Wednesday, March 7, 2012

#569. War Between the Planets (1966)

Directed By: Antonio Margheriti

Starring: Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Ombretta Colli, Enzo Fiermonte

Tag line: "The Earth is Scourged by Floods, Earthquakes and Disasters..."

Trivia:  In Germany, this film was released as ORION 3000 - SPACE OF HORROR

War Between the Planets is an entry in what's become known as director Antonio Margheriti's “Gamma One Space Quadrilogy”, four science fiction films produced in Italy in the mid-1960s, then distributed in the United States by MGM Studios. Of these four (which include Wild Wild Planet, War of the Planets and Snow Devils), War Between the Planets is the only one I've seen, and if the others are anything like it, I'm in no rush to check them out. 

The Earth's weather patterns are being disrupted by a mysterious gravitational force emanating from outer space, and its up to Rod Jackson (Giacomo Rossi Stuart), Commander of the United Democracies Space Organization, to straighten things out. While investigating the phenomenon on Space Station Gamma One, Jackson and his second-in-command, Lt. Terry Sanchez (Ombretta Colli), detect a previously-unknown asteroid streaming through the solar system. Believing it to be responsible for the chaos back on earth, Jackson and Sanchez lead a select group of astronauts on a dangerous mission to destroy the asteroid with an anti-matter bomb, thus saving the earth from total annihilation. 

It wasn't so much the cheesy effects in War Between the Planets that bothered me; on the contrary, I thought they added a bit of character to the film (and I especially liked the futuristic cars, a la George Jetson, everyone was driving around in). Where the movie fell apart was in the way it handled its characters, and the relationships between them. It's pointless to criticize these early sci-fi pictures for tossing a love story into the mix, seeing as damn near every one of them did so. In War Between the Planets, however, its not just a love story we have to contend with, but a love triangle! Rod is obviously smitten with Lt. Sanchez, yet, at the same time, is being pushed into a relationship with Janet (Halina Zalewska), the daughter of his commanding officer, General Norton (Enzo Fiermonte). To further complicate matters, Janet accompanies her father on his trip to the Space Station to check up on the troops, bringing even more pressure down on poor Commander Jackson (as if he didn't have enough on his plate, what with the possible destruction of the earth and all). 

I can deal with visible wires helping “weightless” astronauts float through space, but the romantic subplot in War Between the Planets rubbed me the wrong way, especially since nearly half the film was dedicated to it. Even by '60s standards, the introduction of this convoluted love story into an apocalyptic sci-fi tale was utterly ridiculous.

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