La Bestia Nello Spazio/The Beast In Space (1980)

La Bestia Nello Spazio (1980)‘Strange…l feel a torpor inside me’

A military spaceship crew set out for a remote planet in search of a valuable mineral. However, a rival expedition is also looking for the element for purely commercial reasons and are determined to secure it at all costs. When the two teams make landfall, they soon find they have more to worry about than just each other, as strange forces living there have their own sinister agenda…

Alfonso Bresica was an Italian journeyman film director whose low budget output typically bore the name of ‘Al Bradley’ when released in the United States. He’s best remembered now for a series of generic ‘Star Wars’ (1977) knock-offs in the late 1970s, often featuring the same cast members, usually actress Yanti Somer and sometimes John Richardson, who had played second fiddle to Raquel Welch and a pterodactyl in Hammer’s ‘One Million B.C.’ (1966). Titles like ‘The War of the Robots’ (1978), ‘War of the Planets’ (1977) and ‘Battle of the Stars’ (1978) initially provided some useful box office but, by 1980, the market was over saturated and the law of diminishing returns was setting in. However, Brescia wasn’t ready to give up yet. After all, he had all those standing sets of rocket interiors, spaceship models, and silver uniforms with skull caps. All that was needed was a fresh, new ingredient to breathe new life into the space opera, and Brescia knew just what was required. Sex.

The film opens in a bar, or, more accurately, an empty set dressed with some comfortable seating and glittery curtains. Suave Larry Madison (Vaseli Karis), Captain of the Space Fleet, hooks up with blonde Sondra Richardson (Sirpa Lane) but matters are complicated by merchant Juan Cardosa (Venantino Venantini) who boasts of discovering rare metal Anatalium. A quick bout of fisticuffs later and Karis and Lane are busy gettin’ it on under glowing red lights. It’s a lengthy sequence with full frontal nudity (her, at least) and I guess it looked good in the trailer to a certain demographic. A few twists of the story later and it’s all aboard the U.S.S. Fizzing Firework for a trip to the distant planet of Lorigon in search of the Anatalium, which is apparently great for making ‘neutron weapons.’

Karis is in command of the Firework, of course, and is surprised to find that Lane is his new navigator, when he thought she was just a casual pickup over a glass of Uranus Milk, who told him about her recurring nightmares of a strange planet and being interfered with in the woods by a large, hairy bloke. The crew recite lots of meaningless ‘technical’ dialogue, such as ‘Alpha Angle 37 degrees, Alpha Angle’s Tangent 12’, ‘Main nozzle normal’ and ‘Insert Gyro-Stabiliser’ before our heroes reach ‘unexplored-space’ a mere minute and a half after take-off. A little while later, Karis prepares to blast two unknown spacecraft to atoms, solely on the basis that they are faster than the Fizzing Firework, but gets blasted instead. The Firework goes into a deadly spin, which is brilliantly conveyed by rotating the camera 360 degrees and having the actors pull stupid faces. But their drift coincides with Lorigon‘s axis (or something) so Karis chances his arm with some daring ‘technical’ commands that the crew keep insisting will result in their total destruction. They don’t, of course, because he’s the Captain and so brilliant at everything.

After planetfall, our intrepid crew wander about for ages, exchanging lots of banal dialogue. At first, their trusty Antalium Detector takes them through caves, then some woods, and, eventually, the corridors of a huge castle. Of course, all this is exactly what Lane saw in her nightmares, apart from the copulating horses which make all the female members of the crew touch themselves suggestively. This middle third of the film drags terribly, and it’s a little difficult to work out who were the intended audience. There’s been very little ‘action’ of any sort and, if it was aimed at the ‘adult’ market, then they would have been bored stiff, rather than anything else.

La Bestia Nello Spazio (1980)

Swivel on it!

It turns out the planet is run by the ‘mighty and unstoppable will of the great Zacor’, an ancient computer damaged centuries ago. This exposition is supplied by the planet’s ‘owner’ an 800 year old man called Onaph who, surprise surprise, is the big, hairy chap out of Lane’s nightmares.

Most of Bresica’s science fiction output consisted of cheap, generic ‘Star Wars’ (1977) replicas, so at least this film breaks that mould. Unfortunately, it’s a deadly dull offering with no fresh ideas whatsoever, other than to go full porno about 20 minutes from the end!

There is some enjoyment to be had from the repetition of tired, old space-faring clichés, I suppose, but the story develops so slowly that most audience members will understand exactly what Onaph means when, at one point, he insists that ‘time has no meaning here.’

No classic in any genre.

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