Written for Varied Celluloid by Prof. Aglaophotis!

The Plot: Taking place in the future of space travel and computer technology, a spaceship and its crew are following the orders of the recently built super computer known as Wiz. However, after sending the ship on a false collision course, Captain Alex Hamilton (John Richardson) of the MK31 space cruiser disapproves of taking orders from a machine. Despite his disapproval, his Commander keeps him on board the MK31, thinking he’s too valuable to their space endeavors. After fixing an old satellite, Hamilton’s crew are attacked by two unmanned UFOs who send them spiraling into outer space. Once the MK31 is stabilized, the crew find themselves being drawn towards a mysterious planet where the UFOs came from. What will the MK31 crew discover once they land? Furthermore, what is in store for the Earth once they discover the magnitude of the situation they’re about to face?

The Review
Think about all of the silly American Sci-Fi movies you or any MST3K host ever joked about that came from the 1960’s: all of the cheesy sets, science jargon that even a kindergartner could call-out, bad special effects and goofy costumes. Now apply all of those to an Italian Sci-Fi production. No commentary could protect you from the horror that is the low budget Italian Sci-Fi movie. Now I do love me some Italian Sci-Fi movies such as Barbarella and Star Crash, but those were some genuinely fun and silly movies with a lot of style. Cosmos is The Creeping Terror of Italian Sci-Fi films: it’s poor in everything but plot.
Part of what makes this movie hard to watch is the amount of stock footage in it. Whenever there’s a big explosion or exterior shot, they show a scene of a volcano erupting or exterior shots of buildings and space imagery. I’m not too sure if I can even comment on the spaceship footage: sometimes it looks a little authentic because they have tiny still images of specific characters flying by it for exterior space shots. Then there are other times where the ship won’t be doing anything congruous with what’s going on.

The editing deserves a particular mention because it always manages to disorient the Hell out of the pace and setting. One minute, during a briefing, the scene will just cut to the mission at hand and that mission will cut to a shot of the ship flying through space, all the while the music begins and ends throughout the cuts. Halfway through the movie the editing gets worse. The crew returns to the ship after learning some pretty important information about the planet they’ve landed on and how they intend on acting about it, but then we see the crew relaxing in the psychedelic love-making room to which they relax in for what appears to be ten minutes. There’s a sub plot about one of the alien space fighters crash-landing on Earth in the Arctic that’s unimportant because it gets resolved almost immediately after the main threat is finished. Some of the plot points just happen out of no where, for no reason at all, too. Characters will be murdered by unknown means aboard the ship and their fellow crew members won’t elucidate on it or make any lead-up to it; to them it just… happened.

It’s hard to identify with the characters in this movie. I know that doesn’t seem like an important aspect, but it’s impossible to identify with them because most of them are hard to identify in general. We have Capt. Hamilton, Oko (the woman with the big cleavage), Meela (Hamilton’s poetry reading squeeze), Max (the black guy), the bearded Marseille (who spends most of the movie eating peanuts [huh?]) and Charles Borromel. Every other crew member, regardless of name, just kind of blends in with each other. Most of this is due to the fact that everyone wears the same dopey red cap and skin tight uniform, but it’s also due to the fact that when they die, no one seems to make a big deal about it.

The outer space scenes in this movie are hilarious. Early in the movie when the crew are repairing the satellite, the actors are gliding around via string in front of a still-shot of stars that never moves. There’s even a huge laminated photograph of their ship in the background of the satellite! It doesn’t stop there at all, though. Not only do the astronaut hats look stupid, but all of the uniforms are skin-tight (especially around the chest… probably intended for the ladies). Upon landing on the nameless planet, the crew encounters a few killer robots (or really, one) and the robot’s limbs are clearly the leggings and forearms to a suit of armor. Then again, the robots in this movie are unintentionally charming because they all look like giant versions of old wind-up toy robots.

Most of the alien planet sets consist of either cave entrances, gravel or slag heaps. The movie never tries to pull our leg or use any forced perception shots though, it’s all just wide shot sets of characters running around a quarry in what looks to be the dead of night. Judging by the looks of the planet they land on, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the outdoor sets were shot in a parking lot. Hell, I think the only good effects are of the silver, half naked alien elves encountered on the planet. Then again, between the alien’s appearance and the rocky setting they live in, I thought the crew had landed on the Shikima Realm from La Blue Girl… and honestly, I think some horny muscle-bound elven dudes and tentacle monsters would’ve made this movie a bit more enjoyable.

There isn’t a moment in the movie where the music sounds original, it all sounds like it was lifted from every Sci-Fi movie/Science Documentary soundtrack from the 1960’s. There are some tracks that actually work, however. In the opening, sometime after the credits, we get plenty of shots of the Wiz super computer (as well as some NASA stock footage) and the music playing is this ambient metallic clashing that makes the computer system and its surroundings appear archaic; for awhile it made me think of Koyaanisqatsi. None of this lasts until the end credits though, especially when this weird lyrical piece pops up when a character is about to go into space. It reminded me of the weird edits I heard in the 3D VHS release of Robot Monster. They even use a Bach song several times in the movie, as if this is Phantom of the Opera… or The Unearthly, or SS Girls, or Sho’s level in Battle Arena Toshinden or any given media that uses that song!!

There are a few moments in the movie that are surprisingly well done, though, and by ‘well done’ I mean attention grabbing. One in particular is the part where the MK31 first encounters the alien space fighters and when headquarters finds that the press has leaked information about the alien ships to the public. The panic and urgency in the scene is actually a little intense, forgiving the fact they never tell us how the press found out about it. It was certainly a lot more gripping and coherent than the the first encounter with the Natal in the opening to Battle in Outer Space (but then again, Battle in Outer Space was pretty cool).
The acting is okay for the most part. John Richardson is pretty good in the movie as the rogue captain who mistrusts the orders of the Wiz super computer, but really it just comes down to him flashing his good looks. He barely even gets into a fist fight! What little fist fighting there is was left to late stuntman/actor Aldo Canti who is actually kind of cool in the movie, but his character just doesn’t get enough to do. As I mentioned earlier, Charles Borromel – the Actor who played Kronos in Cave Dwellers and the Police Captain in Horrible – is in this movie and it’s interesting to note that this may be one of the better roles I’ve seen him in so far. His character starts off pretty standard, but near the end of the movie he actually starts to show some really good physical acting that is a little convincing.

Still, I have to give credit to the plot. The villain in Cosmos is something you generally don’t see in movies any more… or comic books, or novels, or even video games. I know this was made back in the seventies, probably as a belated cash-in on the popularity of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the thought put into the story and its antagonist shows a little care regardless of the shoe string budget. It could’ve been a tad bit better I guess, especially in the guy’s motivations and reasoning, but for what it is, I appreciated it.

What gets to me the most about the movie though is how inconsistent the ending is. At first it’s all happy, but then one of our heroes dies and it gets depressing. Then the movie tries to lighten things up by saying one of our heroes is now a proud father… and then it gets depressing again out of nowhere. The depressing plot inconveniences seem really out of place and the first one is completely incongruous to the whole story, mostly because there was nothing about the antagonist that would’ve caused that stuff to happen! If it weren’t for the evil voice that shows up during that twist, I would’ve just assumed the movie turned into a pre-Pandorum in the end.

The Conclusion
Seeing how I’m a huge nerd, a part of me really wants to like this movie: it’s got a plot about space-borne robots, aliens, super computers, a despondent theme and an actor from Cave Dwellers. Unfortunately, the movie is so poorly shot, edited and acted it makes for a borderline miserable viewing experience. The goofy, skin-tight space uniforms, crappy special effects, stock footage, the half naked silver space elves and the clunky giant robots in shining armor just barely make this a movie worth watching for sheer hilarity, but there’s just not enough of either. On the lighter side, it’s not really the worst Sci-Fi movie about space exploration I’ve seen; I think MST3K covered a vast majority of the more wretched ones like Fire Maidens From Outer Space and 12 to The Moon… but it still hurts.