Tonight’s movie is called The Astral Factor, and I’ve
never heard of it. So, let’s get
We start with synth and electric piano music, and a sign on a fence that says “California State Hospital for the Criminally Insane” and we pan up to a building. Inside, we walk past a row of cells, which look a lot like prison cells but since this is California things may be different from what I expect! Finally, the POV camera stops at a cell that has a guy sitting on his bed in a lotus position.
Across the aisle, a black guy is having trouble sleeping, and he happens to look up as Lotus Man is covered in swirly lights, then disappears. But then he comes back again, and black guy puts on his glasses the better to see.
They have a brief argument, Lotus basically saying “You didn’t see nothing!” and “Shut up!” while Black Guy (sigh) says he did SO see something, and (about the Shut Up part) “Those are some mighty big words for such a little boy.” He then pretty much tells Lotus that he (Lotus) may have a tragic accident if he doesn’t watch his words.
Well, Lotus doesn’t reply in words, instead he gets sparkly lights in his eyes. Black Guy’s glasses shatter, and then he’s flung to the floor and all his paperbacks fall on him. Then his mattress and blanket also start struggling with him. In slow motion. Finally his shoes attack him as well. As this is just too much for Black Guy, he calls uncle and the attack stops. Black Guy, whose name is Miller, says he will be totally quiet about Lotus’ super powers.
Some youthful looking guard enters the cell block. Lotus sparkles and disappears, and Youthful tells Miller that he (Miller) is “going into isolation for the next two weeks.” I guess this is for messing up his bed and scattering his books. This is a harsh prison all right.
Youthful then notices that Lotus is gone, so he goes into the cell, which locks behind him. He calls out to a subsidiary guard, who comes a-runnin and we follow a POV shot as Lotus escapes from prison. Sorry, did I say “prison”? I meant the “Hospital for the Criminally Insane.” Sure looked like a prison, though.
As Lotus escapes, we get heartbeat and breathing noises on the soundtrack, because, um, er, well, I don’t know. He seems to go into another cell, but I guess it was the cell with a cat door because next thing we know, he’s outside in the dark, and in a graveyard. The POV looks at a few headstones, before Lotus sparkles back into visibility. He pauses in front of one of them, and sees a sort of green-o-vision scene of some woman combing her hair in a dressing room. “Roger?” she says.
”Hello, mother,” he answers this seeming flash-back. The woman asks Lotus what he’s doing here, and he says, “I came back.”
”Why aren’t you in school?” the Mother apparition asks.
”I came back to see you,” Lotus says.
”Roger [Lotus’ real name—too bad for him he’s Lotus now], you can’t be seen here, I’m throwing a very important party, and, and—“
”--No one must know you have a son,” Lotus says. “Well, that’s why I’m here, Mother,” he continues after a long pause. “I’m sick of having to hide.”
”I want people to know who I am,” he says.
”No,” Mother says.
”That I am your son.”
”You are my mother.”
”You are my mother!” he yells at the top of his lungs.
”Roger, stop it! Stop it, Roger!” she yells right back. And she smacks at something in her dream world, and Lotus snaps out of it.
There’s some security guy holding a flashlight on him, asking him what “the hell” he’s doing here. He then tells Lotus he’s going to get the police, he is, and Lotus eye-zaps his gun away, then eye-zaps him into an open grave, then eye-zaps shovels of dirt burying the guy. Then Lotus laughs at a job well done, and walks away. And finally we get our credits, over six minutes in.
Some old guy who looks like Roy Orbison is shooting glamour shots of some blonde chick in a black dress as the credits unfold. Robert Foxworth is our star, and I recognize the names of Sue Lyon and special guest star Elke Sommer. Ooo! Also Cesare Danova as “Mario.” Wow, that’s totally cool.
No, I don’t know who he is either. We get the rest of the actors, the DP and the editor. Then, we cut away to someone driving a Mercedes into a parking garage. “Executive Producer: Fred Jordan” appears over this footage, then disappears when we see Lotus hiding, then reappears again when the Mercedes is back. Some blonde chick with a dumb hat gets out of the car, and goes toward the elevators as Lotus disappears all sparkly again. He follows her into the elevator, then into her apartment. She goes into the bathroom to undress, and he follows. She runs a bath and takes out her hair stuff, and this might be the model from the credit sequence. Maybe. She has a lot of pictures of herself around her vanity desk. We pan to see most of them.
She undresses all the way (the camera pans down so we can’t see nothing), and Lotus puts the phone off the hook. Then he turns out the lights, says, “Hello, mother,” and strangles the blonde.
Cut to some silent movie footage on the TV, and some guy in bed laughing at it. The phone rings, and he sullenly answers it, and the police chick on the other end tells him (Barrett) there’s been a “187” and he has to come in and all. So he decides to do so, and the Captain tells him he has to bring in “Holt” too. Barrett doesn’t like Holt, from all appearances. Barrett hangs up the phone and says, “Balls!”
A brunette chick comes in just then with two hot fudge sundaes. He tells her he has to go into work. She starts eating her sundae all sexy-like. He’s almost all dressed in mere seconds, and she wonders why he isn’t wearing the new boots she bought him. It turns out, in response to her question, that he didn’t throw out the old shoes he said he did throw out. We get more chatter and really learn nothing, except (based on clothes and hair) this was made in the early 70’s and Brunette’s name is Candy.
We cut to Blonde Chick’s dead face, being covered up at the crime scene by some guy who has a nearly impenetrable accent. He says that “her lahn-ic [larynx] appears to be totally crushed.” Totally? Whoa!
Barrett and the other cops discuss the whys and wherefores of this murder, how it was all locked from the inside and stuff. Holt shows up, doing a great Christopher Walken impersonation, and he even gets a bit of drum machine on the soundtrack as he rattles off various facts about the Blonde Chick of the Dead. Actually, this “drum machine” turns out to be a ball-point pen that Holt clicks over and over again. I told you, it is the 70’s, a strange and dark time in our race.
Barrett goes out to question the Apartment Manager, who kicked in the door to find the dead body. Turns out he was having an affair with Blonde Chick of the Dead, but it was all okay, no violence or anything. He’s asked about nutbars that might have been stalking Blonde Chick of the Dead, but he can’t think of anything useful to the plot.
Cut to the crime lab, where some old guy is saying that he found two identical thumbprints. We see these on a slide, while, in the background, Holt is still clicking his ball-point endlessly. Has no one ever smacked this man? I mean, I would, and I’m not usually given to violence.
Old Lab Man holds up another slide, saying that it is “Roger Sands” [Lotus] thumbprint. And it is identical to the others. So, is the movie done, then? We can certainly cut the exciting “figure out who the killer is” scenes.
Barrett and Holt look over Lotus’s files. Barrett reads out the facts while Holt tells us all that Lotus was “the celebrity strangler” who killed models and actresses, starting with his own mother, “Carlotta Sands” who was a “glamour girl of the fifties.”
Cut back to the police station, where the captain—who is distractingly familiar-looking—says that Blonde Chick of the Dead was a “key witness” at Lotus’ trial, and there are two others who need protection, now. And they confirm that Lotus escaped “under mysterious circumstances.” Everyone looks at one another like a bad smell has been detected, so we cut to the seashore.
Gulls are flying around. We zoom into a house, then to a gate where Barrett shows up and confirms that security seems pretty good, here. He intercoms the receptionist, saying he has an appointment, and is told that “Miss Hartman” is by the swimming pool. So Barrett drives…for a long time, and finally gets to the pool, where a parrot talks to him briefly.
He finally meets Miss Hartman, who turns out to be Elke Sommer, still looking good. (Though, checking on the IMDB, she ought to look good, she was only 36 when this was made. She looks older here, like 40’s or more. Well, then…she still looks good for someone in her 40’s or more, but looks less good for someone who’s 36.)
Uh, what? Anyway, she’s shocked to hear about Blonde Chick of the Dead’s demise. Barrett mentions how they’re trying to locate Roxanne Raymond, the next victim. I mean, witness. Oh, hope I spoiled nothing here. That would be terrible if I did!
Anyway, she goes off to have a drink, which entails getting into some weird pajamas. They chit-chat about her husband and other things, including the fact that she might buy a puppy (because she’s lonely). She says she’s yesterday’s trophy for her husband, and the problem with trophies is that they get dusty. Blah blah blah.
Barrett gets a call, from the sandman telling him to sleep through the dullness. Actually, I took that call. Garrett’s call is from Holt, who has forgotten his ball-point, but says he’s found Roxanne, rehearsing her new show at some theatre. He avers how it is a pretty “hot” show. He then asks Garrett how he is doing with “Miss Galaxy” (Elke Sommer). Barrett looks at Elke’s rear end and says everything is in great shape, and he hangs up.
Barrett has to leave, even though Elke offers a seafood salad with a special sauce. He tells her to cut down on the booze. Then, I’m betting she dies.
Well, not yet, as we cut to a theatre (I bet where Roxanne is) and some guy rehearsing a batch of dancers. He shows them how to move properly, then goes off stage to watch them screw it up again. I’m guessing.
Some Blond Chick counts off as the various dancers do their motions, and for the most part it is a competently executed but dull routine. Blond Chick counts off by slapping her own ass.
Apparently, the director (the dance demonstrator from the start of the scene) is happy now, and he calls for a break. We zoom in ominously to…an empty chair in the theatre. Ooo, what if they don’t sell tickets and have empty chairs! That would be scary, kids! Actually, yes I know we’re supposed to think Lotus is in that chair planning his moves and such. It just looks really, really stupid in execution.
Roxanne turns out to be the blonde ass-slapping chick. Well, I for one am glad we have another name for her than Blonde Chick. I’ve probably typed that name more than any other, and I don’t even like it (as a name).
Cut to police headquarters, where Lotus’ psychiatrist is being questioned about Lotus. He says that he (Lotus) will continue to kill every woman who reminds him of his mother, until he’s stopped. (I could have guessed that last part.) The Psych guy has Vulcan eyebrows, totally and completely. So his whole argument is rigorously logical and ought to be followed because Vulcans know best and they never bluff.
Barrett asks Psych Guy about the books found in Lotus’s cell, and Psych Guy says Lotus has read the whole prison library, and Barrett asks about the specific books, and Psych Guy goes on about how brilliant Lotus is. Barrett, getting nowhere with this guy, who cannot answer a straight question, asks if Lotus had any friends, and Psych Guy says that Lotus “lived within himself.” Don’t most of us? Barrett notes how unhelpful this all is. Me too.
Captain asks Psych Guy if Lotus had any interests or hobbies, and Psych Guy spills the whole ESP bit. At rather some length, too, just in case any of us in the audience had missed that whole “Sparkly disappearing” bit or the “flashing star-eyes” bit. He plays a tape of some other scientist saying that Lotus might be totally invisible at any time.
Despite the fact that we all heard it and not all of us are slow learners, Barrett asks for the tape again, and Psych Guy dutifully plays it. We hear the whole thing again. Great. I can feel brains leaking out of my ears.
Before we can get any kind of police consensus, we cut to Holt and Barrett in some car, getting out of the drive thru hot dog stand and going to find out stuff.
Holt starts his clicking again as he reads off facts about Carlotta Sands. He also notes the child, Roger, who was kept secret…though, I guess, not real secret. He says that the child got in the way of Mrs. Sands’ social life, and Holt also noticed that Barrett is eating his hot dog. No, no, this isn’t some gay thing, it is an actual hot dog and Holt knows he had the one with mustard on his order, so Barrett is totally cheating him but he falls silent on this topic. He goes on to note that Mrs. Sands dumped her husband and was a constant feature in gossip columns.
He goes on and says that Lotus strangled his mom and the estate has been tied up in litigation. Then he chomps down on his own hot dog, while stealing a glance at Barrett to see if the jig is up, or whatever, at least in terms of who is supposed to get which hot dog.
So, we have two guys chomping on wieners. Okay, cool. Holt tosses some garbage out the window, and Barrett screeches to a halt so Holt can retrieve this garbage, as littering is illegal. Then, they drive off and drive some more to another street where they park in front of a driveway. And they go on into the property, despite the “No trespassing” sign.
One suspects this might be Carlotta Sands’ old house. At any rate, or perhaps because of, we cut inside some room where Lotus is discovering his mother’s vanity table and so on, which is all (for some reason) covered in newspaper. Not being a fan of the press, he starts peeling the newspaper off. Then he finds various makeup artifacts which make him remember his mother (I’m guessing). And we get a flashback (in green-o-vision) to Mother smacking Lotus. They talk a while, and Lotus mentions how he hates being so “invisible” (as his mother denies his existence). She says it will ruin her reputation if it gets known she has a son (who is about twenty years old from the look). He doesn’t take this well, and says “Then get ready to be ruined, mother, cause I’m busting this thing wiiiiiiide open!”
”I wish you’d have never been born!” she snarls.
He smacks her, and then strangles her, and we cut to Holt and Barrett going inside a house at night. Maybe this is still Carlotta Sands’ house and she has a huge path from driveway to house. Maybe by the time the cops get there, there’ll be a party in there, and we’ll see something worthwhile, but I hold out no hopes.
Actually, they seem to be breaking in (so no party), but Lotus has noticed their entry and, he sparkles to invisibility as the cops search the place. The cops note some paintings of Carlotta, and a bust of someone starts swaying. They decide to go upstairs, but the bust is launched…well, not at them, but near them. Nearish. It shatters on the stairs and the cops draw their guns. We get the heartbeat noise again.
All the paintings in the house are askew. Just thought I’d note that as the two cops slowly go through the whole upstairs, finding mostly nothing, though sometimes being attacked by crockery. Nothing happens, though, and they find the…argh. They find the hippy apartment with hanging mobiles and posters on the slanted walls.
For some reason, this décor really seems to enrage Barrett. He tells Holt to get some more cops and have the whole area cordoned off. Then he kicks a whole bunch of hippy crapola (fine by me, Barrett—kick away).
He decides to search instead of kick, and finds a book labeled “The Study and Practice of Astral Projection” by some unknown author. I just bet it was not Isaac Asimov. He apparently agrees and tosses the book across the room. Then, though, he finds a bit of notebook paper with some names on it, and the first name—Blonde Chick of the Dead—crossed off!
The other names are Colleen Hudson, Roxanne Raymond, Bambi Greer, and Christina Hart. They all have locations next to their names. Might this be a clue? Maybe?
Who cares, we cut to Holt directing some uniformed cops to disperse and cover the area. Barrett appears and tells Holt to put Colleen Hudson under police protection. Ha, she’s not a star! She’s dead meat! Nonetheless, Barrett looks on indulgently as Holt roars off to save the day. Ha.
We cut to some grassy estate, where ANOTHER blonde chick is painting something while she’s out in the grass. She has a cool dog, a German Sheppard, who senses danger. He (“Prince”) starts barking, and runs off despite Blonde Chick (sigh) telling him to stop. He runs off through the path near the lawn, and she goes to follow.
Prince jumps off screen and gets killed by the heartbeat and breathing, and Blonde Chick (number 5000 in these reviews) gets strangled. She briefly gets away, somehow, but then Lotus kills her anyway. Wow, was that an exciting time to be at the movies! “You were my mother!” Lotus says as we cut to Barrett getting out of his car at some swanky estate.
He walks around the fountain and goes inside, and opens a door, and calls for his girlfriend (“Candy”). So this is his house, I guess. Pretty nice.
He’s worried, getting no answer, what with all these strangulations and all, but then she screams and leaps on him, and he tosses her down on the floor. “Candy wanted to surprise you!” she says, talking in Hulk-talk.
”Candy did,” he admits, relaxing the furious punch he was about to smack down with. They lip-smack a bit, while Barrett admits he has had “a hell” of a day. She, for her part, seems to be wearing a mink coat and little below the waist. She looks like a cave woman.
She then jumps up, snaps on the light and asks Barrett if she called his mother, since its his birthday. There’s a bit of back and forth how he really should give her a call, and he looks like, Who is this crazy person talking to me. One suspects this is thrown in to compare and contrast Lotus and his mom with Barrett and his mom. Whatever.
Candy then says she has another surprise (also said in third person. Candy’s looking a bit retarded at this point). She brings out a cake she’s made. He seems a bit dubious, but blows out the single candle. She’s then going to cook him a birthday meal, from a wide variety of frozen things, and finally (I hope) informs him that the coat she’s wearing is his birthday present to her.
”Did you catch your maniac yet?”
”No,” he admits.
”Oh, that’s too bad. Well,” she says brightly, “maybe you’ll get him tomorrow.”
Barrett tries to eat the cake, but it behaves like a foam rubber prop. Finally he gets a bit in his mouth and does one of those Captain Kirk double-takes. He assures her that it is swell, though. She asks him what the killer’s star sign is.
”Candy, I don’t know his birth sign!” he says.
”Oh. Oh you don’t,” she says, with the air of one whose opinion of Barrett just dropped a couple of notches.
He then asks her if she’s “real,” and she offers to prove it. Fortunately, we cut away from this interminable and valueless scene to a dark alley, where someone is skulking along. He pokes at some dingy door and attracts the attention of a beat cop, who wonders what the skulker is doing here at the theatre, which is closed.
The skulker turns out to be Lotus, and he makes the cop’s car smash into him (the cop) and then drag him away under the tires. This bit is uncomfortably gruesome. The cop groans before being dragged off.
Then Lotus goes invisible and enters the theatre. Yep, sure looks like backstage, what with all the mics and lights and everything.
Cut to apartment #104, where Holt is bashing away at the door hoping whoever lives within will get up and come out to play. And within is Barrett. He slooooowly gets out of bed and sloooowly turns on the light, and sloooooowly goes to the front door.
In contrast to the slooooowness of Barrett, Holt spits out a whole bunch of stuff about Colleen Whoever and her German Shepard, both dead but with lots of Roger Sands’ fingerprints, and Holt says the chief is all “Let’s stop this kind of thing” and stuff. Holt has his ball-point again. Barrett offers him coffee.
”No thanks, mind if I just flake out?” Holt responds. Barrett is perfectly fine with Holt engaging in this activity, whatever it might entail. Holt goes to the couch and picks up Candy’s coat and looks at it like he has never seen such a thing.
In the bedroom, Barrett wakes up Candy so she can make coffee. She’s naked but we don’t get to see much, other than editor’s marks all over the print. Gosh, this must be the Director’s Uncut Version! Aren’t we lucky! Well, no. No, we’re not.
We don’t get to miss an instant of the Barrett-shaving, Candy-stumbling-around-to-make-coffee-and-briefly-greeting-the-surprised-Holt sequence. And further bits (Barrett tries to find a nice shirt). Beer cans are kicked over. Coffee is drunk. Candy takes the opportunity to ask if Barrett shouldn’t get a job with normal working hours. (Or, he could just learn to make his own coffee.) He asks her to water his plants, and he and Holt leave.
Where they’re going at this time isn’t made clear, although when they step outside it doesn’t seem to be the 5:00AM I was expecting, it looks to be overcast day, probably mid-morning some time. Barrett tells Holt to watch Roxanne at all times. A random blonde passes between them, and they both turn their heads to scope her out. Getting back to business, Barrett tells Holt he (Barrett) is going to go to the ESP Institute. This whole shot is framed by this big fountain, in case you’re interested (and not asleep like you should be).
Cut to the institute, where some guy is concentrating really hard and making an apple roll around mentally. Some people, including Barrett, are watching this. The guy even makes the apple go up on a book. I’m glad to see they are using ESP to make apples interested in books, that will cut down on apple delinquency for sure.
Barrett is impressed by these special effects. He and the scientist guy chat about psychic phenomena. It all goes nowhere, really, so I’m not bothering with any of it. In fact, it’s full of red-herrings: they speak of telekinesis and astral traveling, but neither of these are involved in the murders. Lotus is turning invisible and strangling people with his hands. Telekinesis doesn’t leave fingerprints.
At one point, Barrett mentions the Vulcan’s theory that Lotus could be anywhere, because invisible, and can that be so? “I don’t know” is the helpful (not) answer.
They walk outside and speculate that Lotus has found some new dimension. Excuse me, but no, he’s invisible. Invisible, damn it, not insubstantial or walking through wormholes. Before parting, Barrett tells the scientist, “If the media should get wind of your theory, ha ha,” he breaks off. “They’d make us look like a…three-ring circus, you know?”
”I understand,” says Mr. Science. Well, I don’t. A circus is at least somewhat entertaining. So far this isn’t. It’s largely boring, in fact. Entertainment would be a nice strategy to employ.
Barrett leaves and meets with two other plainclothes, who talk about another potential victim who was an actress waaaaay back in the sixties. They haven’t found her, so he tells them to. Good thinking. Then everyone leaves. Not before Barrett slaps a car roof, though, to show his mounting frustration. Or maybe he was killing a bug. This Barrett, he is such a mystery man, he is hard to read!
We cut to a huge boat, and some chick climbs aboard. She’s wearing a wetsuit, and sees some guy sleeping on a bench. She dumps a cold drink on him, and he chases her while she squeals. We then cut to Elke Sommer playing the guitar and singing a song. Barrett shows up and they chat a lot about her past and her loneliness, and he talks about police business…eventually. She flirts with him. Then she drinks, and talks about her typical lonely day. It goes on for a long, long time.
He says he has to take her into protective custody. She gets mad and says no way. He starts to spill the bit about how Lotus is invisible, but at the last minute changes it to “elusive as hell.” She still won’t cooperate. In fact, she wants the police protection totally gone, and goes into a screaming fit. Unable to withstand this incredible display of sympathy, he leaves.
We cut to the theatre, where the ballet is in full swing. It looks like something typically found in the middle of one of the Hercules films I’ve seen, ie, lots of swaying and moaning and stuff like that. It does not look “hot” to me.
Barrett shows up and meets with Holt backstage. Hold has his pen again. He explains how there are cops everywhere. Speaking of everywhere, somewhere else a door opens by itself and a cop investigates this. We hear the heartbeat noise again.
On stage, we get lots more ballet, and the woman that Lotus wants to strangle (sorry, I forgot her name already) is chained up as part of the ballet, using real chains. And she gets strangled right in front of everyone, and they all think it’s part of the act. (Roxanne, that was her name.)
Barrett rushes up and declares that no one should leave the stage, etc. Cut to a police car driving along, and back to that big boat that had that exciting ten second scene a while ago. Now there are some uniformed cops on it.
Inside, Bambi (the scuba diver) and Mario (drink dunked) are arguing about what’s going on. Oh, so this is Caesar Danova. And here I thought he was just a regular guy. Anyway, they argue about having cops on the boat. He throws her cassette tape overboard.
The cops are still racing to get there. Bambi starts another cassette, and a frog man sneaks up on the boat and throws one of the police overboard. The cops get to the dock and get on a smaller boat to go to the other, bigger boat, and the frog man climbs back on board. Lotus shoots the other cop with a spear-gun. The cop tries to fall over the edge in his death throes but can’t do it realistically so he just slumps down.
In the bar, Bambi is making another drink. Lotus shows up and strangles her, but not before we get lots of slow motion (it looks like they’re dancing), intercut with the cop boat coming to the futile “rescue.” Don’t these guys have police radios or something that could contact the boat? Admittedly, everyone is dead now, but before, that would have been a good idea. Anyway, this intercutting makes everything take a long time, which seems to be a recurring motif in this movie. Finally, Mario shows up and Lotus coldcocks him. The cops arrive to find the bodies. Way to be on top of things there, Barrett.
He does look down and sees the spot where Lotus stashed his scuba gear. But he just shakes his head at it. And Lotus steals a boat and gets away. Barrett gives chase in the police boat. This also takes a long time, as you might have guessed. Man, there is a word for this movie, and that word is boring-ass. We’re at seventy-three minutes, and Elke Sommer hasn’t been menaced yet. That means we have a boat chase that will, in all likelihood, go nowhere, followed by a frustrated footchase and maybe even some fisticuffs. Ending with Lotus escaping.
Well, Lotus beaches his boat and sparkles to invisibility. Barrett doesn’t quite beach his boat, but stops it just short of the shore and leaps overboard (in his regular clothes). Luckily for him, the wildly swaying boat doesn’t smash into his head when he surfaces. He runs ashore and finds Lotus’s discarded frog man suit. He is frustrated. He throws the suit and yells. Well, we know at least one of Lotus’s weaknesses: he can’t turn scuba suits invisible, he has to strip them off. So he should be easy to catch, now.
Well, Barrett goes back to Elke Sommer’s house. The gate is now electrified and the fence is wired so that a break will set off an alarm. He’s showing all this to the captain. There’s a call at the front gate, it’s the utilities people. The guy at the gate says their ID’s check out, so Barrett says let them in.
Let’s repeat that. The guy says their ID’s check out, and Barrett, who knows we’re dealing with a guy who CAN TURN INVISIBLE and could thus be HIDING inside the truck, says to let the truck in. The arrival sure seems suspiciously timed to me.
Elsewhere, the captain and Barrett discuss the case while I yawn uncontrollably. Captain asks how Holt is “working out” and Barrett says, “Not as bad as I thought, but he’s not as good as he thinks he is. You know, I’ll probably be working for him five years from now.” So, uh, is he good or what? Seems like a small sack of mixed messages from Barrett Island.
The captain then leaves. Which I guess means opening the gate again. Boy there’s some top-notch security planning going on here. Why not free zeppelin rides while you’re at it, and face painting for the kids!
Inside, the utility guys are finishing up the wiring. So I guess they were supposed to be there after all, and I jumped the guy figuring the movie was being stupid. I should have known they wouldn’t end it that quickly, but would yank the running time unmercifully.
We see some tall grass by the beach. After a rather desultory attempt to make it look like an invisible person was walking through this grass, the film-makers decide to let the musical sting carry all the work.
Back inside, Holt is sleeping and Barrett is now obsessively clicking the ball-point pen. He checks his watch. He then calls one of the other cops to come inside. He then wakes up Holt (comically) and tells him to watch the patio. He goes inside, where there’s a sharpshooter watching the stairs. Watching…for an invisible man. Well, maybe he can aim by the heartbeat noise. Sure enough, outside we hear that start up and get a handheld POV approaching the fence.
Barrett goes to see Elke Sommer. She’s drunk and he’s angry. She’s angry too, didn’t mean to leave that out. He throws her drink away. She slaps him and goes to sit on the bed. She apologizes, and says she’s scared. They chatter away for a long time, largely about her husband and how she can win him back...only to make him pay when the time comes. Yet more sympathy!
Just then, a police woman shows up at the gate; she’s here to tend to Elke. A parrot tells her she has nice legs, and a pan shot gets a menacing bit of music so I guess the camera was panning to follow Lotus. So did he get inside somehow? Not that I really care much, I’d like this to be over with because I’m pretty damned bored right now.
Policewoman and Elke are watching the TV which has a western on it. Elke paces. We see shots of the various cops all around the mansion, looking just as bored and irked as I. Holt sleeps a bit. The parrot squawks and startles everyone, so Holt goes over and lowers the curtain that surrounds its perch (like a little shower curtain). It’s dark out but I guess the bird won’t sleep without its curtain. I don’t know. Ask the damned bird if you want to know the real story.
A ball goes rolling across the patio and into the pool, but Barrett laughs this off. Hey, why not open the gate, too! I guess maybe Holt kicked it by mistake. Just then the fence alarm sounds, so Barrett and a sack of other guys all rush off to see. It’s hard to believe this still has ten minutes to go. Actually, given our track record with this cough film, it’s pretty easy to believe. I imagine buying a candy bar probably takes all afternoon in Barrett’s world.
So, Barrett and another guy are walking along the most slanted ground I’ve ever seen, and they find what made the alarm go off. It looks like an owl, and I guess that’s what it is. It decided to rest on the fence and blew itself up. Although this might be some clever subterfuge by Lotus, I cannot believe the film-makers wouldn’t show us every step of Lotus’ nefarious plan in preparation. So there.
Hearing shots, Barrett and the other guy run back to the mansion. In Elke’s bedroom, the lady cop and Elke are standing stock still, like there’s a hunter-seeker in the room.
Outside (you just can’t cut to a different location too many times, you know), Barrett and the other guy find one of the guards dead. Then Lotus opens fire on them with the gun he took from the dead guard. Even though he’s invisible, his gun gives off a distinct flash so you’d think Barrett and Guy would target that and open fire. But no, everyone shoots randomly. Other Guy decides he’s tired of being in the movie, so he runs from the cover he and Barrett have and gets shot in the back.
Just then, Lotus decides to stop shooting and runs off, I guess. Barrett checks on Other Guy and he’s just wounded, and Barrett tells the guys in the house to arm the trap that the wiring guys set up earlier (the staircase railing is electrified). Some other guy walks around outside, and we see what Holt is up to (not much), then cut back to the further other guy as he screams. Barrett and Holt run off to find his body. I guess it was impaled with something, but the way this is framed is so awkward, it looks more like he died of a stomach-ache. His terror-filled expression is actually pretty funny.
Barrett and Holt decide it’s time to get Elke Sommer out of there. So then go upstairs and into Elke’s room. This takes longer than what I typed here.
You know, none of these folks have taken the typical precautions when dealing with an invisible enemy. Flour on the floor, for example, or fog machines or something. I still don’t know what that sharpshooter hopes to aim at.
Upstairs, Holt, Policy Lady and Elke jump at a suddenly billowing curtain. Naturally, it’s a false scare. Downstairs, Barrett is crouched and ready to fire. And a door closes on its own. (We also get the heartbeat noise.)
Hey, we’re ninety minutes in.
If you want to cut to the end credits now that would be pretty swell as
far as I’m concerned.
No? Well, damn you too, movie. Barrett tells Holt to bring Elke to the head of the stairs, where she starts calling out for “Roger.” You know, Lotus used to have a gun, so this seems pretty stupid. Anyway, Lotus answers “Yes, mother” and we get a lot of shots of the stair railing, with him invisibly not touching it I guess.
He goes on about how he wants everyone to know that she’s his mother. And I guess he has very long arms, because she starts to choke (maybe she’s trying to act). Barrett fires on the staircase, and I guess Lotus grabs it because suddenly there’s a hail of sparks and screams from Lotus. Something that looks like dirty laundry is superimposed over something that looks like a starfield, and we get some more sparks, and Lotus sparkles back into view at the foot of the stairs.
”I never wanted to hurt you, mom,” he says as he flashes negative repeatedly. Then he beams out and goes tumbling through a starfield, and then explodes.
Well, I can tell you that everyone looks pretty dumbfounded at this display of pyrotechnics. Somehow, the sharpshooter managed to get downstairs in all this excitement. And we see the carpet where Lotus used to be. Everyone continues to gape. Finally, Barrett opens a door and leaves, slamming it behind him.
And we cut to Candy, reading a comic book. Barrett comes home, all bummed about the meaning of it all, man, and he drinks a beer and ruffles his hair. Then he looks in a mirror and at the man who is now changed forever. Then he sits on the couch, looking lost.
Finally, Candy puts down the comic book (we never got a good look at the cover) and starts putting her hands all over him. And he, realizing that love is all that is real in this crazy, crazy universe, grabs her and kisses her, but not before giving us a final, lost look.
And we get the end credits. Executive Production Supervisor: Joseph M. Wonder. Director of Business Affairs: Bill L. Welch. And so on, finally fading to black and the trumpet playing over synth and electric piano. You know, I don’t think we ever got credits for who wrote or directed this thing. Given the results, maybe that’s understandable.
Invisible man movies seem like a contradiction in terms. Here, we have a form of entertainment in which the primary focus is visual, and a subject which cannot be seen. The Astral Factor goes even further, and manages to make the entertainment part impossible to see as well. I’m trying to think of something that was entertaining or interesting, and I’m coming up empty handed. Even Robert Foxworth, who’s normally a pretty good actor, came across as completely uninvolved. To say he was “phoning in” his performance is a huge overstatement. I think he was letting his performance sleep in late while he himself spaced out on the couch.
If you’ve read any of these other reviews here, you know that I’ve sat through some flat-ass boring movies, and would struggle at the end to say something nice about them. After all, no matter how bad or boring they were, someone thought they were good enough to make and then release, could I find some space in my mind where I could stand and look at them, and think, Yeah, in that light, it was an okay movie?
I think that’s the challenge for any reviewer. It’s extremely easy to tear something bad apart, but at the end of a review, the something is an actual accomplishment while the review is just a reaction. Is it possible to enter into the same creative spirit, to partake of the creativity (no matter how slight) that goes into the creation of an artwork? Can I experience what the film-makers experienced, while they were shooting this?
It’s a goal I don’t often accomplish. And with The Astral Factor, I simply cannot imagine putting myself into the film-makers’ shoes—it simply feels like everyone showed up for a job, did the job, then went home. Their job was like the guy who puts up billboards or sweeps the streets—is there any real way to get a sense of accomplishment from that? I mean, the billboard guy might think, My billboard didn’t collapse and kill anyone, so good job. That seems pretty incidental to the actual work, but hey, satisfaction is where you find it. (I’m not trying to put down billboard-workers, by the way.)
Like the billboard guy, whoever wrote and directed this film didn’t even get their names on the film (on this print, anyway). How the heck am I supposed to appreciate their artistic efforts if even they don’t?
I can’t see (ha!) recommending this one, unless you’re an Elke Sommer completist or something like that, or have some other kind of odd compulsion, and you really should talk to a psychiatrist or the prison chaplain if you think along those lines. An Elke Sommer completist. Shudder.. The Astral Factor’s only compelling usage is as a sleeping aid, which is accomplishes quite nicely.