There’s a lot to love about The Wild, Wild Planet (1966), and I love a lot about it. From the opening shot of a futuristic city with miniature vehicles on the road and rockets launching, I knew the movie was going to be fun. Sure, the special effects are simple, but they’re not terrible. In their simplicity, they’re really quite beautiful! I’ve seen modern day films with bad CGI or green screen effects that are less appealing than these.
This is the first of four movies known as the “Gamma 1 Quadrilogy” that were going to be made for television but were released theatrically in some countries. They were made at the same time to save money and were released (in Italy, at least) between July of 1966 and January of 1967. I recorded two of the others on TCM (War of the Planets and The Snow Devils) at different times, so I’m going to go out of order for the next few days to write about all three.
None of the visuals can compare in wackiness to the story. Attempting to ignite sparks with her boyfriend, Cmdr. Mike Halstead (Tony Russel), Lt. Connie Gomez (Lisa Gastoni) leaves for vacation with visiting representative of “the Corporations,” Mr. Nurmi (Massimo Serato.) One look at this guy and you know he’s up to no good. Sure enough, he kidnaps Connie and takes her to the planet Delphos where strange business is afoot.
It’s related to an increasingly large number of disappearances, including General Paul Fowler (Enzo Fiermonte.) We witness some of the abductions. They’re performed by a beautiful woman and a man dressed in a black garbage bag and wearing sunglasses and a black baseball cap. The man in black spreads his arms to engulf his victims and they disappear. When interrupted during the process, though…
…we learn that the victims aren’t necessarily disappearing. They’re shrinking. The interruption isn’t good for them because they get stuck in the form of what we’d call today (I think), a “little person.” While this process isn’t apparently reversible, the little person in The Wild, Wild Planet is laughing it up at a pool party at the end of the film. The ones that do shrink all the way are transported to Delphos via various purses, bags, and suitcases.
I admire the way the movie takes its futuristic setting for granted, not making a big deal out of its mid-60s science fiction “technology.” Not one second is wasted on an explanation for their methods of transportation or weapons that shoot fire. The camera travels through a common area where commercials are playing on televisions (not monitors), but these televisions aren’t plot points. They’re just there.
Why waste time when there’s so much plot to get through in just barely over an hour and a half? In essence, Cmdr. Halstead oversees the investigation of the missing people and soon realizes what we did about Nurmi. Coincidentally, his sister identifies the man in black and his curvaceous sidekick, so we get to experience some side chases and fights. By the way, what’s better than one man in black than an unlimited number of men in black?
Ultimately, Nurmi and his crew are shrinking people so they can harvest their organs and/or achieve “the perfect synthesis of human race that can be duplicated infinite times.” This “perfect race of beauty, dignity and compassion” also may or may not include men with four arms. I can stop now and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from The Wild, Wild Planet. It is what it is, and what it is… is a lot of fun. Don’t be a helium head… watch it!
Written by Ivan Reiner
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Starring Tony Russel, Lisa Gastoni, Massimo Serato, Carlo Giustini, Franco Nero
RT 93 min.
Released July 15, 1966 (Milan), Aug. 9, 1967 (USA)
Recorded on Sept. 25, 2020 (TCM)
Rating 6 Psychos (out of 10)
This review is part of the annual Countdown to Halloween. I invite you to join me as I attempt to gain some space on my DVR. Every day, I'll be watching something from the bottom of the list, thereby reducing the percentage that's full... so I can record more!
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