Saturday 5 March 2011

Wild, Wild Planet (1965)

I've never been a believer in the concept of the 'so bad it's good' movie.  To my mind, if a film is bad it is generally a chore to sit through, liable to make you feel more exasperated than entertained.  Take the films of Edward D. Wood Jr as an example.  PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1958) is routinely cited as one of the worst films of all time, one that has to be seen to be believed.  While it's certainly true that it is amateurish in the extreme and the acting and effects are of a dismally low standard, for those very reasons it is also very difficult to sit through.  Simply put, it's boring; boring because the director has no idea how to tell a story, create tension, drama, thrills or anything else.  And in my experience, that's true of pretty much all 'bad' films.

Which brings me to WILD, WILD PLANET, which was directed by Antonio Margheriti and was originally titled I criminali della galassia ("The Criminals of the Galaxy"), which is a much better title.  However, this was one of several films part financed by MGM Studios for US television and therein lies the problem.  TV movies have lower budgets than their cinema counterparts and are more constrained in what they can show.  So if you're making a sci-fi film about a mad scientist who conducts horrific medical procedures, the last things you need are a low budget and a limit on what you can show.

Unfortunately, Margheriti doesn't quite have the imagination to overcome these hurdles and, no doubt with one eye on his next job, does no more than the bare minimum.  The result is a film which is memorable only for the inept staging of the effects sequences which I feel it is my duty to recount here.  First up is the bubble car, which looks barely big enough to carry one person, let alone two.

Then there is the universal military's headquarters, which looks more like a dentist's waiting room:

Or how about the one victim who managed to escaped the clutches of the evil aliens - you can tell he was attacked because he's become midgetised, thereby saving money on the effects budget:

Or these poor creatures, the horrifying results of the mad scientist's failed experiments (with putty?):

I think my favourite though is what the film-makers think people of the future will be doing for entertainment.  Apparently we'll all be standing around watching dancers dressed as insects:

But then again, I couldn't resist this still which neither I nor Commander Mike Halstead (played by American actor Tony Russel, in the blue jumpsuit) can make any sense of.  The two chaps on the left were in some kind of revolving personal sauna thing.

The one good thing is the model work.  By the standards of the time, and given the low budget these guys were clearly working to, the cityscape model work is quite good.  It only looks shoddy when someone swings a not-to-scale flying saucer over it on the end of a fishing rod.

There is one priceless line right at the end where Halstead says "Yeah, leave it to Maitland - he's sure to bollocks it up!"  I couldn't quite believe what I had heard first time around and had to go back and watch the scene again to make sure.  Could this be the first use of "bollocks" in an American-Italian co-production?  Groundbreaking stuff.

All of which may make the film sound more entertaining that it is.  These are simply the lowlights of 90 minute movie that compounds its budgetary limitations with a lazy, half-hearted attitude.  If the film makers couldn't be bothered to try, neither should you.

One point for cineastes to note is the presence in the cast of the future Mr Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero.

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