austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

You say you got a real solution

If you watch just one Italian-y 1960s movie about shrinkable inflatable space alien balloons trying to take over the world, The Wild, Wild Planet is probably it. Maybe there's room for more than one such movie, but it's all that I've seen while doing my WiiFit exercises, anyway.

The movie is one of many based on the notion that the world's powerful people can be abducted for a few weeks and replaced by superlatively trained duplicates in order to soften the homeland up for invasion. I suppose that was more plausible back in the future of the 1960s, when a leader being completely out of contact for weeks on end was believable. In this case, it's leaders of the lightly fascist world being replaced at the direction of alien women. I'm not sure if they're supposed to be more scary for being aliens or for being women trying to take over Earth.

It's a lightly fascistic world --- the Space Forces seem to be equally afraid of their superior officers and the ChemBioMed Corporation, which harvests organs for transplant and has been working hard at shrinking them because they're evil, a secret known only to anyone who's ever seen a movie before --- and I guess the aliens are trying to make it a dictatorial fascist world. I didn't quite get their agenda, really. Miscellaneous harvested organs are showin in glass-display corridors which look like someone crossed an Automat with Khan's sleeper ship from the original Star Trek and then filled it with tiny lungs. And it's clearly set in the future of the classic Design For Dreaming short, based on the exterior shots of the toy city of tomorrow in it, and a few glimpses of a commercial for the Computo-Doll, recommended by the Educational Council, which looks like a regular doll except it keeps saying, ``I'm A Computo-Doll''.

The hero is a pasty white guy from the Space Forces who struts around the movie with the arrogant smugness which comes from being a pasty white guy who knows the screenwriter is on his side and imagines that's enough for the audience to be too. He honestly thinks he can make a pause in the middle of announcing that he's going, ``To find a chemist ... by the name of Nurmi.'' And he's able to sneak a ``personal message'' out past his captors by sending a long weird acrostic.

Granted he is fending off an alien invasion based on duplicating people and deduced from a few elusive clues, but, like an awful lot of these films, his investigative technique is mostly based on making sure there's no remotely admissible chain of evidence or narrative. It works out fine, I suppose, but imagine an investigation-of-the-conspiracy story in a place that liked having a constitution, huh? As it is, mostly, Our Hero figures out the invasion must have something to do with ChemBioMed because 'CBM' comes up improbably often in conversation suddenly.

The invaders are using inflatable ... robots, I guess, to take the place of key humans. That they're inflatable is shown only in a few scenes, but I have to admit, very effective ones: one of the alien women notices they're being followed, and in a sweeping motion pops the inflatable robot with her; the effect of the person disappearing in this smooth, continuous shot is effectively creepy. It's less effective seeing them being inflated; they look like thick-rubbered parade-type balloons of the 1960s, understandably, and what exactly makes inflatable robots indistinguishable from real people at close range is left unclear to me. There are also some attempts to show duplicated bodies in various states of deformity, including one that's sort of half-deflated, and another that has extra, undersized arms stuck to the torso, which are strikingly effective probably because they're not quite convincing. They look close enough to normal to stand out as unnatural.

Like every science fiction thing from before about Star Wars there's no attempt to portray the pop culture, which is fine, since most attempts to display pop culture in science fiction (at least the TV/movie kind) produce, well, the Space Hippie songs from that one Star Trek episode (which songs I like, by the way). There's a bit of effort at High Culture, though, with characters dropping in at some kind of dance performance at the Proteo Theater, in which women dressed in sort of a butterfly motif drift up and down a stage that looks like what you might set up in the middle of a shopping mall for an infliction of performing arts in public. They keep coming back to this rather than to any action, I should note, and even the car chase --- using sorta-futurey three-wheeled bubble cars --- is not all that fast. (There's also a curious habit in this future to build bookshelves which are curved, fortunately concave up, but that seems like it's wasting a lot of shelving space however visually distinctive it might be. There's also a view of a room where people are 'prepared' for space flight, including an octagonal table which looks like it'd be a tolerable Tardis control panel, as well as some big cylindrical tubes, in which people are seated, which rotate slowly for some reason. It's engagingly cute.)

Anyway, Our Hero I Guess gets to the CBM undersea lair, frees his girlfriend from a plan by which the head of CBM will somehow merge with her in a subplot to create a race of perfect people to populate the universe which I don't know how it relates to the invading aliens at all, and also frees his superior officer plus some other minor characters, breaks open the dome so the water can rush in, and wrestles control of the company away from Jack Tramiel. All ends up well and I guess the light fascism is all better? I don't know.

In short, they could use the inflatable robot alien invader idea better.

Trivia: The first dance at Boulder City was Thanksgiving Eve, 1931. It drew around two thousand men and women. Source: Hoover Dam, Joseph E Stevens.

Currently Reading: The Circus: MI-5 Operations, Nigel West.

Tags: movies
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