Assignment: Outer Space (1960)
I watch a lot of really bad science fiction movies, for fun, on purpose, without a gun to my head. I have seen sci-fi movies that had lousy plots, miserable special effects, wooden acting, some of the worst travesties of film ever. But I have never seen a sci-fi movie that flat out BORED ME TO DEATH like 1960's Assignment: Outer Space, a lame Italian "technological thriller" from cult director Anthony Margheriti. The faults of this movie are legion: sleepwalking actors, comic book dialogue, K-Mart clearance sale spaceships, inept directing, and a murky plot full of gaping holes just to name a few. I have read reviews where people said they enjoyed this mess, but I have to say that this movie sucked. And I had to watch it FOUR FREAKIN' TIMES for this review. Man, that is like five hours of my life I will never ever get back.
It was released in Italy under the title Space Men in August of 1960, cashing in on the world's obsession with space-related movies in that era. It was reedited and redubbed into English by b-movie master Samuel Z. Arkoff and released in America as Assignment: Outer Space in December of 1961.
The director is credited onscreen as "Anthony Dawson", but was really Antonio Margheriti. This was only his second movie, and considering how bad it turned out to be, it's surprising he ever directed another. He would end up turning out some of the great cult classics, including 1983's Yor, The Hunter From the Future, 1974's Andy Warhol's Dracula and 1965's Wild, Wild Planet. He was just 30-years old when he directed our movie and his inexperience shows in most every scene.
The oh-so-not special effects were the spawn of "Caesar Peace". This is such a cliched-sounding name that I suspect that it's also an alias. Clearly, whoever did the effects was working with little but stock footage, some cheap model spaceships and a $50 dollar gift card from Hobby Lobby. That said, I do have to admit that the spaceship interiors are vastly more detailed that similar interiors in most American sci-fi movies of the same era.
And now on to our show...what little of it there is.
We open by being told that everything we are about to see is a flashback. This will be the story of a newspaper reporter on a mission to space, as told in his report when it was all over. Throughout the film, a narrator will provide bits of exposition from this report. None of this really matters, however, as we just don't care.
First we must set the historical scene. Our movie takes place in the year 2116 AD, a time of far-flung space travel and high technology. Humans have colonized both Mars and Venus, as well as the moon, and regular space travel takes people across the solar system. The Earth itself is seemingly a New World Order sort of place, perhaps even an Orwellian society.
Ok, we have to talk about the number thing. It seems that people in the space service are assigned a numerical code along with a single letter. Since we only see space people, I can't say if this applies to all humans everywhere, but my guess is that it's only for people working in space. What they are trying to do here is show us how impersonal and even inhuman space travel is in this century. All the astronauts wear their numbers on the backs of their outfits. Why only have them on the back? Wouldn't it make more sense to put the numbers where they can be seen from all sides?
We are told that famous intrepid reporter Ray Peterson of the "Interplanetary Chronicle of New York", has wrangled a ten-day stay on a space station out in deep space. He's going there to write a story about some "infrared radiation flux" in some distant galaxy or some sort of nonsense.
Ray Peterson is played by 30-year old Rik Van Nutter, an American actor who made more Italian movies than American ones. Not surprisingly, his career only lasted 13 movies, most of them bad like this one. The only role I remember him from is Felix Leiter in 1965's Thunderball with Sean Connery. His main claim to fame might be that he was married to Swedish goddess Anita Ekberg for 12 years.
Ray Peterson, lucky to have...
Nutter is a typical burly, blond American, very tall, about 6'4", and he towers over the rest of the cast. He looks like a mutant cross between Val Kilmer and John Elway, with a face that suggests a younger Tom Cruise before Nicole ruined him.
We see that Ray is traveling to the station in a jet-like spaceship. The three-man crew (including him) are in a sort of suspended animation for the trip. The science of space hibernation was all the rage in the 1950s and this film does a fairly good job of explaining the mechanics of it as understood then.
The spaceship is named the BZ88. Does it look familiar to anyone? It should. It's the "Von Braun Cargo Rocket". Designed by Werner von Braun, it first appeared in Colliers Magazine in 1953 and was later used in a modified form in Walt Disney's three-part Man in Space television series from 1955. The producers of our movie just went down to their local hobby store and bought the Strombecker polystyrene kit or the Lindberg Line kit, both first issued in 1958. They didn't even try to glue any extra doodads on it to make it look different, they just painted on new hull numbers.
The BZ88 flies via the time-honored effect of a model suspended on wires with a flaming rocket on one end, racing across a black back drop dotted with white shining pen lights. The flames angle upwards as they roar out, providing laughably lame proof of its fakeness. I don't understand why they just don't film these shots by dropping the model straight down and then turn the camera on its side. That way the flames would come out straight (up) and not look nearly as stupid. Doesn't that make sense?
The first person to wake up from hibernation sleep is the ship's pilot, a black man with snow white hair (really) named Al. Al is played by 46-year old Archie Savage. The American-born Savage was a dancer in Hollywood movies before moving to Italy in the late 1950s. Once there, he became somewhat of a minor star, appearing in 1960's La Dolce Vita and 1968's Death Rides a Horse. It surprised me greatly when I first saw him, I have been watching so many 1950s sci-fi movies lately and it's extremely rare to see a black person in any of them. This era in Hollywood was largely a white domain, but overseas a black actor might get more of a chance to star in mainstream movies.
Ok, the interior of the spaceship is supposed to be at zero gravity. The technology to simulate this on film was beyond the cost and capability of our filmmakers, so they fake it by having the actors just move really, really, really slowly like they are floating in zero gravity. The effect varies from actor to actor depending on their talent. Here we see that Al does a wonderful job of selling the weightlessness, not surprising as Al Savage was a dancer for most of his life.
The BZ88 has arrived at "International Satellite ZX34", orbiting around a planet somewhere. The space station is a cylinder with some antennae on each end. The size is hard to distinguish, but it's pretty big. The crew is just seven, but most of the functions are run by the "electronic brain".
International Satellite ZX34.
They make contact and Al then goes and wakes up Ray. This is Ray's first deep space hibernation and he's a bit woozy and disoriented when he first wakes up. Al plays the veteran grizzled space pilot bit well, good-naturedly ribbing Ray about his lack of experience. Ray counters by reminding Al that he's banging Anita Ekberg.
To transfer from the ship to the station is a delicate operation. To avoid messing with the station's delicate "orbital calculations" (?), personnel transfers must be done by the ship "pulling up alongside" and ejecting the person out the airlock to float by momentum to the station. This is kinda cool, I have to say, reminding me of that scene in 2010: The Year We Made Contact, when Roy Schneider made a similar (albeit powered) transfer between ships. The effect is terribly obvious, in most shots Ray appears almost transparent with the stars visibly shining through him. Along the way, we hear Ray and Al engage is some banter about the absolute loneliness of space and about Anita Ekberg's perfectly formed breasts.
Once aboard, Ray is taken to see the Commander. The Commander is played by Italian actor Alain Dijon. Dijon would only have four total movie roles in just two years of acting, before apparently retiring altogether in 1962. He was Frankie Stout in 1960's La Dolce Vita, which is cool. In certain lights he looks just like a young Lance Henriksen circa Aliens.
It's clear that the Commander strongly disapproves of this reporter on his station. He makes no bones about his displeasure, and assures Ray that he wouldn't be here if his news organization hadn't pressured "High Command" into allowing it. Ray gets off on the wrong foot by being all snooty and arrogant with him. Ray is told to not get in the way, don't do anything without asking and to stop talking about Anita Ekberg.
The Commander suddenly gets a message, which comes in on a 1950s-vintage teletype machine (seriously, how could they have thought this looked like anything futuristic?). He looks all stern and calls one of his men to ask him to "reinstall the terminal stages to the BZ88". He then says that he's leaving and taking the BZ88 to "Mars Base 12". The Commander then shuffles Ray away to report something.
As soon as he's out of the room, Ray, being Ray, decides to totally violate the Commander's orders and immediately goes out into space without permission. He's out here floating in his space suit watching and filming the refueling of the BZ88 for that ship's trip back to Earth. This is accomplished by locking on the two boosters stages and reeling out a long fuel line stretching from the station to the ship's stern. "Hydrazine" fuel is pumped through the line.
Look at those little dudes with the hose...
Note that they are attaching two booster sections to the cabin nose of the ship. Since the BZ88 didn't come here with these, we have to assume that there were "spare boosters" in the station, which makes sense because how else would the ship get back to Earth from here? The boosters that are attached have "BZ88" on them so perhaps these were specifically for this ship. I don't know, it all looks shoddy, like they didn't think about things before they filmed them.
All is going well until "a meteorite" comes zipping in. In one of the typically horrid special effects sequences, we see the meteorite as just a wobbly splotch of light moving most erratically towards one of the station astronauts, who is only identified as "Y13". Ray pushes Y13 out of the path of the meteorite, which flies off in a most-unscientific arc out into space. The push causes Ray to tumble out of control and smack into the fuel line. The coupling is jarred loose and "500 gallons" of hydrazine is lost into space.
Back aboard the ship, Ray is pounded on by a livid Commander for this disaster. Ray totally blows off any responsibility for the critical loss of fuel by his disobeying orders. Instead he takes the moral high ground, claiming that it was worth it because he saved someone's life. The Commander says that sometimes a single life is secondary to the mission, to which Ray gets all preachy and indignant. Hmm...I might have to go with the Commander on this one, despite the movie wanting me to side with Ray. Sure, under normal circumstances I'd say save the life, but what if by saving that one life Ray had put all the rest of them in mortal jeopardy? In the dangerous environment of space, sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the greater good. I guess it's a moot point as we never see any ill effects of this fuel loss and it's not mentioned again.
Ray and the Commander have it out.
The Commander is clearly agitated and distracted. He tells Ray just to leave and if he wants to do anything else stupid he will have to ask Sullivan, his second in command. You can tell that something heavy is weighing on his mind, something much larger than dumbass Ray. When queried, the Commander just says that he is leaving the station soon. Ray acts surprised to hear that the Commander is leaving, more so than you would expect. Hmm...not ten minutes ago, Ray sat in his office and heard him say that he was leaving for Mars. Why is he acting so surprised now? Bad editing.
Anyway, so Ray goes to see Y13 in the biology lab. There he is pleasantly surprised to discover that Y13 is really a girl named Lucy. Lucy is played by 19-year old Gabriella Farinon. Italian-born Farinon would have a sporadic career, with just eleven roles spread over 17 years, none of them notable. I was shocked to find out that she was just 19, as she looks fifteen years older in this movie. Lucy plays her part coy and distant most time, but with an undercurrent of emotion just below the surface. She's not a very pretty girl, but the low quality of the film image might have something to do with that.
Lucy is actually the station's navigator, she's just here in the lab because she likes to tinker with the plants. We see there are two small short boxes with flowering plants in them. Lucy explains to Ray, who should know this, that the plants help scrub the air and produce oxygen. I sure hope they have more plants than this, I don't think those two small boxes are going to do much good on a station this big.
Ray, being an arrogant American, immediately starts to hit on Lucy, telling her all about his surfer dude haircut and his bulging biceps and how Anita Ekberg could never satisfy him like she could.
Lucy, compare her to...
He even asks if she is "selling those flowers" because if so then he wants to "buy one and give it back to her". Lucy deflects most of the icky come-on crap but you can tell she is somewhat receptive. I hate these movies where the woman instantly falls in love with the hero before she knows anything about him. There is nothing more excruciating to watch than a forced romantic subplot.
We now have one of those interludes that makes no sense except as a way for the filmmakers to show us some of their "special" effects. We see that pilot Al has been asked by the Commander to take Ray on a little tour of a nearby asteroid belt. So they jump in "Space Taxi B91", which is this little open-top rocket thingie. They just sit in a little open cockpit and zip along, still in their spacesuits. Ray has this hugeass video camera, cutting edge for 1960 but terribly bulky for even 2005 standards, let alone 2116. Al is explaining to Ray that "all the asteroids are 1,700 feet in diameter" when the call comes to return to the station. Really? Since when are all asteroids a uniform size?
Whee! I'm an astronaut!
Back aboard, Ray learns that some of the crew is leaving with the Commander back to Mars. He's more upset to learn that dreamy Lucy might be leaving than the fact that he's not invited. So Ray calls his newspaper, who calls High Command, who orders the Commander to take him along. The Commander is understandably furious at this, raging and ranting, but has no choice.
We stay with Lucy and the Commander now as the others leave, and they talk about why he wants to leave her off the crew heading back to Earth. He claims that he needs a Radio Operator more than a Navigator, but you can tell he just wants to keep her out of harm's way. Lucy correctly points this out and eventually he agrees to take her along. We clearly note a hint of love between these two, or perhaps just a close "special friendship with benefits". Two things, what the hell? Is no one here cross-trained? Can no one else operate the radio other than the "official Radio Operator"? I would think that having people that specialized would be a liability in space. And also, we don't know this yet, but by picking Lucy, the Commander just signed the death warrant for the Radio Operator.
Lucy has a bit of temper.
So the BZ88 leaves for the long (but short on screen) trip back to Mars. Aboard are Ray, the Commander and Lucy, and Al and Archie, who along with Al was the crew of the ship from before. Immediately I begin to fear for Archie's life, as he is clearly the most expendable of the five if there is any action to be seen. He might as well be wearing a Federation Security Ensign red shirt.
As they approach Mars, they come across a "Moonship" in distress. The Moonship MS13, apparently some sort of interplanetary cargo freighter, ran into a magnetic storm and has suffered an engineering casualty. The engines are down, the hull is breeched, one of the crew is dead, and the ship is slowly being pulled down by Mars' gravity.
Ok, what happens next is a bit confusing as the editing sucks donkey logs. The crew of the Moonship prepare to get in their spacesuits and "bail out". Suddenly, the moon Phobos "crosses their path", causing them to change their plan. Right, like a large moon can just sneak up on you like that.
In quick succession we get two of the greatest special effect shots of all time. I'm telling you, Industrial Light and Magic are chumps compared to the fine crew of experts who worked on this masterpiece of a film. First we see one of the Moonship crew (a dude named David) decide to bail out regardless of the danger and leap out of the ship to fall to the surface of Phobos. This is shown via a little action figure tossed into a mud puddle filmed from above. Seriously, that's exactly what it looks like.
The jumper there right center.
The second shot is more stunning and Oscar-worthy. As the doomed Moonship crashes into Phobos, we get a one second insert shot of a massive explosion. Cool, you say, but something about that explosion looks wrong. Through the miracle of DVD slo-mo and pause, you see that the explosion clip was stolen from some crime drama where the mafia blew up some stoolie's car before he could rat to the feds. I made that up, but indeed the clip is of a Chevy sedan blowing up on a paved street!!!!!! You can see another car in the foreground and a line of apartment buildings in the background. For some reason (lack of money, lack of time, lack of concern) they couldn't be bothered to find a stock footage explosion from some other space movie and so just used the first boom shot they could find. Oh, George Lucas, eat your heart out, you are in the presence of greatness!
So, somehow they know that David the jumper is still alive on the surface of Phobos. Despite the fact that earlier the Commander was willing to sacrifice one of his own crew (his girlfriend no less) to save 500 gallons of fuel, now he decides to deviate from his mission to save this dude. While noble, this action is totally out of character for him and makes me think that they want us to believe that the Commander has had a "change of heart" at some point since he left the station and is now a kind and caring guy. Since we don't actually get any scenes where this transformation takes place, it just seems contrived and has no emotional impact on us.
Like all 1950s spaceships, the BZ88 lands by turning around and descending vertically to land nose up. This just looks so dumb and dangerous in all these movies, I don't see why they can't at least have nice long extended landing struts or something instead of seemingly landing on the jet nozzles. Ray and Al go out in their spacesuits and wander through some rocky terrain that looks suspiciously like the hills north of Rome, and find the limp form of David the jumper amongst the rocks. They carry him back aboard and the ship takes off.
David is badly injured, but the Commander tells Ray that they can't waste time to drop him off at Mars, because they are now going on to Venus. Ray gets all preachy again and the Commander reverts to looking like a bastard again. Wow, Ray is really channeling Ivan Drago from Rocky IV here. Scary. And why did the Commander even try to save the man if he knew he was going to have to divert to Venus? It just makes his supposed change of heart even more unbelievable. But time is of the essence, and the life of David the jumper is nothing compared to the situation that brought them all here.
The Commander now finally decides to tell Ray what is going on. It seems that the spaceship Alpha 2 has a problem. The pilot (apparently there is only one crewman) has died and the ship is being run by a faulty electronic brain. Alpha 2 is powered by "photonic energy", which is some newfangled technology I assume. Two photonic generators, one on each end of the ship, provide the power, but also give off a ton of heat and radiation. So much heat, in fact, that anything within a 5,000 mile radius (!!!) of the ship is fried. Hmm...I assume they turn it off when they are landing and taking off. [Editor Pam: They better, or they're going to be very unwelcome. Wait a minute, they have to, otherwise nobody could leave or enter the spaceship. This sounds like a really poor design to me. Even if they can turn off the radiation, what happens if the pilot drops dead of a heart attack the moment before he has to do it or something important will get zapped, which seems to be about what happened here? There ought to be some sort of backup system to turn it off, especially if they insist on crewing a spaceship with only one person.]
The bigger problem is that for some unexplained reason the ship is headed back to Earth under autopilot. Once in Earth orbit, the photonic radiation will roast the planet, turning it into "boiling mud". This is very bad for the survival of the species.
Our intrepid crew and the BZ88 are now "humanity's last hope". They're going to Venus because it's the "nearest point to the elliptical path of Alpha 2". Ok, then why were they going to Mars in the beginning? Did they not realize that the rogue spaceship was headed for Earth until they were en route to Mars? If not, then don't you think they would have said they were headed straight for Venus to begin with? Am I thinking about this too much? It also sounds like the BZ88 is the only capable starship in the galaxy, kinda like all those Star Trek episodes where the Enterprise was the "only ship in the quadrant to stop that episode's terrible alien menace". That always bugged the hell out of me, you can't tell me that the Federation Navy was spread so thin that there was only one ship per quadrant most times. They massed an impressive fleet to face the Borg on two occasions, why was Kirk or Picard always forced to save the galaxy alone? I digress.
We now get another strange interlude scene, this one strikingly out of place. We see Ray and Lucy on the ship looking at what's clearly the Earth on a monitor. She's saying she can see the continents and he's humorously saying he can even see the trees and butterflies. He then tells her that today is Christmas!!!! And we get four seconds of a Christmas carol ("Deck the Halls") on the soundtrack as the BZ88 flies through across the screen!!! I'm 95% sure that this scene was supposed to be at the very end of the movie, but for some reason (pacing concerns, story flow, or freebased heroin) the editors decided to insert it here instead. Perhaps they needed to show us that Ray and Lucy are falling in love, which was not too clear before.
Ah, sweet love.
So now they arrive at Venus. Apparently, Venus looks just like the surface of the moon, all rocky and dry. I guess in 1960 no one really knew too much about Venus, Mariner 2 wouldn't get there until two years later. The colony is under a dome structure to protect them against "too much nitrogen in the atmosphere". Oddly, they had the nitrogen thing right as Venus has about twice the level of Earth.
The Venus base has a battery of "remote controlled atomic missiles" that they will use to try and shoot down Alpha 2 as it passes close by. Our crew goes to a headquarters of sorts inside the dome to watch the coming action. It's curious that this Venus base would have such obvious offensive nuclear weaponry. It perhaps speaks to the geopolitical conditions of the solar system in 2116, of which we only get scant hints. Is there a war in the solar system, or some conflict that would result in colonies being so well-armed? Are there competing space navies out there? [Editor Pam: Shooting it down wouldn't help, if there's enough radiation being produced to turn the whole Earth into boiling mud. A better idea would be to divert it in a direction where it would float harmlessly away from any inhabited planets.]
So the first missile is fired off, tracked by the base radars. At about 5,000 miles out from Alpha 2, the missile explodes in a sparking puff of smoke. Hmm...were they expecting anything else? Didn't they already establish that the photonic sphere extended 5,000 miles and that it was hot enough to scorch the planet? Why did they think that this missile had a chance?
Cute little missile there.
A second atomic missile is now fired (perhaps others as well, the dialogue is murky). This missile is unexpectedly tracked to within 2,200 miles of Alpha 2 before exploding. Hmmm...they all wonder, what just happened here?
It's grizzled space dog Al who comes up with the answer, seemingly out of thin air. He suggests that the ship's two photonic generators have formed two separate energy spheres with a "passage or channel" running down the middle. This is ridiculous, of course, because it assumes that heat is directional and somehow won't merge, like two magnets repelled by each other. It also assumes that the heat and radiation field completely dissipate at a sharply defined distance limit. Ray describes it as "two halves of an orange", which is just about the best description, other than "two halves of unbelievable crap". [Editor Pam: Amen to that.]
Nice diagram, very scientific.
Al says they need to fly a ship alongside the Alpha 2, matching its speed exactly, and fire a missile right down the passage. He's sure that if aimed properly, a missile could get in to destroy the ship, it just might take a few tries. There's an "old atomic spaceship" here on Venus, one armed with atomic missiles, that Al volunteers to pilot himself. The ship is called the TS13, though the Commander slips up once and calls it the TK13.
So the BZ88 takes off from Venus to follow Al on his mission. Now, the problem is that clearly no one involved with Assignment: Outer Space actually watched the Man in Space series, because if they did then they would have known that the ship was designed to break apart into stages whenever it left a base, with only the delta-winged return capsule doing the flying between planets. From here on, however, the entire ship, booster stages and all, flies intact. They even land and take off from Phobos and Venus without changing configuration. If you assume that they thought that Venus had no atmosphere, then I guess then that they thought that the fuel requirements for leaving Venus would be less. But they still have to overcome the gravity of the planet, which would take a lot of energy. I really need to stop thinking this hard about this movie.
Anyway, the TS13 looks like a plastic carrot with four D-cell batteries glued onto the sides. Al is the sole person onboard. It's armed with atomic missiles, which maybe suggests that it's a warship, which would again make us wonder just how peaceful this corner of the galaxy really is.
We next leave our ships to see that Alpha 2 is now headed right for space station ZX34!!! Apparently, it bounced off that asteroid field and its orbit was changed. Sullivan, the second in command left behind to run the station, glumly reports that collision is unavoidable and they are toast.
Ok, what the holy hell? Earlier it was established that Alpha 2 was "now within our own solar system", and also that the station was way, way out in deep space. So what the hell just happened? Clearly, the editors were out to lunch (or out of money more likely) and thought we wouldn't notice. I think they realized that they needed to make the Alpha 2 danger more personal, and to have it kill off some characters we already met would dramatically raise the tension.
Then again, maybe the entire scene where the station is destroyed was added just to give Al and the Commander some lameass dialogue to spout about how noble poor Sullivan was. Al intones, and I quote, "He was never afraid. This man, even in space never changes his position, but not his character." What the hell? The Commander adds, and I again quote, "To himself, every man is a whole world." What the hell? Who wrote this script, a thousand monkeys on a thousand typewriters?
It seems that two lucky crewmen were outside in a space taxi doing maintenance work and Sullivan ordered them to fly away from the station to save themselves. We can do the math and determine that of the original seven-man crew, two are on the BZ88, two in the space taxi, leaving three to die in the flaming debris of the station. Sullivan's last request is for the Commander to rescue the two men on the taxi.
We also get our first look at the Alpha 2 in this scene as it destroys the station. It's a longish needle-shaped spaceship, with several spheres of various sizes along its length. It's hard to gauge size without a reference, but I'm assuming that it's about the same size as the BZ88. I don't recognize the model, but I'm sure it's from a much better movie than this one.
The Alpha 2.
So they go after the two men in the space taxi, finding them quickly. So I assume then that the space station was not out in deep space afterall (even though they explicitly told us it was in the opening dialogue of the movie). The men are pulled aboard and are met in the airlock by the Commander. He calls them by their names (Barry and Jackson) and says he's glad they are alive. The two men are shocked that the Commander is now a softy, and "even remembered our names".
Al in the TS13 is now in position and he starts firing off atomic missiles one at a time to try and pinpoint the exact location of the passage. Hmmm...isn't there an easier way? Don't they have some sort of directional thermometer or something that they could use? The first missile blows up at 3,000 miles, but the second missile makes it all the way to 200 miles before winking out.
So now Al has a good idea where the passage is. Maybe he's out of missiles, maybe he's just out of patience, but for whatever reason Al chooses to use his spaceship as a kamikaze. The others try and talk him out of it, begging him to turn around before it's too late. Al just says, "What would be the use of living if the Earth is destroyed? We'd all be prisoners in space with no hope of return." Hmm...yes, but at least you'd be alive and able to help rebuild civilization. For a moment it looks like he just might make it there alive, but we know he's doomed for we know that in the end any Planet Saving will be done by hunky Ray and Ray alone. Al's ship makes it to within a few hundred miles before grazing the edge of a sphere and exploding brightly into a cascade of sparks.
Aboard the BZ88 the mood is sad and heavy. Lucy says that "love has no meaning anymore." To which the Commander replies, "The world of human feelings has been much less explored than the whole of the universe put together." Wow, man, that was deep. Too bad you read that line like you were ordering a cornbeef and hash on rye at the deli counter.
It's Ray who comes up with the brilliant plan to take the drifting space taxi and attempt the passage himself. He goes to put on his spacesuit, determined to give up his life to try and save humanity. The Commander follows him and tells him that Lucy loves him now and he has to save himself for her. Or some such tripe, I really didn't understand what he was rambling about.
Perhaps as annoyed with this banal monologue on love and remorse as we are, Ray punches out the Commander in a lame slo-mo shot meant to simulate zero gravity. Ray then heads out the airlock and floats to the space taxi.
Curiously, the taxi is "orbiting the ship" which doesn't make any sense. Surely the ship wouldn't produce enough of a gravity to attract its own satellites, right? The visual we get is of the taxi making circles around the ship's midsection at about 100 feet at a fast clip. This actually looks dumber than it sounds.
So there Ray goes, cruising along through this narrow channel towards either legendary hero status or horrible flaming death. To assure it's the former rather than the latter, Ray has to somehow "locate the invisible walls" of the passage. In one of the more unique but badly-thought-out scenes, he starts to toss things out of the taxi to the left and right! By watching where the items burst into flames he can get a rough idea of where the walls are. The optical effects are lame beyond words, just small firecrackers set off to either side of the little space taxi model as it is pulled on a wire across the backdrop.
Back aboard the ship, we get several intercut shots of the crew watching. The Commander urges Ray on with droll monotonous words. Watch Lucy's face here, I know she's supposed to be all conflicted and nervous, but she looks like she's having an orgasm.
Goodness, she's definitely in love!
So Ray is still throwing bits and pieces of the "mechanic's tool kit" and everything else that's not bolted down. He even throws his autographed framed copy of Anita Ekberg in a g-string.
When he runs out of everything, he pulls the "air regulator" off of his suit and tosses it! Dumbass.
Ray makes it to Alpha 2 and goes inside the airlock. Inside, he finds the dead pilot and goes to shut off the electronic brain. Not really knowing what to do (he's just a reporter, afterall) Ray can only cut all the power cables he can find. It works, and the power dies, along with the electronic brain, the photonic engines and the threat to humanity. Lucy gushes, "The nightmare is over!" Woo-hoo!
Ah, but along with everything else, the power to the airlock is out. Ray is trapped in the Alpha 2, which is now entering the gravitational field of Earth and is speeding up. Soon it will burn up in the atmosphere, taking Ray along with it. Hmmm...no pneumatic backups in case of power failures? No mechanical explosive bolts to eject the airlock door? No emergency battery reserve for just these occasions? Who builds these spaceships?
The Commander opens the throttles and rockets in with the BZ88, determined to save Ray. A call from High Command on Earth orders them to disengage, but the Commander turns off the radio, he's "not taking orders anymore". They're going to have to float over to Alpha 2 and cut their way through the hull to Ray. Who will win this race? We know who wins. The Commander, along with Barry and Jackson, float over to the Alpha 2 and start cutting on the airlock with a torch. Hmm...no manual backups on the outside of the door either?
Inside, Ray is beginning to hallucinate as his oxygen mixture gets too rich (remember he tossed out his regulator before?). He sees Anita Ekberg coming towards him in a red leather bustier...
Lucy tries to calm him down over the radio, to keep him talking. Ray starts blabbering, "What's the use of trying to save the world if I'm to be lost myself?" Hmm...it's called noble self-sacrifice, it's what heroes are supposed to do with unflinching courage in these types of movies. Ray didn't get that memo apparently.
Just as Ray passes out, they cut through the door. They grab him and the four of them float back to the BZ88. They enter the ship and Lucy steps on the gas to get them out of the atmosphere just in time. Behind them the Alpha 2 burns up in the stratosphere, undoubtedly raining a shower of flaming debris over some unlucky part of the planet.
Saving Ray's lunk ass.
Our closing scene is Ray and Lucy exchanging some icky love words and some meaningful stares. Kill me.
The end, thanks for reading.
Hey, what about poor David the jumper? Isn't he still bleeding to death in the ship? Did he die? Somebody should maybe go check on him, eh?
BTW, hot stock tip for you all. In one quick shot of an instrument panel, we see that a gauge was made by the "Weston Electronic Instrument Corporation of Newark, New Jersey, USA". Weston is a real company, founded in 1888 and now known as Weston Aerospace. As the film proves, this company will still be in operation in the year 2116, which is nearly 112 years from today. So buy some stock in Weston and sit back and let it grow, and when your grandkids are adults they can be freaking rich.
Written in May 2005 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda.
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that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...
Subject: Italian space opera- good cheesy fun. Major black character!
I thought this was pretty good alongside similar movies of the time and genre. Some actors did a fantastic job of mimicking weightlessness- not easy to do convincingly. A pretty sincere effort to do a convincing space adventure. The plot centered around space science stuff. Of course, it's sexist, but not outrageously so. And as for racism- there's a major, sympathetic, non-comic black character. Pretty rare for this time. He wouldn't have appeared in an American movie. Still, his hair and eyebrows were oddly bleached white. Was he a space-improved black man, or something?
Of course, we know what happens to black characters in horror and sci-fi movies, right? *sigh*
Pretty interesting, and less goofy than most of these kinds of flicks.
Subject: Worthwhile Upgrade
An excellent image quality and format upgrade, but this still is the same old turkey with inane, histrionoic dialog, stolid acting and an absurd plot with plenty of obvious holes. On the plus side this is one of the few sci fi flicks which tried to simulate weightlessness, and listening to actors spout gobbledygook science is always fun.