Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wild, Wild Planet

When it comes to Italian cinema of the 60's and 70's, you gotta hand it to 'em: The cats had style. Incoherent scripts, disinterested direction, uneven acting and the notorious dubbing, but they always had style. Sets that were part Jetsons, part Mondrian, part David Hicks. Women with voluminous hair, graphic eyeliner and outfits that combine Cardin, Courreges and Chanel. Sleek sportscars -- even the spacepods of the future were sportscars. It was a vision of style hiding the cluelessness of the substance. Wild, Wild Planet is s neither a Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom special nor a Jayne Mansfield travelogue, but a prime example of this principle, a hokey space operetta greatly improved by an aesthetic that combines the sublime and the ridiculous.
Wild, Wild Planet opens with plenty of obviously fake shots of a miniature space colony, but the tiny city is so mod and groovily designed, the cheapness is forgivable. You should see the part where they launch the itty bitty red rocket with the sparklers! It's so nifty they show it again in reverse when they land!
Once inside, we got straight to a lab, where the hero and the villain are chatting about morality over some rubber lungs in a terrarium. You can tell the hero is the hero because he's "Commander" and he's wearing a big man-girdle outside his uniform. (Captain Kirk used to wear his on the inside, so this cat is brave.)  You can tell the villain is the villain because he works for "the corporation" and has a British accent and evil goatee. "The corporation" is working on something that involves synthetic organs and tissue harvesting in space -- and that's about all we know. If you've seen District 9, Prometheus, The Fifth Element or any of the Resident Evil movies, you know that "the corporation" is always bad news.
Soon the villain meets the hero's girlfriend, Lieutenant Gomez, who is teaching judo is a red catsuit and Bond Girl hair. Villain takes shine to her, invites her to dinner, then invites her to the space colony, courtesy of "the corporation." Girlfriend gets drunk, hero is stoic, villain is smug.
Ah, finally! No Italian sci-fi/spy/horror flick is complete without its army of babes and here they are! A roomful of girls in sherbert-toned outfits and azure eyeshadow. The lead one (in orange Jackie Kennedy suit and cowpie beehive) is accompanied by a large, creepy guy who looks kind of like Sid Haig in Trent Reznor's wardrobe with Terminator shades. She gives orders about their "mission" and all of the girls head out... somewhere. Incoherent script and all that....

Okay, hero and Lieutenant Gomez argue in her hybrid, as more fashionably-clad robot women wander around space city accompanied by their totally inconspicuous seven-foot-tall albino assistants.The schtick seems to be that sherbet-clad fembot accosts some guy, then pasty giant wraps the guy in his leather trenchcoat and he diasappears, leaving a pile of clothes that the woman then scoops up and runs off with. It's kind of like rolling a john, but without the hassle of actually having to go anywhere with him. In the meantime, hero and villain go to some board meetings, yadda yadda. People keep disappearing -- wow, look at our awesome high-tech surveillance system with P.A.s and old tube televisions! More fembots -- they have the most amazing silver go-go boots -- and their lurching chaperones.

When one of the duos is stopped in mid coat-swoop, the intended victim is left not only in a coma, but turned him into a midget. (If you wish to stop right now and sing a few bars of "Midget in a Coma" to the tune of "Girlfriend in a Coma," i'll wait.) This gives hero and his pals something to investigate, which seems to involve a lot of dicking around the obvious. In the meantime, Lieutenant Gomez has gone up to the space station to visit the evil guy and "the corporation" -- after all, if the guy you're dating now is a patronizing douchebag, why not kick it up a notch and go for the psychopath who wants to take over/destroy the earth/galaxy? No half-steppin' and all... But, of course, she soon finds things are not as they seem up in Spacelab. Eventually, hero finally figures out the answers to what's going on with sherbert fembots and coma midgets and that ponce with the foofy accent who's moving in on his girl.
I won't tell you what the final objective of the evil plan is, but i will hint that it involves taking a Ken doll out of the microwave and putting it on a tanning bed (I think that's what they're doing). And gender-reassignment surgery. (I guess that's what it is). Also, the distraction provided by people in giant butterfly costumes doing interpretative dance is crucial to his plan to take over the Earth. (I'm assuming that's why he's doing this but i'm not sure.)

In the meantime, the villain gives the hero a very, very long tour of his evil lair. It's like: This is where I park my fleet of space rockets... Here's the foyer -- that's a genuine Chihuly... and here's my evil lab full of body parts... and this is the squash court, just had the floor redone... and here's my evil lab for experimenting on your girlfriend... Down here is the screening room... and over there is a room full of zombies I keep around just to remind myself how evil I am.... You wanna see the elevator I just had put into the garage?
Overall, Wild, Wild Planet is inane but enjoyable. It's brightly colored and enough stuff happens to hold your interest, but not so much happens that you'll miss a lot if you need to go make tacos or put the laundry in the dryer. And whatever leaps of logic you might make up to explain what Lieutenant Gomez is throwing a bitch fit about or why there's suddenly an ocean of blood flooding the space station will be just as sensible and realistic as the actual plot.

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