Sunday, May 8, 2011

May 8 - Italian scifi and a sexy thriller

Cosmos: War of the Planets (1977)

Director: Alfonso Brescia
Format: TV

2001 A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Star Trek, Barbarella - they're all ripped off in this, one of a string of Italian scifi offerings from director Alfonso Brescia (War of the Robots, Beast in Space etc), who is billed as Al Bradley.

The plot sees a strange signal arriving on Earth and a spaceship sent to investigate, finding a planet where an underground race is enslaved by a giant robot/computer.

There's campy fun to be had here - astronauts who wear 70s style jumpsuits and felt helmets with big round buttons on the side, aliens who are just guys covered in silver paint, an evil robot that makes Robby the Robot look like the T2000 and a spaceship computer ripoff of HAL called WIZ (which instantly makes me think of Michael Jackson dressed as a campy scarecrow).

As you'd expect from a cheaply-made Italian scifi b-movie, the special effects are worth a few laughs and the dubbing is atrociously funny. But that's what makes these movies so great, right?

The dialogue is generally bland but there are a few gems ("I ca-n't make it Cap-tain. The cen-tri-fu-gal for-ce has im-mo-bi-lised me!").

If Cosmos: War of the Planets moved at a quicker pace and the campy-to-dull ratio was higher, I'd recommend it. It's in the public domain, so chances are any DVD you watch will be as bad in quality as the TV screening I watched. Not that it'll wreck a good movie.

Double Jeopardy (1983)
Director: Ulli Lommel
Format: VHS (Syme Home Video)

Also known as Olivia, Faces of Fear and Prozzie. As far as I can tell, this one isn't available on DVD.

Ulli Lommel isn't a name I was familiar with before popping this horror/thriller into the ol' VCR. Looking him up, I discovered that I've seen a couple of his movies before - his 1980 hit Boogeyman and The Devonsville Terror, which came out the same year as Double Jeopardy.

From the looks of it his career in recent years has consisted of turning out direct-to-video movies about real life serial killers (The Zodiac Killer, The BTK Killer and DC Sniper among them), but in the 60s he was part of Andy Warhol's crowd (producing a couple of flicks for him) and in the 80s he became known for a string of horror/thriller movies starring his then wife Suzanna Love.

In Double Jeopardy, Love is a troubled young woman who as a child witnessed her prostitute mother being murdered by a john. Now grown up, she emulates dear old mommy's night activities in London, but has a penchant for killing any men she hooks up with, spurred on by the voice of her dead mother.

Then she meets and falls in love with an American (Robert Walker jr, Beware the Blob) who's in London to do work on the London Bridge. The movie takes a unexpected turn when it moves to the US, where the London Bridge has been rebuilt in Arizona (a real life event that apparently inspired Lommel to build his plot around it). Now in America, Walker's character meets a woman who looks just like his former love, but could it really be her?

There are a couple more plot twists before the end - nothing groundbreaking by any means, but Lommel does a competent job of mixing sex (Love spends a fair bit of time in the buff and is very easy on the eyes), mystery and psychological horror into an entertaining and unpredictable package, helped by creepy, moody music.

Note: The image with this review is the cover of my own copy of the VHS. It looks both cheesy and awesome at the same time!

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