Zeta One (1969)

Zeta One (1969)‘lt’s a simple enough process, though I doubt if I could explain it to you.’

A secret agent recounts the story of his latest mission; an adventure involving an alien queen, her hypnotised army of kidnapped Earth women and a sinister aristocrat who has vowed to defeat them by any means necessary.

Terrible British science fiction sex comedy from Tigon Studios starring James Robertson Justice, Charles Hawtrey and Robin Hawdon. The latter is special agent James Word (l suppose his word is his Bond, or something?) who, returning home, unexpectedly finds a sexy blonde (Yutte Stensgarrd) in his apartment. Rather than being in the shower (as per usual with spy flicks from the 1960s) she’s in the kitchen instead; tidying up and cooking coq-au-vin (yes, there are some jokes about that). She’s only too ready to fall for his charms, of course, but seems more interested in hearing about his latest escapade than getting between the sheets. Both things happen (after an interminable game of strip poker), and most of the rest of the film is made up of this extended flashback. Anyone familiar with bad movies will be hearing alarm bells ringing already. The scene lasts almost 20 minutes; a fifth of the films entire running time!

Yes, what we have here is obviously a ‘troubled’ production. The history of it may be lost but it’s easy to take a guess at what probably happened. About 50 minutes of footage was shot with the main cast and then the money ran out. Our alien queen is Zeta (Dawn Addams) who is seen only in her retro-headquarters interacting with some of her minions and the kidnapped Wendy Lingham. Adams is from the planet Angiva which (in case you hadn’t noticed) is an anagram of ‘Vagina’. Robertson-Justice and Hawtrey are seen mostly in a manor house and the surrounding grounds and, although both have a scene with Lingham, they never meet with Addams. Hawdon only interacts with Stensgaard and another blonde, Anna Gaël, who plays one of Zeta’s agents. Gaël does have a scene with Robertson-Justice and Hawtrey but they never actually share the frame. It’s patchwork filmmaking at its finest, courtesy of producer Tony Tenser and director Michael Cort.

Not surprisingly, the film can’t overcome these difficulties and, even if it had been completed as intended, it’s hard to believe it would have been anything but dreadful. The humour is inane, the script weak and, although the presence of lots of bare-breasted lovelies may have attracted a certain crowd, it’s not one noted for its love of quality filmmaking. Tenser and the Tigon Studio had enjoyed commercial and critical success with the brilliant ‘Witchfinder General’ (1968) starring Vincent Price, and went onto the highly regarded rural horror ‘Blood On Satan’s Claw’ (1970). It’s unclear if the success of that first film convinced Addams and Robertson-Justice to get involved here. It may have been that their footage was actually older, and that it was a couple of years before Hawdon, Stensgaard and Gael were brought on board to bring things up to (barely) feature length.

Zeta One (1969)

‘You mean, there’s actually a script?!’

What we do know is that Robertson-Justice was ‘deeply ashamed’ of appearing in this production, although whether it was the large amount of nakedness on display or the quality of the film that bothered him is unrecorded. Hawtrey, who has almost nothing to do, had previous in the British science fiction arena with his appearance in hilariously inept ‘The Terrornauts’ (1967) and quickly returned to the ‘Carry On’ series after this.

Stensgaard and the statuesque Valerie Leon went onto be Hammer heroines in ‘Lust For A Vampire’ (1971) and ‘Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb’ (1971) respectively. The only thing of note in this film is the appearance of a bad-tempered elevator, whose vocal complaints might be said (at a stretch) to foreshadow the talking appliances of ‘The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy’, among many others.

If you think this film might be good for a bit of harmless titillation (a-ha ha ha!), then you can pretty much forget it. The only stiffness you’ll get from this is the kind that comes with boredom. But that’s enough bad puns about sex. If you want to know why the British film industry fell into the doldrums in the 1970s then you’d be hard pressed to find a better answer than this.

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