Sometimes it's nice take a break and read reviews someone else has written. It's also rather amusing.
The first reviews of Severin's DVD(s) are starting to appear. BEAST IN SPACE has been unleashed onto the public and reviewers and critics are beginning to put words to what they've seen. (Which is making for interesting reading.) It's no great secret that Alfonso Brescia's space opera's aren't so much an acquired taste as something you just learn to get used to, like prostate exams and the constant tabloid media coverage of Clinton and Obama.
But BEAST IN SPACE is by far the most, ah, unique of all Brescia's space opera's.
Then again you can't (or shouldn't) really take any of them seriously. These spaghetti space operas are tongue-in-cheek productions, at least
that's how I view them. They haven't dated well. Their SFX were laughable when they were shot. Even so they're still better than 99.999% of Sci-Fi
channel original movies. Okay that may be an exaggeration. It's probably more like 75%.
That's what makes comments like this so very humorous:
"The Beast In Space (La Bestia Nello Spazio) is shamefully awful, as crappy as low-budget Eurotrash can get. The film's all-too-brief moments of unintentional humor are like someone farting, loud and intermittently, amid the sobs and lamentations of a funeral service." - excerpted from Eccentric Cinema's Beast in Space review.
And that's just the first paragraph! Sure there's supposed to be far worse spaghetti sci-fi movies out there but this one is avaiable on DVD. Now.
And it is rather. . . unusual.
I also thought DVD Talk's review managed to sum it up rather nicely. Here's some choice bits from their excellent review:
"The Beast in Space (1980) is a terrible mixture of '50s sci-fi movie cliches and would-be erotica. <...> Watching this Italian production, there's a certain fascination contemplating how such utter garbage actually got produced and exhibited to paying customers, but save for the fringe of insatiable Euro-trash fans The Beast in Space offers practically zero entertainment value."
That last bit is perhaps a bit harsh. It's entertainment value derives from the fact it is low budget "Euro-trash" and, as is so often the case with low budget movies, very unintentionally funny. Too, seems like most have missed the point. These weren't (one hopes) serious sci-fi movies. They were (one earnestly hopes) supposed to be comedia, and comedy doesn't translate well. Still DVD Talk got the right of it:
"Everything about The Beast in Space (La Bestia nello spazio) is unbelievably bad. <...> Most of the set design and decoration is about on par with the '70s Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV series, while during the flight Larry's crew wear uniforms resembling those worn on Space: 1999 but with caps like something out of a '30s serial." Great comments, if a bit harsh at times. You can read the full review here.
Too, those are good comparisons to contemporary series. Most reading the review will likely get the references. Alas the costume designs used (actually recycled from previous Brescia spaghetti space opera epics) in BEAST IN SPACE probably pre-date both those series so any intimation they had an influence is dubious at best. Possible, but not very likely. Of course I've said it all before in A Rough Guide to Al Bradly's Space Operas. Even mentioned Buck Rogers and provided screen cap comparissons.
Hard to believe but the look is pretty stereotypical for the genre. But they are right, it's almost entirely lifted from elsewhere, most likely previous
Italian space opera series influenced by early Hollywood sci-fi and serials. However the most obvious Italian movie inspiration was PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES.
From the silly caps, the change from vinyl "space suits" to cloth uniforms donned when the crew decide to go exploring, just about everything in
BEAST IN SPACE is a send-up of this (and other) Italian sci-fi movies. Just done on the ultra cheap.
Worth seeing by film students and genre fans purely as a curiosity. BEAST IN SPACE is just one of those movies you have to experience for yourself. There's no other way to fully assimilate the, uhm, weirdness.
But, wait, it gets better. Timothy Young at Mondo Esoterica for writing what has to be my favorite review, after my own of course, that I've read of BEAST IN SPACE so far. It's well written by someone who "gets it" and isn't arrogantly dismissive, as so many other reviewers have been.
Here's a few highlights. .
"European film makers had never really gotten into science fiction, with the exception of some low budgeted Italian productions from Antonio Margheriti and an impressive entry from Mario Bava, leaving the genre's best entries to the Americans and Russians. However in the light of the phenomenal success of Star Wars (1977) the exploitation industy immediately kicked into gear with the first film, Battaglie negli spazi stellari (1977) even hitting cinemas in Italy before the George Lucas film was released. Four more productions would follow in quick succession. <...>
Working with a cleary tiny budget, Brescia does a commendable job using interiors as often as possible and giving the future a fitting 'futuristic 1970s' look. <...>
Completely daft but entertaining and worth tracking down for all fans of the trashiest Euro-cult cinema. Partly recommended." - Full review here.
I love that last bit, "partly recommended."