Attack Of The Clones : “Cosmos : War Of The Planets”

Posted: December 14, 2015 in movies
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

affiche

So, I hear that there’s a big new science fiction movie coming out on Friday that people are all excited about. Something about a bunch of 70-year-olds running around in outer space that’s written and directed by a guy who was so excited about getting the gig that his first reaction was to turn it down. Okay — you all have fun with that.

Jut kidding, friends! Sort of. Truth be told, I’m semi-excited for Star Wars : The Force Awakens myself. I’m by no means the world’s biggest Star Wars fan, but the original trilogy was pretty much the pop-culture touchstone of my youth, and while I certainly won’t be lining up on opening night to see what J. J. Abrams has done with the franchise, odds are that once the mad crowds have been boiled down to a more manageable size within a week or two, I’ll be going and checking it out — and frankly I expect to have a pretty good time doing so. All of which is my way of saying that you can put that rope away and quit measuring me for a casket. I really was joking.

There’s absolutely no doubt that the return of Star Wars will be a global box office phenomenon the likes of which we haven’t seen for decades, but no matter how big it is — and it’ll be big with a capital B — I feel safe in predicting  that in no way will it launch a veritable army of cheaply-produced foreign imitations the way George Lucas’ original did. In today’s global economy there’s simply no need for localized versions of the “main event” because said “main event” is going to make its way to every corner of the planet nearly simultaneously. Back in 1977, though, there was often a pretty sizable gap, at least in foreign territories, between the time that people heard about Star Wars and the time that they actually got to see it (assuming it ever made it to their neck of the woods at all), and canny production outfits abroad, eager to cash in on a suddenly-sci-fi-hungry public, often rushed actors and sets in front of the camera in order to get something “in the can”and out to their fellow countrymen before the real deal made it to town.

And so we got Brazilian Star Wars. Turkish Star Wars. And more Italian Star Wars knock-offs than you could shake a stick at, because you know how it went with the Italians in those days — doing something successfully (and by “successfully” I mean getting the thing made, getting it into theaters, and turning a modest profit — they never actually needed their movies to be good, or even to make sense) once pretty much always meant that they would try it again. And again. And again.

anno3

Perhaps no one was more eager to muscle in on the Star Wars craze in Italy than an outfit known as Nais Film, which hired veteran director Alfonso Brescia to clone the Lucas juggernaut (on the cheap, mind you) five times over in the years 1977-1980, with the first two, Cosmos : War Of The Planets  — known in its county of origin as Ano Zero – Guerra Nello Spazio  and in various other territories as either Cosmo 2000 : Planet Without A Name or, more simply, War Of The Planets — and Battle Of The Stars (or, as the locals would have it, Battaglie Negli Spazi Stellari) being shot back-to-back and utilizing more or less the same cast, crew, sets, and even costumes, And if twice in a row wasn’t enough, fear not : most everyone and everything would return for War Of The Robots (La Guerra Dei Robot) in 1978 and Star Odyssey  (Sette Uomini D’Oro Nello Spazio) in 1979. Brescia’s fifth and final foray into Star Wars rip-off territory, The Beast In Space (La Bestia Nello Spazio) was actually a full- hardcore interstellar sex flick that was trimmed down for release to “respectable” theaters as a softcore space opera, and features entirely different actors, sets, costumes, and the like — so taking all that into consideration, and given the fact that it borrows as heavily from Alien as it does from Star Wars, we’ll forego including it in our little “Attack Of The Clones” round-up if that’s okay with you.

With all of that preamble out of the way, then, let’s dive right into Cosmos : War Of The Planets, shall we?

cosmos_480_poster

As you can see from the photo above, this thing looks nothing like Star Wars, and rest assured that if George Lucas moved science fiction forward by a couple of decades with his film, Alfonso Brescia (working here, as he would in all these flicks, under the pseudonym of “Al Bradly”) drags it back a good half-century with his. The visual effects, models, props, sound effects, and the like on display here would feel cheap even in a Toho movie, and frankly most of the acting isn’t up to even Toho standards, nor is the dubbing. So, yeah, this isn’t exactly the sort of thing that would impress post-Star Wars audiences, to say the least.

Nor does it have the vivid, off-the-rails imagination of Italy’s most justly-famous Lucas imitator, Star Crash.  Truth be told, Cosmos : War Of The Planets really isn’t what you’d call coherent in the least. I watched it again for the first time in many years the other night, and it felt about the same to me as I remembered it being — yeah, sure, there’s a story in there somewhere, but it seems to progress despite, or perhaps more appropriately in spite of, it’s slapdash editing and entirely non-linear script. In the film’s very first scene, for instance, unruly space captain Alex Hamilton (John Richardson) is piloting his ship, which we later learn is called the MK-31, out in the distant reaches of the solar system when he and his crew encounter a sort of “space mirage,” or, as the ship’s computer calls it, “the refraction (sic) of an explosion that occurred ten billion years ago.” Hamiltion wants to dodge the debris, but the computer won’t comply with his request because it’s, ya know, not really there. With the non-existent threat averted, Hamilton and his crew all hug each other — for the first of many times. In fact, every single near-catastrophe they manage to avoid seems to be an excuse for a giant “group hug.”

Next up we find ourselves at Orion Headquarters, which is sort of like an “intergalactic space command” or something. There’s a chief commander there named Armstrong, but his job seems more ceremonial than anything else given that all major — and even minor — decisions are made by a super-computer called, I shit you not, “The Wiz.” Hamilton gets in an argument with a senior officer who he thinks is bit too Wiz-reliant and decks the guy out, and Armstrong deals with his insubordination by — giving him command of his own ship, the MK-31. Which he already was assigned to. Got that?

So, it’s back off out into the stars again, this time to go and repair a “sensor platform” that “monitors cosmic rays.” It’s here that we finally learn that Hamilton has a squeeze, a communications office named Mila (Yanti Somer), and that a couple of older crew-members are also hot to trot for each other, but their — uhhmmm — “passions” tend to be of a more mechanical nature. Not that they really matter much to the story from here on out.

Anyway, while stationed on the platform, the MK-31 picks up a deep-space transmission of classical music and said transmission ends up making it all the way to Earth and wreaking havoc on every piece of electronic equipment around. Rumors swirl about an impending alien invasion because, I guess, that’s what usually follows in the wake of Bach concertos. Hamilton and his boss then square off again because our “gung-ho” captain suddenly goes chickenshit when he’s assigned to find the source of the transmission — to the point when even a director order from The Wiz won’t get him to budge. It finally takes the wiles of an alluring female psychiatrist to bring him into line. He won’t risk his ass on the say-so of any computer, or even on the say-so of his C.O., but hey — he’ll do it to impress a girl.

4PzkzqRW2RLugcmWKk9suDe2XUc

So — the MK-31 locates the unnamed planet that the transmission originates from, gets in a firefight with a pair of flying saucers before it gets there, and when its “power plant” is hit it tumbles aimlessly through space until it ends up trapped in the orbit of — the planet it was supposed to be heading to all along anyway? Meanwhile, one of the UFOs that zapped it heads for Earth, lands at the North Pole (I think), and doesn’t do anything else for the rest of the movie.

It’s time to visit the planet with no name! Hamilton assembles a landing party and they go down in a capsule/module/whatever to locate the classical music radio station that needs to power down its signal, but when they split up into small groups they either a) get done in by a  killer robot that looks more like a guy in semi-medieval garb; or b)meet up with the locals, who are green-skinned, bald, and led by Italian actor Aldo Conti — who, of course, tells them the whole story —

Those killer robots? They all work for a killer super-computer. It rules their world. Theirs was once a peaceful, technologically advanced civilization, but the people became complacent and put all their trust in their machines, to the point that when a planetary calamity of some sort hit, and most of those machines and computers and shit were destroyed, the mere flesh-and-blood types lacked the knowledge to rebuild and so fell under the control of the now-megalomaniacal and power-hungry “HAL on steroids” I just mentioned. Hamilton first agrees to dispense with the killer robot, and does so, but when he learns that he’s gotta take out the robot’s boss, too, that proves to be a little trickier. But don’t worry, he does that, too. Group hugs all around!

Okay, so the parallels between the alien super-computer and “The Wiz” are pretty obvious, and Brescia (who was also one of the screenplay’s four writers) is obviously making some sort of admittedly confused point somewhere in all of this about the dangers of humanity’s increasing reliance on technology. But that point is actually made fairly early on when Hamilton impresses Mila with his “old-fashioned,” “hands-on” love-making approach, which is juxtaposed against that other couple we talked about who use a “pleasure machine” of some sort (that somehow mimics the feel of sexual intercourse) to aid with/take over their coitus. So everything else on offer here really is just hammering the point home.  I’m not complaining — much — about that, since Cosmos : War Of The Planets is so dizzyingly haphazard and disjointed that it can be be quite a bit of fun, albeit in a purely masochistic sense, to watch. But it’s also quite clumsily preachy, and if “message movies” — particularly incompetent “message movies” — aren’t your thing, be warned that this one could get on your nerves pretty fast.

Still, don’t take my word for it —Brescia’s utterly confounding space-opera-on-a-budget is available on any number of public domain-centric DVD box sets (I’ve got it as part of Mill Creek’s 50-movie Sci-Fi Invasion, for instance), but it’s also all over YouTube, as well, so here you go (please note this version only contains a highly-condensed version of the movie’s bizarre “love theme,” entitled “We  Are Not Alone Here In Space,” but trust me, you’re really not missing much):

 

 

Comments
  1. trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

    Reblogged this on Through the Shattered Lens.

  2. Maria Kelly says:

    I liked your review, but when I saw the picture of the spacecraft members uniforms, my first thought was “Where are the Fashion Police when you need them?” What did you think about those*uniforms*?

    • Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

      They’re typically absurd for Italian sci-fi of this period. In other words, they look insane by today’s standards, but they probably thought they were pretty cool at the time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s