ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON 8/29/09
Science fiction movies are expensive, much more so than more conventional fare. Why? Well, it’s not like you can go rent yourself a space ship or run off to wallmart and buy an NERVA engine, or pick up some aliens from the zoo. If you want this kind of crap, you can rent some of it - there are prop houses in Hollywood that have ‘high tech’ props, but most of these are pretty cheezy, and turn up in so many movies that they’re instantly recognizable as props. When the pilot for Babylon 5 is using some of the same crap as the science fiction horror-musical-parody “Space Ship,” used a decade earlier, you know you’re in trouble. So pretty much, if you want futuristic gee-gosh-wow stuff, you have to build it yourself.
If you do this, you’d better hope your movie makes enough money to make back what you blew on your sets, but of course if you’re making low budget quickie B-movies, you pretty much know you’re not going to, right? But still you’ve got this burning need to tell a story about skullcap-wearing Italians in space, and the unfortunately coifed women who love them, and you just need to have some detailed sets to do it with. What’s a hack screenwriter to do?
Turns out there is: Just shoot *another* movie at more-or-less the same time using the same sets, using only the slightest of redresses. Since the cost of the sets are now spread over two productions, they automatically cost half as much, get it? I mean, odds are no one saw the first movie anyway, so it’s not like anyone’s going to notice. And really, isn’t that what science fiction has always been about at root: amortizing poorly-planned studio investments?
When we started this feature two weeks ago, you’ll recall I reviewed a grade-Z 1967 stinker called “Cosmos: War of the Planets,” that I actually kind of liked until I realized it was actually made in 1977, and then I hated the hell out of it. (My logic being that if some proctologists in upstate New York during the Johnson administration decided to blow their kids’ college funds by making the movie, it’s pretty good, but if an actual Italian studio made this turd after Star Wars came out, then it’s utterly terrible. You have to use a sliding scale on these things.) Today I popped in “War of the Robots,” a movie I’d never seen nor heard of before (Insofar as I could tell, given the generic title), and turns out coincidentally to have been made by the same studio that made “Cosmos: WOTP,” presumably at pretty much the same time, using all of the same sets, miniatures, and even some of the same cast. The uniforms are new, presumably for hygienic reasons.
PLAY BY PLAY
Captain Boyd of the starship Tessi is in love with Lois, who’s pretty hot. Tessi, meanwhile, is hanging out with Professor Carr, who’s figured out a way to create life from scratch, and also give immortality to whomever he wants. Lois chides that this will throw nature out of balance, which Carr evidently thinks is a come-on, so he starts putting the moves on her, but she rebuffs him. Boyd, meanwhile, suspects Carr of having prurient interests in Lois, but she denies it. In any event, they make it pretty clear that Boyd is getting’ some, but Carr ain’t.
One night, some guys in silver lame disco suits and unfortunate blonde pageboy wigs show up and club some people, then kidnap Carr and Lois. Boyd is quickly told about this, and informed that Carr’s crazy facacta nuclear reactor from the lab is going to explode and destroy the spaceport and the surrounding city in a few days. Only Carr knows how to shut it down, so the starship Tessi and her intrepid crew insipid crewmen are launched to bring the horny old goat back before the city goes blooey. Just to add danger, the high command decides not to even attempt to evacuate the base or the city, despite having a week’s warning or more. Oh, and if you can save Lois, that’d be cool, too.
The Tessi is launched (Vertically, from a gantry. On the ground. I actually kind of liked that), and docks with a satellite that monitored the alien ship’s landing on earth. From that they get the direction the aliens headed in, and their speed. The Tessi heads after them at full speed, but