Microwaving a planet to death:
Starring Rik Van Nutter, Gabriella Farinon, and David Montresor
Written by Ennio De Concini, and Jack Wallace
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Note: Also known as "Space Men"
I love Italian sci-fi films from the 1960's. Unlike the western, which they mastered, the art of the sci-fi film seemed to elude them for a while. Once more, I see that Antonio Margheriti has directed a strange little film, and I love it. Although Italian in origin, it was featured in a triple feature matinee in 1960 with First Spaceship on Venus and a Japanese movie called The Mysterians in American theatres. Like both those movies, this movie was edited somewhat for American audiences, but it has the modelwork I've come to expect from Margheriti. However, the movie was very poorly edited, or perhaps mangled by an American editor. I'm not sure.
Our movie begins quickly, on December 17, 2116. Good Gravy, that's my birthday! I'd be 131 years old! Neat! Our protagonist, a fairly smug and unappealing newspaper reporter named Ray Peterson, has been placed aboard a rocket heading into space. Wow, this movie predicted the practice of embedding reporters! He's on assignment for Interplanetary News of New York. The rocket, Bravo Zulu 88, is going to galaxy M12 to report on some "infra radiation flux". Now, I looked this up. M12 is a large cluster of stars, and not a galaxy. Right away, this movie just makes me shake my head.
Fig. 1 - M12
We cut to the interior of the rocket, a fairly bland yet ambitious set. The crew are inside pods, in hibernation to "overcome Earthly gravity". Ray describes the hibernation as a "congealing process simulating death." But we don't do this with today's space station astronauts, who live in microgravity for perhaps months? I don't understand! In the meantime, while Ray narrates every single thing, the ship revives a single crewman, a black guy named Al. Hey, it's good to see a non-white guy in these old movies. We get interspersed shots of a fluctuating meter labeled "peak wow". Does anyone know what wow might be?
Whatever. Al sits up slowly before eventually leaving his pod. His sluggish movements are pretty indicative of the overall pace of this movie. Ray's helpful voiceover mentions them wearing magnetic boots to keep production costs down... I mean, to keep their feet on the floor.
Al gets on the radio with a satellite known as "Zulu Extra 34". There is some cordial chit-chat. Apparently, the rocket has entered orbit around the satellite. That's not possible but never mind. Maybe I'm just an idiot. Al mentions Ray as their "cargo", since he's not as productive as a professional astronaut. Meanwhile, another crewmember wakes up and joins Al. Al heads back to wake the their reporter. This movie is really, really plodding. I cannot stress that enough.
In back, Al revives Ray from stasis, and I hear some familiar spacey music on the soundtrack. I'm very certain I've heard this in other bad movies. Ray's voiceover mentions disorientation and an eerie sensation. I recognize the guy playing Ray as an actor from Thunderball, one of my favourite James Bond movies. How about that? Al treats Ray sort of like a child, but Ray groggily points out that he's been to the Moon before. However, he's never been into the depths of space. The journey to M12 will take ten days.
Time for some math. M12 is 16,000 light years away from Earth. To get there in ten days, they would have to travel at nearly 600 million times the speed of light! That is damn fast! And this movie called M12 a galaxy; they're usually millions of light years away, so they'd have to go even faster!
But this is okay. It's just a movie. Al gives Ray a pill for lunch.
In the next scene, Ray is getting into a spacesuit for an unknown reason. Just a moment earlier, ZE 34 wanted to speak with Ray, but we've forgotten that, and now he's heading out the airlock. Wearing a ridiculously large helmet, Ray expresses some fear about going outside the rocket. But Al sends him out anyway. Um... the guy is scared! Why is this happening?!
Now floating freely in space, Ray spots ZE 34 ahead, a spinning cylinder. It doesn't look too big. That's the limitation of the modelwork for this movie, though. Ray is scared, intimidated by the "sense of emptiness", and Al won't really talk to him. He must believe in tough love. Ray has never felt so lonely. He tries to spin around while floating freely, and ends up in a spin, but he manages to board the satellite without incident. Good thing he didn't miss it, otherwise he'd sail away forever. It was here that I noted a problem this movie has. The editing, or perhaps the poor condition of the film, has caused a lot of dialogue to sound clipped and words to be cut off.
Ray moves through the airlock, and steps into the satellite. It's actually quite large, and its rotation provides artificial gravity. He goes to see the station's doctor, who notes that he still "smells Earthy". Space banter. Apparently, everyone on this mission has a codename; surnames are not used. The doctor is called K116. Anyway, Ray reports to the commander (David Montresor) of the station.
In the commander's office, we get to see the set up between the long smug-off that takes place between the two men. The commander resents the reporter being present, which only makes the reporter more defensive. I think the commander is jealous of Ray's slick, heavily styled hair. Ray does seem quite blase about everything, though. We listen to some interminable, forgettable dialogue.
Fig. 2 - left to right, Ray and the commander
A Teletype machine (!) spits out a message for the commander. Apparently, the mission has been changed. They're now going to Mars for a still-secret reason, and the commander orders the rocket be made ready for immediate departure. In a bad mood, the commander (still nameless at this point) insists on editing all of Ray's tapes before they get sent back to his newspaper. We see some inexplicable shots of a man sitting at a primitive computer terminal somewhere while the commander rattles on about everything being computer-controlled. Ray is then dismissed from the office.
Feeling out of place, Ray wanders around a bit and spots the work crew heading outside to fix up the rocket. He wants to watch too, but would need the commander's permission to leave the space station. So what does Ray do? He gets in a spacesuit and leaves without permission!
In space again, Ray films the refueling of BZ 88. We get to see some lame modelwork of a hose being hooked up to the back of the rocket, pumping in precious fuel. If you're gonna be so ambitious with your special effects, please make them decent. The astronauts holding the hose look like they're an inch tall. The part that really made me laugh, though, was that Ray was holding an old 50's style film camera. We see the necessary shots of astronauts in silver spacesuits swooping and flying through space. It all looks sort of haphazard.
Suddenly, a meteor is upon them! Yes, it's the:
Although in this movie, it's just one meteor. Ray describes it as glowing, despite it still being way out in space. It swoops towards the rocket and Ray manages to push one of the crewmen out of the way as it passes in a confusing and badly done scene. However, the counter-reaction (forgetting Newton's laws, are we?) causes Ray to hit the refueling hose, which in turn causes it to disconnect from the rocket, which then spews lots of fuel out into space. They manage to stop the leak, but the music indicates that it's still bad.
Aboard the satellite, the commander is quite upset but restraining his anger in that way we see so often in movies. Thanks to Ray, they lost 500 gallons of hydrazine. Ray apologizes, pointing out that he did save someone's life. However, he and the commander disagree on the value of human life. Okay, I can feel the presence of much Bad Movie Philosophy here. Anyway, is 500 gallons of hydrazine that important? I don't know how efficient rocket engines of the future may or may not be, so that amount could be huge or tiny. Oh well. The commander gets tough with Ray and orders him not to do anything without asking the second in command, who is apparently tougher than he is. We then learn that the commander is leaving the station on his mission to Mars, and there's some dramatic music. Um, we already knew this was happening, no need for the music. After much trading of glances, Ray leaves the office.
Elsewhere, Ray talks briefly to the doctor, and we learn of Ray's distaste for the codes assigned to the crewmembers. He asks about Yankee 13, the spaceman he saved from the meteor. The doctor tells him to look in the biochemistry lab, so he heads on down there.
In the lab, Ray bumps into a woman (Gabriella Farinon) tending some plants. He immediately begins talking down to her like she's 12 years old! I couldn't believe it.
"But you're a [...] girl, and you're selling flowers, too."She politely informs Ray that these plants actually convert hydrogen into breathable oxygen, and are essential to maintain the atmosphere in the station. Whoa, you have free hydrogen in the air supply of your ship? Ever hear of the Hindenburg? I'm sure the screenwriters meant carbon dioxide. Ray still insists that they're flowers and she seems to humour him a little. There's some more pointless dialogue about buying/selling them. We learn that she's the navigator of the rocket, who works part time in the lab. She even shares her name, Lucy. He talks a little about a monkey he knew named Lucy (?!). In a bit of quite assuredly hot gossip, she says that the commander's name is actually George. She then leaves the lab, and here's the surprise: She is actually Y 13, the person Ray saved from the meteor. She thanks him for saving her life, and leaves.
Back to Ray's voiceover, he tells us about a little excursion in a "space taxi" with Al to watch a passage of asteroids. They're little spinning rocky things, bobbing up and down as they fly past with some speed. Why do asteroids always travel in neat flocks or streams in these movies? Al tells us that each asteroid is 1700 feet in diameter. Ray discusses Lucy a little with Al, remarking at how informal she is by using proper names and such. Apparently, she too is going on the secret mission to Mars, and Al also. Something serious is going on.
Finally, the taxi returns to the satellite. There are lots of pointless scenes in this movie.
Ray's voiceover ushers in the next scene, and he tells us that he wants to join the Mars mission but can't unless the High Command on Earth orders it.
In the commander's office, they're waiting to hear from a pilot of a spaceship somewhere, but he's late and not answering the radio. Al informs us that the pilot is presumed dead, and his ship "Alpha 2" is now under computer control. This is very bad, but we aren't told why. Ray then comes in with an urgent communication for George. He reads it, and is very upset; they are orders from Earth to take Ray with them. What, is the newspaper all tied up with the military in the future? George is understandably flabbergasted, but Al says he likes Ray. All the dialogue in this movie is very... odd. Stilted, wooden, unnecessarily verbose and expository. Just plain weird. George dismisses everyone, but keeps Lucy for a moment. He tells her that he wants her to stay behind so that Ray has a spot on the rocket. Now she's upset, having wanted to go, but George admits that he loves her, and wouldn't want her presence to disturb his objectivity. She curses him, suggesting that he "be worthy of" himself, and not his position. She leaves in a huff, I think. Sometimes, emotions in this movie are ill-defined.
We're treated to a quick transition shot of the rocket flying through space, accompanied by a blast from the soundtrack. It was enough to make me jump in my seat, after the previous quiet scene.
Inside BZ88, we find that Lucy is actually aboard. No explanation given. Ray is also there.
Ray: "Is the nose still turned up?"Well what if he wasn't? That's a fairly egotistical thing to say. George reminds Ray that he's no better than a parasite aboard the rocket, and for some reason Ray floats up to the ceiling. No gravity, I got it. Anyway, why is he floating directly upwards? Wouldn't he more float in the center of the room? He complains that he doesn't even have a chair. George offers him a cot, but he whines about feeling like an outsider, which he is. The smug-off between George and Ray is well under way.
So they fly though space, when they encounter a magnetic storm. Interestingly, the miscellaneous crewmember who reports the storm is played by none other than Antonio Margheriti himself, the director.
Fig. 3 - left to right, George, Al (back of helmet), Ray (standing), director Antonio Margheriti, and Lucy.
We get a brief shot of a strange nebulous object passing by on a TV screen. George gets its position, and tries to establish radio contact with it because "it looks like a Moon ship." That thing on the TV doesn't look at all like a spaceship, but never mind. It is indeed a spaceship, Metro Sierra 13. Apparently, this ship's tanks (not made clear what tanks) have exploded, and they are falling towards Mars. BZ88 attempts a rescue mission. The captain of MS13 relates his tale of disaster, noting that "a sudden rush of hot air overpowered" them, causing their tanks to explode and killing a crewmember. They won't make it, and sure enough, we get an exterior shot showing their ship plummeting towards Mars. Even worse, one of Mars' moons (they don't make it clear which one) is crossing the path of MS13. They try to get out of the path of the moon, but one of the doomed astronauts doesn't think they can make it. He puts his helmet on, and bails out of the rocket, leaving this last line:
"I don't feel like ending my days in a trap!"Well, if you want to settle for that line, that's okay. He jumps out of the ship, and we get a ridiculous effect shot of a man-shaped figurine falling to a weird, bubbling surface.
The captain of the doomed ship is upset, I guess. He fiddles with the spaceship controls. They look like the buttons on my oven. In a highly confusing sequence of rapid shots, the captain is able to level his ship off and gain some altitude. One of his engines seems to have come back online. The crew of BZ88 listens intently over the radio. Alas, the luck runs out.
We get a very quick shot of an explosion, suggesting something wrong. The worst part is the fact that the explosion shot was filmed in a parking lot, and there is a car visible in the foreground. I laughed out loud when I saw this shot. It's only 9 frames long, but it's long enough to be seen and to be mocked. We hear the pilot scream, and a quick zoom-in of a bubbling puddle of mud, all of this indicating that MS13 crashed into Mars. Definitely one of the worst scenes I've ever seen.
Fig. 4 - eight frames of the explosion. Note the car in foreground, and buildings in back
We cut back to George, looking gravely serious when he announces that they will land, passing over Phobos. Oh, okay, that moon. He doesn't quite specify where they will land, but they're landing.
The rocket flies slowly over a weird, barren landscape with goofy looking mountains and rocks and things. George reports that the engines are at seven gammas, whatever the hell that means. They look for a place to set down, as the gamma count steadily increases. They prepare to land upright as the engines exceed twelve gammas. Is this G-force? I'm confused! Ray is also confused, and a little nervous about the rocket being "like a bomb" with full fuel tanks. At 14 gammas, I notice the actors reclining in their seats and grimacing. Must be G-forces or something... but during landing? G-forces are experienced at take-off from massive bodies like Earth. A landing, especially one on a tiny object like Phobos, would not be this dramatic. Finally, they land in what should have been a tense scene. The crew recovers from whatever just happened, and Ray gets off the ground. The rocket then tilts a little to one side as the ground gives way a bit underneath the rocket. Lucy notes that one more degree of tippage and they'd be unable to take off. Maybe it's time to take off, right now!
We get a quick shot of a weird, bubbling landscape, before we cut to two of the crewmembers walking about outside, over a barren, rocky landscape. They find the guy who jumped from MS13, still alive (I think). Oh, so they actually landed on Phobos, Mars' innermost moon. Anyway, they bring him aboard the rocket and take off. I got the impression that they re-used the take off shot from the very beginning of the film.
George informs us that they have changed course, and are now heading to Venus. Not being an expert in astronavigation, I checked this out. Using the date December 17, 2116, and working with a neat freeware program called Celestia, I made this little schematic of our area of the Solar System, to illustrate the setting:
As we can see, the inner planets are all nearly in a straight line with respect to each other.
Ray is upset at this abrupt course change, noting that the guy they rescued needs medical attention right away. However, the crew discovers a strange heat field in space, with one guy noting that it's almost as hot "as the photonic field of the Sun itself." What is a photonic field? George now clarifies the nature of their mission. The spaceship Alpha 2, mentioned earlier in the film, is careening through the Solar System on computer control only. For some reason, the ship generates a powerful field of heat around itself. It's on its way towards Earth, and will inadvertently fry the surface, killing everyone on the planet. They must stop Alpha 2, and are going to Venus now because Venus is on the path of Alpha 2. So, you flew to Mars for no apparent reason, and are now turning around and heading in the nearly opposite direction (as shown above) to Venus? Wow. Anyway, as predicted, they have one chance in a million to do save humanity from destruction. The music gets dramatic and everything.
Ray turns to Lucy and notes that she's crying. We then get a close-up of her eyes, but they're dry. WTF?
There's a bizarre cut, and suddenly we see Ray and Lucy somewhere else in the ship. Oops, did something get badly edited there? They appear to be looking out a window or something, looking at oceans and continents on a planet. We don't actually see what they're looking at. I assume it's Earth. Ray pines for the feeling of movement, and Lucy points out that they are moving very quickly through the Solar System. Ray says that it's an illusion. Yeah, more Bad Movie Philosophy. Ray then asks her what the date is, and she's unaware that it's Christmas Day. To drive the point home, we see a shot of the rocket flying past Earth (oh, that's what they were looking at), while we hear a short snippet of "Deck the Halls" on the soundtrack. For some reason, that made me laugh, I dunno. It's so out of place!
So the rocket flies to Venus and eventually lands at the spaceport there. No sign of an atmosphere on Venus; it's quite moonlike. They knew Venus had a thick, cloudy atmosphere in 1960, I'm sorry. Anyway, they hope to destroy Alpha 2 with nuclear missiles. Apparently, everyone at the spaceport lives inside a dome. Ray chimes in with more philosophy:
"Tell me, why is it that when man wants to protect himself, he hides himself under a dome?"Oh yeah, well you tell me why bad movies are stuffed with overly-large thoughts and asides. Al ends the philosophy and takes Ray away.
According to Ray's voiceover, they fire a missile (more unremarkable modelwork to follow) at Alpha 2. They watch from a control room as it gets to within 5000 miles of the ship before it disintegrates. The heat field is apparently so strong, it destroys the missiles before impact. Al says that mankind has finally accomplished its dream: an "indestructible destroyer." I don't recall that being some racial dream, but never mind. The ship will enter orbit around Earth in a few days and kill everyone, and George suggests an aggressive attack against it.
So, they fire another missile, and this one manages to get to 2200 miles distance before exploding. Confused by the greater penetrating power, Al suggests that the heat field is projected in two halves, with a narrow channel between them through which the missile can fly unharmed. Heat cannot be emitted in this manner, but we'll ignore that fact. What they need to do is fire a missile directly through this narrow slice of space from a ship flying alongside Alpha 2. Al wants to be the one to do it, so he can receive credit for his idea. After some meaningless discussion, they let Al go to test his theory, while the rest of the crew will follow along in BZ88. Is BZ88 not equipped to fire missiles? What kind of lame spaceship is this? Al and Ray trade banter before Al finally heads off.
BZ88 takes off into space.
There's some G-force induced grimacing that gives way to a quiet, slow, overly long scene. George likes Venus and is surprised by Ray's ability to cope.
Al calls from his ship, Tango Sierra 13. The two ships glide through space to find the channel between the two hemispheres of Alpha 2. This sort of reminds me of the end of Star Wars, trying to find that hole in the Death Star that conveniently leads to the centre. Everything is good; their speed is 30,000 (no units given), coordinates are "1, 3 with respect to Vega," whatever that means. A lot of inaction goes on.
Suddenly, that satellite from the beginning of the movie calls BZ88 and reports that Alpha 2 has changed course and will arrive at Earth sooner than expected. In fact, it'll past right beside the satellite and destroy it. Sullivan, who was left behind back at the satellite, knows he's about to die and it's too late to escape. George calls desperately over the radio, urging Sullivan to evacuate, but he just sits at his desk and dies when the satellite explodes in a lame explosion effect that resembles a flashbulb going off.
Al eulogizes Sullivan:
"He was never afraid. Since man, even in space, changes his position but not his character. He is what he is, wherever he lives."There's a little more philosophy before the scene ends.
Later on, the crew of the BZ88 finds two stranded astronauts aboard a space taxi who had been sent out by Sullivan before the destruction of the satellite. They're brought aboard after a lengthy approach scene that tested my patience.
George looks the astronauts over and tells them to get some rest. Ray makes a big deal about the use of first names. I'm sorry, this scene is way too long.
Al calls in from his ship. He's approaching Alpha 2. He fires some missiles, and they approach. I'm hearing the same piece of background music for the 4th or 5th time. The rockets get to within 3000 miles distance before exploding. Al tries again, and the scene is basically repeated, only this time they get to within 100 miles. The end of the movie is still about 100 miles away too. Al moves his ship closer to Alpha 2 despite the danger of the heat field. Apparently, spaceships and missiles can be attracted into the photonic field. Oh, okay, so it's a field of heat that is also magnetic or something? George orders Al to back away from the errant spaceship, but Al won't get away from it. Apparently, he isn't taking orders anymore. He manages to maneuver through the invisible gap between the two heat fields and get to within 1200 miles distance. Al brings up the alternative of not taking action:
"What would be the use of living if the Earth were destroyed? We'd all be prisoners of space with no hope of return."But I'm under the impression that humans live all over the Solar System. I mean, we clearly have rockets that can easily ferry people to and from lots of different planets! Plus, there's a base on Venus and space stations all over the place! It's not the end of the species, is it?
The music gets tense, and we see lots of quick shots of gauges and meters and buttons being pressed. We see that "peak WOW" meter, as well as a dB meter. dB is short for decibel, which is a unit of sound intensity. Is Alpha 2 emitting deadly noise as well? We get a fairly random mish-mash of little shots while George calls out on the radio to Al. Suddenly, Al is surrounded by the sounds of electrical shorts and little bursts of light. His rocket loses control and explodes in another cheapo effect.
George, Lucy, and Ray have blank looks on their faces, as they do throughout much of this movie. Acting, ever heard of it? George announces gravely that Al has proven the existence of the channel at the expense of his life. I thought you already knew about it! Al just died for no reason! George continues on, saying that their chances are slim and their time is running out. Ray sees an object on the radar screen; George says it's the space taxi, now orbiting their own rocket. Is that possible? Ray gets an idea, but this revelation strikes him slowly and quietly, in the best way possible to pad out the scene. He remembers that he's ridden in a space taxi before, with Al. He gets up and leaves the bridge. George asks Lucy if she's afraid, and she is. She then says that she loves Ray and always has, and George knows this already. Lucy says "love has no meaning anymore, George." Who wrote all this? George has to chime in with some more Bad Movie Philosophy:
"Perhaps it's the only thing that does matter. The world of human feelings has been much less explored than the whole of the universe put together, but now it's late. What have we been doing all these thousands of years? We've been congratulating ourselves on our progress in going faster, faster, and faster, when in reality we've only been getting further away from ourselves."Wow, I gotta remember that one for later. Lucy takes George's place at the controls while George slowly mopes away. The movie has become quite emo all of a sudden!
George walks through the ship, and we get to see every lovely second of it. He finds Ray in a spacesuit, getting ready to fly away in the space taxi. George doesn't like this and orders him to stay, telling him that Lucy loves him. This scene culminates in Ray unconvincingly punching George out cold, with Lucy standing and watching. Was that supposed to be drama? It was really tepid. This is such a slow scene!
Ray gets into the taxi and pilots it away.
George wakes up and returns to the bridge.
Ray carefully pilots the space taxi through the channel between the heat fields, as the crew of BZ88 watches on TV. Ray's voiceover returns, explaining that he tosses small objects overboard and watches them explode to judge how narrow the channel gets, and where its limits are. I admit, that's kinda clever, and the special effects illustrating this point are adequate. It seems that Ray is going to make it, and George urges him on. I guess he wants Ray to die after punching him. Unfortunately, Ray runs out of objects to throw, so he pulls off a piece of his spacesuit and throws it. He eventually makes it to the very hull of Alpha 2, and climbs out of the taxi.
The crew watches, enthralled as a miniature model of Ray clings to the side of a model spaceship before apparently slipping inside through a hatch. Miniatures just do not work here. The worst part about this little shot is that it gets repeated for no apparent reason! I thought I was seeing things, but the movie has resorted to repetition to pad itself out!
Inside Alpha 2, Ray looks around. The interior is dark and quiet. He finds the pilot of Alpha 2 still inside that hibernation pod thing. Ray immediately assumes the pilot is dead, and reports this to BZ88. Maybe he's just asleep. George instructs Ray to disconnect the ship's systems and kill the computer. Ray notes that everything is already disconnected for some reason, so he sets about disconnecting the computer. He yanks on a clump of wires, but they won't come loose. It's like HAL 9000, but more secure.
Alpha 2 and BZ88 enter the Earth's "gravity zone", suggesting that death to humanity is approaching fast.
Ray resorts to cutting the wires, and with some flashing lights and sparks, the ship dies. The heat field collapses and it seems the threat has been avoided. Mission Accomplished. BZ88 flies in, and sure enough, they don't explode and die.
Lucy cries out over the radio that the nightmare is over, and Ray is on his way out when he finds the airlock door is jammed. See, the computer controlled it, and now it is stuck shut without internal power.
Earth suddenly calls BZ88, and a Nixon-esque voice warns that BZ88 is approaching Earth dangerously fast and will burn up in the atmosphere unless they get away. George won't leave Alpha 2 before they rescue Ray. Okay, there's one more dramatic point in this movie to go. Lucy assumes command as George prepares to head outside.
Lucy calls Ray on the radio, tries reassuring him. However, that part that Ray tore from his spacesuit was the oxygen regulator, and now he can't control the oxygen flow to his suit, so I guess that means he's going to die. Hypoxia or whatever. Lucy begs him to hang on. Meanwhile, Earth orders BZ88 to abandon Alpha 2, but George switches the radio off and leaves. How bold.
Ray reports that he's got too much oxygen in his spacesuit, and that his thoughts are running wild. He's dying from too much oxygen?
The rescue crew fly through space towards Alpha 2 in a somewhat silly looking shot.
Ray feels dizzy and sounds more and more faint, while Lucy tries to keep him talking.
The men arrive at the hull of Alpha 2 and use acetylene torches to cut into the ship. Do we not have cool lasers or something in the future?
Ray is about to give up and die, but Lucy delivers some inspirational lines. Nevertheless, Ray shoots back with this: "There's no faith that can destroy the fear of death." Way to be upbeat, Ray.
Finally, just as Ray is saying goodbye, the rescue team bursts in and takes Ray back to BZ88. There are some more shots of the men swinging through space. I'm sure Ray would be dead during all this. They get back aboard, and the rocket darts away from Alpha 2. The doomed ship sails to Earth, and explodes cheaply and suddenly.
The other crewmembers pull Ray's helmet off and he's alive. Lucy enters, says something nice to George but I can't make out what she says. BZ88 flies past Earth, while Ray and Lucy watch from the window. The music swells, and the movie closes on a parting shot of the rocket's rear end, engines firing. The end titles have lots of Italian names.
This movie, at times difficult to watch, shares many similarities to Wild Wild Planet and The Green Slime, all three of these movies directed by the same man. Even the generously-finned rocketships and use of miniatures is identical. Unfortunately, the thick layering of Bad Movie Philosophy and the long, boring, protracted shots of people moving through the rocketship sets score against this movie in terms of fun. The science is ridiculous, as I've come to expect from primitive sci-fi (this movie having been filmed some time in the late fifties). Galaxies do not reside within the limits of the Solar System. There is no such thing as a photonic field.
SFX and story details aside, editing was another major, major problem. It needed to be a lot tighter. There was one scene where Ray and Lucy were talking, and then a sudden and drastic cut to the next scene. I know this movie was imported from Italy and re-edited for American audiences, perhaps even re-dubbed. Maybe that's the problem. Overall, it's still a classic example of an ambitious Italian production, a somewhat primitive version of Margheriti's later, more lavish productions. If you like snotty men, inaccurate astronomy, or errant spacecraft, you should see Assignment: Outer Space.
Note: I shamelessly stole that photo of M12 from this site. I didn't actually take the photo.
April 18, 2007
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