Let's get one thing straight; we take our Bond movie connections very seriously indeed. Which was why I was amazed when I discovered The Humanoid. I was originally just looking for movies starring Barbara Bach, she of The Spy who Loved Me fame, to expand the line-up for Bach to Bach Night, which was a couple of years ago now. But when I finally tracked the beast down, I soon realized it was worth more than just being tacked on to the end of a couple of dodgy Sergio Martini movies.
It was the presence of Richard Kiel that first amazed me, followed by the fact that the other Bond girl from Moonraker (the one who also plays Franco Nero’s estranged wife in Hitch Hike) plays the heroine, thus cementing the Bond theme. The fact that Ivan Rassimov plays a Darth Vader kind of villain but with a gimp mask on is purely a bonus.
But also, The Humanoid reminds you of Starcrash from the word go. It’s got that same Italian Star Wars rip-off aesthetic that I think you’ll agree we all love very much, and it’s always with rose-tinted glasses that we think back to that night when we paired Starcrash with Reactor. Which if you recall turned out to be a living nightmare.
Hmmm. They say for every Starcrash there is a Reactor, but maybe I think they might start saying for every Humanoid there’s a Cosmos: War of the Planets. I think you know what I mean.
Tonight’s Zombie Club was bought to Jim and a massive bag full of alpha pills
The Humanoid (1979)
Plot Richard Kiel becomes an evil humanoid. Annoying Chinese boy knows many things.
Jim Okay, Humanoid opens with a knock-off Italian sci-fi version of the iconic Star Destroyer crawl (which looks slightly better than the washing-up liquid spaceships we saw back in Starcrash, but only slightly) followed by a little bit of plot. It seems that this mad scientist called Kraspin, played by a drunk Arthur Kennedy (”Oh, he’s got the shakes!” - Zomblee) has developed these Capatron missiles which, when aimed at normal human beings, turns them into homicidal killing machines. And he’s got a right chip on his shoulder about Barbara Gibson (not Barbara Dixon, so she didn’t sing in The Two Ronnies) who once destroyed some of his research or something.
Anyway, she’s got some special ingredient at her lab that Arthur Kennedy needs for his Capatron missiles, so his project sponsor, Ivan Rassimov’s Darth Gimp (he looks like Darth Vader but wears a gimp mask, what else would you call him?) sends some of his troops to her lab, but Gibson’s tipped off by Golden Child in the making Tom Tom, and escapes.
With the Capatron ingredients in place, Kennedy starts making bold claims about how many superhumans he can make in 7 days ("Arthur likes bigging up the ol' Capatron missiles, doesn't he?" - Zomblee). Then Barbara Bach wanders in stage left ("I don't think Barbara will be getting her Bachs out." - Rawshark) with a quite bizarre hair-do ("Is that her hair? Oh you've got to be shitting me!" - Zomblee) and we discover that she’s actually quite old and is kept alive by some kind of anti-aging potion of Arthur Kennedy’s, which prompts Rawshark to predict that she’s going to die at the end of the movie by growing old really quickly, which she does, of course.
But that’s later, right now Arthur Kennedy gets excited about those Capatron missiles again, fires one at Richard Kiel, and turns him into a humanoid killer, loosing his beard in the process. Then there’s a serious of events disguising a plot, with Tom Tom calming the humanoid Kiel down using the power of his mind and Barbara Gibson getting wet, although ("She didn't get her top wet!" - Rawshark, "You can see her arse though." - Zomblee).
So it was business as usual at Zombie Club. A wonky Italian sci-fi movie starring a bunch of Hollywood B-listers, some on the way up, some on the way down, most with a Bond connection, is bread and butter for us. I’ll still never understand how come Kiel’s facial hair returned so quickly when he gets back to normal at the end. "He's got his beard back!" (Rawshark)
"It was in the lake, he left his beard in the lake!" (Zomblee). Thanks guys.
"She's been hitting the Alpha Pills."
Zomblee Yes, Richard Kiel did leave his patchy beard in that lake - it's the only explanation I can provide for its reappearance at the end. Welcome to The Humanoid, a movie which may as well have been made especially for ZC for all the reasons Jim stated above. I came across this movie when trying to further my geeky knowledge about one Aldo Lado, director or excellent giallo offering Short Night of the Glass Dolls, and hurriedly mailed Jim along the lines of "When you see what I've found, you might have a trouser accident." But, alas, he had beaten me to it (again!) - "When I first heard about The Humanoid I nearly did have a trouser accident!"
Thankfully though, there were no trouser accidents to speak of tonight. Managing (just about) to keep control of our sphincters, we launched into The Humanoid at light speed and it delivered just what we wanted, reminding us once again just how great our towering leading man is ("I would love to meet Richard Kiel!" - Rawshark), and just how much we love Italian Star Wars rip-offs like this at ZC ("Look! There's even a land speeder! This IS Star Wars!" Rawshark again).
One of the most endearing aspects of a substandard rip-off, is that for every technological advancement prediction it messes up ("In the future video games are a bit shit aren't they..." - I concur, Jim), we will then be bombarded with a plethora of great talent, like Kiel (with on / off beardage), Babs Bach (with crazy hair), Arthur Kennedy (with the shakes) as well as the rather lovely Moonraker babe Corrine Clery. And that's just the cast! The production was designed by the legendary Enzo Castellari and scored by the prolific Ennio Morricone, but don't get too excited because you would never know it - sadly this is one of the few features of The Humanoid that leaves you feel a little cheated because as prolific as Morricone is, he's never shit. Except in The Humanoid.
So, some things to look out for in Humanoid if you ever get the chance:
1. Barbara Bach's hair - this takes some beating. As Jim put it, "It looks like she's been wearing a hat all day." 2. Arthur Kennedy being really crap as an evil genius, failing again and again and making rubbish excuses up for his failures. Don't trust him, don't listen to his bullshit - he's rubbish.
3. Ivan Rassimov - Darth Gimp - look at the gap in that mask, you can almost tell it's Ivan Rassimov. Looks like a perv. Again, he's rubbish.
4. Enzo Castellari's production design - jokes aside, this is genuinely impressive. He is not rubbish. We like him a lot.
"The worst that can happen is we'll spend 2000 years in suspended animation."
Rawshark Well, well, well, The Humanoid, what a find! Hats off Jim. Seriously, how George Lucas never sued these filmmakers is beyond me. Within the first five minutes, we have a Star Destroyer, a Darth (Gimp) Vader and a Landspeeder, as well as one of the worst special effects ever seen, zooming from space onto the Star Destroyer’s deck (”through the triangle window” - Jim). Oh yes, buckle in space-travellers, The Humanoid is a pure slice of fried Zombie Club gold.
After the troop of ‘mini Vaders’ storm Metropolis to steal its Capatron (but fail to kill Corinne Clery) we cut to Richard Kiel, a man so demanding of screen presence he’s like Han Solo and Chewbacca rolled into one. He’s travelling through space with his robotic pet dog, but is spotted by the evil Dr Kraspin who sees him as ”the hulking male template” (Jim) for his army of indestructible humans. Cue one micro rocket full of Capatron and Richard Kiel is suddenly transmuted (ie looks like he’s had a shave) from human to humanoid and goes all Hulk-like on some nearby cardboard vehicles and shop window dummies (sorry, tanks and soldiers).
Dr Kraspin, Darth Gimp and Babs Bach then encircle Kiel in a spider spaceship and knock him unconscious with a ”special narcotic gas”. Their plan is to use the humanoid to kill Metropolis’ leader, but unfortunately they failed to count on Tom Tom, a young Asian boy who just so happens to be all Godlike and manages to calm old Kiel down with a soothing voice and a nice cup of tea. Then it’s up to the ‘rebels’ to fight back, and launch an attack on the evil Emperor, sorry, Dr Kraspin and his gimpish followers.
Make no mistake, The Humanoid is so bad it’s just terrific fun. Major highlights include the much cooler take on the light-sabre - laser arrows (”Ohmigod – laser arrows – I can’t believe it!” – Jim), a robotic dog doing a yellow paint shit slick (yes, you did read that right), a naff-but-cool space dogfight, a piercing torture trap made from needles and, going even one better than the laser arrows, a last-scene fight featuring Laser Hands! Thankfully, it all ends happily ever after as our dear old friend Kiel manages to return to the lake to retrieve his beard, and thus once again become human. Brilliant!
”I can’t find the counter-Humanoid notes I’ve written”
Director Aldo Lado
Cast Richard Kiel
Runtime 100 mins
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Cosmos: War of the Planets (1977)
Plot Insufficient plot available!
Rawshark After the so-bad-it’s-good high that was The Humanoid, anything else was just going to be a let down. And as far as let downs go, Cosmos: War of the Planets goes lower than most. After about 15 minutes of screen time it’s Day 4, and there’s still ”nothing to report”. Then one guy almost dies after drifting in space, but after 3-4 minutes of dullness and trying to alter ‘the directionals’, he is saved. Oh good. Completely pointless scene that one then.
Eventually we worked out it was all to do with some Captain, intolerable of discipline, who ignores orders from home and instead wants to visit a planet called MK31. This gets the press / ”space newspaper men” (Zomblee) quite agitated and they rush to their phone booths a la 1930s to report the latest non-developments. Anyway, the annoying Captain and his red helmet crew (”Have you seen the belts they’re wearing – they go right up their asses” - Jim) then crash land on MK31, which, wouldn’t you know it, just so happens to have the same atmosphere as Earth.
There they explore the world and come across an evil alien ‘truck-face robot bloke’. Luckily they escape truck-face robot bloke and instead find a sort of ”Spacehenge” (Zomblee), a tribe of green people and a teleportation device. It all eventually turns out that it’s all been the fiendish plot of some supercomputer, reminiscent of the old TV series of Hitchhikers Guide, who has been plotting to take over the galaxy, but laughably, required the assistance of some humans to replace his circuit components. ”Hurry up earthlings” Er… wh… ok.
Make no mistake, this is bad filmmaking, chock full of meaningless ”space gibberish” (Zomblee), rubbish fighting and, dare I say it with it’s maltreatment of the entire race of green people, really rather racist. Nope, no Cosmic love for Cosmos here.
” HF203 is refracting the passage of the waves”.
Zomblee Wow - I had forgotten that we invented the half-star review rating, and you know what? We created it for movies just like Cosmos: War of the Planets. Movies like this (and Reactor) painfully demonstrate that not all Italian space movies are entertainingly awful, even if they do feature a "space press conference" (Jim).
Directed by Alfonso Brescia but credited to Al Bradley ("Al Bradley? That sounds like a dodgy made-up name for an Italian guy" - Jim), this one starts out dull and only gets vaguely interesting if only to spot how many stupid, space-age-type terminology they could come up with or to witness the orgasmatron-type gadget they use for cosmic sex ("Violent or gentle?). I'd be lying if i told you i remember much else about this heap of shit, except that at the beginning they keep on talking about some guy called Hamilton ("Hamilton... Hamilton... they keep on mentioning Hamilton!" - Rawshark). Do yourself a favour - avoid.
Jim The say that you should take the rough with the smooth, that what goes up must come down, that for all truths there are consequences. They also say that night follows day, for every yin there is a yang, and for every Starcrash a Reactor. Well, now they can also say that for every Humanoid there is a Cosmos: War of the Planets.
Can’t say I remember a great deal of the plot, not that there was much of one (”Insufficient plot available!” - Zomblee), nor can I actually remember any of the characters. Except maybe that Hamilton fella but, like Rawshark before me, I had trouble working out who he was. Similarly I had trouble following both Zomblee’s ”space gibberish” and Rawshark’s ”technical gobbledygook”, but I do remember an overabundance of very 40s style space press conferences. Not what they were about though, but I’m sure it doesn’t matter.
I actually wrote down ”green space zombie”, but I don’t remember that either, so I think that was wishful thinking. In fact, movies like this almost make you lose faith in the bad films forever. Jesus, I can’t believe I actually just said that, hit me someone quick.
Director Alfonso Brescia
Cast John Richardson
Runtime 89 mins
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Oh, did Cosmos: War of the Planets finish? I suppose we’d better go home then.
As an added note, Zomblee got so excited by The Humanoid that he found Richard Keil’s website and ordered us all signed photos of the big man himself. How nice was that?
Anyway, next week things get a bit more musical with Zomblee’s 80s Rock Night, which I think is going to Rock and Roll All Night, a bit like Kiss.