Monday, June 7, 2010

SUPERSONIC MAN / WAR OF THE ROBOTS

Two 70s European sci-fi rip-offs are paired up in this new double-feature disc from VCI - 1979's SUPERSONIC MAN and 1978's WAR OF THE ROBOTS (LA GUERRA DEI ROBOT).

Directed by Juan Piquer Simón (MYSTERY ON MONSTER ISLAND, PIECES), the Spanish-made SUPERSONIC MAN chronicles the adventures of a spaceborn superhero who comes to Earth to battle the evil machinations of a criminal mastermind named Dr. Gulik (played by "anything for hooch money" Cameron Mitchell). Posing as a reporter named Paul (Antonio Cantafora), and transforming into his heroic form of Kronos a/k/a Supersonic Man (bodybuilder José Luis Ayestarán) by uttering the words "May the Great Force of the Galaxy be with you" into his wristwatch, the caped crusader from space displays a prodigious array of powers, including flight, super strength, and the power to turn handguns into bananas (?).

WAR OF THE ROBOTS is one of several shoestring Spaghetti space operas directed by
Alfonso Brescia in the wake of STAR WARS' huge international success, and would be hilarious if it wasn't so dull. A scientist and his attractive assistant (Malisa Longo, MADAM KITTY) are kidnapped by a group of robots - androids, actually, in silver jumpsuits and blond, pageboy wigs. Valiant space captain Antonio Sabato (father of the star of the Asylum's PRINCESS OF MARS - see how it all comes around?) and his crew are dispatched to rescue them, and are soon engaged in one mind-numbingly boring adventure after another, culminating in the most prolonged, poorly-executed space battle that I've even seen.

Both movies are impoverished affairs, produced with evident enthusiasm but precious little skill or resources. In SUPERSONIC MAN, for instance, there's the special effects spaceship miniature cobbled together from various commercial model kits of the era (with parts clearly cribbed from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA "Cylon Raider" and SPACE: 1999 "Eagle Transporter" kits), the cardboard killer robot (that would have looked subpar in a 30s Poverty Row mad scientist chiller) and the infamous plywood bulldozer!

VCI's DVD features both movies on a single-sided disc, and presents the films in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Unfortunately, this doesn't appear to be the correct aspect ratio of either feature - in fact, it looks as if VCI took full-frame, pan & scan prints and matted them for widescreen TVs. This means that a great deal of visual information is covered or off-frame in both movies, though it's particularly noticeable in WAR OF THE ROBOTS. Both transfers show considerable grain and are somewhat soft. Audio is adequate Dolby Digital mono, but the English dubs are awful. The only extras are trailers for other VCI sci-fi releases: DARK STAR and ALIEN OUTLAW.

WAR OF THE ROBOTS is also available on various public domain DVD compilations from several budget labels.

SUPERSONIC MAN/WAR OF THE ROBOTS is worth picking up if you're a fan of Continental genre knock-offs, but, frankly, both films are a bit of a slog, even for fans of this kind of stuff.

BUY: Supersonic Man / War of the Robots (Dol Amar)