SciFi Classics 50-movie Pack, Disc 9

The Astral Factor, 1976, color, John Florea (dir.), Robert Foxworth, Stefanie Powers, Sue Lyon, Elke Sommer, Leslie Parrish, Marianna Hill, Cesare Danova. 1:36.

IMDB says The Astral Factor was a working title, with Invisible Strangler the final title. In any case, it’s an odd little movie with a cast better than it deserves. Foxworth is a detective; Powers is his girlfriend (there strictly as eye candy, apparently, unfortunately given that she’s a decent actress). The rest of the women…well, a prisoner at a state hospital has figured out how to turn himself invisible (and kill people with his deadly stare, but that’s secondary), escapes, and sets about killing the beautiful women who testified against him after he murdered his beautiful mother, with his insane conviction that all of the other women are also his mother. He also kills anybody who happens to be in his way, but does that with his magic stare (and I’m guessing he has to be visible for the stare to work; the women, he strangles invisibly). The transfer-to-invisibility visual is like a low-budget version of Star Trek’s transporter effect. Elke Sommer, drink always in hand, survives; the rest don’t. The movie? OK—probably better with a couple drinks under your belt. Not the high point of anyone’s career. Damaged print brings it down to $1.

The Galaxy Invader, 1985, color, Don Dohler (dir.), Richard Ruxton and other unknowns, including several Dohlers. 1:19.

An alien (with green rubbery skin, a glowing white ball, and a white ray gun invisibly powered by the ball) lands in the woods near a drunken redneck and family. College student spots the landing, gets professor involved. Various shenanigans involving the redneck’s family (who hate him), his redneck buddy promising riches, the professor and student, grabbing the ball, grabbing the alien, freeing the alien, and generally running around in the woods. Awful acting (a cast that mostly only shows up in other Dohler films, presumably all filmed with zero budgets), absurd screenplay, one decent special effect, and an ending that…well, “Independence Day” comes to mind, but probably not the one you’re thinking of. (Think country music, not scifi movies). And yet…for some reason, I found this inept pile of trash likeable. Damned if I know why, although there is one tiny bit of good scriptwriting: The professor (in shirtsleeves, no tie) and student go to get something to eat at the dive/roadhouse that’s nearby. The waitress offers menus if they’d like them and takes drink orders. The prof asks whether he can get a vodka martini on the rocks, shaken, not stirred. Waitress: “No.” Prof: “How about a beer?” Waitress: “Sure.” That’s the highlight of the film…and yet it works. By any rational standard, not worth a dime; I give it $1, and can’t really explain why.

Battle of the Worlds (Il pianeta degli uomini spenti), 1961, color, Antonio Margheriti (dir.), Claude Rains, Bill Carter, Umberto Orsini, Maya Brent. 1:24.

One reasonably favorable review at IMDB calls this “very similar to When Worlds Collide.” Well, sure, in much the same way that hamburger is very similar to a good porterhouse: They’re both beef. Battle of the Worlds is a dubbed Italian flick with one name star, Claude Rains (in apparently his last movie role) as a bitter old genius scientist who can figure out everything through equations. He recognizes that a planetoid (“the unknown”) isn’t going to hit the Earth (as it first appears) but is instead going to go into a slowly declining orbit. Pretty decent special effects for the time, a truly strange interior section on the planetoid/spaceship, and a thoroughly empty ending. Not wonderful, not terrible. $1.

Unknown World, 1951, b&w, Terry O. Morse (dir.), Bruce Kellogg, Otto Waldis, Jim Bannon, Marilyn Nash, Victor Kilian (uncredited). 1:14.

Concerned scientists are sure that humanity’s about to blow itself up and want to find an underground refuge. They develop a “Cyclotram”—a nuclear-powered vehicle with a drill in front—and, thanks to funding from a useless young rich man looking for thrills, take off to seek out the refuge. They start out at Mt. Nelee, an extinct volcano in Alaska, and just keep going down, with various perils along the way. They find their refuge at an absurd depth (you didn’t know that the earth’s basically just a honeycomb of tunnels with temperature about the same all the way down to 2600 miles below the surface?), but Something in the Air means the test rabbits breed sterile. Some of the explorers make it back to the surface, thanks to that little-known portion of the ocean that’s 2600 miles deep. Most of this movie is actors walking around in Carlsbad Caverns, sort of like The Incredible Petrified World on disc 1. A bit boring, preachy and dull, but not terrible. $0.75.

Comments are closed.