By 1979, Italian director Alfonso Brescia (or “Al Bradly,” as the credits would have it) was an old hat at doing cheap, quick Star Wars knock-offs — but it wasn’t until this, his fourth foray (in two years!) into the sub-genre one could argue he actually created (along with his financiers at Nais Film), that he decided to blatantly clone as many of George Lucas’ characters as he possibly could. His previous attempts at replicating the Star Wars “magic” on roughly 1/100,000th the budget had essentially been confused and nonsensical space operas that bore little to no resemblance to film that “inspired” them, but with Star Odyssey (or Sette Uomini D’Oro Nello Spazio as it was known on its home soil — English-speaking territories also saw it released under the alternate titles of Captive Planet, Space Odyssey and, believe it or not, Metallica) he was going for as direct an act of thievery as he could manage, with the end result being — yet another confused, nonsensical space opera.
Sometimes shit just happens, I guess, no matter how hard you’re trying.
The basic plot here is as follows : an evil “Lord of the Universe” named Lord Kess, who hails from the planet Kobo (the dude pictured above, whose face looks like a weird cross between an alligator handbag and a clove-sprinkled ham — don’t ask me who played him because the credits don’t make it clear) has purchased Earth (or “Sol Three,” as they call it) at an intergalactic auction and now intends to, reasonably enough, show up with his army of gold-skinned androids and lay claim to his property. Right away the parallels are obvious — Lord Kess is a stand-in for Darth Vader, the guys in gold suits are his Stormtroopers, and the auction is the dime-store equivalent of the Star Wars bar scene. But we’re just getting started.
The first guy to get wise to Kess’ shenanigans is hot-shot pilot Lt. Oliver Carrera (nicknamed “Hollywood” and played by Nino Castelnuovo), and this would-be Luke Skywalker goes right to hi Ob-Wan Kenobi, a wealthy telepathic scientist named Professor Mauri (Ennio Balbo), who enlists his niece, Princess Lei — err, Irene (Yanti Somer) to help gather a team of stalwarts to fight off the invaders, who have already conquered a “sub-tropical continent) and enslaved roughly a thousand “dark-skinned units” (no, I’m not making this shit up). Her conscripts, referred to by the Professor as his “old gang,” include : the Star Odyssey equivalent of Han Solo, a rogue/gambler (who also has telepathic abilities) named Dirk Laramie (Gianni Garko); a prizefighter/ acrobat who has no real Star Wars equivalent called Bill Norman (Roberto Dell’Acqua) ; his two robot companions, Tilk and Tilly (you can tell them apart because “she” has long eyelashes and wears a metal skirt); and a pair of potentially fraudulent chemists , Shawn (Chris Avram) and Bridget (Malisa Longo) — because, ya know, chemists come in handy when alien invaders are at your doorstep, and phony chemists are doubly valuable.
This less-than-stellar line-up of would-be protectors of humanity then retreats to a wooded villa to plan their next move, and while all kinds of low-rent drama ensues, it’s Tilk and Tilly’s story that Star Odyssey is best remembered for (to the extent that it’s remembered at all). I know Brescia and his co-screenwriters Massimo Lo Jacono and Giacomo Mazzocchi were going for a C-3PO/R2D2 thing here, but a plotline about two robots who are lovesick to the point of being suicidal (they had chosen to voluntarily shut themselves down rather enduring the pain of going on without being able to “go all the way” with each other — yes, really — before Norman pulled them out of a scrap heap) is hardly going to resonate with most of the pre-teen set these characters are supposedly designed to “connect” with. At least, I sure as hell hope not.
Anyway, Lord Kess’ ship is made of some sort of “space element” called Indirium, which is supposedly impenetrable to known Earth weapons, so the primary task of our team is to find a way to bust the super-metal up before any white people end up property of our new “overlords,” as well. Hence, the need for the would-be chemists. They do all this in fairly short order and manage to send the bad guys scurrying without too much trouble, which is just as well — because nearly 75% of the runtime here is simply spent assembling our “heroes” in the first place and the interest of the average viewer will be seriously waning by this point. I know that breaking people out of “space jail” and putting emotionally forlorn robots back together takes some effort, but the sheer amount of time spent on set-up here borders on the ludicrous.
Anyway, after successfully faking their own deaths the first time the golden androids set upon them (the less said about that the better), our rag-tag collection of defenders are able to get the drop on Kess and his way-too-blond army and a fierce don’t-call-it-Jedi “mind battle” between he and Professor Mauri, as well as a determined (and lamely-staged) space fight between his slaver fleet and the humans finally convinces alligator-face to go back to the intergalactic auction house and sell off “Sol Three,” and all its attendant headaches, to some other unlucky sap. Not all of the good guys survive this would-be invasion, and Earth doesn’t so much “win” as the villains just give up, but no matter — the movie’s over, the Professor says he can make Tilk and Tilly “some parts” in order to finally consummate their love, and it looks like our Luke and Leia (who, in Brescia’s defense, no one — probably even Lucas himself — know were brother and sister at the time) appear poised to live happily ever after. Or at least until Earth’s next “buyers” show up.
Yeah, it’s all unspeakably lame and hopelessly derivative, but Star Odyssey is also the kind of bizarrely entertaining “hopelessly derivative” that you can only get when filmmakers with no money from one country try to copy expensive productions from another. Sure, plenty gets “lost in translation,” but it’s the completely haphazard way in which so much does get translated that makes this an hour and a half (roughly) of your time well spent. And hey. for those who have survived Brescia’s previous attempts at doing “Lucas on the Mediterranean,” it’s fun to spot the little things like re-used model footage from Cosmos : War Of The Planets and costumes from War Of The Robots. I’m not sure I’d lay out the couple of dollars required to own this flick on any number of public domain-heavy DVD packages on which it appears (whoops, too late, I’ve got it as part of Alpha Home Entertainment’s “Grindhouse Double Shock Show” series, where it’s paired with Prisoners Of The Lost Universe), but given that it’s freely available on YouTube, if this sounds like your kind of thing then there’s really no reason not to give it a whirl. Go in with appropriately low expectations, and who knows? You might even find yourself reasonably — and, yes, confusingly — entertained.