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  War of the Planets Computer Says No
Year: 1977
Director: Alfonso Brescia
Stars: John Richardson, Yanti Somer, West Buchanan, Katia Christine, Vassili Karis, Eleonora King, Percy Hogan, Giuseppe Fortis, Daniele Dublino, Romeo Constantini, Charles Borromel, Massimo Bonetti, Malisa Longo, Aldo Canti
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: There has been some strange activity in deep space, and the starship commanded by Captain Alex Hamilton (John Richardson) is investigating, as instructed by the supercomputer back on planet Earth. However, when they reach the correct area, there is a massive explosion and a huge chunk of asteroid is sent hurtling towards them. The crew brace themselves for impact, but the object misses them by a whisker and they rejoice. However, Hamilton is not happy at the orders he has been given and when he returns home he punches out the officer who gave them to him, resulting in a change of post as punishment. But it was the computer's fault...

War of the Planets, or Anno zero - guerra nello spazio if you were Italian, was one of a handful of space operas handled by director and writer Alfonso Brescia, who used the English pseudonym Al Bradley on some prints. These films were notable for their, shall we say, lack of big bucks meaning that most of them looked like cheap television episodes. Funnily enough this was all too appropriate as Brescia was inspired, or so it appeared, by old episodes of Star Trek, along with the science fiction movies that Italy brought out during the sixties.

But where Star Trek, whatever its faults, went some way to ensuring the crewmembers had distinctive personalities here the denizens of Hamilton's spacecraft were almost entirely interchangeable. Sure, there was a bearded French guy whose chief character trait was eating pills, and a Scottish guy who sang "I Belong to Glasgow", but these were throwaway elements when a little more idiosyncrasy would have helped immensely. As it is, with the cast dressed in virtually identical uniforms and helmets, it's difficult to make out who is who, whether male or female.

The script appears to have a real beef against computers, with the Earth machine, absurdly named "WIZ", the cause of much grumpiness for Hamilton who doesn't trust artificial intelligence as far as he could throw it. So when he and his crew are sent on another assignment to track a new signal emanating from a mysterious planet, there is much grumbling from our Captain. After a brush with a couple of unidentified flying objects that zap the ship, they all find themselves on a collision course with the planet and prepare themselves for the worst...

...but then a curious thing occurs and the ship is guided by a gravity beam coming from the surface. Being intrepid, some of the crew beam down - no, not really, they take the lander - and investigate this rocky new world, and here the filmmakers manage to work up a sense of eerieness, whether by accident or design. Much of the contribution to that tone is down to the electronic musical stylings of Marcello Giombini which add a nice air of unease and wouldn't be out of place sampled on a Boards of Canada album. It turns out that the baddie in this is another supercomputer which needs the "Earthlings" to repair its circuits, but also has some kind of psychic power and possesses some humans too. There's an amusing twist at the end, but this is the kind of thing you'd watch if there really wasn't anything better available.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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