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Friday, March 22, 2013

Starship Invasions



Starship Invasions
1977
Ed Hunt

‘Starship Invasions’ is the kind of film that could only exist in the latter half of seventies; it’s a hodgepodge of science-fiction, UFO mania, and occult fad.  It’s was also probably thrown into production (the film was originally entitled ‘Alien Encounters’) to capture on the anticipation of ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977) which would hit screens a few months later.  Despite the 70’s trappings, ‘Starship Invasions’ has its heart in the science-fiction of the 40’s and 50’s, with an evil alien race looking to take over the Earth and only a handful of brave alien protectors and a human standing in their way.

Captain Ramses (Christopher Lee – between this, ‘End of World’ and ‘Airport ’77, 1977 was not his best year.) is the head of a race of evil telepathic aliens who wear black body suits with goofy headpieces and fancy dragons embroidered on the front. Ramses and his crew take a break from seducing farmers to set about taking over the Earth with the help of a ray that makes people commit suicide.  The League of Worlds doesn’t like this one bit, so Ramses drops by their base in the Bermuda Triangle, and blows up all their ships, kills most the people, and inconveniences a robot. The few survivors rally and abduct Robert Vaughn, who is useless until they also pick up his friend who owns a calculator. Together they hope to have enough strength to thwart Ramses and drag out the movie with forty minutes of flying saucer dog fights.

A lot of research went into the film, all of the alien races, the costuming (as bizarre and silly it all is), the sexy encounters at the beginning, the spacecraft, and even the base in the Bermuda Triangle all come from actual accounts of UFO contactees.  The research isn’t integrated into anything like a coherent story, the weird alien sex abduction has little to do with anything that happens later, the reveal of an alien base hidden on Earth is given no impact or context; it’s just kind of there. With no real plot to speak of, there’s no way to build to a climax. So, when the movie starts talking about unlocking the potential of the human mind as the deus ex machina, and then turns around and has an errant robot solve the problem, everything just feels flat… and ridiculous, but then again there isn’t a moment in this film that isn’t ridiculous.

On the plus side, it does have some striking use of color and set design at the alien base. Some of the miniature work is very good, I especially liked some of the outdoor shots of Captain Ramses’ saucer hovering around and scaring people in a station wagon. There is a lot of weak model work as well, and one of the worst looking Earths since that other Christopher Lee masterpiece, ‘The End of the World.’ None of the aliens actually speak on screen, all them using telepathy via voice-overs. 

If you really like UFOs, give it a look. If you’re a Christopher Lee completest, I suppose you should see it as well. Everyone else might  want to keep watching the skies.

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