In the distant (I’m assuming, at any rate) future, mankind stands on the verge of the greatest breakthrough of all — the completely artificial creation of life from thin fucking air. No cloning required here, folks, as the process developed by one Professor (that’s the closest thing to a first name he’s ever given) Carr (played by Jaques Herlin) just makes something — or, more specifically, someone — outta nothin’. Don’t ask me how this is supposed to actually work — and don’t ask Carr, either, because he can’t seem to explain it to either his ostensible “partner” in the project, Dr. Wilkes (Massimo Righi), or to the second-in-command scientist that he’s got the hots for, Lois (Malisa Longo). All we know is that it requires the use of a nuclear reactor — which is no big deal because Carr’s got one attached to his home/laboratory.
Unfortunately, news of this scientific miracle has apparently made it far and wide, because late one evening, a handful of ultra-blond alien invaders with matching He-Man (or, more specifically, Prince Adam) haircuts and gold jumpsuits kidnap the Prof and Lois and abscond with them for parts of the universe unknown.
You can all relax, though — the aliens were not only observed and recorded, they were tracked by Earth’s sophisticated network of spy satellites, so going after them will be no big deal. The man chosen for the job by the powers-that-be at Space Base Sirius is (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) a brash young hothead named John Boyd (Antonio Sabato, who’s probably more famous for who he sired than for any roles he actually played), who just so happens to have a very special interest in this rescue mission due to the fact that he’s carrying on an illicit fling with Lois behind Carr’s back. And so, he and the supposedly-intrepid crew of his rocket ship, named the Trissi, are off to save the girl, her boss — oh, and hopefully the entire world, because Carr was kidnapped in the middle of an “experiment” of some sort and his handy-dandy home nuclear reactor of his only has, by Wilkes’ estimation, about eight days until it completely blows given that he doesn’t know how to shut the damn thing off himself despite, again, being a supposed “partner” on the whole freaking project.
Got all that? Good, because Italian director Alfonso Bresica’s third unabashed Star Wars rip-off, 1978’s War Of The Robots (released on its home turf as La Guerra Dei Robot and in other parts of the English-speaking world as either Robots or Reactor — the only two titles that actually make any sense) only gets more befuddled and confusing from here on out.
Boyd and his charges manage to catch up with the space kidnappers without too much trouble, but a “fierce” confrontation with a couple of their prey’s escort fighters (think of the Millennium Falcon vs. a couple of TIE fighters done for $1.99) leaves the Trissi so severely damaged (something to do with the intergalactic equivalent of a water pump — no, I’m not kidding) that our “hero” decides to land on the nearby “planetoid” of Azar to perform repairs — only the Trissi itself, doesn’t land at all, it just ejects its command module, containing Boyd and a smattering of his most trust crewmates (among them Brescia mainstay Yanti Somer, this time on hand as daring space pilot Julie, who just so happens to have the hots for Boyd despite his affections clearly laying elsewhere) towards the surface while the main bulk of the rocket (you know, the part that actually needs fixing) continues to orbit/hover above Azar.
Once they set foor on Azar, it’s info-dump time, as the Azarite leader, Kuba, informs Boyd that the quarry he’s after hail from the planet Anthor, and that they’ve been kidnapping he and his hapless fellows for years in order to serve either as slave labor, or as living organ “donors”kept on hand to supply — uhhmmmm — “raw materials” to the Anthorians, who can apparently live more or less forever, but for their pesky body parts wearing out. If this sounds an awful lot like the exact same motivation the invaders had in Battle Of The Stars, guess what? You’re absolutely right.
Anyway, Kuba and his people actually mistake Boyd and company for Anthorians at first themselves, but the timely arrival of a real raiding party from Anthor — quickly defeated by our plucky, rag-tag squadron from Earth — effectively dispels that notion, and so the next logical step is for Boyd, Kuba, and their makeshift “army” to head for Anthor and get this movie over with.
“Hold on just a minute, though,” I hear you say, “how could they possibly mistake Earthlings for Anthorians? We don’t all have matching haircuts and jumpsuits!” You’re correct, of course, but those weren’t actually Anthorians — those were their robot underlings. Honest-to-goodness residents of Anthor, it turns out, look just like we do. So let’s go there and check out what they’re up to, shall we?
Welcome, then, to scenic Anthor — and meet their new Empress, Lois! Yes, Boyd’s lady-love was immediately crowned the planet’s new ruler, for reasons that are never explained, and at her side is Dr. Carr, who’s “sold out” and now intends to use his miraculous artificial-life-creation process to help out his one-time captors. Here on Earth we call it the “Stockholm Syndrome,” while in space it’s apparently called the “Anthor Syndrome,” but whatever name it’s going by, if Boyd had any smarts at this point he’d say “okay, fair enough, knock yourself out, since creating living beings to harvest organs from would immediately do away with Anthor’s need to kidnap, enslave, and kill people from neighboring planets (or planetoids). Just scribble down some instructions for me on how to shut off your nuclear reactor and we’re outta here.”
Boyd, however, doesn’t have any smarts, and neither do Brescia (once again working under his “Al Bradly” pseudonym) and his co-screenwriter, Aldo Crudo, and so a bunch of pointless “intrigue” ensues mainly for the purpose of showing what a conniving, backstabbing bitch Lois is while Julie, for her part, assumes the role of perfect angel. Yes, friends, just when it looked like we might be getting somewhere, War Of The Robots — which almost feels like a completely new and different movie with each successive scene, so little does any given one have anything to do with what came before it or what will come after — does yet another 180 on us and turns into a “love triangle in space” sort of thing.In fact, the main denouement for the entire film is a scene when Julie’s not-exactly-an-X-Wing fighter finds itself squarely in the sights of Lois’ ship and Lois, thinking that Boyd can still get over her massive act of treason, decides to shoot her erstwhile “competitor” down so that she can pursue the man of her dreams free from Ms. Goody Two-Shoes’ interference. Julie seems rather resigned to her fate at this point, whatever that fate might be, and reasons that if Boyd really loves her, he’ll come swooping in to the rescue in his own fighter to save her, and if not — well, that would mean he must really love Lois, after all, so she’s probably better off just letting the evil empress kill her.
With Cosmos : War Of The Planets Brescia may have set science fiction back a few decades, but with War Of The Robots he apparently aims to one-up himself by doing the same for women’s lib. And, of course, the heroic leading man does save the damsel in distress, the kindly denizens of Anzar, and even the Earth itself from certain nuclear annihilation by dragging Carr’s ass back home.
Ah, but which lady is lucky enough to win his heart by the time the curtain falls? Well, that you’ll have to discover for yourself — should you choose — by actually watching the flick. War Of The Robots is available as part of any number of public domain-heavy DVD box sets, but be forewarned! The version I’ve got, which is included in Mill Creek’s 50-movie Sci-Fi Invasion bargain pack, actually plays the first reel of the film twice over back-to-back, and frankly, much as I enjoyed (against my better judgment as well as all reason and logic) this heaping helping of pure celluloid nonsense, once is probably enough. You may want to try this version posted on YouTube and see if it’s a bit more bearable :