Tuesday, March 25, 2014

War of the Robots (Koala Cinematografica, Nais Film, 1978)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2014 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

I ran Charles a 1978 sci-fi film from Italy (“ConDor never ends!” he joked) called War of the Robots, which I was expecting to be pretty tacky and it was. The star was Antonio Sabato, Sr. (whom Charles had first seen in the 1966 film Grand Prix and was startled at how much he looked like his briefly more famous son), and the film was so confusing it took about 35 minutes for its plot to emerge, but eventually it did. Sabato, who along with leading lady Yanti Somer was one of the few people who actually got billed under the name their parents gave them — this was an Italian production but most of the cast and crew were billed under “Anglicized” versions of their names (director Alfonso Brescia was called “Al Bently” and his co-writer, Aldo Crudo, was “Alan Rawton”) — plays John Boyd, captain of a starship whose base is about to blow up because the nuclear reactor they rely on for power has gone critical, it will melt down in three hours and the only person who knows how to stop it is its inventor, Professor Wilkes (Massimo Righi, a.k.a. “Max Wright”), who’s disappeared. It turns out he’s been abducted by aliens from the planet Anthor (or was it “Amthor”? The lousy sound recording on the English-dubbed soundtrack didn’t help), along with his assistant Lois (Malisa Longo, a.k.a. “Melissa Long”).

So John Boyd takes his spaceship out looking for them and on his way stumbles onto the planet Azar, whose ruler Kuba (Aldo Canti, a.k.a. “Nick Jordan”) initially mistakes the Earthlings for Anthorians and orders them executed because Azar and Anthor have been at war for generations. When Boyd convinces Kuba that they have as much reason to hate Anthorians as the Azarians do, Kuba (who I thought was the sexiest guy in the movie, even with his Lex Luthor/Mr. Clean shaved head, especially since he was introduced in a pair of tight swim trunks and nothing else, though I joked, “It’s just like California! They elect their musclemen as governors!”) goes along on Boyd’s spaceship and they have to deal with robots (it’s not entirely clear where they’re from, who’s controlling them or what they’re after) as well as the professor and Lois, who turn out to have changed sides (it seems like Brescia and Crudo had watched all those Republic serials in which the good-guy scientist’s brain is taken over by the bad guys and he’s forced to build infernal inventions for them); the professor persuaded the Anthorians to elect Lois as their empress when the incumbent died, and he’s planning to … well, it’s not clear what he’s planning to do, but this is the sort of movie that’s basically action porn anyway and it doesn’t really matter who’s who or what side they’re on.

Eventually Lois kills the professor and then dies herself (at least I think that’s what happened) but the good guys find the professor’s memory cards, which tell them how to turn off the reactor that’s threatening to blow up the space station, and all ends more or less happily, with Boyd pairing off with his severely butch first lieutenant Julie (Yanti Somer), whose hair is shorter than his and who looks totally uninterested in men. War of the Robots was apparently made in the wake of the mega-success of the first Star Wars, which re-established science fiction in general and space opera in particular as a salable movie genre, but it’s not really that much of a Star Wars knock-off; the two light-saber duels between humans and robots are the only elements Brescia and Crudo obviously and blatantly ripped off from the George Lucas movie. It actually seems that Brescia and Crudo were more influenced by Star Trek than Star Wars; indeed, one gets the impression that they took five Star Trek TV scripts and mashed them up together, more or less at random. At least there are a lot of nice-looking people of both sexes in this movie, all wearing what look like leather versions of Star Trek costumes — I joked that the producers bought them at Gene Roddenberry’s garage sale but in fact they came from an Italian sportswear company called Trissi, and their logo is shown so often on the suits I suspect the company donated them in return for the product placement.