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  Starship Invasions You F.O.!
Year: 1977
Director: Ed Hunt
Stars: Robert Vaughn, Christopher Lee, Daniel Pilon, Tiiu Leek, Helen Shaver, Henry Ramer, Victoria Johnson, Doreen Lipson, Kate Parr, Sheri Ross, Linda Rennhofer, Richard Fitzpatrick, Ted Turner, Sean McCann, Bob Warner, Jonathan Welsh, Kurt Scheigl
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: Somewhere in Canada, out in the countryside, a farmer sits on his tractor and his attention is distracted by a flying saucer hovering overhead. He is astounded but cannot take any actions because he has been paralysed by a blue ray emitted from the saucer, which then lands nearby. A door opens in the side and two black-clad men walk out, make their way over to the farmer and escort him inside the craft. Once there, they subject him to various tests and eventually leave him alone with a beautiful female, who, as the farmer relates when he is brought back to Earth, makes love to him. UFO researcher Alan Duncan (Robert Vaughn) doesn't know it yet, but his planet is in danger...

There were a couple of science fiction projects during 1977 that harked back to the serials of old, and one of them was a huge success. Unfortunately for the makers of Starship Invasions that worldwide hit was Star Wars, and their opus was left in the dust, yet although this was a definite throwback to the days of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, there was no hero equivalent here, the closest we get being that most seventies of characters, the UFO journalist. This means at no point does Vaughn grab a ray gun and start blasting the baddies, in fact he never meets the chief bad guy at all.

That chief bad guy being Rameses, played by Christopher Lee in an in-no-way-ridiculous-looking black outfit that leaves just his face exposed and keeping his mouth closed throughout the film. Not one word passes his lips, but this was not due to a Dracula-style dismay at the dialogue but because the aliens are all telepathic, so we hear their dialogue entirely in voiceover. Was there a clapperboard shortage in Canada at the time? Perhaps we'll never know, but what we can make out is that there are two factions, one led by Rameses and hailing from a dying planet, and the other trying to stop him taking over Earth as a substitute.

Writer and director Ed Hunt obviously knew his UFO lore, as the early scenes of this reflect actual cases popular during this decade, so the farmer who has a close encounter (which we don't see, thankfully) is drawn from the Antonio Villas Boas story, and when Alan and his family are abducted the sequence bears resemblance to the Betty and Barney Hill tale, even with a long needle inserted in his missus's navel. This adherence to ufology makes the film come across like one of those reconstructions you might have seen on television in places, and while too pulpy to be scary, it leaves viewers at a curious distance.

You could say Starship Invasions is a chilly affair, and that could be because we never really engage with the characters. Obviously we won't be sympathising with the aliens who want to wipe us out (listen for the explanation of why these villains resemble us so closely), but their opposite numbers aren't exactly endearing either, looking more conventionally alien (big, bald heads) but hard to warm to even if they are our saviours. Alan gets roped into rescuing the human race, but actually what he does is stand about while the goodie aliens do all the work. Meanwhile, as these unmistakably hubcap-in-the-distance-looking craft zoom about space, a suicide ray is causing havoc on Earth, and seeing people swallow their guns and slash their wrists is another reason the film is less than captivating. It is impressive what they managed to cobble together on a low budget, but some more intentional humour might have helped. Music by Gil Melle.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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