Star Odyssey/Sette Uomini D’Oro Nello Spazio (1979)

Star Odyssey (1979)‘Sol 3 is better than I thought it was when I bought it.’

An alien slave trader wins the planet Earth at auction and launches an invasion in order to secure the raw materials of his business. The situation looks hopeless until a gang of swashbuckling mavericks with special skills step into the breach to try to save the day…

In the wake of the global explosion of ‘Star Wars’ (1977), many filmmakers rushed their own space operas into production in all corners of the world. Most of them only had one go at the genre, but some were markedly more enthusiastic. Take a bow, Alfonso Brescia. Under the name of Al Bradley, the Italian director delivered four such pictures in the space of a couple of years, five if you count ‘The Beast In Space’ (1980) (although we probably shouldn’t as it was a semi-porno.) Of course, he recycled the same sets, costumes and SFX, and even some of the same actors, most notably Yanti Somer, who was the female lead in most and appears here.

The last of Brescia’s quartet of space epics doesn’t waste any time in getting started (more on that later), with big bad Kess of Kol launching an immediate alien invasion that leaves the Earth at his mercy. The authorities simply can’t deal with him, even though his main weapons seem to be badly integrated library footage of big explosions and androids in silly blonde wigs prancing about in the woods. Mankind’s last, worst hope turns out to be freewheeling Professor Ennio Balbo and his ragtag bag of misfits who operate on both sides of the law (try not to yawn, Ladies and Gentlemen). These include dapper Gianni Garko, who sports black leather trousers and a nifty shirt with a glittery spider design. His hypnotic powers allow him to see through cards at the local casino (useful thing this hypnotism stuff!) and break scientists Chris Avram and Malisa Longo out of intergalactic prison (‘It’s a terrible bore being under the freeze ray for a warm-hearted girl’.)

Strangely enough when Garko’s well on his way to work the jailbreak via a cut-price Millennium Falcon, he finds himself right back at the card table in the casino, and the blonde he’d helped win earlier is still playing her numbers game across the room. Then we see Kess  of Kol buying the Earth at auction (which we kind of thought that he’d already done?!) So, what’s happening? Has the film a complex flashback structure? Or does it have a mind-bending timeline in the tradition of director Christopher Nolan? Um, probably neither. It’s far more likely that the editor simply got the reels of film mixed up and put some of the scenes together in the wrong order! l’m not even joking.

Star Odyssey (1979)

‘Don’t make it so…just don’t.’

Once we’ve passed this strange temporal anomaly, we’re treated to the scientists spending most of the running time trying to isolate something to counterattack the alien substance ‘lnderium’ (ln the end they call it ‘Anti-lnderium’ folks!) We also get ‘comedy’ (l use the term very loosely) provided by two bickering robots in love (the girl ‘bot has big eyelashes!) There’s also a pedal bin with flashing lights that stands in for R2D2.

After about an hour, our zeroes do finally manage to achieve something when they get their hands on some lnderium Swords (cough; lightsabers; cough). There are no big space battles, but we are treated to Norman (Roberto Dell’Acqua) taking part in the Android-Human World Championship where he squares off in the ring against an eight foot tall tin can called Hercules. And we also get uptight Nino Castelnuovo as Lt Oliver ‘Hollywood’ Carrera who has a ridiculously paint-on Errol Flynn moustache.

As 1970s Science Fiction goes, this is predictably dreadful stuff (which ‘Star Wars’ knock-offs weren’t?) but it’s actually worse than most due to its almost total lack of action and annoying ‘humorous’ elements. There’s a second (third?) hand feel to everything, and it’s no surprise that Brescia abandoned intergalactic exploration shortly afterward (if you forget the porno!) Unfortunately, he did return to the fantastical arena with dreadful ‘Ator The Invincible’ sword and sorcery fiasco ‘Iron Warrior’ (1987).

Rather brilliantly, in this film some of the supporting cast appear ‘in alphabetical order’ in the starting credits. It actually says that. Only it seems that a mighty strange alphabet was used. Because they don’t. Not even close.

Take my word for it; the whole thing’s best avoided.

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 Brescia 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 Brescia’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.

The War of the Robots (1977)

The_War_of_The_Robots_(1977)‘Yes, I understand. Thanks to this electronic translator.’

Alien robots kidnap a famous scientist and his assistant, who are on the verge of creating artificial life. The Earth Security Forces send a brave captain and his crew in pursuit but when they catch up with the miscreants on a remote planet, they find that things aren’t quite what they seem.

George Lucas is to blame for a lot of things. Not just those dreadful prequels but also the slew of cheap ‘Star Wars’ (1977) knock offs that emerged from continental Europe hot on the heels of his global success. Director Alfonso Brescia made 5 of them and proved that, although the concept had travelled, the technical expertise definitely had not.

Laydeez and gentlemen, the Human Lightbulb!

Laydeez and gentlemen, the Human Lightbulb!

Brescia’s 5 space operas were mostly interchangeable (apart from the one that was a porno!); Yanti Somer turned up in most of them, the spaceships are toys, the plots dull, the dubbing dreadful, there’s lots of over-explanatory dialogue, the girls wear black skullcaps or silly blonde wigs, there are low rent lightsabers, lots of running around in underground tunnels and underwhelming space battles that look like bad arcade games from the 1980s.

Apart from that, they’re great. This one isn’t even particularly coherent, with characters reveals having no credibility, either plot or performance wise. Yes, something may have been lost when the movie was translated into English but it’s hard to see exactly what that might have been.

This is simply a dire and cheap rip-off, a mechanical exercise in cashing in on the Science Fiction boom of the late 1970s.

Buy ‘The War of The Robots’ here. I would.