Monday, March 2, 2015

Cosmos: War of the Planets - 1977

Also known as just War of the Planets.

This movie was just a little bit insane but still better than I expected.  70's, Italian, low budget, sci-fi, you can understand why I expected this to be a lot like War of the Robots.  In fact, it's the same director, even, Alfonso Brescia.  So all the cards are in place for a bad, ridiculous sci-fi movie.

In War of the the Planets, which takes place somewhere in the distant future, a mysterious signal arrives to Earth, and a group of astronauts decide (against orders) to go investigate where the signal could be coming from.  Upon their eventual arrival, they find an Earth like planet that initially seems to be uninhabited.  Then they find one of their crew murdered, and another missing.  So they begin to search for the missing man, and discover there is an indigenous race of silver colored aliens living on the world, a race of aliens that are being terrorized by a tyrannical robot that is also the one who murdered the ships crewman.

This movie, as I said before, had all the recipes for a bad, confusing, convoluted movie.  But it somehow wasn't.  Okay, so it took me a little while to understand who was who, and it does take like 45 minutes of the movie just for the guys to get to the planet where the signal is coming from.  But it's also easy to follow, not overrun with plot annoyances, and the actors in this are significantly better then the ones in War of the Robots.

I guess the main appeal to this movie is that once it gets about 45 minutes in and they actually reach the planet, it picks up the pace, gets interesting, and is entertaining.  It picks up cheese-charm from the huge, stupid looking robot, the silver, loin-cloth-ed aliens, and the dismal darkness of the planet.  They also up the atmosphere in the second half of the movie and make it a little unsettling by the lack of light, the big red lights on the robot, and the strange cryptic feel.

I liked the bizarre sequences that went on when they're on the planet, such as a scene where there is a body positioned between these two columns.  A couple guys from the ship see the body and rush over to find out what happened.  As they get between the two columns, a light flashes and everyone disappears.  Apparently, they died, I only know this cause we never see them again.  But WTF?  Was that the robot that did that?  Because why didn't it just do that to everyone?  And where did they go, did they just disintegrate, get transported somewhere...?

The movie stays good until about the hour 5 minute mark, and then it gets kind of confusing and overly done towards the end, unfortunately.  It looked to me like perhaps someone went a little edit crazy, because there seem to be small scenes that are missing (such as there is no scene where the ship actually takes off from the planet with the robot).  Then the ending is jampacked with too much:  a crewman goes crazy and starts killing people, they take on an alien from the planet and he joins the crew, they start their going back to Earth, there's tons of dialogue, and then bam it's over.  It's a very condensed 10 minutes.

The ending was pretty cool though, still.  I just wish they had not drawn out the beginning SO much and then sardine-canned the rest of the film, the ending especially, with everything happening at once.

This would be a good movie to watch with friends and riff, definitely.  I did some riffing myself, just practice, and found that it had a lot to make fun of.  Plus it would make a great kids film, and a great late night movie.  If you are willing to sit through the first 45 minutes (or honestly, just fast forward) then you will be rewarded.  A solid 3 stars.

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