‘Minnie’s got the biggest feet in town’.
A biochemist escapes from deep behind the Iron Curtain and settles near San Diego to carry on his (unsupervised!) research into deadly bacteriological weapons. When his assistant dies in mysterious circumstances, the government send top agent Adam Chance to investigate.
Oh dear. Sub-James Bond TV pilot that didn’t sell and was sent out briefly to die on cinema screens. Peter Mark Richman (a familiar face if not a name) heads up matters as our 007 substitute and Wendell Corey plays his boss. Unfortunately, what Richman probably intended as suave sophistication merely comes across as smug and Corey remains resolutely office bound, which seems to have been a contractual requirement at the end of his career. The lust interest is provided by the gorgeous Barbara Bouchet but the acting plaudits (such as they are) go inevitably to Martin Kosleck as the villain of the piece.
We realise we’re in for a pretty rough ride fairly early on. Chance is hanging out on the training ground with sexy Aliza Gur (‘From Russia With Love’ (1963)) when he suggests she had ‘better get back to the Judo range.’ Later on, he displays brilliant tactical awareness when he garrottes one bad guy from behind whilst the villain is driving, sending their vehicle crashing down a cliff side. He’s just as useless at the romantic stuff too, allowing Bouchet to exchange guns whilst they’re enjoying some extended tonsil hockey. However, it doesn’t help that her secret 3rd arm provides particularly useful for this purpose.
In the only vague piece of invention in the script, the enemy agents use spore guns, which literally fire a lethal disease at their victims. Chance takes them on because he works for H.A.R.M., which stands for ‘Human Aetiological Relations Machine’. Fair enough, but shouldn’t the fight against biological weapons have some scientific input, rather than just be left to a bunch of spies occasionally pointing guns at each other?
Action sequences are limited to a shootout at a private airport near the end (when we are just sooo past caring) and Richman flouncing around on his motorbike a bit. Gadget play is just some hidden microphones and the plastic spore guns. There are no big set pieces and very minor stunt work. All these are elements that could be considered crucial to this kind of an enterprise. Director Gerd Oswald also made the excellent noir ‘A Kiss Before Dying’ (1956) but obviously 10 years is a long time in Hollywood. It all makes for a seriously dismal 84 minutes.
Adam Chance never returned in something or other. Bloody good job too.
‘The only brain available to me at the time was that of a psychopathic killer…’
Government agents investigating a string of ‘mutilation murders’ suspect the involvement of rogue scientist Dr DeMarco. Meanwhile, enemy spies plan to locate the missing doctor and use his experiments in reanimation and thought transference for their own evil ends.
In reality, this late 1960s effort from director Ted V Mikels (‘The Corpse Grinders’ (1971)) is little more than a low budget spy flick with a science fiction gimmick. Most of the ‘action’ involves a little cloak and dagger and minor gunplay as Wendell Corey’s G-Men face off against sadistic Tura Satana and her goons. Corey is top billed but does only 2 scenes (in his office!) and Satana lounges around in various funky outfits before stubbing out her cigarette on a prisoner’s face and emptying her entire bullet clip into someone who’s already dead. She’s not exactly a complex character.
The macguffin that drives the plot is DeMarco’s somewhat confusing experiments. They are something to do with sending an artificial man into space (an ‘Astro-Zombie!) and giving him instructions by thought transference. He explains it all at some length to his mute assistant (William Bagdad) in various interminable scenes intercut with the espionage ‘action’. DeMarco is played by the wonderful John Carradine (who else?), and he manages to invest some authority into the nonsensical ‘scientific’ gobbledygook that is all the script gives him to deliver.
‘Cheer up, mate, at least you’re gonna be in the trailer!’
Unfortunately, one of the good doctor’s Astro-Zombies has already gone rogue and is on the rampage, attacking vulnerable young women in some rather tasteless, poorly staged scenes. In a tussle with one of our heroes, Astro loses his solar power pack and has to run about with a flashlight held up to his forehead. Things come together for the less than riveting climax as the forces of good and evil converge on Carradine’s basement lab in the middle of the night. This includes some local police, who approach in bright daylight.
During the final act, a couple of guys we’ve not seen before wander into frame just to be killed by Astro, one is decapitated and the other gets an axe in the head. As per usual with a Mikels movie, there isn’t a lot of plot, just some gratuitous bits for the trailer and a lot of padding in between. The credits feature some plastic robot toys that fall over a lot. Carradine demonstrates a level of professionalism that was hardly merited. Satana was a lot better in ‘Faster Pussycat… Kill Kill!’ (1966).
That’s all folks!
Buy ‘The Astro Zombies’ here. I did.