Friday, July 08, 2016

079. End of the World and 080. Doomsday Machine

Jump to Doomsday Machine (1972)

079. End of the World (1977)
Director: John Hayes
Writer: Frank Ray Perilli
From: Cult Cinema
Watch: archive.org

A NASA scientist decodes messages from space that predict natural disasters. As he investigates a companion broadcast coming from Earth, he begins uncovering a plot for world destruction.

This movie opens with Christopher Lee going into a local diner to call the police, but as he approaches the phone, it explodes as does some of the equipment in the kitchen, which kills the diner’s owner. Lee returns to his convent only to be greeted at the door by his doppelgänger and then vanish from the film for the next hour.

Instead of screen legend Christopher Lee, we’re left with Andrew, a NASA scientist who’s brilliant, just brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, that he’s getting a special award and a banquet in his honor for sciencing. Why, Andrew’s just the best at sciencing! And speaking! We know this because we’re told he’s getting an award for his sciencing and then everyone complements him on his speaking. We don’t ever see either, but these characters seem trustworthy. I’m comfortable just being told what the characters are about instead of seeing it for myself.

Andrew is involved in two projects at NASA. One is his actual job to research or purify or study some kind of gem and it only comes up once so that we’ll remember it for the end of the movie. The other is a lead he’s following on his own of strange signals coming from space, some being repeated back from a terrestrial source. Just before the banquet, he successfully decodes one of the signals as “Large Earth Disruption.” That evening, there’s a massive earthquake. Or volcanic eruption. I forget and don’t have it listed in my notes, but that’s okay because Andrew’s not particularly curious about it either or about why space signals would be broadcast in English.

Anyway, Andrew and his wife Sylvia are sent on a speaking tour because he’s so good at science and convincing people about the importance of science that NASA wants him to talk to college students to convince them to study space science and not ecology, which is what all the hip kids were doing. We don’t see any of these speeches or the crowds won over by his eloquence, but we’re told they exist.

Between speaking engagements, Andrew checks his space answering machine and figures out the signals are coming from a convent not to far from him. He and his wife investigate and are kidnapped by the aliens who have taken the form of the priest and nuns. Christopher Lee reappears and his human version dies. Andrew and Sylvia try to escape, but Lee makes things explode around them. He sends Andrew back to NASA to get the gem Andrew was working on at the beginning so the aliens can power their transporter and leave the Earth. Oh, and spoiler alert, they were there to destroy the planet the whole time, they just wanted to leave before everything went splodey.

As Andrew and Sylvia watch stock footage of natural disasters, they decide it’s better to risk life on an alien planet than die on Earth and walk through the transporter. After they leave, the movie lives up to its title and the Earth blows up. THE END.

A comment on archive.org claims Lee was tricked into being in this movie, and that’s plausible. There’s just not much movie here. Most of it is Andrew and Sylvia going from poorly-lit location to poorly-lit location and not doing much. There is some camp pleasure to be had. This is a Charles Band production so the explosions are pretty good, and gratuitous, and just plain silly, and the aliens’ excuse for destroying the Earth is pretty similar to the ones offered in the Starman movies--specifically that the Earth is going to be a vector for disease throughout the universe so it has to be destroyed.

Yeah, neckbeards got Cheeto dust on Voyager so the universe got together to blow us up before we could gunk up their stuff.

There’s not a whole lot to the movie and the best parts are the ones with Christopher Lee in them. The picture is public domain, but, unfortunately, Mill Creek wiped their dick all over my copy with their logo. There is a copy on archive.org, though, so it can be seen for free. The movie’s good enough to fill some time and be a new addition to the standard horror host rotation, but isn’t quite bad enough to be fun or good enough to excite.


080. Doomsday Machine (1972)
Directors: Harry Hope, Lee Sholem, and Herbert J. Leder
Writer: Stuart J. Byrne
From: Cult Cinema
Watch: Elvira; Cinematic Titanic; archive.org

A two-year manned mission to Venus has three members of its crew swapped out for women after spies discover the Chinese have developed a doomsday machine. Now the crew faces the possibility that their mission is not one of exploration but of survival of the species.

The movie opens with a spy breaking into a Chinese weapons factory by literally throwing a cat over the wall. That really establishes the tone of the film and it never manages to come back. The spy takes pictures of the titular doomsday machine--a bomb that will start a nuclear chain reaction and destroy the planet--and reveals to US authorities that it’ll be detonated in just over two days.

Meanwhile, the ASTRA mission to Venus (where it rains sulphuric acid) has it’s departure time moved up by an hour and three of its crew are replaced by women, much to the consternation of the rest of the crew. On the plus side, one of them notes, there’ll be someone to wash his socks.

On the ship, the crew start pairing off almost immediately, with Captain Kurt (not Kirk), becoming overtly aggressive with Kate. Choice lines: As he forces himself upon her, he notes they’ll be “cozy together for a nice long time. So why don’t you relax and enjoy it?” After she responds, he says, “Do I need to use force?”

Delightful.

Anyway, Earth blows up, they realize their situation, Kurt and Katie start going space crazy, and then the ship’s doctor says unless four of the seven crew members blast themselves out of the airlock, they won’t make it to Venus without becoming sterile. Kurt throws a fit, tries to rape Katie, but ends up blowing both him and her out the airlock (in a hilariously bad wire ballet sequence).

The ship continues toward Venus, but as it’s entering orbit, the final booster gets stuck. Danny, the “comic” member of the crew, and Georgianna, the Russian representative, work the booster loose, but end up stranded in space. However, they spot a derelict Russian craft from an earlier mission and climb into that. As they’re following the ASTRA to the surface, the ASTRA vanishes and the collected minds of the Venusians tell them not to try to land on their planet or they’ll likewise be destroyed. After seeing what the Earthenoids did to their own planet, the Venusians won’t let them on Venus (shades of End of the World). Danny and Georgianna are instead sent off beyond the edge of the universe for some kind of adventure something stuff who knows it just says “THE END.”

What to say? I’d seen this before in the Elvira episode, although I’d forgotten that even Elvira makes some racist jokes. The episode’s from 1983, but that’s more explanation than excuse. It’s not like she’s going beyond the bounds that the movie itself establishes. At one point, Danny refers to the Chinese as “chopstick jockeys.”

This is a movie largely without incident. The men are kept in the dark about why the women have been added to their crew, but we, as viewers, already know about the titular threat. That doesn’t stop the men from immediately flirting with the women. In fact, most of the movie is the couples pairing off and pretending there’s chemistry.

Literally halfway through, the Earth explodes in an avalanche of stock footage, and then it’s back to flirting mixed with some weeping and catatonic stares. Then someone has to do the airlock walk, Venus says “Get off my lawn,” and the movie ends. Interesting point about the end: they ran out of money. The final sequence in the Russian shuttle features different actors in different costumes and it draaaaaaaaaaags. It’s very literally tacked on which just adds to the cheapness of the film. Another sign of that: the ASTRA is several different ships throughout the movie because they never built their own model, the producers just used footage of spaceships from other movies. They’re not even spaceships that look like each other.

This flick is real stupid, but passably watchable. It has nice colors, which seems like damning with faint praise, but it was shot in the late 60’s/early 70’s so there’s some camp pleasure in the ridiculous color schemes that appear on the walls. Also, all the chairs on the spaceship are La-Z-Boys and there’s a cameo appearance by the famous Casey Kasem. The movie is public domain, but, as with the movie above, Mill Creek had to write their name all across it. There is, though, a copy on archive.org as well as an episode of Cinematic Titanic. The movie’s retrograde politics plus general silliness make it highly riffable, but I’m not sure it’d be fun with a group of friends. It’s probably best to stick to the Elvira or Cinematic Titanic versions.

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