Several months ago, I purchased two 50-movie boxed sets of crap sf films. And no, I don’t know why I did. I have now watched all of the films in the first set, SciFi Classics. First of all, I should point out that not all of the films are actually science fiction. Neither are they all crap. Some are… well, “interesting”. Describing them as “good” might be a bit of a stretch. The quality of transfers was also uniformly bad.
But at 25p per film, I’m not going to complain.
Gamera the Invincible – Gamera is a giant turtle, who can fly. He can withdraw his legs into his shell, and the leg openings become rockets. How he manages to fly forwards when all four rockets are firing is beyond me. Sometimes Gamera is good, sometimes he’s not. In this film, the turtle is a rampaging monster, only prevented from causing total destruction by a small boy who has an empathic link with him.
Hercules Against the Moonmen – what do they call these sorts of films? Spaghetti and sandals epics? Something like that. During the 1960s, Italy churned out thousands of them. In this one, some random bodybuilder plays Hercules. He ends up fighting the evil queen of Samar and her alien allies, the Moonmen. Lots of feats of strength… and strange rock-like monsters which are far too slow to actually catch people… so those being chased by them have to trip or fall so they can be caught and crushed. I’ll admit I’m no expert on Greek mythology, but I don’t recall rock creatures from the Moon in Hercules’ twelve tasks. I suspect the ancient Greeks were right to leave them out.
Assignment: Outer Space – the interestingly named Rik Van Nutter plays a loud American reporter on an assignment aboard a rocket crewed by English-dubbed Italians. When a runaway spaceship threatens to destroy the Earth, he pitches in with the rest. This film’s transfer was so bad, I’d watched half of it before I realised it was supposed to be colour. Interesting production design, though – a mix of Destination Moon and Space: 1999.
Laser Mission – this wasn’t sf by any stretch of the imagination. Brandon Lee stars as a secret agent who must rescue a kidnapped scientist from some African dictator. It’s the sort of film Channel 5 would broadcast on a wet weekday afternoon. Ernest Borgnine was in there somewhere too. I think he was supposed to be Russian. It was hard to tell from the accent he put on. I’m fairly sure the villain was South African, though. Brandon Lee is accompanied by an attractive woman who proves to be an excellent shot and very good at evasive driving. It comes as no surprise to learn she’s a CIA agent sent to assist him on his mission. A mission in which, strangely, no lasers feature…
Cosmos: War of the Planets – ah, now this is the sort of film I was hoping to find when I bought this boxed set. It’s a 1970s Italian sf film, and it’s completely incoherent. The spaceships appeared to be made out of Lego and egg-cartons. The plot is incomprehensible. Star John Richardson thumps his superior and is sent on a mission. Someone has disappeared on a planet, where there are green bald people and a huge robot controlling them. At least I think that’s what it was about. I vaguely recall a sex scene in there somewhere too. One of the green bald men ends up as a crew-member aboard Richardson’s spaceship. Then everyone gets killed. I think.
Destroy All Planets – another Japanese film featuring Gamera the flying rocket-propelled turtle. An alien spaceship attacks Earth, but Gamera sends it on its way. Meanwhile, two boy scouts rewire a miniature submarine so that forwards becomes reverse, etc. The alien spaceship returns, Gamera fights it, and… I lost the plot somewhere about then. It ended up underwater I seem to recall, but I may be mistaken. Gamera destroyed the alien spaceship anyway.
Eegah – a young woman driving through the California desert is confronted by a seven-foot caveman. She returns the next day with her father and boyfriend. The caveman is called Eegah, and he’s played by Richard Kiel (Jaws from James Bond) in one of his earliest film roles. They take Eegah to Palm Springs, but he goes on a rampage and smashes things. So they hunt him down and kill him. Any resemblances to King Kong are probably intentional.
The Astral Factor – also known as Invisible Strangler, because it’s about, well, this invisible bloke who strangles women. A prisoner on death row develops psychic powers, which he uses to make himself invisible. He escapes from prison in order to have his revenge on the five women who testified against him. I’m surprised Stefanie Powers and Elke Sommer haven’t had all copies of this film destroyed. Perhaps they tried – certainly the transfer in this boxed set was terrible. The picture was all scratched and faded, as if it had been dug out of the bottom of a bin.
Battle of the Worlds – oh dear, how the mighty have fallen. Claude Rains stars in this as an astronomer who discovers a planet which is fast approaching Earth. Actually, he doesn’t discover it, although he did predict its appearance. He also predicted the fleet of flying saucers which then attack Earth. What a shame he didn’t predict that his career would come to this. Definitely not the start of a beautiful friendship…
The Brain Machine – there’s this facility somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and a group of volunteers who are having experiments performed on them. And a powerful computer – well, a wall of flashing lights. This is 1977, after all. It all goes badly wrong because one or two of the volunteers are evil, and the experiment itself is pretty unethical. I think a Brain Machine is required to actually watch this film.
Wild Women of Wongo – the boxed set says “SciFi” on the cover, but there’s nothing in this film which qualifies as science fiction. It’s set in some primitive Polynesian village called Wongo. A prince from a neighbouring kingdom visits and asks for help to repel raiders. The king of Wongo refuses. The raiders attack Wongo, but the women manage to escape. They make their way to the neighbouring village, and discover that the raiders have not attacked there. The Wongo women are more attractive than that village’s women; and the men of the village are more handsome than the Wongo men. I suspect this film was more fun to make than it was to watch.
They Came From Beyond Space – the title may sound like the worst kind of B-movie, but this one is actually pretty good. Some meteors have landed in the south of England, but the scientists sent to investigate have begun behaving strangely. One man – an astronomer, American, with a steel plate in his head – suspects foul play. Especially when the scientists recruit more people, put up barbed wire around the meteor site, and all the American’s colleagues and friends start treating him like an enemy of the state. It’s aliens, apparently – they’re using mind control. They have a giant rocket underneath a pond, and they use it to send enslaved humans to the Moon to help fix their spaceship which crashed there. Despite the silly plot, this is actually a good Sunday afternoon sf film.
Prehistoric Women – a bunch of prehistoric women – well, women in make-up and furs – overpower and enslave their men. But one man escapes. He discovers fire and returns to use it to drive off a giant pterodactyl which has been attacking the tribe. As a result, the women release their men as they can’t all be bad. So if your relationship is in trouble, all you have to do is fight off a giant pterodactyl…
The Phantom Planet – this one started quite well. A rogue planet has entered the Solar System, so a rocket is sent to investigate. But it crashes on the planet. Which is actually quite small. One of the crew survives and discovers… a race of tiny people. They even shrink him to their size so he can talk to them and fall in love with the daughter of the leader of the little people and save the day, etc. Apparently the tiny people can steer their planet too, but they still live in caves. Any sufficiently advanced technology, I suppose, is indistinguishable from authorial bollocks.
More films to follow in another post…