Monday, May 13, 2013

Light Years Beyond Tomorrow

Can’t get enough crazy Italian science fiction like STARCRASH? Don't miss 1979's THE HUMANOID, one of many Italian ripoffs of STAR WARS to haunt movie theaters in the 1970s. A good-natured astronaut named Golob (7’4” Richard Kiel, in between Bond films) is transformed into a hulking, growling, mindless, indestructible “humanoid” by renegade scientist Kraspin (Arthur Kennedy). In the employ of malevolent dictator Graal (Ivan Rassimov), a megalomaniac garbed in black armor with plans to rule the galaxy, Kraspin plans to create an entire army of humanoid killing machines to aid in Graal’s conquest.

Luckily, Kraspin veers from Graal’s order to murder Earth’s leader, “Great Brother,” and sends Gorob to destroy pretty Barbara Gibson (MOONRAKER's Corinne Clery), who was responsible for the mad scientist’s exile to an insane asylum. Barbara and her “pupil,” a young Chinese boy named Tom-Tom (Marco Yeh), force the evil and hatred from Gorob’s mind, transforming him back into a gentle giant, albeit one who retains his super-strength and invulnerability. Joining forces with hot-shot warrior Nick (Leonard Mann), Barbara, Gorob, Tom-Tom, and Gorob’s robot dog Robodog (!) invade Graal’s planetary base and blow everything up in the name of justice and goodness.

Oh, yeah. When Kraspin isn’t fiddling with his humanoid “serum” or raving about revenge against Barbara, he’s killing topless women in a transparent iron maiden and draining their blood to keep Graal’s future queen, the busty Lady Agatha (Barbara Bach, who appeared with Kiel in THE SPY WHO LOVED ME), eternally young.

THE HUMANOID is ridiculous, hilarious, and utterly unpredictable. Just when you think director Aldo Lado couldn't pull anything new out from under his hat, suddenly Graal starts firing blue blasts from his hands or heavenly angels with crossbows drop out of the sky at Tom-Tom’s command to pull the good guys out of a tough spot. It’s also fun laughing at the obvious STAR WARS riffs. Most of the characters are drawn directly from George Lucas’ movie (with Kiel playing the Chewbacca part), even though Antonio Margheriti’s visual effects pale next to their precursor. Heck, they pale next to the STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL.

Kiel probably never got top billing again, and does his best in another “monster” role. He isn’t a good enough actor to make Gorob very sympathetic, although he’s likable enough in his pre-humanoid scenes. Clery’s job is to be gorgeous, which she accomplishes quite well. As usual, the villains receive the bulk of the script’s color and meaty dialogue, and Kennedy and Rassimov leap into it like finely sliced ham. Ennio Morricone was tapped for the score, which lacks melody and sounds as though it were composed in a hurry—sort of like the special effects. Filmed in Rome as L’UMANOIDE, THE HUMANOID may not have received a U.S. theatrical release, as it didn’t receive an MPAA rating and doesn’t seem to have been reviewed by VARIETY.

1 comment:

Jeff Mclachlan said...

I remember reading about this in early issues of Fangoria. Apparently New World acquired it and was promoting it as "coming soon", but I guess at some point Corman or somebody actually watched it and decided, "Yeah...No." This from the company that put Futuresport and Up From The Depths on drive-in screens across North America, so that's saying something about how bad they thought it was.