Archive for August 18, 2020

This Is Proteo Theater

Posted in FILM with tags , , on August 18, 2020 by dcairns

WILD, WILD PLANET (Antonio Margheriti, 1966) is a weird, trippy kind of thing. The sci-fi world presented is fairly familiar, at first glance — the rockets, the domes, the rotating space station — but all the narrative and character beats are either wrong, or absent, or hideously effed up. Impossible to work out who it’s meant to be about — whenever a character is introduced, they either get shrunk into a suitcase and are never seen again, or make so little impression you don’t recognise them next time they turn up.

Why did the plot seem a jumbled abstraction, a succession of unrelated and incomprehensible incidents? Is it possible we only thought we were watching the film and were merely facing in its direction?


Who needs drugs? The sterile dubbing, stiff performances, ludicrous futuristic dancing (a favourite sf movie trope), preposterous props, costumes and makeup (the girl with the coordinated eyeshadow and binoculars was a nice touch) induce all the confusion, alienation and gnawing anxiety you could ever hope to achieve with the ill-advised ingestion of petroleum byproducts or poisonous berries.

I can’t really show you the funny stuff in framegrabs because much of it requires motion to bring out its humour, like the space disco and the sleek jetcars that trundle along at 4.3 mph. I must say, it’s somewhat ambitious — instead of the usual limited supply of cheap, unconvincing stuff, this sixties scifi movie offers up a VAST ARRAY of cheap, unconvincing stuff.

As in PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, all the people appearing on TV monitors are actually standing behind TV-shaped windows, causing extra amusement. In what might be a clever touch, the conversations characters have using vid-call technology have all the stilted hesitancy you’d expect if one half of the conversation were prerecorded. How did they get them to do that? Just hired awful actors, I suppose. (Yet Franco Nero is among them.)

It’s really something. Terry Southern once said something about it taking a particular mixture of talents, non-talents and anti-talents to make a notably bad picture. Here we have something that’s at least as alien as FELLINI SATYRICON — a dismal, inhuman, unrecognizable and incomprehensible experience — while still giving every impression that what everyone wanted (I know, the intentional fallacy and all that) was to make an exciting sci-fi romp, a pop James Bond / Flash Gordon mash-up. But Jesus, it’s nightmarish.

One of the people the baddies try to put in their evil suitcase doesn’t go small enough, and is left a dwarf at the end of the picture, and the goodies laugh at him because he is a small man and therefore funny.

“It’s remarkable how much of this has come true,” I said to Fiona, “just while we’ve been watching.”