Have you ever been hit in the face with a brick? Cosmos: War of the Planets is exactly like that, but different.
How are they the same? First, it’s spaghetti sci fi, heavy on the cheese. That would be the brick. It was written and directed by Alfonso Brescia (Al Bradley). Brescia went on to make such classics as Battle of the Stars (1978), War of the Robots (1978), Star Odyssey (1979), and Beast in Space (1980), among others. Many of the aforementioned films reused footage, costumes, actors, and props from Cosmos: War of the Planets. Honestly, I would not be surprised to learn all five movies are the same film just recut and re-titled. Brescia would be the getting hit in the face.
The difference? Getting hit in the face with a brick will eventually heal. Cosmos: War of the Planets will haunt you the rest of your days.
The movie opens in space, a vast blanket of darkness spotted with twinkling lights. It reminds us of how small we are, the sublimity… is interrupted by an annoying video game blip sound as one star blinks brighter and brighter.
Cut to a different shot of space. A spaceship, the MK31, floats by. Again the huge expanse dwarfs the insignificant craft. In such spanning possibilities how could these intrepid explorers make any difference? Who are these brave… Devo rejects? Inside the ship, the Devo Crewmen say vaguely science sounding words in some kind of futuristic space spell in order to pilot the ship. Or something.
Just as sleep was about to take me there’s a “stellar explosion.” Well, that’s what one of the Devo Crewmen calls it. What actually happens is a flash of light followed by a meteor hurtling towards them. Devo Crew jump into their seats and strap on their seat belts. They ask the computer for new coordinates in order to escape the “rays” of the explosion (i.e. the meteor). Funny thing, the computer does not register the explosion.
Now Devo Crew is worried. There are lots of anxious looks. Each of the fifteen crew members gets their turn to look distressed. That is, all except for Rent-a-Center Tommy Chong, Marseille, who is more concerned with biting his nails. At this point I too was more concerned with his hangnail than the plot. Sadly, though, we never find out if he got it.
Why stress? Just steer away, right?
Problem is the MK31 does not have a steering wheel. There are plenty of random buttons and blinky lights, but no controls. The MK31 is piloted by the computer, with no way to manually take control. (This is why you don’t let the Italians design your spacecraft.) So, with nothing else to do, there are more shots of Devo Crewmen looking on helplessly. The meteor is upon them and…
Never mind, it was nothing.
Seriously. In a move that makes M. Night Shymalan wet, the whole thing is unceremoniously dropped.
“That was a refraction of a cosmic explosion occurring 10 million years ago,” says the computer. Wait a minute. A second ago there was nothing there. Now the computer not only registers the event, but registers an event that happened 10 million years ago?
Whap! Brick right to the kisser!
Amazingly it is only three minutes into the film but it feels like several hours. There is still an hour and twenty-something minutes to go. (This is why you don’t let the Italians make your sci fi movie.) I felt like Ash in the laughing room scene of Evil Dead 2.
The credits roll as space granola floats around in the background, a kind of high colonic cleansing party for our mental palate.
Next we see Captain Devo, Hamilton—Captain Ham from here on—walking into command center Orion. He strolls up and punches some guy named Miller. Having completed his mission, Captain Ham leaves.
Captain Ham is supposed to be a no-nonsense, bucks authority kinda guy that movies like this call for. He’s more of a douche but, eh, close enough. Commander Bossman gives Captain Ham a talking to as punishment, then gives him command of a ship leaving for the Vega System. Or was it Space Vegas? Whatever. Commander Bossman is harsh, but fair.
Next we get some random scenes showcasing life aboard the MK31. In other words, a bunch of idiots barely able to handle mundane tasks without killing themselves. There’s a space walk to fix a space circuit. For some reason mishandled space circuits spit acid and, conveniently, this space circuit is mishandled. Captain Ham has to go out and rescue the Devo Crewman, thus showing how awesome Captain Ham is. Then we watch a couple of the female crew talk about how dreamy Captain Ham is. There’s some space hootchie-cootchie-lick-‘em-yum-yums in the Cosmic Love room. (Cosmic Love is two single beds with a model Death Star between them. Flip a few switches, watch the groovy light show, and you are getting your freak on.)
Just as I was reaching for the remote to turn off Cosmos: War of the Planets a transmission comes in. By transmission I mean the grinding sound of an old Studebaker with a bad starter filtered through a Pac Man effects pedal. The message is never translated, but I’m pretty sure it went something like, “Get on with it already!”
Somehow the signal is interfering with Earth’s radio transmissions which has put Commander Boss Man’s butt is in the fire. WIZ, Earth’s most smartest super computer ever, recognizes that the signal is being broadcast by an intelligence that “knows all.” Being way smart and stuff, WIZ advises Commander Boss Man to seek out the intelligence and destroy it. What a great idea. Launch an attack on some being that knows all. (This is why you don’t let the Italians design your super computers.)
As an unnecessary counter point, Captain Ham gives his theory about the mysterious signal, “radioactivity meeting a cosmic belt.” Take that you stupid blipping robot box. Who’s the damned fool now? Alien intelligence? Feh. In fact, Captain Ham goes so far as to say that the computer “must be drunk.”
Regardless, Earth is going to send a ship and the closest is…
Though Captain Ham is a terrible person, his deficiencies make him the perfect person to lead this mission. That is, if he fails no one is going to miss him or Devo Crew. Finally! The movie does something believable.
Being a jerk that bucks authority, Captain Ham refuses the mission. He’s already on his way home and he’s got a haircut appointment he just cannot miss. He’s rescheduled it twice now and if he backs out again he will loose his deposit. Because the script says otherwise, some random spaceships materialize and attack the MK31, crippling it and the oh-so-capable Captain Ham.
Somehow, despite being on their way home, this attack causes them to spin out of control and into orbit around the planet broadcasting the mysterious signals. A planet that is galaxies away. Though seemingly untenable, I have a theory. The MK31 is powered by Expositive Plot Drive. That is, in order for the MK31 to escape from the spin, Captain Ham tells the closest Devo Crewman to press the “auxiliary ignition button pump”, which makes no sense. This red herring, being another brick to the face, disorients the viewer. Some slow motion acting is mixed in to further befuddle the audience and viola, anything goes. Unicorn sphincters spitting skittles would have made as much sense as them abruptly being at the renegade planet.
The spinning gives way to another scene of no-stakes drama. The MK31 is going to crash, or blow up, or run out of Snickers bars in the cafeteria vending machine. There are looks of concern. And more looks of concern. And nothing happens. Brescia just needed stuff to happen in order to fill runtime. Captain Ham orders the separation of the command module from the body of the MK31. After which they land on the planet.
Cut to a rock quarry. You know, the planet surface. The Space Science Team (that’s actually what the call themselves) generally mill about, investigating the hell out of the first ten square feet of ground outside the ship’s door. That is, all but ONE guy.
Jack, the inquisitive one on Space Science Team, wanders off and discovers Space Stonehenge. It’s totally sweet because it is a teleporter to a random cavern. Well, not completely random. This particular cavern is home of Cavern Robot. Cavern Robot wobbles slowly towards anyone in its area. Jack calls for help on his wrist calcom (calculator/communicator of the HP35 variety). No one on Space Science Team pays it any mind. Yet, when he cries out, as Cavern Robot treads on his space bunion, Space Science Team hears his cry. From deep within the cavern at some remote location somewhere far away.
Pow! Another brick right in the mush!
Always on the ball, one of Space Science Team remarks, “I think I saw him go towards those rocks.” In a rock quarry. Sigh. Good job narrowing that down, Lt. Dipstick. Captain Ham must be so very proud of Space Science Team. As hard as it is to believe, they actually follow Jack’s voice, and Lt. Dipstick’s vague directions, straight to Space Stonehenge.
Once inside the cavern, instead of setting off Cavern Robot’s proximity detector, Space Science Team are jumped by a clan of Troglovulcans, bald guys in linen diapers, painted blue-black with pointy ears. Old Man Troglovucan tells the story of how his people used to be a great race. Unfortunately they used their great advances in science to make robots so they could laze about. The machines revolted, as oppressed automata are wont to do. Why the “advanced” Troglovulcans did not remove the emotion chip that allowed the robots to feel oppressed is a question the film leaves unanswered. My guess is they were jerks. Whatever the case, there was an atomic war and the Troglovulcans devolved.
There is some exposition by Etor, the only named Trogulvucan (hmm, wonder if there is any significance to that?), which boils down to the enemy of my enemy is my friend resulting in an alliance between the Troglovulcans and humans. The Space Science Team is allowed to return to MK31, but they have to leave Mila behind. The Troglovulcans may be cave-dwelling morons, but they are not chumps. Captain Ham agrees to Mila being used as collateral. Keep in mind Mila is Captain Ham’s girlfriend. Also keep in mind that Space Science Team are armed with disintegrator rays and the Troglovulcans are armed with snug fitted adult diapers. I might be reading too much into it, but I think this is Captain Ham’s ham-fisted way of saying things “just aren’t working out.”
Back on MK31 there is another scene of Cosmic Love. Normally in a 70s Italian film these scenes would have incorporated nudity. In a ballsy artistic move, Brescia makes Cosmic Love more akin to a visit to one’s therapist, except less erotic. Meanwhile, Captain Ham consults MK31’s computer—yes, Captain Ham, the one who hates computers—and it reports the enemy is a computer. To destroy it they will need to press a button. A red button. A big red button. (The computer has to break it down for them in simple terms that even a village idiot could understand, because, that’s what the Devo Crew are.) Captain Ham gets worked up into a tissy because the report is only 70% possible. What? He hates computers, even when they are 100% accurate. Why does he constantly consult them?
Ugh. Why am I even asking these questions?
While Captain Ham cleans the sand out of his crevices, outside MK31 Random Devo Crewman #89 is singing while he patrols the parameter. There are some thumps which Random Devo Crewman #89 completely ignores. Jump cut inside to more Cosmic Love. Cut back to thumping outside. At this point Random Devo Crewman #89 has noticed and is worried. There are long shots of him looking anxious. Cut back to Cosmic Love, which is interrupted by some unconvincing roaring. Back outside, Random Devo Crewman #89 is attacked by Cavern Robot, i.e. Cavern Robot wobbles at him. When the backup Devo Crewmen come out to investigate, Cavern Robot uses its Super Breath Attack to blow dust at them. Mildly irritated, the Devo Crewmen retreat to get their protective space suits.
Jump to Space Science Team back in the cavern. Okay. I guess that was enough of that last scene.
There is much rejoicing to be back with Mila. Yippee. Hurray. Random Devo Crewman #193’s wristmotron goes off, reminding them that the plot needs to keep moving forward. Captain Ham and Holden head off. Somehow they know to walk over to a particular corner which houses another transporter. This one teleports them before Master Brain Machine.
Master Brain Machine delivers his villain’a monologue, the tale of how Troglovulcans are bad and by extension so is all organic life in the universe. (Kill all humans!) Also, how he is all powerful. (Kill all humans!) And finally he commands Captain Ham and Holden to switch out a few circuits so he can initiate his final solution. (Kill all humans!)
One circuit fixes Master Brain Machine, which came as a relief, i.e. no extended looks or exposition for filler. With all his power restored, Master Brain Machine is strangely impotent when it comes to killing Captain Ham and Holden who are standing right in front of him. (This is why you don’t let the Italians design your evil Master Brain Machines.) Captain Ham MacGyver’s a sling shot out of his belt, which he uses to destroy Master Brain Machine David and Goliath style. Master Brain Machine’s roots are so intricately intertwined with the planet that as it explodes the planet starts to erupt.
Back at MK31, Marseille and Random Devo Crewman #43 are guarding the ship. Everything is quiet and chill. Suddenly Max’s body is there. So is Gretta’s. Who are Max and Gretta? Who cares? We will just call them victims of Cavern Robot. Whatever. Marseille and Random Devo Crewman #43 bring the bodies into the ship and deposit them in the infirmary. It turns out Gretta isn’t dead. As Marseille and Random Devo Crewman #43 leave, she opens her eyes. Then a couple Random Devo Crewmen are found dead.
Yeah, it would have been cool to see how they died, but at this point the movie is ready to be done. All continuity is thrown out the window in favor of ending this farce as quickly as possible. So again, whatever.
The planet remembers it was blowing up in a previous scene. There are stock footage shots of lava and volcanic eruptions. Captain Ham and Space Science Team make it back to the ship just in time. There’s some shaky camera shots of Devo Crewmen battening down the hatches, more volcano burbling, and intense talking about full power and the generators not having power and blah, blah, blah.
Big surprise, they make it out okay.
Only one Troglovulcan is saved, Etor. Heh, who would have guessed? No mention of the others left behind. No sadness. Just jokes about Etor being an instant officer because of the uniform he borrowed. (Thankfully once they got him on board they had him put on something more than the nappy.)
Wait. It isn’t?
The Master Brain Machine somehow possessed Random Devo Crewman #381, and in doing so made him impervious to disintegrator rays. While that is cool, it also made Random Devo Crewman #381 foam at the mouth and break out in a nasty rosacea. As Devo Crew looks around stupidly, Etor steps up like a champ to fight Master Brain Machine Guy #381. On the other hand, Captain Ham shows his true colors by grabbing his crew mate, leaving Etor to get beat down. Once safely in another room, Captain Ham ejects both Master Brain Machine Guy #381 and Etor into space.
All of everything is promptly forgotten when a happy message comes in from Earth. It’s a FaceTime call from Peter’s wife. His baby was just born. Ah! Who is Peter? Whatever. Shut up! It is almost over.
Nope. Brescia, channelling his inner J.R.R. Tolkien and the never ending ending, has another twist of supreme stupidity. The Master Brain Machine possessed the ship’s computer before Master Brain Machine Guy #381’s body was ejected into space. We discover the switcheroo when the computer’s voice changes to that of Master Brain Machine’s. Then there are some flashback scenes of the Cavern Robot and the stock volcanic eruptions (they paid for it and they are going to use, it by God) juxtaposed with the happy crew FaceTiming with Peter’s wife and baby.
Captain Ham looks around confused.
Now, FINALLY, the end.
Cosmos: War of the Planets
Tagline: Robot Terror from Space!
Year: 1977 Runtime: 89 min
Director: Alfonso Brescia
Writer: Alfonso Brescia & Aldo Crudo
Starring: John Richardson, Yanti Somer, West Buchanan
- WATCH! people look at the camera for long periods of time with vague emotions!
- HEAR! special sound effects sampled from a Casio wrist watch!
- WITNESS! first contact with an alien race and then its utter decimation, all without the slightest bit of concern!
- FEEL! Cosmic Love, or what counts as intercourse in the space future!
- BE AMAZED! by logic defying space science!
No blood, but did have some nasty rosacea and mouth foam.
This is a classy Italian sci fi. None of that cheap stuff here.
Cave Robots. Super Master Robot, & Troglovulcans.
Watch the entire film “Cosmos: War of the Planets”