Outer outer space - Page 2

From Turkish Star Wars to Phantom Planet -- "Starship Vortex" sci-fi flick series dwells in forgotten netherworlds of cosmic fantasy

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Planet weird: eyes, teeth, and robot parts collide in 1967's Mission Stardust

In the Me Decade and after even Socialist sci-fi lightened up, discounting the thesis statements made by Tarkovsky and his ilk. The East German-Romanian In the Dust of the Stars (1976) is a fair riot of silliness as Earth voyagers sample the high life on Tem 4 — interpretive dancing, flavored inhalers, snakes slithering around party smorgasbords — until our heroes discover the planet's secret slave underbelly, prompting revolutionary class struggle. Just a bit more sober is 1981's Soviet To the Stars by Hard Ways, in which an ethereal sole survivor is found on an alien spaceship and brought to Earth, then taken back to save her home planet from death by industrial pollution. It's a rare post-1977 sci-fi film not influenced by Star Wars, which was imitated more shamelessly the further you went down the exploitation-cinema tunnel — at least by anyone not using 1979's Alien as their model. Italy, second only to the U.S. as the drive-in era's international trash exporter, ground out countless grade-C space operas like 1979's Star Odyssey (featuring such spectacular budget-sparing action as two people using their minds to open a door); even Star Pilot, originally shot in 1966, was retitled, re-edited with footage "borrowed" from other movies, and re-released in the U.S. 11 years later to cash in on George Lucas' bonanza.

Nothing, however, will ever equal the plagiaristic zeal of 1982's The Man Who Saved the World, a.k.a. Turkish Star Wars, which took full advantage of Turkey's disinterest in copyright law to slap together an unforgettable contraption combining acres of actual Star Wars footage, other stolen elements, and new scenes putting a distinctive bargain-basement regional spin on the whole affair. Gauze too expensive for your zombie-mummies? Use toilet paper!

If you haven't overdosed on "futuristic" pastel track suits or annoying comedy robots yet, elsewhere in the Vortex series there's the relatively big budget 1969 British Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, a "parallel planet" tale at its best when flaunting the obvious influence of the prior year's psychedelic "trip" sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Way down the production-values scale, 1967 European co-production Mission Stardust features then-hot Swedish sexpot Essy Persson, who utters the line "Those robot creatures are great tailors, but they haven't a clue how to put buttons on." Denmark's 1961 English-language Journey to the Seventh Planet adheres to the lava-lamp school of color design in portraying astronauts under mind control that materializes their thoughts — all of which seem to run toward pin-up girls (including a former Miss Denmark!) in lingerie. 

"STARSHIP VORTEX"

Through May 17

Thu, 9pm, $7

Vortex Room

1082 Howard, SF

www.myspace.com/thevortexroom

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