Well, I couldn’t have been any more wrong about what I thought the next movie in the “Gamma 1 Quadrilogy” was going to be, at least as far as the characters established in the two previous movies. Say goodbye to Cmdr. Mike Halstead (Tony Russel) and Lt. Connie Gomez (Lisa Gastoni); we hardly got to know you. Say hello to Cmdr. Rod Jackson (Giacomo Rossi Stuart) and Lt. Terry Sanchez (Ombretta Colli); you’ve got big space boots to fill.
It seems that instead of recasting the major roles for War Between the Planets (1966), the characters themselves were recast… but with the relationships jumbled slightly. For example, General Halstead (Enzo Fiermonte) is now General Norton (interestingly, also Enzo Fiermonte), but instead of his son being the commander, his daughter is the commander’s fiancée. Rod, though, doesn’t “want” to be engaged to her, giving him license to fool around with Terry.
I enjoy this one slightly more than The War of the Planets, for two reasons. First, the concept, while certainly not original by today’s standards, is more interesting to me and is ultimately handled better. Second, the visuals, while not special by today’s standards, at least attempted to represent a stray planet hurtling through the solar system and causing “catastrophic destruction” on Earth. Unlike the previous movie, we don’t have to imagine what it looks like.
There are hints that this planet may be a living, breathing thing. “Arteries” run through it and chopping them, although they grow back together, at least temporarily keeps our heroes from being locked forever in its cavernous depths. The stakes have never been higher and it’s not a happy ending for everyone. Two “major” characters, at least in this particular story, meet their fates, with one sacrificing himself to save the world.
War Between the Planets uses a narrator to occasionally explain the plot. Perhaps that’s why it seems a little more coherent than The War of the Planets. I also suspect director Antonio Margherita recycles some footage from the previous films. There’s a scene in each movie, if I remember correctly, of three “astronauts” opening a hatch on their rocket and climbing out to being their space walk toward the rotating space station, Gamma 1.
There’s a compelling subplot in the screenplay by Ivan Reiner & Renato Moretti. When Capt. Emil Dubrowski (whom I swear they called, “Toby”) argues with Rod about being denied a 48-hour leave, I didn’t imagine it would go anywhere. I was wrong again. By not seeing his family, he never gets to say goodbye to his wife before she’s killed when their town is destroyed on Earth. This gives him a personal reason to fight with his bare hands if he has to.
War Between the Planets is neither as wacky nor as fast-paced as The Wild, Wild Planet, so I don’t like it as much. Ever since the first movie, so much of the plot has been about getting where they’re going (just wait for The Snow Devils), so they feel like they’re plodding toward their conclusions. Even at a shorter running time of 80 minutes, this one is too long. If truly intended for television, a one-hour format might suit it better.
Written by Ivan Reiner & Renato Moretti
Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Starring Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Ombretta Colli, Enzo Fiermonte, Halina Zalewska, Goffredo Uneger, Peter Martell
RT 80 min.
Released July 29, 1966 (Italy)
Watched on Amazon Prime
Rating 5 Psychos (out of 10)
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