Wild Wild Planet (1965) a.k.a. I Criminali Della Galassia
A deranged scientist is using his employer's top-secret bio-laboratory to engage in clandestine eugenics experiments. When he starts kidnapping leading citizens for use in his twisted tests, it's up to rogue cop Mike Halstead to come to the rescue of all and sundry, including his lady friend Connie, who is also being held captive by the madman.
Tony Russel ... Commander Mike Halstead (as Tony Russell)
Lisa Gastoni ... Lt. Connie Gomez
Massimo Serato ... Mr. Nurmi
Carlo Giustini ... Ken, Lieutenant (as Charles Justin)
Franco Nero ... Jake, Lieutenant
Enzo Fiermonte ... General Fowler
Umberto Raho ... General Paul Maitland (as Bert Raho)
Vittorio Bonos ... Anton Fryd, as a dwarf (as Victor Bonos)
Aldo Canti (as Aldo Kant)
Franco Doria (as Frank Doris)
Margherita Horowitz ... Mrs. Fowler (as Margaret Horowitz)
Carlo Kechler ... Werner (as Karl Mechler)
Rodolfo Lodi ... Claridge (as Rudolph Lodin)
Renato Montalbano ... Detective
Piero Pastore (as Peter Pastor)
This is one of the undisputed camp classics of science fiction, right up there with Queen of Outer Space. The future, it turns out, will look very much like a mid-sixties Paris catwalk! There are some stunningly beautiful women wearing amazing clothes and mile high bouffants in this 'science crime fiction' tale of illicit medical experiments carried out on a space station. The story is nothing to write home about, but who cares when there's so much eye candy on screen? The bad guys---you'll know who they are because they wear black leather overcoats and sunglasses---are just an added treat in this retro delight.
Not a bad variation of THE MYSTERIANS crossed with BRAVE NEW WORLD with little WESTWORLD tossed in. I have to say the sets were pretty darn impressive in design for such a low low budget. How many indies have we all sat through that don't even try? Seriously, it surprises me that so many people can see the entertainment value in current day schlock like SKY CAPTAIN, BLADE:TRINITY or THE FORGOTTEN but don't get as big a kick out of vintage stuff like WILD WILD PLANET. For me, I'd rather see it in a low budget film than in a crass Studio product (emphasis on "Product"). But, hey, I loved THE APPLE!
Director Anthony Margheriti was a prolific Italian filmmaker who did a series of 60's SF films and WILD WILD PLANET may have been the best. The film is slow in developing, and you have to question such an extensive use of miniatures when they rarely work (if at all). Still, it's a reminder that it's too bad Italy (and really the rest of the world outside of Asia) have basically given up on trying to compete with the U.S. in the SF genre.
- The plot gets a bit muddled, but I'll give it a go. A mad scientist is trying to create a superior race. To do this, he has his henchmen kidnap and shrink his victims to the size of a Barbie doll. The "dolls" are then transported to his research facility for . . . I'm not sure what. Anyway, the scientists picks the wrong woman when he kidnaps the girlfriend of a space commander. He and his buddies go looking for the mad doctor's lair.
- Antonio Margheriti made several of films I really enjoy - The Virgin of Nuremberg and Castle of Blood immediately come to mind. I cannot, however, include Wild, Wild Planet on the list of my favorite Margheriti films. If I had any inkling of an idea why the mad doctor was kidnapping and shrinking people then I might have enjoyed it more. I'm not asking for the movie to come out and spoon-feed me all of the plot points, just have a plot that's coherent.
- The mad doctor's henchmen are about as un-threatening as a basket of puppies. The henchmen work in pairs - one is a beautiful woman with a beehive hairdo while the other is a bald, black trench coat wearing guy. The henchmen look more like 60s European models than evil kidnappers.
- The sets are obviously made of miniatures. A couple of the scenes are unintentionally hilarious. The first involves a small flying craft that maneuvers around the city. Ed Wood's hubcap on a string doesn't look to bad in comparison. The second is a shot of a futuristic land vehicle that runs of the road and catches fire. The tiny fire looks like someone lit a couple of matches. It's really bizarre to see.
Somehow the Medved brothers missed this little puppy when they were giving out the Golden Turkey Awards. Shame, because it lives down to the worst of the Ed Wood oeuvre. MGM released this movie as "The Wild, Wild Planet" here in the USA, instead of translating the original Italian title (literally "The Criminals of the Galaxy"). This little jewel opens with a neat diorama of someone's idea of a space base, complete with V-10 Nazi surplus rockets and CH-47 helicopter models traveling around on monorails instead of rotors, all shot in a dark enclosed studio - the sort of thing we know and love from Toho, Ltd.'s long line of monster films. And as such, it's a neat little set.
But in this case, the actors are mainly Italian (where are the cheesy German monster flicks, I ask you? Were the former Axis powers made to do penance by humiliating themselves with these cheap-jack "B" films?). We see a fair attempt at portraying an orbital rendezvous between a space transport and a spare tire-like space station, in which no one explained to the producer that you have to slow the ship down by thrusting in the direction you want to stop, then some outer space ballet in Halloween costume space suits.
The production values aren't so bad - the props are well done, the cinematography is rock-steady, but the acting and dialogue is Habitat for Humanity - wooden and amateurish. A lot of the dialogue could be due to dubbing for the English-language release of the film, but that doesn't explain the acting. The costumes... well, this IS an Italian film. It's possible they used off-the-rack clothing from Italy in the 1960s for the wussy science-fictiony uniforms and futuristic civilian clothes, which doesn't account for the fact that the cops all wear foot-wide leather kidney belts over their chi-chi uniforms. Maybe space cops have to finish off every shift in the weight room in Italy.
I'm not going to spoil the plot for you all. That would be a shame. Just know that there are prodigies of bad acting and lame dialogue galore in this film. For those of you who groove on le cine mal - more like "le cine puante" in this case, this is an hour and a half very well spent. Name a failing of a spaghetti western or a Japanese monster flick and it's here. That's either a warning or an endorsement, depending on what you're in the mood for.
Massimo Serato has revealed a hitherto unknown side here - he comes across as the Italian Boris Karloff, while Tony Russel shows that you can actually learn to act like William Shatner with a straight face if you try hard enough. None of the cast really distinguish themselves here. Franco Nero is wasted as a lieutenant to the dashing spaceship commander.
There are bits and pieces of a good movie here. The prop master really earned his money - the sets are polished and realistic looking, not cheesy at all (except for the exterior shots of the "space port" with the anemic butane lighters simulating engines in the spaceships, the kit-bashed helicopter models serving as monorail cabs and the future cars with beeg fins and bubble canopy).
It's a fun thing - so bad that it parodies itself. Watch it if you really need some chuckles.
# While filming, a crack in the pool while filled with "blood" originated a leak, so people in the neighborhood suddenly saw blood-like red-colored water coming out from their taps
# Criminali della galassia, I (1965), Diafanoidi vengono da Marte, I (1966), Pianeta errante, Il (1966) and Morte viene dal pianeta Aytin, La (1967) (the "Gamma One Quadrilogy") were filmed all at the same time, in order to save money.