silk-screened spider with sequins...
We close as Hellraiser is back at the next auction, selling off Sol Three and all its headaches to the next bidder.
Written in October 2005 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda.
comments powered by Disqus
that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...