Wild, Wild Planet
Reviewed by Jeff DeLuzio
Rating: 7 Beans
emember how the Future was going to be? The Jupiter Two launched in 1997. By 1999, Moon Base Alpha was in place. By 2001, Pan-Am Shuttles would be taking commercial passengers to big, rotating space-stations in the sky. Authorities as diverse as Walter Kronkite and Isaac Asimov had people working in space long before now. Even "Star Trek", still extant, features a chronology which has us launching deep-space probes in the early 1990s, and breaking into warp by the middle of the twenty-first century.
The Twenty-first century! Fly your car to work! Relax in comfy yet clingy pyjama-like clothing while robot servants wait on you hand and foot! Meet George Jetson....
Kinda sucks that it didn't turn out that way, huh?
People in 1999 do wear everything, including what once might have passed for pyjamas, but this is not alway as attractive as the old movies and pulps made it seem. A moonbase is feasable, but no one's stepping forward with the funds. Flying cars would be a nightmare (can we say, "sky rage"?) We do have a space station in orbit, but how much longer it will stay there is anyone's guess. Apparently held together with duct-tape, Mir is more a source of grim bets than collective wonder. Kubrick did predict the design of the space-shuttle fairly accurately, but commercial flights aren't happening anytime soon. Deep space travel may not be happening at all, ever.
Well, for the price of a bad movie, you can experience it again. "Wild, Wild Planet," made in Italy in the mid-1960s, when our post-war optimism still hadn't been shattered, presents the future-- specifically, 2015-- as we used to imagine it would be. People wear pyjamas. They fly about in rockets with fins. The monorail has become the public transit of choice. We have tall, Expo-esque buildings on earth and rotating stations in space. We live in relative peace, under the banner of the United Democracies (play herald trumpet on a Moog synthesizer).
The movie itself isn't particularly good. The plot involves an evil scientist and a bunch of women, possibly artificial (or maybe they're aliens; I had some trouble following the dialogue), who try to create political chaos and gain world dominance by shrinking the leaders of the United Democracies (synthesizer trumpets again) to the size of "Captain Lazar" action figures. A brave space hero comes to the rescue. You get the idea.
None of this matters. You don't expect something called, "Wild, Wild Planet" to have either intelligent plotting or great acting. You won't be disappointed. No, the look here is what counts. The space shots and cityscapes are right out of Hugo Gernsback, although the fact that they are models is aggressively obvious. Close-ups involve simple sets, and location filming at all of those futuristic and brutalist buildings constructed during the 1960s. The furniture is right out of a contemporaneous Department Store, all that stuff which had the Look of the World of Tomorrow then and now appears hopelessly dated.
The director even tries to create a background culture. We witness an entertainment of the Future, some weird kind of costumed dance/theatre held on a soundstage enclosed by curtains. You get the impression they hired the local Arts School students to do something "futuristic." Everywhere we go, we see circa 1963 "futuristic" TV sets, though most of them aren't on at the moment. One which is runs an ad for a robot doll. We all knew kids of the future would have robot dolls. Another noteworthy mention are the sleek cars. They appear to have had only two, however, and the same pair of GM Futurama Rejects appear in every highway shot and car chase scene.
Apparently, the director (Antonio Margheriti aka Anthony Dawson) made a a series of films about the United Democracies (and again), though I've had no luck locating the others. He also apparently directed something called "Devil of the Desert Against the Son of Hercules." If anyone knows where to find it, please e-mail me.
I'd actually review that one.
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