Tuesday, November 29, 2011

WILD, WILD PLANET

I finally got my hands on Warner Archive's edition of the first movie in director Antonio Margheriti's "Gamma 1" Italian space opera quadrilogy, WILD, WILD PLANET (1965), and, I have to say, it certainly lives up to its bombastic title.

A mad scientist named Dr. Nurmi (Massimo Serato) is conducting illegal bio-engineering experiments for his employers, the CBM Corporation, kidnapping dozens of Earth VIPs in a conspiracy to create a new breed of superior human. The kidnappings are conducted by beautiful female androids - and their black-clad, four-armed, bald, sunglass-sporting, synthetic helpers - who shrink their targets down to the size of old G.I. Joe dolls, and stash them into briefcases for easy transport. This is obviously a problem, so the United Democracies Space Command (UDSC) assigns space station Gamma 1's square-jawed Commander Mike Halstead (Tony Russell) to investigate the bizarre abductions. The investigation becomes personal when the oily Dr. Nurmi determines that Halstead's main squeeze, Lt. Connie Gomez (Lisa Gastoni), is a "perfect specimen," and lures her to his secret laboratory on the mysterious planetoid, Delphos....

WILD, WILD PLANET is a colorful, low-budget interplanetary comic strip adventure, packed to overflowing with (appropriately) wild sci-fi ideas and early-60s "mod" atmosphere. As with the other films in the cycle (WAR BETWEEN THE PLANETS, WAR OF THE PLANETS, THE SNOW DEVILS, all of which were shot back-to-back by Margheriti with WILD, WILD PLANET), the flick moves along at a lively pace, is filled with cheaply-executed special effects, and packed with lovely European starlets. The story is ridiculous, of course, and the dubbed dialogue is patently banal (and often unintentionally hilarious), but... you know, ultimately, it's cool, unpretentious, corny fun.

Interesting casting note: handsome Franco Nero (ENTER THE NINJA) appears in a supporting role as one of Commander Halstead's spaceman sidekicks, just a year or so before his starmaking turn in the Spaghetti Western classic, DJANGO.

The manufacture-on-demand DVD-R from Warner Archive sports a nice, relatively clean, 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, and Dolby 2.0 mono audio. While neither audio nor video are exactly pristine, the flick looks quite good, and the dubbed dialogue and musical score by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino sound fine. There are no extras on this disc, not even the entertaining trailer (which you can be easily found and enjoyed on YouTube).

WILD, WILD PLANET is an enjoyably offbeat and entertaining Sixties space opera. I loved it. Recommended.

BUYWild; Wild Planet