War of the Planets (1966)


Wow, talk about being disappointed. After my surprise affection for The Wild, Wild Planet, my expectations for the second film in the “Gamma 1 Quadrilogy” were way too high. My smile after seeing the familiar spinning space station, and realizing Tony Russel and others were reprising their roles, soon turned to a frown because as fun and as exciting as its predecessor, the follow-up is slow and boring.

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Not much happens, and the long, drawn-out mystery of green lights/clouds that inhabit human bodies leads to a lackluster finale. For example, during the climax, when Cmdr. Mike Halsted (Russel) and our other heroes wait for a rocket to warm up so it can take off, his father, General Halstead (Enzo Fiermonte) says about the aliens on the surface, “There must be 10 million of them!” We don’t see a single one.

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I’m not saying that a movie can’t challenge your imagination, but this is an instance where we needed at least a glimpse of the threat to generate a little suspense. Granted, the aliens are just green lights, but that should have made the special effect easier to create. They could even have just shown the entire sky being green and we would have gotten a better idea of what commander and company are trying to escape, and general and company are trying to destroy.

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I found The War of the Planets to be incredibly slow. When you have to watch a 97-minute movie in three sittings, and struggle even then, they may be a problem. Considering the Gamma 1 movies were originally made for television, I’m going to write this one off as just a weak episode in what I hope will end up being an overall great series. I’m not quite as excited to see the next one now, but maybe that’s good for my expectations.

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On the positive side, the characters maintain consistency and I’m growing quite fond of them. Lisa Gastoni returns as Lt. Connie Gomez and is just as sassy with Mike, especially when he emerges from a private room with a stumbling drunk woman at his side on New Year’s Eve. Their relationship is interesting. They are obviously deeply in love, but they sure like to push each other’s buttons, which has been entertaining.

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The character that’s growing on me most is Lt. Jake Jacowitz, played by Franco Nero. Not only is Nero a hottie, but I got some strong gay vibrations between him and Lt. Ken (Carlo Giustini.) When Mike enters the area on Mars that the aliens have given them to “refresh,” Jake and Ken are there, and Jake is getting dressed. Then, during the celebratory party at the end, Jake walks across the room and sits right beside Ken on a bench. Hmmm…

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I also still admire the dedication to the science and technology of the setting. Many of the locations and sets are repeated from the first movie, but that’s expected if this is going to be a series of movies. At least, that’s my assumption. War Between the Planets and The Snow Devils may prove me wrong. For now, The War of the Planets is worth it for the familiar faces and situations, but hardly worth it for the plot.

Written by Renato Moretti & Ivan Reiner

Directed by Antonio Margheriti

Starring Tony Russel, Lisa Gastoni, Franco Nero, Carlo Giustini, Enzo Fiermonte

RT 97 min.

Released July 21, 1966 (Rome)

Recorded on Sept. 25, 2020 (TCM)

Rating 4 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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