ASTRO-ZOMBIES



Astro-Zombies

The Astro-Zombies hosts one truly unforgettable scene . Now I don’t mean "unforgettable" in a "Wow, that chopper blade took off that zombies head! How did they do that?" sense. Still, I can guarantee you will never forget this movie’s title sequence. The credits appear over a bunch of windup robots and a toy tank on a curb. Astoundingly, these toys have absolutely no relation to the plot at all. Legend has it that producer/director Ted V. Mikels conceived the scene to cut production costs. If this story bears truth, it explains just how much Mikels cared about the film. And if the director cares so little about the movie, why should an audience care at all? Mikels did get one positive out of this opening, though. Those windup robots deliver the best acting performances in the film.

This film is a total mess on all ends. The plot is a jumbled disaster that is part Frankenstein, part James Bond and part Hardy Boys mystery, and none of these elements gel at all. It involves the C.I.A., several international espionage organizations, plenty of science labs and the accompanying scientists, and the creation of an "astro-man," by Dr. DeMarco, played by John Carradine. Carradine, who unfortunately kept acting well past his prime, is forced to spit out long lines of scientific jargon that make George Lucas’ dialogue look like Shakespeare’s; the scenes in his lab were obviously intended to suggest production value, but they’re done in such slipshod fashion that they’re laughable. Accompanying DeMarco is his assistant, Franchot; with his droopy eye and hunched back, he’s obviously intended to evoke Fritz and Igor from Universal’s Frankenstein movies, but he comes across more like a greasy Mexican waiter. Tura Satana, as a sexy foreign bombshell, wants DeMarco’s secrets so she can save her country (from what, I have no idea. Perhaps her slinky dresses and immovable boobs?) Add to this the wooden acting of those playing the secret agents, including Wendell Corey of Rear Window, whose respectability had taken a severe nosedive into alcoholism by this point, and the casting is completely incompetent.

If that wasn’t enough to drag down any picture, there’s the Astro-Zombies themselves. They’re actually not astro-zombies, as that would involve star power. Instead they’re Solar-Zombies, powered by the sun. Or, when it’s dark and their battery runs down, flashlight power. Yes, you read that right. Imagine just how embarrassingly incompetent this film gets when one Astro-Zombie is running around the streets of Los Angeles with a flashlight pressed to the solar panel on his forehead. I joke you not. As for their appearance, the two of them run around with skull masks with steel mesh over the mouths, and the aforementioned solar panels. If a kid came to my door for Halloween wearing one of these, I would say, "Cool mask, kid." But this movie is a Hollywood production, not a night of trick or treating.

Adding to the haphazardness of the production are some of the most glaring continuity errors of all filmdom. Included among these are the scene where hatless thug Juan suddenly runs up a flight of stairs with his hat on, and some of the worst intercutting of day shots into what is obviously supposed to be night footage. As for logic, it was gutshot from the second the cameras started to roll.

One thing I noted about the film, to my dismay, was a misogynistic streak. Sure, horror tends to treat women as objects and often slaughters them, but the lead Astro-Zombie has a real bone for the fairer sex. A few of the scenes come across as borderline rape. And as with The Dead One, there’s a scene in which a male brings a woman to a girlie show. But then, this is an exploitation flick.

The only enticing element of the whole movie is the gore factor. There’s a decent amount of blood, and it looks realistic. But that does nothing to salvage the film.

The disc’s only extra is the trailer. It’s washed out and terribly faded. It clocks in at around three minutes, and gives away just about every kill in the flick. Don’t watch it before the movie.

Actually, don’t watch the movie either. Even if you have an insanely high level of tolerance for bad cinema, this is an unenjoyable piece of trash. If you do, though, I guarantee you won’t ever forget those windup robots. They’re the only thing in the film worth watching.

–Phil Fasso