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  Eyes Behind the Stars Keep on probing
Year: 1978
Director: Mario Gariazzo
Stars: Robert Hoffman, Nathalie Delon, Martin Balsam, Sherry Buchanan, Victor Valente, Sergio Rossi, Antonio Sabato, Franco Garofalo, Carlo Hintermann, Giovanna De Luca
Genre: Thriller, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Photographer Peter Collins (Franco Garofalo) and model Karen (Sherry Buchanan) are doing a shoot in the woods when his watch stops, her radio goes dead and they each have this uneasy feeling they are being watched. Later at the studio, curiosity overcomes Peter when his photographs show glimpses of a U.F.O. He returns to the forest hoping to catch a second sighting, but the unseen alien presence pursues him into the home of an awfully posh old man (“I say, young man, what the deuce is going on?”) and his dog. Both are blinded by a ray-gun blast while Peter is beamed aboard the flying saucer where silver-suited space pranksters gang probe his mind for images of comely Karen. Aliens invade Karen’s apartment to zap the incriminating photos and spirit her away, but by now she has informed crusading reporter Tony Harris (Robert Hoffman) about the extraterrestrial visitors. Aided by enigmatic secretary Monica Styles (Nathalie Delon) and antique dealer turned U.F.O. expert Coleman Perry, Harris sets out to expose the government conspiracy surrounding alien intruders, but is hindered by Inspector Jim Grant (Martin Balsam) of Scotland Yard and menaced by men in black working for a shadowy agency known as The Silencers.

Italian rip-offs of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) are not as well known as their sub-Star Wars (1977) space operas, but were almost as plentiful. Rent-a-hack Tonino Ricci contributed his Bermuda Triangle-influenced The Shark’s Cave (1978) and Encounters in the Deep (1978), the makers of The Sheriff and the Satellite Kid (1979) cast Close Encounters’ child actor Cary Guffey as a tyke from outer space, giallo auteur Antonio Bido tackled Blue Tornado (1990), while trash favourite Mario Gariazzo, best known for his kinky giallo Play Motel (1979), did not stop with Eyes Behind the Stars and the belated The Brother from Space (1984) but spoofed the whole phenomenon with his sex comedy: Very Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind (1979)!

Obviously, none of these movies could afford special effects along the lines of those created by Douglas Trumbull. Gariazzo sometimes cuts to a feeble looking flying saucer but by and large employs fish-eye lenses and blue tints to imply an alien point-of-view, alongside electronic blips and bleeps. Though the film is more of a conspiracy thriller with science fiction touches, it lacks mystery given we glimpse the aliens in their black visors and sparkly silver suits early on. Unlike the prankster E.T.’s of Close Encounters, the aliens here are evidently hostile and kill a handful of civilians, soldiers and other minor characters. Quite what their ultimate aim might be is none clearer than how Perry knows so much about top secret government projects.

If Noel Coward made a U.F.O. movie it might play something like this, given how characters waft in and out of drawing rooms, deliver glib put-downs, smoke endless cigarettes and pontificate endlessly about government conspiracies. Of course the grand dame of British theatre would have imbued events with considerably more wit and panache. Eyes Behind the Stars is an interminable yack-fest with vapid characters, played with blank-eyed boredom by Hoffman and Delon, whose tepid performance ruins the one twist Gariazzo has up his sleeve. Hoffman’s character eventually grows sick of being a punching bag for evil agents and goes all action hero for the mildly suspenseful finale, but it’s all in vain and the downbeat denouement is liable to irk anyone hoping for some sort of closure.

As often in Italian genre fare, these paranormal events take place in England. Mario Bava once remarked how local audiences laughed his horror films off the screen because they could not believe anything sinister could happen in their sun-drenched native land. The cast are all dubbed by plummy-voiced Brits, except the most famous name here, American character actor Martin Balsam. He sports a rather jarring, broad Yorkshire accent: “Yer in o’er yer ’ed, lad!”

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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