Assignment Outer Space

Year Of Release: 1961 (USA), 1960 (Italy)
Running Time: 79 Minutes
DVD Released By: Alpha Video
Directed By: Antonio Margheriti
Writing Credits: Ennio De Concini, Jack Wallace
Filming Location: Unknown

Starring: Rik Van Nutter, Gabriella Farinon. David Montresor, Archie Savage, Alain Dijon, Franco Fantasia, Joe Pollini, David Maran, José Néstor, Anita Todesco

Taglines:
Fear awaits ...... in the murky mists of outer space!
1000 headlines into the future!
Terror awaits...in the mists of outer space!

Alternate Titles:
Space Men
Le vainqueur de l'espace (France)

Interesting Bits of Trivia:
This film was first released to theaters in the USA on a triple bill along with the East German film First Spaceship on Venus and the Japanese film, The Mysterians.  Unlike many of his castmates, Franco Fantasia, who played Sullivan in this film, had a long and prolific film career both in front of and behind the camera.  Throughout his career, he was credited under a variety of different names, including Francesco Fantasia, Frank Fantasia, Franz Fantasia, Frank Farell, Frank Farrel, Frank Farrell and Frank Fontana.  Oddly enough, for someone with such a huge and varied career, he really had little more than a bit part in this film.




Cast Of Characters
Ray Peterson (IZ41): Ray's a reporter sent by his agency into space on December 11, 2116 to report on the infraradiation flux in galaxy M12.  He's sent from Earth in spaceship Bravo Zulu 88, in which the three man crew are put into hibernation pods until they reach their destination and the ship's electronic brain revives them.  I know that all sounds really serious and isn't exactly how I usually start out describing the characters.  So why did I do it this time?  Because I wrote all that down in wordpad at the beginning of the movie so I wouldn't have to rewatch it twelve times when I do the review just to get it all.  So I said to myself, "Self!  You spent all that time jotting all that down, it'd be a waste to use it just once!"  So...I used it twice.  Anyway, he's young...ish, he's studly...ish and he has a broad sense of honor and ideals and it frustrates him that he feels that George the Commander doesn't seem to share them.  He's wrong of course.  He also falls in love with Lucy after spending oh...all of ten seconds near her.  I can't really blame him either.  First off, she's pretty hot.  Second...everyone else for the most part was treating him like crap through about 80% of the movie, so who can blame him for gloming on to her?

Lucy (Y13): This is Lucy, the glomee.  She's hot, naturally, but she's more than that.  She's actually an active member of the crew and not just window dressing.  She tends the plants in the space station that provide their breathable air, and she's also a trained navigator.  She's also the only hot chick within millions of miles, which makes me wonder why every guy in that station wasn't hitting on her.  Anyway, she kinda seems like a cold fish right when Ray first meets her, but we soon find out that after only a very short time and limited exposure to him, she's fallen in love.  Isn't that sweet?  She's also the only member of the crew that calls the commander by his first name, and they seem to have some kind of a special relationship.  I was thinking maybe he was actually her father, but they never said that in the movie, so I really have no idea.  Anyway, her character was all in all pretty boring, and not overly important to the story other than being a love interest for Ray, so I'll move on.

George the Commander: This guy is the commander of the space station that Ray is sent to at the beginning of the film, and eventually leads the team that tries to stop the runaway spaceship that's going to destroy the Earth.  When we first meet him in the movie, he's acting like a total douche bag and treating Ray like crap.  Later, he's still acting like a douche bag.  Even later, he's still kinda jerky, but he starts to mellow out some.  Then, near the end of the film when they're trying to stop the runaway ship, he actually turns out to be a good guy.  Never did figure out his relationship with Lucy, but I was so bored, I didn't really care.  I just wanted it to be over.  Enough about this guy, let's move on.
Al (X15): This is Al.  He and Archie are the two guys who took Ray to the space station at the beginning of the movie, and he's supposed to be the best pilot in the space program.  He's also the only one that's semi-nice to Ray throughout most of the picture.  I say semi-nice because he spends most of the film calling Ray "Leech", which is a nickname Al saddled him with because he's an outsider with no real training in space stuff outside of the quick course he took before the assignment, so basically, he's a leech.  He also refers to him as "My son" a lot and actually takes him under his wing a bit and shows him around, explains stuff to him, etc....  Unfortunately, while he almost made it to the end of the film, he didn't quite make it.  Both he, and his hair will be missed. No, that's not a helmet, that's his hair.  Notice the lack of a sun visor attached to it.
Archie (Y16): Archie was Al's co-pilot and seems like a pretty decent, competent guy.  He didn't have a huge part in the film, but he was generally around, so I figured I'd throw him in here.  Al ended up being the main focus between the two.  I wish I could think of something funny to say about him.  *stares blankly at the character shot*  Nope, I got nothin'.  Oh well, let's move on.



Screen Shots

Al: "Hannibal!!!  That crazy fool ejected the bathroom module!!!"

Archie: "Uh...oops?"

Al: "Ok, gimme your helmet sucka!  I pity the fool who messes with my stool!"


Reviewer's Note:
Ok, I know he's not Mr. T and this isn't the A-Team, but it sounded funny, so I went with it.


When I first saw this, I was all, "Why the hell does he need a sun visor on his helmet in space?"  Then the second thing I thought was, "And why the hell is he wearing a jet pilot's helmet in a space ship?  Shouldn't he have an astronaut helmet or something?"  Seriously though, he should have a full on astronaut helmet. There'd be a lot less sloshing over when they're passing it around on chili night.  If only he hadn't have ejected the bathroom module...


Reviewer's Note: He didn't really.  It's just a goof.  Still, much like it was in The Brady Bunch, we never see a toilet, which makes me wonder...


Man, if Archie had had a helmet this size, they wouldn't have had to empty it until after the curry medley on Sunday.

Reviewer's Note: You can't see it that well in this screenshot, but he's wearing one of those Archie the Jet Pilot helmets underneath that other helmet. Holy crap that must have been hot. He had to be dying in that suit.

Jeez, I hope they brought some extra vacuum tubes and transistors.

There's a part in this film where there's another crippled ship that's about to crash into Phobos, one of the Martian moons.  At the last second one of the engines finally comes on and he starts to rise.  Just as it looks like he's about to make it, there's an explosion and he crashes into the moon's surface.  This was the explosion.  It only showed for a split second, but it was enough to catch my eye.  Let's see here.  I see a car, possibly a second car, a building, and telephone poles, phone lines and an explosion.  Now, it may just me being thick here, but I'm not really sure how this particular explosion...on Earth...could have destroyed that guy's ship and made him crash into Phobos.  It goes so fast, I think they were hoping no one would notice.  I did.  Jeez people, at least use stock footage that doesn't have a car visible in it.  This film is full of single frames cut in here and there from other parts of the movie as well.  I don't know why, but I sure came across a lot of them while I was frame advancing, looking for screen and character shots.

In space, no one can hear you fart, but if you make a face like this, everyone knows who did it.

In this shot:

George:

Concerned for Ray.

Lucy:
Concerned for Ray.

Guy on the Left:
"I wonder if there's any cheese left?"




Best Quote

"What have we been doing all these thousands of years.  We've been congratulating ourselves on our progress in going faster and faster and faster, when in reality, we've only been getting further away from ourselves."

- George waxing philosophically as the hopes of saving the Earth dwindle to almost non-existence. -- (Reviewer's Note: Dude, that's deep!  Deepak Chopra schooled you!) 


(Reviewer's Note on the Reviewer's Note: For those who don't know, Deepak Chopra is one of those Indian guru know-it-all types who makes his living as a life coach and he writes tons of books, basically telling you what the hell's wrong with your life and how to fix it.  As for me, I'm just here to tell these people what the hell's wrong with this movie.  Unfortunately, it's too late to fix it.  That is, unless we can dig up a bunch of graves and round up some voodoo types to zombify the cast members who've snuffed it since this was made.  Oh wow!  That'd be cool huh?  An Italian, English dubbed sci-fi zombie flick with rockets and missiles and runaway space ships!  Ah crap, I just realized I'm rambling again.  I told myself I'd stop that.  Ok, I'm stopping....now!  ....*bites lip*  ....*crosses legs and shifts in chair*  Oh great holding it in made me have to pee.  Damn it!  I'm still rambling.  Oh well, at least it's more fun than watching this movie.  I better stop now though and get back to it.  I still have 22 minutes to suffer through. *ugh*)




Video Clip
When prompted, enter bmovie for the username and central for the password.

Assignment Outer Space

After a missile fails to reach the malfunctioning space craft, Al theorizes why the missile was able to penetrate the radiation field to get so close to the ship and quickly comes up with a plan.

Reviewer's Note: The guy in the middle is Sullivan, George's second in command.  Check out the voice they used to dub that guy!




Summary and Conclusion

Let's face it.  Italy has stuck it's finger in a lot of film genres throughout the years.  Everything from horror to westerns to erotica to comedy to sword and sandle to sci-fi.  Some genres, they have a great aptitude for, like those great old spaghetti westerns, and some would say they made some very memorable horror films as well, though I've never been a particular fan of their brand of horror.  The sword and sandal films are a particular favorite of mine though.  Hercules, Ulysses, Atlas, etc....  All the great Italian musclemen running around beating up bad guys and living lives of high adventure while at the same time rescuing beautiful women in distress.

When it comes to sci-fi however, I have to say, I've never seen a really good, high quality Italian sci-fi film.  Mostly, they're just cheap looking and so far beyond cheesy that it almost hurts to watch them, but like...in a funny, good kind of a way.  I said they weren't high quality, but in the cheesy fun department, they can be quite entertaining.  Check out my reviews for War of the Robots and War of the Planets to see what I thought of those particular Italian sci-fi flicks.  While many of these films are fun in their own way, Assignment Outer Space really isn't, but neither is it a bad film.  It's just boring.  Long, slow paced, filled with characters you couldn't care less about and just really, really boring.  The space scenes were the only ones that generated any genuine interest on my part, and even many of those were so long and drawn out that I found it hard to keep my focus for very long.

So what's the film about? Well...

Ray Peterson is a reporter.  He's been given a crash course in space *stuff* and sent up into space to take up residence in a far off satellite where he's supposed to report on some infraradiation flux in galaxy M12.  What he actually ends up doing when he gets there is a whole other story.  It turns out that, and I'm admittedly a little foggy on the details here because it was hard to follow, a spaceship passed too near a star, and due to a malfunction, it's two photonic deflector picked up a ton of photon radiation from it, which was then amplified around the ship in a 5,000 mile zone of death, perpetuated by the deflectors on the ship and something in the ship's power system.  Basically, anything that entered that 5,000 mile zone around the ship was burnt to a crisp by the intense heat of the field.  The ship was on an automated course back to Earth, and because of a malfunction with the ship's electronic brain, the pilot had died in the hibernation pod, so there was no one on board to stop it.  Now the team from the space station must intercept and stop the ship before it returns to orbit the Earth, at which time it will destroy all life on the surface of the planet.

Alas, there is hope however. The radiation field around the ship isn't solid. It's radiating out the sides with a narrow strip down the center, like an orange that's been sliced in two. If they can manage to get a missile through the gap, they can blow up the ship and save the Earth.  Sadly, this didn't happen however, and Al lost his life trying.  Ray had a better idea though.  He leaves the ship and hops on a maintenance taxi, sort of like a space scooter, and flies down the center gap in the field toward the rogue ship, tossing out items to both sides to see where the edges of the field are.  You can probably guess the rest.  He makes it to the ship, kills all the ship's power, and the radiation field along with it.  However, he also kills his only chance of escape, because now the door of the ship won't open for him to get out.  Will the rest of the crew from his ship be able to save him before his air runs out?  That's the question.

This film was, as I said earlier, boring.  Not bad really, just boring.  It had its good points and its bad points and overall, it wasn't bad, it was just...boring.  But why?  Well...

The first reason is actually something I admired this film for doing.  There were a lot of aspects of this film where they tried to be realistic about space travel.  Everything from the forces felt during accelleration to existence in low gravity environments to whatever.  It was really pretty cool that they went into as much detail as they did without over doing it, but that said, we didn't need to see it.  It didn't add anything to the story.  They could have included various aspects of it without being so obvious about it.  Certain scenes just took up way too much time in the film and were way too slow to be of much interest.

Another reason this film was boring was because of the poor performance of the voice acting.  This is an Italian film, so obviously, it was dubbed into English. Normally, that would have been fine, but it caused two major problems. First, I'm totally unable to evaluate the quality of the acting by the original cast because I'm not hearing the line delivery of the actors themselves.  Second, the voices they used to dub these people were all rather monotone and sounded like little more than disinterested radio announcers.  Good enough to tell the story, but not enough to really pull the viewer into it and make them care about the characters.  It's hard to feel for them when they're dubbed with those kinds of voices.  The dubbing was done ok at some points of the film, while at other times, it was horribly out of sync with the mouths of the actors, which only served to enhance the disconnect I was feeling towards them.

One area where this film really worked was in the special effects they used, and they weren't shy at all about using them. Rockets and missiles flying through space, landing on planets, space walks, asteroid fields, a space re-fueling operation, etc... There was a lot of work put into the look of the film, and it shows.  Are all the effects spectacular looking?  Not really, but neither are they horrible.  I'd even go so far as to say they're far better than I would have expected from a 1960 Italian sci-fi flick.  The one thing I found a bit awkward though were the space walks.  They didn't seem to have jets on the suits or anything, nor were they tethered to the station.  It seems to me that a movie that tried so hard to be realistic about the various aspects of space travel would have thought to have included tether lines on the astronauts when they went out on space walks rather than just allowing them to free float through the dark void of space.  Other aspects of failed reality can be forgiven because of the year the film was made and the lack of knowlege about the realities of our solar system.  For example, I'm sure they had no way of knowing this, but in reality, the surface temperature of Venus is hot enough to melt lead and the whole planet is covered by an incredibly thick cloud layer of sulfuric acid.  Not really someplace you'd want to build a base at.  Does it matter?  Not in the least.  You don't watch these films for a science lesson, and certain aspects of what they showed in the film were actually pretty realistic, despite the lack of space experience at the time.

The DVD release I have of this film is from Alpha Video. It's a horrible looking transfer that basically looks like it was taken from a bad copy of the film, converted to VHS, and then the VHS was converted to DVD. The shots you see above were cleaned up considerably by me in Photoshop before I put them in the review. I always clean up and adjust the shots I use, but in this case, they're not representitive of the quality of this DVD release at all.  Now, it's bad yes, but I don't want to give the impression that it's unwatchable, because it isn't.  It's perfectly watchable, but the lack of quality is definitely noticeable.  The great thing about Alpha releases though is, they're cheap.  So if you drop five bucks on this DVD to add another piece of film history to your collection, it's no big deal that the quality isn't awesome.  I mean think about it.  It's, as of this writing, a 51 year old film that wasn't a major studio release.  How many pristine copies do you think exist out there that they could make a transfer from?  My guess is not only "none", but also that they were lucky to have even found this one.  I can't help but wonder how many films have been completely lost over the years due to fires, loss, accidents, film degredation, etc....  Alpha has done a tremendous job of digitally archiving an incredibly massive number of these films, while at the same time making them available for a super reasonable price.  No they're not all pristine and restored like the kind of stuff a company like Kino releases, but at least now they won't be lost or forgotten, which in my opinion, is very awesome indeed.

In the end, despite the fact that various parts of this film were visually interesting, it never really manages to become fun, which is what you really want from these old sci-fi flicks.  The characters aren't likeable and the pace of the film is horribly slow throughout much of it.  Because of its attempts at realism, it lost of a lot of the cheesy fun that was so beautifully put on display by a variety of other Italian sci-fi films that went for the fantastic rather than for the realism.  While those films, may have been technically bad, they were at the same time entertainingly cheesy, which is an element that I personally found rather lacking in this film.  Mostly, I just wanted to get through it so I could move on to something else.  Again, it wasn't a bad film, just boring, and as such, I had no choice but to give it the acutely narcoleptic rating of...

B-Movie Central's Rating: Snoozer

 

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