Posts Tagged ‘Malisa Longo’

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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 PlanetSpace 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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?

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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 :