Well, at least we’re away from Hercules and jungle movies.
Will this be any better? Well,
hope springs eternal, at least until it trips in that gopher hole and breaks its
leg, then has to be shot.
And the movie just jumps right in (hopefully missing the gopher hole) as we see some miniature rockets moved about on a miniature set, while some reporters talk about the impending launch of the Bravo Zulu 88 toward Galaxy M12, here on December 17th, 2116.
And the ship launches, and we get the title. And the effects are actually pretty cool. The ship flies up above the earth, with animated flame. It sheds stages the way some people shed undergarments; one suspects splices are to blame in both cases. Our unseen narrator says that his editor assigned him to file a “routine” story on “infraradiation flux” on Galaxy M12. We pan back from the viewscreen, through the cockpit, and through some corridors until we see some crewmen asleep inside glass pods. The narrator explains this hibernation is necessary because of the rigors of space travel, however, he also says that the human body is put through a “congealing” process, which sounds rather permanent, so perhaps his area of expertise is actually infraradiation flux and he’s just guessing elsewhere.
He then goes on to say that at a predetermined time, the onboard computer (called here an “electronic brain”) revives everyone. He goes on much fancier than this, but I figure cutting to the chase is something I should do more often. The one reviving crew member we get a good look at is a black guy with snow white hair. He revives and removes some plastic thing on his neck and gets out of his capsule.
The narrator explains that everyone has magnetic boots because there’s no gravity, natch, and we see this black guy doing an elaborate, slow move from his capsule to the floor. I seem to recall reading that the actor is Archie Savage, who was a dancer; the effect of his motion is very convincing that this is zero gravity.
Narrator goes on to say that he’s still asleep, with everyone else, but that the engineer and pilot, Al, was awakened so that he could transmit stuff to the satellite Zulu Extra 3-4. And Al begins to call this satellite, and the satellite answers, and they chat a bit, not really telling us anything. Al requests position info, and another guy does the no gravity dance into the cockpit as Al hangs up. This guy is named Archie! Great, just great. Al says he’s going to go wake up “the baby” by which he means the reporter. I hope his name doesn’t turn out to be Andy.
Archie puts on his space helmet and Al goes back to wake up the reporter. Reporter slowly crawls out of his tube. He narrates stuff, mostly about how it sucks to come out of hibernation, and how’s been to the Moon lots, but never this far out into space. “I feared that ten days on a cramped ship, with a crew of seven men who would resent a reporter’s questions and lack of usefulness, might make me an unpopular passenger,” he narrates. Then he turns to Al. “The coffin was much too small,” he says, as Al humors him. “Couldn’t you find me a bigger one?”
”We didn’t have one, leech,” Al says.
”Why’d you call me that?”
”No offense, kid,” Al says. “It just means that here, you’re a parasite.”
”Where are we now?”
”Outside everything,” Al says, handing reporter a test tube. “Breakfast is served.”
In the cockpit, Archie is told by the satellite that everything is cool. Archie is looking forward to sending the reporter to the satellite.
Speaking of him, he’s got his space helmet fully attached, and he panics a bit before Al (and the newly arrived Archie) get his helmet all patched and working. They hand him his camera and stuff him in the airlock.
Reporter and Al banter a bit about how much/little Reporter knows. Al seems to think the percentage is low. He continues to prepare Reporter’s exit from the ship, detailing everything.
”I know what to do,” Reporter says.
”Son,” Al responds, “you don’t know anything yet.” And he closes the airlock.
In the lock, Reporter grabs the metal frame around the doorway. “Don’t touch he metal frame around the hatch!” Al says over the speaker.
”Why? Can you see me?”
”No. But the first time out, they all behave the same way.”
Eventually, the airlock reaches the right place, and Al opens the door. Reporter blurts out how he’s afraid after all, but too late, the door opens, and the bits of air left push the reporter out toward the satellite. There’s a nice shot of Reporter drifting away from the rocket what brang him. He explains via voiceover that the only way to get him to the satellite without disrupting the rocket’s mission was to pass the satellite 2000 feet away and let the reporter drift there. He knows this is reasonable but is still pretty scared.
And another shot of Reporter nearing the satellite, asking Al to talk to him, to say anything. They talk (the frightened Reporter and the space seasoned Al) about how empty and lonely it is out here. It’s a pretty good talk, actually.
Reporter decides that spinning would be cool. So he spins himself. Then he stops, and goes into the satellite’s airlock. He presses the switch the close the door, and informs us that he’s going to head to decompression. He also explains that the satellite has gravity because it rotates. He still looks a bit green, but manages to get through various hatches.
He says he was met by King 1-1-6, the doctor in charge of everyone’s various healths. With a name like that, I’m expecting Zoidberg but I imagine it’s just a nickname.
Some guy meets Reporter and asks him to take off his space suit and report to the commander. Another crew guy appears and asks what kind of guy this reporter is.
”He still smells Earthy,” says the first guy.
Spacesuitless, he reports to the commander and gives his name as Ray Peterson. The commander is busy with paperwork, but he gives Reporter the “You may be famous on Earth but out here, it’s all different and you’re just like everyone” speech.
Reporter takes this in stride, and Commander repeats that he (Reporter) should just stay out of the way since things are “critical.”
That’s fine with Reporter as “peace and tranquility don’t have any news value.”
The teletype in the corner starts spitting out paper, and Commander turns to read. He then called someone named Sullivan and asks how quickly he can get a ride to Mars.
”You talk about Mars as if it was just down the street,” says Reporter.
”There are no streets here,” says the Commander. “I firmly oppose your…unwelcome visit.”
”Are you trying to flatter me?”
”But the high command refused to listen to me. It’s apparent that you have quite a pull there.”
”Not me…but my organization has.”
”Don’t forget, Peterson, [splice, then stuff].” He says that everything that Peterson wants to report has to be vetted by him, the Commander, and that things are different up here. “You may go now. Later on, you’ll be shown to your quarters.”
Reporter leaves, and Sullivan enters and says the crew is ready.
Reporter walks into a corridor where several space-suited figures move across his path. A pilot tells Reporter that they’re all going on a “space detail.” He asks pilot if he can go along, and the pilot says he would have to ask the Commander. “Okay,” says Reporter, but he says it in a way that indicates he has plans and he’s going to do whatever he wants to do! All this talk of duty and stay out of the way and we’re here to do a job just shot right over his head and was sucked into his deadly foam-like ego. A tale for our times!
In fact his voice-over just says that he went outside without permission, because he thought this would be a good story. We see two halves of a rocket being pushed together, and Reporter drifts nearby taking pictures. It turns out this special detail is a refueling mission, and we see two eensy astronauts carrying a huge hose toward the ship while Reporter narrates the action.
Suddenly, a meteor heads toward one of the astronauts. Thinking quickly, Reporter pushes the guy out of the way just in the nick of time. Thinking less quickly, Reporter’s new momentum sends him right into the fuel line, which dislodges and sprays fuel everywhere. We get worried close ups of eyes to show us just how worrisome this is.
Luckily, someone remembers there’s an “Off” switch and uses it. Still, back on board, the Commander is pretty steamed about the loss of 500 gallons of fuel. He’s also steamed that Reporter went out without permission.
Reporter says he’s sorry, but points out that he saved a man’s life. Commander counters that the loss of the fuel is more valuable than a “mere” life.
Well, Reporter gets all righteous about his values vs. Commander’s. He notes he doesn’t even know the name of the guy he saved. Commander walks away at this, almost as if it was HE that reporter saved.
He tells Reporter that he has to obey the rules, and from now on, he has to ask the Second in Command for permission to do anything. He then dismisses reporter—twice.
Reporter wants to know “Why are you denying me the honor of talking to you?”
Commander just says, “I’m leaving, Peterson,” and the music gets sad and I suppose the characters are sad too, although it looks like they have simply detected a foul odor.
Reporter walks away, then finds a rather sullen technician. He tells said Tech that he’s looking for someone, specifically, the guy he saved. Tech (who is apparently the Medic) says the guy was fine, just shock, maybe he should look in the biochemical lab.
(Both of them refer to each other by the letter and number combinations on the back of their jump suits, which I’m not bothering to transcribe here. Reporter is all sarcastic when he uses them.)
Reporter walks into the lab, asks if he can come in, and sees someone working inside a machine. “Hey, Spaceman!” he says, and I just know it’s going to turn out to be a woman! I’ve paused it, right at the moment when the music does a giggly tinkle and Reporter starts to gape.
Ha ha, I was right!
”Are you addressing me?” she asks, continuing with her experiments.
”Yes, but you’re a—a—“
”You’re a girl! And you’re selling flowers, too!” (That’s what he says.)
”There are no flowers here. These are diaspora.”
”Even with a name like that, they’re flowers.” Okay, so why don’t you buy one, tough guy?
”They serve the purpose of changing hydrogen into breathable oxygen,” she explains, rewriting the laws of chemistry and biology without a backward glance. “And they’re as necessary here as the air is, on Earth.”
”But I still say…they’re flowers.”
”If you like.”
”Do you sell them?”
“I’m afraid not.”
”But, maybe we could make a deal.”
”What do you mean?”
”Oh, you see, you won’t have to send them anywhere. I’ll pay for them, and then, I’ll leave them here, for you.”
She giggles, and he asks her where she works, and she says she’s mainly a navigator. She likes to work down here when she’s not working elsewhere. She then asks him about his intentions, ie, why he’d want to buy her flowers.
He says it’s to “celebrate the second smiling face I’ve run into. Al’s was the first,” he goes on, “but now I’ve found you. Speaking of you, what’s your name?” He doesn’t want to know her number stuff, but her real name.
Turns out it’s Lucy, and Reporter mentions a pet monkey his uncle had named Lucy. The human Lucy seems a tad put out by this, the monkey Lucy couldn’t be reached for comment. But he says he meant it as a compliment.
Turns out she knows who he is, from the Commander (“George”) and she dismisses Reporter by noting “I’ve got work to do.”
And she leaves, and it turns out (duh) that she was the one he saved. She thanks him, and leaves some more.
But enough of that, Al comes over in a space taxi so Reporter can shoot footage of some asteroids. While shooting the spinning rocks, they talk about stuff. Reporter repeats that he got in trouble for saving a life at the expense of some fuel, and the life was a girl’s! “And she doesn’t even call him ‘Sir,’ just George!”
”By all the rings of Saturn,” Al says, laughing, “you ARE a meddler!”
They fly around in the space taxi some more, and Al notes that yes, Commander is leaving, and no doubt Lucy will leave with him, but no matter as they’re going to Mars. Reporter presses him for more details of this Commander-is-leaving stuff, but Al says it’s top secret and that’s that.
And the space taxi goes back inside, as Reporter wants to radio his bosses to tell them to make Commander take him along to Mars.
Cut to Commander, Lucy and Reporter (I think) all waiting for Al to show up so he can pilot them to Mars. Eventually, he does show up and Commander says that the situation has gotten worse so they have to go NOW.
Al asks if they’ve been able to contact “Alpha 2” and he’s told that they haven’t. They think the pilot may be dead. “This could mean the end!” someone who isn’t Lucy says.
Turns out it wasn’t Reporter, as he now calls the Commander and demands to speak to him.
Unhappily, Commander agrees to see him, while muttering about how he’s a meddler and all.
”He’s a pretty nice guy,” Al observes.
”Do you think so?” asks Commander, but before Al can repeat himself, the door opens and Reporter comes in. He gives Commander a wad of papers, which anger the Commander and make Reporter go all sarcastic again. These are no doubt orders that Reporter be allowed to make the Mars flight with them.
And I should mention that when Reporter lays on the sarcasm, he gets really, really creepy, like David Bowie imitating Vincent Price or something.
Well, Commander doesn’t put up any arguments, he just says, “Gentlemen, it’s time to leave.”
And everyone does, but Commander asks Lucy to wait a sec. He then says that because Reporter is going along, he has to reduce the crew by one (which makes Reporter look creepier by the second). And he’s chosen her to stay behind. She’s not happy about this, and hints at some connection between the two that’s making this decision for him.
She leaves, but not before saying that he spends too much time trying to be worthy of his position, and not enough time trying to be worthy of himself.
Cut to a rocket speeding through the void. Reporter (via voice over) notes that Lucy persuaded Commander to let her come along, and she duly set course for Mars.
Reporter asks Al if “the nose” is still up, and Al says that the nose of a rocket is always up, but Commander says Reporter is referring to him. “Congratulations, Commander,” Reporter sneers.
They argue about how Reporter never gets nothing good and everyone hates him, and Commander shows great restraint by not jettisoning him through the airlock. He does note that Reporter is “extraneous.” “Rude” is another good choice.
Reporter complains that everyone has made him feel like an outsider. I don’t suppose that’s because he IS an outsider, one who (in essence) bullied his way on board? No, course not.
”Congratulations, Peterson,” is Commander’s answer. Oooo, burn on that reporter!
And the ship shoots through the sky some more. But then they run into a magnetic storm! But it turns out to be a “Moon ship” asking for help. Their tanks are exploded and they’re being “attracted to” Mars. Ah ha!
Commander advises them to try to orbit Mars and they’ll try to help when they get there.
We cut to the interior of this Moon ship as they describe their various mishaps. Sure sounds like it sucks to be them, but so far, only one is dead (the engineer).
Commander tells them to get into their space suits and be ready to leap out of the Moon ship as soon as they hit orbit. Um, sounds like a plan Reporter would have come up with, but maybe he’s self-conscious with the Press on board, glaring at him.
Wouldn’t you just know it, but one of those darn Martian moons just happens to hove into view and it looks like the Moon ship is doomed to smack into it. One of the astronauts, one David, leaps from the ship and smacks into the surface first. I guess he just couldn’t wait.
The leader of the Moon ship gets one of the engines to fire, and he starts yelling about how “I can make it!” but then, in a confusing series of jump cuts, it kind of looks like he crashes into the Martian moon’s surface.
Commander tells everyone to prepare to land. All the while Reporter is looking…well, honestly, he’s sneering enough for a Sid Vicious tribute band.
The ship flies vertically over the planetoid’s surface, and they see the wreckage of the Moon ship, and decide to land. This is played as if it’s really tense but it doesn’t work all that well. And they land.
The ship tips a bit as they settle on the ground, but Lucy tells us that it’s not serious. Some guys in suits go out and find one of the Moon ship guys, and bring him on board. And the ship takes off again! Wow, that was almost close, if you squinted your eyes and sang really loudly.
Commander comes to the sickbay and asks Reporter how the survivor is doing. Reporter says he’s not doing so hot, but he should hold out until they get to Mars, which out to be real soon now. Then, Commander tells him that they’re not going to Mars, now they’re going to Venus. Reporter is incredulous at this news, and asks why, and Commander says it’s an order from the High Command.
”And you accepted it?” asks Reporter disbelievingly.
Commander doesn’t answer, but glares at Reporter like, It didn’t bother you when I accepted their order to take YOU along, did it?
A Guy says that the ship (he doesn’t mean the one everyone is on) is heading into an intense heat field, and everyone’s worried, and Al tells Commander that things are no longer top secret, so maybe he should tell Reporter.
Well, we pan across everyone’s face and Commander says that this other ship (the Alpha 2) doesn’t have a pilot, but is run by computer; that they’re heading into “platonic heat” which “has the power of destruction.”
He then goes on to say that Alpha 2, the ship they lost contact with, has “re-entered” the solar system, and will soon start to orbit the Earth, where it will radiate this “platonic heat” over the whole surface of the planet and basically destroy all life on Earth.
Wow, talk about kicking it up a notch! Anyway, Commander says that’s why they’re heading to Venus, so they can jump the shark or something and get that darned Alpha 2 so that it will not kill everyone. Reporter notes that this is pretty noble of everyone. He also notes that Lucy is crying, and we get a really bad jump cut, and suddenly she’s looking through some viewscreen and talking about continents. Chicks, huh? Who can figure them.
Reporter notes that he sees the oceans and stuff, but she chides him and he admits it’s just in his mind.
They chat some more. He asks if she knows what day it is, and she notes there aren’t any days in space, so he asks about DATES instead, and she doesn’t quite know, so Reporter points out that…oh, you’re not going to believe this! He says it’s Christmas Day, and carol music starts playing on the soundtrack, along with sleigh bells! Now, I know you think I’m making this up because I’m bored, but honestly, that’s what happened! Even the getting bored part!
Anyway, the Christmas carol ends and the ship shoots through space to land on Venus. Here, they hope to be able to intercept Alpha 2 and shoot missiles at it. Sounds good.
Well, the ship lands and people rustle about restlessly, and Reporter takes the poop opportunity to watch a bit of television showing the famous glass city of Venus, which is all glass and famous and stuff.
There’s more meaningless chatter about stuff and things, and Al tells Reporter he’s going to take him on a tour of Venus, but not for sightseeing. Oh, and by the way, they launch a missile at Alpha 2 so they can destroy this “deadly mechanical monster.” I bet that’s where Futurama got the idea for Bender.
So, we’re counting down how close Alpha 2 is getting to important places (other than space) and just when we reach five thousand miles, the intense radiation from this mechanical monster splices the very film itself. We cut inside a control room, where everyone who’s anyone is, and they’re pretty upset about this 5000 miles thing. They talk about how only the electronic brain can help them. Let’s hope it’s not running on XP, because they are all doomed if so.
One of the gang fills in the splice by saying that Alpha 2 radiates an intense sphere of heat, 5000 miles in diameter. I guess what happened was that the missile sent to destroy Alpha 2 was destroyed itself by the heat barrier. Everyone confirms that this means Alpha 2 is “indestructible.”
”So one of man’s dreams has finally come true,” says Al. “An indestructible destroyer.”
The others go on to note that unless there’s some change in orbit, Alpha 2 will soon orbit the earth at 3500 miles. You can do the math, right? The astronauts do it for us anyway.
Reporter avers that “a miracle” might help, and Commander notes that while everyone is waiting for that, they’ll do what they can. Another guy notes that missiles from “the other hemisphere” are ready to fire as well, which I guess means the Soviets. And everyone is going to order everyone else to get ready, until they are ready. Still, most of those present…heck, I guess all of them…seem pretty put out and sad that Earth is about to be destroyed. I guess I’d mark that as “sad” too.
And we get the same footage of a missile being shot out into space, and more counting down of numbers. This missile explodes 2400 miles from Alpha 2, which ought to make folks jump around pumping their fists and shouting “Yes!” since that means…uh, better than the other number. But the mood for today is still somber. But hopeful.
Al is the one who figures out why this missile got so much closer: Alpha 2 isn’t protected by a sphere of heat death, but by two spheres at both ends. Between the spheres is a clear channel.
Reporter notes that this is like an orange! “Yes, my son,” Al humors him.
Anyway, the theory is that there’s a thin channel between the two spheres where a missile can get through, and destroy Alpha 2 and everything will be totally great again. No, it doesn’t seem likely to me, either, with one radius of 5000 miles, unless the Alpha 2 is a couple of thousand miles long, or has very long arms. Still, I’m not going to rain on their parade. Are you?
Commander notes that if a rocket were traveling parallel to Alpha 2, it could shoot missiles and totally kill it. Al says he should be the one to go, because it was his idea and he should get the credit. Go, Al! The most interesting person here, and we’re going to get more of him! Who wants to bet Reporter comes along?
Al gets the nod, and Commander says the others will be right alongside him, in another ship.
”Hey, Ray,” Al says to Reporter as everyone leaves. “Now you have a chance to do a real exclusive. It’ll be a universal scoop!”
Reporter grabs his shoulder. “Let’s just make it a world scoop.” And as Al leaves, Reporter puts his arm around Lucy. Guys, huh? Always thinking with their primary brains.
And we get footage of (I’m guessing) Al taking off in the extra atomic rocket he mentioned was just sitting there. As usual, the miniatures aren’t going to fool anyone, but they’re imaginatively shot.
And, actually, a shot of the interior of the ship shows it’s everyone else but Al.
Commander congratulates Reporter, saying, “it’s not everyone who can withstand sixteen gammas.”
”Considering the fact that I’m a parasite,” Reporter says, showing his sneer for everyone. What is it with this guy?
Well, you pull sixteen gammas and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. St, Kubrick don’t you call me, cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the SFX store.
Well, Al calls just about then, before Reporter could complete whatever sarcastic taunt he had carefully composed.
And Reporter narrates as the two ships fly through space, looking for the thin, thin line between the two “semispheres” of Alpha 2. Again, the model work is not convincing but it’s fun and well shot.
The two ships confirm that both are okay, and Al takes the time to ask how Reporter is doing. “Doing fine,” says Commander. And they coordinate some more about their positions and stuff like that. And how they’re going to intersect with Alpha 2 at one place, but Lucy says a better place would be 3 degrees elsewhere, and Al says that sounds good to him. Me, I’m just typing this stuff.
Suddenly, the Commander’s ship gets a call from a rotating space station…and it’s not good news! According to this space station, there was a photonic shift! Argh, not one of those! No! Alpha 2 met up with some asteroids, and she beat the heck out of them, but they altered her course by six degrees, and Alpha 2 is going to smack the Earth ahead of schedule! Why, that has to mean a bad disaster! Instead of those good disasters, like a huge check in the mail. Or finding a drug dealer’s stash! It’s all good.
Except for our tragic astronauts. Or rather, the space station folk. It seems the Alpha 2 is going to be casting it’s deadly heat wave over their very coordinates, with them in it! The captain of said station has sent two guys out on the space taxi, and he asks that Commander rescue them, because pretty much everyone else is totally doomed and stuff.
Well, Commander yells that the space station folks should save themselves, but they’re all stoic and resigned and are determined to make Reporter’s story a good one with sacrifice and stuff, and they blow up, they blow up good, they blow up real good. Well, they just sort of flash and die, but come on, this is space, show some respect.
Al calls Reporter. He tells Reporter not to forget Sullivan (the commander of the space station) in his “scoop.” He tells him to write that “he was never afraid. Since man, even in space, changes his position but not his character, he is what he is, wherever he is.”
”What’s he mean?” Reporter asks.
”What you’ve always saying,” says Commander. ”To himself, every man is a whole world”
In the meantime, Al locates the space taxi, and Commander says their ship will change course to rescue them. And the ship rescues the two space taxi fares. The Commander looks at them for a moment, then orders them to rest. And they go to get some well-earned rest.
The two note how Commander called them “boys” yet knew they were from the doomed space station. So they think he’s pretty cool and stuff, whatever. What a strange world of tomorrow this is.
Anyway, back to space, Al is nearing the Alpha 2 and he’s about to shoot at it. He does, but the missile explodes 3000 miles away. So he tries another, and it gets almost to the 200 miles point before it explodes as well.
Al decides to get closer, despite the protests of everyone else who thinks this idea is not so hot. But Al has found the “channel” which is I guess where there’s no heat shield on the Alpha 2.
Everyone again asks Al to come on back, as this will probably mean his death, but he’s already 2000 miles from the Alpha 2 and is going to get even closer. There’s more talk about how he’s sacrificing himself, too much talk to be discarded so I’m going to guess that this is indeed Al’s final scene.
Al notes that if he’s unsuccessful, the Earth will be destroyed, and he’s pretty bummed about that, saying that everyone would be “prisoners of space” afterward. He’s now 800 miles from the Alpha 2.
And as the “Wow” meters go nuts and the music gets all intense, and the camera tilts and lights flash, and Al’s ship blows up.
Commander notes that Al succeeding in proving there’s a channel where missiles can be fired, but, he adds, “We still haven’t got a chance.” Damn, Al blew himself up for nothing!
Some other crew guy asks why they don’t request some other ships with missiles, and Commander says they’d never get here in time. You mean, Al was it? Good grief, who planned this mission?
Reporter notes some “object” that keeps appearing on the screen, and the others stop their mourning for a moment to look. Turns out it’s the space taxi, now orbiting the ship like a little moon.
Reporter notes how he rode that taxi with Al, once. And everyone’s sad some more. Reporter leaves the room, and Lucy tells Commander that she loves Reporter, but she thinks it’s all meaningless now. Commander says that maybe it’s the only thing that matters now. “The world of human feelings has been much less explored than the whole of the universe, put together.” Uh, what?
”But now it’s late. What have we been doing all these thousands of years…we’ve been congratulating ourselves on our progress in going faster and faster. When in reality, we’ve only been getting further away from ourselves.” He then asks Lucy to take over for him. She does, and he leaves the cockpit too.
Out in some other room, he runs into Reporter, who is all suited up to go outside and fly the taxi. Commander says nix to that plan, saying that “Lucy loves you” and how she’s everything in the world to him, the Commander. And he’s going to stop Reporter from killing himself. But Reporter slugs him a good one, and there’s Lucy, standing there!
Reporter gives her a long look and then goes through to the airlock. But then there’s another guy in a space suit right behind him? What the heck?
Well, I’m guessing Reporter gets on the space taxi and pilots it toward the Alpha 2. Commander, Lucy and “the other guy” in a space suit all return to the cockpit, where the Other Further Guy notes that Reporter is “going to make it.”
Oh, the spacesuited guy is one of the chaps from the destroyed space station. Okay, that makes sense. Behind him is another space suited guy. Fine, fine, fine.
Reporter is tossing loose stuff to the right and left of the taxi, so he can judge where the heat zones begin and end. Well, it doesn’t really work that way (in reality, the fields don’t just stop like a wall) but it’s pretty ingenious anyway.
And he’s run out of stuff to toss, so he removes something from his suit and throws that, and it turns out he’s clear of the barrier. So he trundles onto the Alpha 2 and crawls over the surface. And he gets inside the ship.
Commander calls him, and tells him to shut off everything in the ship, especially the electronic brain. We spend a lot of time looking at the Alpha 2’s pilot in his hibernation chamber, as it is sad he is dead and stuff.
Reporter says that everything is already disconnected, and Commander repeats that he has to disconnect the electronic brain. Someone’s either wrong or not listening.
Well, apparently Reporter was wrong, as he goes to the EB and, under Commander’s instructions, tries to disconnect the cables. After a fairly weak tug, he says he can’t do it, so Commander tells him to get out the toolkit and cut the cables.
On board, the co-pilot says they’re entering Earth’s gravity zone. On board the Alpha 2, Reporter is cutting through the wires.
Outside, the Alpha 2’s antenna stops spinning. This looks good to everyone, but Reporter asks how they know for sure that the deadly heat fields are disintegrated?
”There’s only one way to tell for certain,” Commander says with determination. “We’re coming in!” And they count off the thousands of miles as they approach, finally passing 5000, so they know the deadly whatever field is gone. Lucy excitedly calls Reporter and tells him to get ready to be rescued.
So he puts on his space helmet and pushes the airlock switch. There’s a sudden close up of his shocked eyes as he realizes that, when he shut everything down, that included the doors. “It’ll never open again, never!” he cries.
Commander tells him to try again. Just then, though, another Earth base calls and asks if they’re nuts or what, as they’re traveling so fast they’ll disintegrate when they hit the atmosphere. (Things disintegrate a lot in this movie.)
Commander notes the whole situation with Alpha 2 and Reporter and stuff. He orders everyone into space suits and tells Lucy to take over again. Lucy tells Reporter not to worry, but he notes how he can’t control his air, as he threw away his regulator when he was space taxiing a while ago. (That was what he pulled off his suit.)
The radio blares again from Earth base, saying that the High Command orders them to abandon their rescue mission. Commander comes back into the cockpit and shuts off the radio. See, earlier he was all about orders, remember, but Reporter has shown him…um, that being stubborn and stuff is the real deal. “They don’t know what they’re talking about.” He tells Lucy to talk to Reporter and mention how they’re very close.
Reporter starts babbling. “Too much air. My thoughts are running wild. Talk to me, Lucy!” Hey, Lucy, you could mention how there’s probably at least one space suit on board Alpha 2 (for the pilot), and I bet it has a regulator.
There’s a pretty cool shot of the three astronauts flying through space toward the Alpha 2. It’s shot from below and is very nice looking, like some kind of ballet or something like that.
And they arrive at the ship, and they’re cutting through the door, and Reporter’s all full of self pity and stuff. “I believed [that they would stop Alpha 2], but there’s no faith that can destroy the fear of death.”
And they finally get the door open (it falls on Reporter, who has passed out), and everyone flies back over to the (good) ship. And Lucy turns the ship around just in time before it blows up in the atmosphere, unlike the unlucky Alpha 2, which blows up real good.
And they’ve got Reporter laying down and Lucy comes in to see him, and he sits up, grinning. Lucy turns to Commander and, as near as I can tell, says, “And now, you really will be useless, George.” George is Commander’s name, but I have no idea what she means by this. She’s smiling as she says it, and Commander kind of looks like, Oh, those kids, and he leaves the two of them alone.
”That’s the Earth,” says Reporter, and sure enough, there’s the earth right outside. And we watch the spaceship fly away from us, and it’s The End. And the credits. Hugo Grimaldi, who I think worked on one of those damn Hercules films, was the executive producer. Music supervisor was Gordon Zahler, famous for his work on Ed Wood films. Jack Wallace wrote the narration, and “Anthony Dawson” was the director. He’s better known under his real name of Antonio Margheriti, and he was making movies still in the 1980’s. Yor: Hunter from the Future was one of his. And we get the actor’s names, including Rik Van Nutter (our hero). David “For the love of God” Montressor (you Poe fans will get that one). One guy’s name is Frank Fantasia. And yes, Archie Savage as Al, the best actor and the best character in the whole thing.
Screenplay by Vassilij Petrov. The very last credit is the cinematographer, Marcelo Masciocchi.
So, what have we learned? Well, not much, I guess.
In many ways, this is a typical Italian-made film, in that it meanders all over the place. The malfunctioning Alpha 2 doesn’t even appear until the film’s at least half over, the rest of the time there’s standing around and talking and looking at stuff and doing space things. Oh, and a ship crashing on the Martian moon and going to Venus and losing all that fuel. And sneering and arguing. So there’s lots of stuff happening, but little of it is connected to each other (the way a real story has events). I guess this is supposed to be a typical day in the future or something.
Credit has to be given to the film-makers for trying to make everything in this film plausible and believable; we really do get the sense of a work-a-day space environment, where being out in the vast unknown is just a job and there’s no time, and no resources, to simply gaze upon what must be incredible sights. No, there’s work to be done and fuel to be loaded, so everyone simply does his or her job.
Of course, this makes the film just a tad dull as well. Alas, we’re used to space adventures with flashing lasers and roaring monsters, and aliens who want our women.
Still, if you can get over Reporter’s overweening sense of self-importance, and his near-constant sneering, there’s certainly some things to recommend this. Archie Savage is a great character, he’s got authority and presence, and he looks great with his black skin and his completely white hair. In terms of having an impact, he’s it for this film.
The sets and costumes and stuff are all pretty good, though as some have noted, no one leaves a film humming the sets. The special effects are pretty obvious miniatures, but they’re clever and well-shot and not so obvious that you’re pulled from the story.
No, for that, we have most of our actors. Commander was stiff and solemn, Reporter was a sneering leech, Lucy not much more than a pretty face. The best character was Al, who had depth and resonance. Gosh, I wonder if this movie started the trend where the black guy always dies in science fiction/horror movies?
One thing that puzzled me, which was probably the victim of a space splice, was the relationship between Lucy and Commander. Were they supposed to be lovers, or ex-lovers, or even father and daughter? It’s never really spelled out (though I tend to think it’s the third explanation, just because of the age difference). Of course, Commander was so stiff it’s hard to think of him having any feelings (other than contempt for Reporter, but then everyone has that). Still, you sort of wish Al had stuck around long enough to tell us what was going on with them. Cos I bet Al would know.
So, ultimately, it’s a decent enough way to spend seventy odd minutes, provided you’ve already clipped all your nails and are done cleaning your ears and all the stores are closed and you’ve read all your books and the DVD player is broken and the internet is down and you only get one TV channel and this is it. But you shouldn’t go out of your way to see this, unless you’ve had a lot of beers and even then it’s not much funnier, believe you me.
In space, no one can hear you yawn.