Monday, April 20, 2009

Virtual Film Fetival Series: Selected Italian Affronts to Science Fiction, 1979-1983

Introducing the first in a new series of virtual film festivals, where I choose a few complete films available online for embedding, and which share common traits.

Today's theme is Italian science fiction of the late 1970's and early 1980's, particularly those of the genre made in complete disregard of believable science, yet unlike such American counterparts as Superman IV: the Quest for Peace, which contemptuously condescend to their audiences and refuse to even thank them for their money, these Italian epics all retain an escapist charm that has lingered in the hearts of fans for decades.

It's easy to make fun of "master thespian Lou Ferrigno," as Henry Owings once characterized him in reference to this film, but one wonders if Ferrigno found the role so boldly over-the-top that it was irresistible. I would not have turned the role down, if I were him.

Corinne Clery, past Bond girl and star of The Story of O, supports "Captain America" TV movie star Reb Brown in a story of primitive humans living among dinosaurs and discovering the truth of their high-tech ancestors in what I affectionately call my very favorite "stupid" movie.

Hammer film star and Clery's fellow Bond alumnus Caroline Munro is Stella Starr, the best pilot in the galaxy and the last hope of billions to stop a maniacal count from imposing his tyranny. Having proved at least adequate in her previous roles, Munro, along with former child evangelist Marjoe Gortner and a not-quite-overtly embarrassed Christopher Plummer(!) appears to have been deliberately directed to deliver a campy performance befitting a script that was obviously beyond her influence. I honestly don't know if the British starlet is actually speaking with an American accent or if her lines are dubbed. Most people at the time and ever since have assumed this film was simply a cheap ripoff of Star Wars but the achievement is much closer to the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials of the 1930's, and produced for a fraction of what Dino de Laurentis spent making Flash Gordon in 1979.

I don't think I'll have any regular intervals for these virtual film festivals but I'm sure it won't be long before I post a new one.

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