Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. United Kingdom/USA, 1980. Starling Films, Famous Films. Screenplay by Lorenzo Semple Jr., adaptation by Michael Allin, based on the characters created by Alex Raymond. Cinematography by Gilbert Taylor. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis. Music by Howard Blake, Queen. Production Design by Danilo Donati. Costume Design by Danilo Donati. Film Editing by Malcolm Cooke.
The popular serial of the 1930s is turned into a film that features terrific special effects, rich production design and an even more unabashed sense of kitsch than the movies whose footsteps it follows (Superman comes to mind). Sam J. Jones, his dialogue dubbed due to salary disputes with producer Dino De Laurentiis, is appropriately wooden as a football player who manages to escape Earth in a rocket ship right at the point that an intergalactic villain (Max von Sydow) is destroying the planet. Jones is accompanied only by a brilliant scientist (Topol) and a gorgeous reporter (Melody Anderson) and, upon arrival at von Sydow’s planet, becomes a hero who frees an oppressed people from their evil leader (which begins with a football game in space). Most of the dialogue literally makes no sense, though it does stay well in line with the kind of cliffhanger movies it is a simultaneous tribute and parody of. It’s all an excuse for skimpy costumes (beefcake Jones looks great in a loincloth) and eye-popping sets that link it to the tradition of older Mario Bava spectacles, science-fiction and horror with visual aesthetics as a religion. Danilo Donati, more famous for his work on Fellini films, contributes his skills to both the sets and clothes, while Queen takes care of the superbly corny musical score. Make no mistake, this is not a good movie, but it’s so unashamed and self-aware that it is impossible to hold anything against it (well, maybe the fact that it’s not particularly exciting is something you can hold against it). Lina Wertmuller superstar Mariangela Melato is hilarious as a henchwoman on the bad guy’s planet.