Tonight's feature is titled "War of the Planets," which I admit sounds exciting, and also sounds like there might be some vast scope to the proceedings. However, my enthusiasm is tempered (and in fact, crushed) by the fact that a documentary on why dryer lint forms would probably be more enthralling. And while I joke, I'd actually like to see that documentary. I mean, it sounds interesting. While I'm sure tonight's feature will toss unripened cheese clods into the upper atmosphere.
Well, no one ever got a free shellfish dinner by complaining, so let's begin. Let's...begin. Begin!
Oh, sorry, I had the wrong headphones on. So, we get a flashing star while prog rock instrumentals play. And a spaceship is moving toward something in the distance. We cut inside. "Check our coordinates to base Orion," a guy with a red helmet says to another guy with a red helmet. Oh, this cast will be fun to annotate. We pan across a whole room of folks with red helmets. They technobabble for a while, then they are startled when something on screen blows up. They all strap in and the order is given to check the computer. We see an asteroid roll across the screen, while a computer-sounding voice announces, "There is no constellation in visual distance." Wow, that sounds harsh. "No stellar explosion," it enigmatically concludes, and it is asked for new coordinates so as to avoid the "rays" of this, erm, non-existent explosion.
Because the computer detects no explosion, it refuses to change the course. "There's something wrong with it," says a red-helmeted lady. "It's the end!" The spinning, turning asteroid nearing the camera seems to say "Yup, sure is." One guy has a last stick of gum. We see some strange graphics indicating increasing radiation, or maybe cheap special effects. As the asteroid nears, the lady hugs a guy, then we see the ship in space and it's fine, and everyone cheers. Hugs all around. Then the computer says that what they saw was "a fraction of a cosmic explosion occurring ten million years ago." This brings everyone down real quick. We get more special effects screens of space disturbances and stuff, and our title screen: War of the Planets.
John Richardson and Yanti Somer are our stars, with other people I don't recognize. "West Buchanan" and "Max Bonus" are pretty amusing, though. Two Als wrote the script: Bradley and Crydo. Lots of Italian names. The "blue back" you will be interested to hear, was provided by E. Barmonte Group, perhaps with Animation Studio "H". There's a "choreography" credit, which can't be good (M. Scavia and A. Belly are the ones to blame. Belly dances?).
We see some nice model work (small shuttle craft type things) as our credits continue. Post-production was done in New York (I assume they mean dubbing). And our director, finally, is Al Bradley. We see his credit appear over a room containing "Wiz" which I'll guess is a supercomputer. The whole bit is copyrighted...in 1978! Wowsers.
We pan down a large, Eiffel Tower like structure. Lots of folks climb stairs and we see a rocket in a gantry. People walk around in the control room. The footage here is incredible grainy, it looks like 8mm film blown up. Oh, it just suddenly got okay. A guy walks up to another guy, says "Miller?" and when Miller turns around, the first guy decks him a good one. He then tosses a little box at him and leaves. We watch him go back out the way he came in, the entire journey.
We then cut to a board room. "There's no doubt about it, that punch of his proves it," an off-screen voice says. We pan to the speaker, who says he's going to charge Captain Hamilton with insubordination. A voice asks if someone thinks "the facts have been altered?" We then pan to MillerPuncher, who says he never got any orders from Miller. I'm guessing this is Hamilton, but I like MillerPuncher better. He says all he got were orders from a machine, and he thinks this is insulting. The other guy says MillerPuncher is in turn insulting the greatest electronic brain ever. The judge-guy says it's too bad things came to this point, and he's sure going to discipline MillerPuncher, but this whole thing might undermine confidence in "Orion." The first guy is dismissed, and it turns out he was Miller! Wow, small world.
MillerPuncher goes forward to speak, but the Judge says that he (MillerPuncher) is arrogant and a barbarian and he'd better shape up or he'll be shipped out. He admits he should consult "Whiz" for advice. He thinks "Whiz" would recommend eliminating MillerPuncher, but instead MillerPuncher is put in charge of the spaceship leaving for the Vega sector.
And we cut outside in starry space, as a satellite zooms away. But only through a jump cut. A ship nears this satellite. In an airlock, one guy is suiting up and promises he'll try to find a bottle of whiskey for the other guy. They chortle over this witticism. And we cut to the exterior, where the ship is whirling around the satellite like a dead rat with a string to swing it with. And there's a weird breathy pop song! It's hard to hear but it sounds like they're singing, "Alone, here in space, because here in space, we have orders."
Back in the airlock, they open the door and the guy goes outside into really red space. Waltz music plays, I guess to remind us how much worse this is than 2001. The guy moves through space toward the satellite.
Back on the ship, the second guy goes through a door, then closes it behind him. On the bridge, he watches everyone working and the progress of the space walk. He sits next to a guy who tells him that the satellite is an old one for the "interception of gamma rays." It looks like second guy is MillerPuncher, but with these red helmet things worn by everyone, it's impossible to tell for sure. I wish I cared enough to make the distinction but if the film-makers can't be bothered, well...
The space walker gets to the satellite and floats around it. MillerPuncher is suddenly alarmed by something, he asks for radio communication and wonders why only one man was sent. He calls Peter, the space walker and tells him to come back in so they can send him back with another guy. The order is always to work in pairs. Peter says he'll be careful. MillerPuncher says that if the battery breaks, the acid will destroy his space suit. Peter insists he knows what he's doing. The electronic music rises in pitch and intensity, and sure enough some acid splatter all over Peter's suit. "The acid, the acid's eating through my suit!" he yells.
While Peter is groaning in pain, MillerPuncher advises him that he has plenty of time to return to the ship if he uses the "directional," and he should stay calm. "You've got three minutes before the suit will corrode," he tells the still groaning Peter. Peter says (while groaning) that the directional jet isn't responding. "Help me!" MillerPuncher looks up at a concerned looking lady and gives her a big smile. What?
Peter is told that MillerPuncher is suiting up to rescue him. Man, there must be only a minute or so left. MillerPuncher launches himself out the airlock and goes after Peter. He's told there's a minute and thirty seconds left. MillerPuncher grabs Peter and starts heading back. Girl says there isn't enough time, and another guy wonders why the two of them are stopping. Lots of closeups as the two of them race against the clock. Everyone says it's too late for Peter, but they make it to the airlock in time. In the dispensary, we see the makeup effects on Peter's arm, but the Doctor is heading there with the "regenerator" so maybe everything will be all right. We see a big sign that says "Sleeping Time" and "Start" is blinking, so I guess it means it's night now. We see the ship flying through space.
On the bridge, two gals discuss whether the ship is in the orbit of the satellite. One gal admits she isn't sure, but "he" (she looks at the big blinking column in the center of the room) "seems very sure." I guess that's the big computer, then. The two women find the satellite and read off many interesting facts about it. The same computer voice we heard earlier in the film says that the object is "the satellite Dana. Satellite is completely safe. No intervention necessary." It then reads off some more interesting facts about the satellite. The two gals discuss MillerPuncher briefly, before an alarming electronic noise suddenly, um, alarms them. "Seems almost a message, coming from space!"
But enough of that, that might make the film interesting so we cut to some bearded guy popping pills. "Hmm, pate de foi gras!" he announces to himself. We pull out and see that there are three other folks sitting around a table, playing futuristic checkers or something. A gal saunters in, and casually announces that the computer is "picking up a strange signal." MillerPuncher looks at the card she hands him, announces that it is impossible, and that the computer must be wrong. Back somewhere, Miller (I think) is taking a video message from Judge (I think) and he says, "Those damn signals, those damn signals are damaging...Earth's radio and video signals. I'm receiving solicitations from all over the world." Well, you sure don't sound happy about it. "Washington and Moscow have already called me three times."
Another guy who looks like Judge says, "Well, Colonel Altman, it's lucky for us that you're here." So these are new people or something. Damn, they all dress alike! Altman asks the other, other guy who's hanging around what is known about this signal.
The Other Other Guy shows Altman a box the size of a pack of cards, and says that "Whiz affirms that behind this strange signal is an alien intelligence that knows all." He points for emphasis. "And there's danger." He sure seems calm about it. "Whiz orders us to find the emissions source and destroy it." Well, I can break the DVD if that will help. Altman orders that an airship be sent at once.
And we cut to space, where MillerPuncher's ship is rolling along. We hear more of the signals, and honestly they sound like they could be from a natural phenomenon. They're just electronic beeps very rapidly played; there's no pattern or anything. Hard to see this as the product of an intelligence that "knows all." Which, by the way, makes them sound like a fortune-teller anyway. MillerPuncher advises calm, he thinks the computer is wrong. In fact, he thinks it's drunk! No, that's actually me I think. As the others chuckle, he thinks the signals could be "radioactivity meeting a cosmic belt." He goes on to say he bets they're being heard on every radio-telescope on Earth. I'm not sure it works that way but whatever, you know.
Back on...well, wherever Altman is, they discuss the nearest ship to the signals, and how it's chaired by MillerPuncher. Altman lists several "incidents" which prove MillerPuncher is "intolerant of any kind of discipline." Hey, wasn't it MillerPuncher who insisted that space walks have two members? I mean, he doesn't seem that intolerant.
Judge stands up for MillerPuncher, saying that he's a great commander though he "takes too much personal initiative." What? That's bad, really? He goes on to say that he's "convinced" that the things that make MillerPuncher bad on Earth make him good in space. He then says the ship will have to "move beyond known space." Both Altman and Other Other Guy feel that MillerPuncher is the wrong guy, and Altman says he's to be "discarded." Judge says, "Stop this wrangling! Whiz will decide!"
And we cut to MillerPuncher saying that he doesn't have the right crew, his crew has just completed a long mission, they need a rest, etc. Behind him, on a viewscreen, something is coming closer and closer to his ship and it's way more interesting than anything he's saying. But Judge says orders are orders, and these orders come from Whiz. MillerPuncher protests this "nonsense" but come on, you know he's going to do it anyway so let's get on with it.
Yeah, there's more arguing back and forth between Altman and MillerPuncher. Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah. Bonk bonk on the head! Judge steps in to say that there's be extra leave time for everyone and they'll all be heroes with maybe a promotion. He then says that "press people" will follow them all everywhere. Oh great, Judge, I think you just killed the deal with that one. MillerPuncher says thanks but his ship is returning home. Does this mean another ship will be sent, and destroyed, and MillerPuncher will have to be pulled back out of jail and back on another ship, because he's the only man for the job? Because that's going to take a lot of time and I'd rather not wait. Of course, maybe the aliens will blow up everything and the movie will be done even sooner so maybe I'm jumping the gun on this thing. Won't be the first time.
A Jane Frasier is brought to the screen to speak to MillerPuncher and they're both exaggeratedly polite so you know there's some history there. In fact, MillerPuncher says "It's been a long time!" She says he should ask the crew what they think, as the "democratic way" seems the best way to handle it. Hm. Last time I looked, command structure on any kind of vessel doesn't employ democracy, but then, this is the future where everyone dresses alike and most people wear red helmets so maybe things have changed.
We cut to MillerPuncher listening to the alien signal, slowing it down. And in space, his ship is flying along to the strains of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. (There've been earlier bits of classical music used before in this film. I could swear I'd heard "O Holy Night" earlier. Guys, you should really stop inviting comparisons to 2001, it isn't wise.) Two crewpersons meet, kiss and go into their living quarters. They lie down in separate beds across from each other. "How long?" he asks, and she says, "Whatever."
"Violent or gentle?"
He pushes some buttons and they lie back in their bunks, and light patterns play on the walls. There's a sphere between them that looks almost exactly like a model of the Death Star--it even has the circular bit where they ray blaster was--and the camera zooms in on this as the music goes weird and the light patterns play.
In another couple's quarters, a woman talks about how words express things, and she addresses her silent companion, saying, "You live in a different world. Not a world of words, but of things that you cannot express."
The guy crosses over so we can see him, and I think it's MillerPuncher. "Milla, you're the one who's lost contact with life," he says. "You've let yourself be...conditioned by machines. Sure, I know you're all...able technicians. Chemists, physicists, engineers, but...no poets, or musicians are born nowadays. And you've forgotten about...love." They kiss and we can leave now, thanks. By the way, a MillerPuncher and a Milla, how about that, ladies and gentlemen? In the same film, I mean.
The couple with the Death Star are having all kinds of simulated ecstasy, I guess. Back with MillerPuncher and Milla, she says, "I think I'll never use the cosmic love." He smiles smugly and says, "You must never, never be fooled by imitations."
"You must kiss me more often from now on," Milla says.
"You know something? I feel this is my first victory over machines," he says.
Okay, is this going anywhere or just using up film?
Well, the alarm sounds. "Captain, the radar indicates two shining points. They're approaching rapidly." No, I didn't make that up. He calls all crew to their stations and he and Milla leave.
MillerPuncher calls Judge and tells them they're tracking "two strange metallic bodies, I presume they're space ships!"
"Space ships in that part of space?" Judge sputters. "They could be asteroids! They've got to be asteroids!"
"No asteroids could vary their speed like that!" MillerPuncher says, and...you know, guys, you were just talking about an alien intelligence. Think this might be a sign? "They're being controlled somehow."
"Captain, try to find out what's happening," Judge demands, specializing in the Bleeding Obvious. Hey, in the background, that guy has a white shirt, not a blue one! He must be an alien, kill him before we're all bored to death! "But remember, they're not terrestrial spaceships," Judge adds, "that is, if they are spaceships!"
"There's a way to get an answer to that!" MillerPuncher says. "Activate the scanners!" You mean you're just now doing this? Oh my gawrsh. As the order is given, three folks say "Executed!" and MillerPuncher promises Judge that he'll see the images too. We see a scanner image of two vague blobby-things heading toward the camera. Judge judges that these really are spaceships. MillerPuncher tries to make contact, but no go. Judge says he should try again, "Try with the radio, too!" Judge then adds that they'll ask Whiz, "he'll know what to do!"
MillerPuncher sighs and orders a gal to "interrupt contact with base." He asks Milla to analyze the approaching ships for data on crew complement and weaponry, in terms of "absolute probability."
The onboard computer says there's not enough data for absolute probability, so MillerPuncher asks for "relative probability." The computer then says the ships are unmanned, armed with long-range disintegrators. He's 70 percent sure of this.
MillerPuncher orders battle speed, activation of disintegrators and lasers. There's a countdown, and simultaneously, one of the ships is destroyed and the other shoots the MillerPuncher ship. "We've been hit," someone says. The other alien ship keeps going. On board the MillerPuncher, "internal pressure is 5 G's" for some odd reason. The camera spins a lot and it seems to model is rotating too. Judge and his pals suddenly lose the video feed, but there's nothing wrong with the equipment there. "They must have stopped transmitting," says a flunky. Or been destroyed, maybe? I guess the two aren't mutually exclusive though. Judge is told that the newspaper folks are in the press hall, and "they followed everything." Wow, that is way more important, so Judge goes off to make a statement or something.
We cut to a gaggle of newspeople all muttering amongst themselves and stuff. Judge shows up and...well, it's a typical press conference I guess. Press people ask about the "attack against the Earth" and Judge says Earth hasn't been attacked. Another press guy says they all saw the ship being fired on, "do you think [MillerPuncher's ship] has been hit as part of some weird game?" "Will you please stop misrepresenting facts!" Judge pleads. Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah. Bonk bonk on the head!
When one guy says that the alien ships might be "the vanguard of a whole fleet!" Judge really loses his temper. "Damn, that's enough!" he says, standing and tossing a napkin on the table. "Get out of here, I won't answer any more questions!" Boy, if only it worked that way in real life. As the scene pans away, we hear someone saying, "The Earth is in danger. The Earth is in desperate, desperate danger!" And there are other various statements of the typically alarmist press as we pan and pan and keep panning.
Finally, we cut to the still spinning MillerPuncher ship. Inside, they discuss how this is bad, all this spinning, because they might blow up. A hand reaches for a button, and after a long time, the button is pressed, and everything is fine. It hasn't happened yet, because they are really stretching this thing out, but I'm betting it will happen. And finally, it just did, and everything is all right again. The ship moves off so they can beat on those bad alien dudes who did all this. A guy appears on the TV screen and says that the B circuit is damaged and needs to be repaired. Yawn. They note how they can't contact Earth because they're on the auxiliary engines and they're too weak. MillerPuncher orders a couple of video cameras activated.
Suddenly, gravity is increasing again, because they're being attracted by a planet that, um, just suddenly popped up there. They seem to be resigned to slowly descending onto the planet's surface. One guy says they'll be "smashed to bits," but come on. MillerPuncher asks for forced landing data, but the computer is its typically useless self. "You must stop the descent instantly," one tech offers helpfully. Yeah that'd work.
MillerPuncher asks for the "vaporizers" to be activated, and when despairingly told that there isn't enough time for that to work, he insists. The ship keeps going downward, though it never seems to get any nearer to the surface, but whatever. MillerPuncher still insists that the vaporizers can save them all, but instead, the ship just seems to stop on its own. MillerPuncher seems to think its his devoted crew that did this, but the computer announces that the descent was stopped by "an antigravitation force of unknown origin." MillerPuncher gets this look on his face like, Whoa, aliens.
As the ship orbits (rolls eyes) the planet, a guy says, "It's dark, cold, inhospitable." " There are also craters." "It almost looks as if the atmosphere is frozen." MillerPuncher orders the ship to land. Engineering agrees because they can repair B circuit better on firm ground.
In a nifty bit of stop-motion, the ship just stops in its orbit and legs emerge from the sides. A command module separates itself from the main vessel and descends to the planet's surface. The landing is a tiny bit rough but not enough to dampen the spirits of these intrepid folk. "Switch on video cameras two and three!" MillerPuncher orders.
How about a little something to lower everyone's spirits? We're a bit over 38 minutes into this. So we're not even halfway. I know, I know. Trust me, the news is worse for me than you. Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah. Bonk bonk on the head!
Well, everyone's all relieved about landing safely and MillerPuncher asks Milla to analyze the atmosphere. She says the oxygen is 15% and the "azone" is 70%, She says it's pretty Earth-normal, and this bit of the planet "can expect to remain in shadow" for another forty-five days. MillerPuncher orders the exploration guys to get into the module and explore.
And we cut to see some guys going down a ramp, and some incredibly grainy footage of a landscape. I mean, this is almost animation it's so grainy. The guys (including MillerPuncher) disembark and MillerPuncher is being congratulated for being the first to set foot on this alien world. They all tramp off into the now-settled-down landscape. One guy hesitates and goes back inside. The landing party chatters about how great it is to have solid ground, and how this planet should have some great "specimens." And there's more chatter, including some speculation about life. The chatter isn't half bad, actually, they manage to hit some of the things most scientific surveys would be interested in (life, minerals, radiation, etc). One guy has a metal detector that he holds out straight in front of him.
They've found some lichen-like stuff, and metal detector man goes up a hill and scans around, and I guess wanders off some ways. We follow him as he goes down the hill into a valley which seems to have a glow about it, as well as an eerie sound, and the music says, "Hey, this is mysterious so pay attention." The glow seems to come from the center of a collection of boulders. Suddenly, Metal Man sees something ahead and gasps. It, um, looked like a couple of columns or something? Anyway, shouldn't they be using the buddy system? (Unless his buddy was the guy who chickened out.)
Yeah, definitely looks like the entrance to some temple or something, though somewhat crude and Stonehenge-ish. He walks inside (this was before John Hurt in Alien, remember) and the interior flashes bright blue and growls at him. He looks pretty perturbed by this activity, but it stops so he looks around some more. Then it flashes again, and he looks worried again. Shouldn't he report in or something? Sheesh, MillerPuncher, what kind of crew do you have? Anyway, his metal detector shows "danger" (I think) so he waves it around until he finds a transparent, glowing sphere about three feet in diameter. He takes some more readings, and as he does so, he's watched from an upper rock ledge by what looks like a red-eyed robot. This robot sneaks down to meet Metal Man. We get lots of jerky close-ups of the robot face as it advances on panicky Metal Man. He turns redder and redder as it nears. He finally thinks to use his wrist-radio to call for help, but it's too late. The robot reds him to death.
Back with the other explorers, they hear Metal Man scream. MillerPuncher tells everyone not to panic, and divides everyone into two groups. He assures them that they'll find the guy, and also he wants no heroes. After the second group goes in one direction, a lady in the first group says she thinks she saw Metal Man "go off toward those tocks!" Gee, you couldn't have said that five seconds sooner? Now group two is off on a snipe hunt.
Well, group one goes down the hill to the glowing boulders. The print here goes really dark, so all you see is their bobbing flashlights for a long while. There's a glowing green thing on the ground which holds their attention for a mere second, then they dash off to examine...a footprint? No, nothing that I can see. Guess you can see why I'm not a space explorer! They all run toward the archway. One lady sees the shadow of the robot, and it reds at her while she panics and screams, and then it bashes her in the head! How rude! She rolls away and we see her bloody face for a moment. Apparently none of this attracted the attention of the other members of the group; the lope on. They stop when they see the archway, and everyone gets a close-up, until the notice Metal Man's body lying prone inside. "Look!" someone says. They run inside the archway and the bright blue light flashes again.
They're all astonished. "We've disappeared from one place and appeared in another!" a lady says, something I didn't notice when it happened before I guess. Of course, they all heard the scream, so this other place can't be all that far away. "I don't get it!" the lady adds. "Look, this is no natural phenomenon!" a guy yells. They talk about how unnatural this all is, especially the sphere in the middle of the rocks. "It's all the work of a fiend, the same fiend that killed Actiris!" one guy yells. Really? Wow, I didn't know Actiris was even in this film!
A lady kind of meanders around the cave while we hear this conversation. "Wait a second, where's Greta?"
"She was with us when we started out."
"I gave orders for us to stick together! "
"But she's not here!"
"You're right, damn it!"
They speculate that the same fate that befell Metal Man could have overtaken Greta. They call the ship and are told reception is good. The landing party report their problems with murders and being in caves and stuff. They ask if the ship has heard from Greta. "No," is the answer, "we know nothing. But if you can't find her, maybe you'd better come back to the ship." Shouldn't there be a "sir" in there somewhere?
The party discuss their options and think going back to the ship sounds like a good one. Suddenly, the alien signal (from earlier) starts up again. The sphere starts glowing. The radio lady determines that the sphere is the source, and "they're signaling, only to us." They discuss radio crystals and their limitations for rather a bit. They think someone may be nearby, although others think that's "crazy." They decide to look around. So they do.
They march among the strange cave while overly dramatic music plays. It's another classical music piece played with synthesizers, though I don't recognize it. Maybe more of the Toccata and Fugue in D?
Well, they're walking around, and half-naked blue people leap down from the rocks and surround them! Wow! How about that! Fisticuffs ensue, until a deep voice says, "Release them," and the fighting stops.
We see some guy in a robe. "I am Amok, strangers," he says without moving his lips. Now that's talent! In fact, he goes on to explain that "My voice is pure thought that reaches the mind!" We see that there are several robed figures on the walls looking down at the Earthmen and the half-naked blue people.
One hotheaded Earthguy yells, "Hey, how does that guy know our language?" despite the fact that it was pretty clearly explained just then.
MillerPuncher says, "Shut up, Richard. It's us! Our brainwaves make the telepathy become sound." I'm not sure that's exactly right but whatever.
Amok goes on to tell the tale. "My race was great, once. The machine served men, and the people were happy. Then the huge machine stole the command from me and we became slaves. All this before the great explosion. I am talking about an atomic catastrophe." Well, you coulda just said that. Meanwhile, MillerPuncher's ship is recording all this, in case they want to sue the makers of "The Terminator." Amok goes on. "It's survivors, as you see, have regressed to an animal state. Strangers, Amok knows why you have come to this planet."
"I think we've got to do something," says one of the guys back onboard the ship while Amok pauses. "We will," the other guy says, before going into his own pause. Then he calls out to the captain. He suggests attacking the primitives from the rear. "It'll be simple to do, sir. We can use the disintegrator guns." Erm, MillerPuncher and friends are right there too, you know. How precise are these guns? MillerPuncher orders that the generator repairs are to take priority.
One of the half-naked blue aliens stands up, turns around, and stares at MillerPuncher and company. "I am Etor, leader of my people," he telepaths. MillerPuncher wants to know why the aliens killed one of his men.
"No," Amok interrupts while Etor looks a tad peeved. "The immortal monster has killed your companion. Many of us have died. The black peril killed all those who dared to go out of the caves. We cannot do a thing against him. We can only hide in the innermost recesses of the planet."
Another MillerPuncher guy says he thinks the aliens are sincere. Well, yeah, if the aliens wanted to killer MillerPuncher and company, they'd have just done it, right? The guy suggests helping the aliens, which "could be the answer to all our problems."
"Yeah, that's not a bad idea," MillerPuncher says. He then asks Etor if they can be shown where the enemy is. Etor points, and everyone goes off in this direction. There are a number of scenes of traipsing along cavern walls and such. I'd like to point out that the aliens are a fairly impressive lot, for an Italian film. The blue makeup is only so-so, but the pointed ears and baldpates are really well done. And they're shot in a very expressive way, with large close-ups and odd angles.
Eventually the group comes to a cave with glowing walls. Here, they are told, is where the monster lives. They see an old city, actually (kind of an iffy special effect). Everyone remarks on the level of advancement. They decide to go down to see, but a lady says that the radioactivity is increasing. So, they decide not to go down and walk off instead, I think they're going back to where the glowing sphere is. MillerPuncher says that they don't have enough to destroy the monster, they have to go back to their ship. He explains this to Etor.
"...no," Etor says after a pause, as if he'd been asked if he wanted to play Dominoes. MillerPuncher condescendingly explains that they have no choice, but they'll return with the means to destroy the monster. Etor agrees, but demands that Milla stay behind. MillerPuncher notes there's no other choice, and Mila says, "Whatever happens, I love you." More traipsing along cave walls ensues, until they run into the robot! Someone screams, and it starts shooting some kind of explosives at them. There's a brief but pretty exciting firefight. MillerPuncher's weapons have no seeming effect, while the robot's shots are pretty devastating. Now that we can get a good look at it, the robot suit is pretty cool as well.
Everyone runs away, and they're all right. Well, that...should have added up to more, but whatever. They're now in the first cave. Milla assures everyone she'll be okay now, and says they should go off to the ship. Etor leads her off to safety and the others dash off. And we zoom in on a close up of what looks like a dial. It's all broken, so I assume it's debris from the battle, but from the robot? Dunno. It's certainly quite a slow zoom, though, so it must mean...something!
Back at space central, those guys from earlier in the film are pushing buttons and turning switches and things like that, while other folks walk around worriedly. They talk about how Whiz things Earth's defense is primary, and also how they haven't seen those ships from earlier or heard the signal in a while, so this might be some kind of trap. Um, well, glad you're on top of this then. "Whiz's decision is the best," they agree. A tech says, "Captain, we've found him." "I'll be right there," and they walk back around the room.
More shaky hand-held shots of computers until the tech announces that "from cold of space, they communicate that Sector HF 203 is refracting the passage of any kind of wave." "They're ship could have landed there," the speculation goes.
"That zone is totally isolated," says Judge (I think).
"It's only a polar ice field," the other guy says. "With no interest," he adds.
"Unless vicinity of the pole has provoked some magnetic joke with Cola's instruments." Well, that's what it sounds like, seriously. He asks Cola to verify their instruments while I verify that this scene will have no importance at all other than to use up running time.
Judge goes out to give another press conference. There's quite the hubbub. He tells the press that the alien ship has landed in the Arctic and there's no danger. He apologizes for the lack of sensationalism ("for the headlines you had in mind,") and they all run off as fast as they can to file their stories before deadline. They're practically in a panic as they call their editors and say that "the ship is too powerful!" and "Earth is in danger!"
Judge and his friend shake their heads at one another while smirking. "Didn't buy it?" "Nope." So not only are they inept at cover-ups, they're also inept at making any difference to the story.
So we cut to some guy with long blonde curly hair lying on a table. They we cut to Milla (I think, it's a lady with a red helmet), also lying down, and having a bad dream. Or a really, really good dream if you get my meaning. Blondie wakes up and rubs her cheek. She awakes and they note they were thinking of each other. So I guess this isn't MillerPuncher. She waves her hand over the Love Machine and we get the colored lights and what-not...um, really, movie? Are you that hard up for running time?
Now, we cut to a cave where an Earth guy is humming to himself while tossing a stone over and over. He seems to be all alone, so who wants to bet the robot gets him? Hello?
Well, it's inconclusive as we cut to MillerPuncher onboard his ship, listening to his own computer tell him what's what. To wit, "The enemy is a computer, the images you see are materializations of it's energy. To destroy it, press the button for its elimination. Probable color, red." Well that sounds simple enough. MillerPuncher is unhappy about all the "probable" and "possible" answers. Yeah, well, isn't it time to cut to a scene of someone eating an ice-cream cone?
Back in the cave, the humming man stands up and starts walking around, singing a Scottish tune. He hears a thumping sound and slowly turns around. We see the couple using the Love Machine, then we cut back to Hummer. What the hell? Now he hears more thumping, and the sound of machinery. The shadow of the robot appears and Hummer looks really worried. "Who is it?" he asks.
Well, in the Love Machine room, there's a howling monster noise on the soundtrack, the lovebirds scream in terror. Hummer gets a lot of blurry camerawork as a bright light flashes around him. I think he falls out of frame. MillerPuncher and some other guy come out of the ship and go running. But suddenly, we see the robot's face, and a mighty wind comes up. We see really grainy footage of...volcanoes erupting? Maybe? Or maybe just grainy footage of nothing, it's hard to tell. MillerPuncher orders everyone back inside and protective suits for all. The robot glares a lot.
Well...that was certainly a confusing series of events.
Then we cut back to the alien city, and MillerPuncher reunited with Milla. They both have protective helmets on, and she says she's glad he brought one for her. A guy says the readings are "going crazy" so MillerPuncher and other guy go off to check this out. More traipsing along cave walls. Then suddenly they're in some kind of amphitheatre, with what looks like the Robot King right in front of them, and a star field projected on the walls all around them. They're surprised. Given the number of rapid shifts in scenery, I'm only a little surprised.
The Robot King orders them to "put down their arms," noting, "you must not disobey me." He then zaps the other guy, who falls down but seems unharmed. "Earthlings, step forward!" the Robot King says. "You have been brought here for a purpose. The most important task of your lives. Cooperate! Do not make me destroy you."
"You say you called us here for a purpose, what is it!" yells MillerPuncher.
"I will respond, Earthling. Once, long ago, the inhabitants of this planet constructed perfect machines. The machines performed all the work for them. The inhabitants of the planet were happy, their only function was to control these machines. But even though this was their only function, it became a chore, so man built me, so that I might control the machines, and be able to construct new ones, thereby inheriting all of man's abdicated responsibilities. One day, the planet was attacked by alien forces. All the machines were destroyed. The inhabitants regressed rapidly. I became the only one with the knowledge to construct new machines. And now I am able to construct them myself. I will make these machines invincible. Then I will be able to conquer the galaxy. You must help me to replace some of my circuits that were damaged by the alien forces. Without all of my circuits functioning, some of my memory banks are blocked. The inhabitants here do not have the intelligence to be utilized any more. For that reason, I have summoned you."
Well...if he's not fully functional, doesn't that mean his grand scheme is kind of, well, stuck? That would seem to put MillerPuncher and Company into a pretty good bargaining position, one might think.
MillerPuncher demands to know why the Robot King attacked his ship. "You could have destroyed your only means of help!" he points out. I would suppose it's because he's all evil and stuff, but let's let Robot King answer.
"I only wanted to neutralize your engines. After that, I pulled you to the planet with my energy source."
MillerPuncher wants to know where the energy source came from, and he has a long list of bad things Robot King did with this energy source, including "amusing yourself."
Robot King doesn't really answer the question, though, instead saying that he controls the "lives and brains" of everyone here, just like a shepherd, and he gets to decide when lamb is on the menu if you get my drift and I'm sure you do. "Enough now with explanations!" he explains. He then shows them which circuits need repair.
The two Earth guys talk about how they have to destroy Robot King, and they'll take their sweet time repairing the circuits so they can find the big red button. They do all this out loud, though, and last I saw, Robot King could hear perfectly well. "He seems to enjoy calling us 'Earthlings,' he says it with such scorn," notes the guy who isn't MillerPuncher. Anyway, Robot King orders them around impatiently. Not MillerPuncher notes a red button, but is shushed by MillerPuncher as "he can hear us." Robot King loses more patience. "You have many [circuits] to replace and I have waited too long for this! Hurry!" As a circuit board is slid into the console, he says, "That's it, that's the one, put it in!" Yeah, it does sound like a line of dialogue from a really bad porno film. Which this film isn't, I should note. As the board is slid into place, Robot King laughs and says that was the only circuit he needed, "now I have all my power!" Not MillerPuncher pushes the red button but it does nothing. The two run away as Robot King laughs and laughs. He then shoots some beams at the departing Earthlings. He misses, though.
MillerPuncher, though, has a plan. He's, um struggling with some kind of circuit board. He asks for the other guy's belt. To the other guy's repeated questioning, "Do you know what you're doing?" MillerPuncher asks if Other Guy has heard of David and Goliath. Other Guy hasn't, but MillerPuncher puts off questioning as he flings the...object, whatever it was, right at the Robot King! There are some impressive sparks and MillerPuncher and Other Guy go back up to see how Robot King has fared under their fearsome attack. "I will destroy you!" Robot King promises, but his voice lowers as he speaks so I'm going to guess it was an empty threat.
Sure enough, there are a lot of flashing lights. Milla (I think) notes that they have to hurry, "the planet's crumbling!" Robot King rocks from side to side, noting that no one has "conquered" him, "I am stronger than ever before! I will follow you to the END OF THE GALAXY and ANNIHILATE YOU!!" He then has a large explosion of sparks in his chest, and, well, seems to explode pretty impressively (and thoroughly).
Okay, remember that thing I noted earlier, after the robot fight, that looked like a dial? Well, it still looks like a dial, maybe an inch or two in diameter, but it explodes now in a manner that makes me think it's just a not-very-well shot miniature of something larger. Like, a throne room for a Robot King or something. Anyway, it goes boom and disintegrates (leaving the landscape around it untouched, but whatever man).
Back with those boring guys at Central Control, who contribute nothing but running time, a woman on a screen notes the recent explosion and that "the zone is not isolated any longer." She goes on to note that "no flying objects have left Earth's orbit." There have also been "large metal objects scattered here and there on the ice field." Just in case you were drawing up a chart or something. Judge orders a press conference to be called (groan) and tells them that the press conference should be given statement "number two" that "we've isolated and destroyed the enemy space ship. And you can burn the other messages." I wonder what number one is?
Back on the planet of psychic primitives and dead robot kings, some guy is saying, "Nah, Marseilles is a nickname, in the valley of the Rhone, you don't have megalopoli, but only small towns, Mont Pellier, Alt, Marseilles. My grandparents came from Marseilles and that's how I got my nickname, 'Marseilles,'" I sure hope all of you were wondering that. He and his companion chuckle a bit, then the other guy says, "Look Marseilles!" The print is too dark to see what has them concerned, but they duck out of camera range anyway. They find another crewman, "Mac" and decide to "bring him in." To the dispensary with him, then, and as they're hauling him off, they come across another crewman, or crewwoman, who has a bloody face. I wonder if this is the one "killed" by the robot from earlier, and...sigh...the Robot King has reanimated them for evil use.
We cut to the dispensary where the two found crewpersons are lying on cots and being monitored. Marseilles has to return to the bridge, so he asks for someone to come down to watch over these two, and a radio voice says sure thing. Now, why they only have one person watching these two...well, I suppose it's because we still have sixteen minutes to go. So these two will come to life, kill some folks, wreak some minor havoc and we'll have to, um, do stuff and watch stuff and listen to people moan about it all. Argh. Argh! Bonk bonk on the head!
Sure enough, Ms. Bloodyface's eyes open to ominous music, and we see more way over-solarized landscapes. Someone comes into the dispensary and finds two more dead bodies. She screams and screams and another guy comes in and casually notes that the two bloody-faced bodies on the floor are indeed dead. I think one of them was Marseilles. At least he got a long speech before being killed and stuff. As Someone continues crying and stuff, we see Ms. Bloodyface still lying on her slab, though her eyes twitch and there's more over-solarized footage of volcanoes.
Outside, MillerPuncher is urging the natives to get on board his ship, as the whole planet is destroying itself and they'd find life a little confining after all that completes. As more and more volcano footage plays, MillerPuncher orders a totally recalcitrant guy for more power, until another guy (I think it might be Other Guy) shows up and says, "Here I am." Oh good then.
Okay, it isn't Other Guy. It's some other guy. So I'm going to call him Bucky.
So, they keep going on with lift-off. And they finally lift-off and re-dock with the mothership, and take off again and Bucky is looking really manic. But never mind that, maybe he always looks that way. The planet appears to destroy itself, at least if volcanic activity has anything to say about that. Bucky continues to look suspiciously manic. MillerPuncher looks pleased, Other Guy (there you are!) and Milla look nonchalant.
They contact Earth, and everyone's pretty happy to have made this contact. "Prepare yourself for a big surprise," MillerPuncher says.
Judge says, "Captain, we did not behave well toward you. Whiz has told us you had one in a thousand chance to make it. So frankly, we'd given you up for lost. I agree with you, that machines can be wrong. And we're very happy to see you."
"Carry on," MillerPuncher says. "Continue to delegate all your decisions to the machines. And man will continue to prove that his brain is still superior. As I said, prepare yourselves for a big surprise. You'll soon be seeing one of the inhabitants of the planet you sent us to." As he talks, someone comes up behind him, and we zoom out a bit. "I'll give you full report when we reach the base."
We zoom out more, and see that the figure behind MillerPuncher is, in fact, Etor, all decked out in spiffy Earth threads. He smiles as he's told he "looks terrific." Judge says, "I am happy to welcome the newest member of the crew," and some folks joke about how Etor's uniform makes him an officer.
Off in space, Robot King's planet blows up a lot. Rather a lot, in fact. Tap tap tap with the fingertips, yes, this is taking a while. How much does stock footage cost? I guess if you buy it, and it costs a lot of money, you should use it all, right?
As Etor is led off the bridge, Bucky complains how he needs rest. So he goes off to rest, but not before twitching in front of the camera for a while. In the dispensary, Japanese Chick sees that all is well with the two wounded, so she leaves. As she does, Ms. Bloodyface opens her eyes again. On the bridge, they suddenly lose contact with Earth. The computer says it's sabotage, so MillerPuncher orders some videos.
They can see that Bucky is in sleep, so no issues there. Japanese Chick shows up and MillerPuncher wonders why she's not in the dispensary. She says there's "No need, she's asleep." But MillerPuncher says his orders are orders, damn it, so she leaves again.
Ms. Bloodyface goes to some bleeping part of the ship, but as her presence is noted and reported, she runs off. She's finally cornered at the bridge. "Greta, we don't want to harm you, we want to help you," MillerPuncher says, kind of instinctively noting that this isn't the Greta who signed aboard the ship.
Well, she thinks on this a bit, before yelling "He killed them!" when Bucky, now in full vampire and distorted face mode, appears. Ms. Bloodyface faints and Bucky growls and shows his fangs! Some guys jump him, but he throws them off and strangles one as MillerPuncher orders everyone away. He then orders, "Quick, activate all locking devices!" That's kind of what it sounds like, anyway.
In a corridor, Bucky laughs evilly and advances on Japanese Chick. Who has a gun pointed right at him. Sigh. No, not just sigh. Heavy, world-weary sigh. Finally, she uses the gun but it proves to have no effect. Yeah, yeah, whatever. She coulda run away faster, but you know, whatever. Bucky grabs her by the throat and strangles her. How pleasant.
Bucky runs through another door and finds Etor and Milla in a room. Bucky tells Etor that he (Bucky) has the energy of your (Etor's) and he's "still powerful." Etor uses some pretty cool alien-fu moves on Bucky, while Bucky can barely land a punch. But Bucky is all-powerful and stuff. So they're soon locked in a stranglehold with each other.
Watching, MillerPuncher says that he knows how to get rid of the Bucky-Monster. Okay, fine, I hope it does not involve blowing B-M and Etor into space, so they can all be sad about how the opportunity was wasted, etc.
Boy...sometimes I hate being right. At least it looked like Etor was killed before MillerPuncher saved his squeeze and ejected the other two into space. Good thing, I guess, that all rooms on this ship have a direct opening into space. Right?
Back on the ship, Judge shows how "Peter" has a new baby. I don't remember if this was mentioned before, but quite frankly, the death of Etor has kind of soured me on looking back. Anyway, including the now reformed Ms. Bloodyface, is all agog at this baby stuff. MillerPuncher asks Milla if the "hunk of metal" can say how long until they're all home.
The computer starts to say how long it'll be until landing, "Estimated time of touchdown--" and here the voice becomes very ominous, "--thirty hours--Earthlings." And MillerPuncher's face get's the "oh crap" look.
We flash back to the battle with the Robot Guard, then to MillerPuncher looking concerned. He watches, silently, as the various crewpeople are all happy about this new baby and going home and stuff. We zoom in on some kind of approaching space station, and...
...and the credits roll. The music is pretty low-key and ominous, so I wonder what we're supposed to think about this latest development. Obviously, MillerPuncher knows that the Robot King's consciousness has penetrated the ship's computer...or maybe it's just that the ship's computer has realized that human beings stink and it should prepare itself to rule everyone. Maybe.
Well, they could have taken half an hour out of this and had a much better film. That's really about the best thing I can say about it, though the whole bit with the killer robot woke me up briefly from time to time. Then his cousin, who got elected Robot King, had to go and exposition us all to death before he decided he was going to enslave us all and then destroy us. Or something.
Well, when Star Wars was a big hit in 1977, lots of people stood up and took notice. A lot of those people didn't have any idea of what science fiction really was, or the talent needed to realize it, but nonetheless, someone gave them some money and a bunch of lousy films were thrown up. This is another one. Italy, sadly, is rather notorious for taking a successful movie idea (Dawn of the Dead, Alien, The Road Warrior) and making millions of shoddy imitations which have none of the verve which made those original movies so successful. They have a lot of the trappings, though, just not much idea of what to do with them.
Here, for example, there's an entirely serviceable idea about an ancient alien civilization that has come under the domination of a powerful computer. That could have made a good film, or at least a pretty watchable one. So why didn't the film-makers concentrate on that story? Why all this endless cutting back and forth with Ground Control and their press conferences, which does nothing but dilute the story? I can only assume, again sadly, that the film-makers simply had no idea how to tell the story before them, and figured a bunch of other scenes that were irrelevant and slowed things down was what you put in when you were "making a film" instead of "telling a story."
Anyway, ultimately, I suppose you could do worse than watch this. You could do a whole lot better, of course, but if you were going to do that, I doubt this film would warrant even a glance as you strolled through the racks at the local video emporium. Unless you've seen all the others in the "Sci Fi" section in which case...have you checked the "Comedy" section? There are some funny movies there. There are also foreign films and suspense, and cartoons and other stuff too. Broadening your horizons can be a good thing. Better than watching this, really.