Friday, April 25, 2008

The Astro-Zombies (1968)

With just a touch of my burning hand
I send my astro zombies to rape the land
Prime directive, exterminate
The whole human race
- "Astro Zombies" by The Misfits

The song "Astro Zombies" by The (Danzig-era) Misfits was inspired (at least in some way) by this 1968 low-budget horror(?) film directed by esteemed schlockmeister Ted V. Mikels (The Corpse Grinders, Blood Orgy Of The She-Devils, The Doll Squad).

In all reality, that's the best thing to come from the existence of this movie.

Actually, that might be slightly unfair. I'll admit that the opening credits (featuring clips of wind up robots) actually came off as quite interesting, and the plot (involving mad-science brain transplants and the like) didn't turn me off. Throw in the ubiquitous John Carradine and the top heavy Tura Satana (from Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) and there was definitely the stench of potential in the air. Unfortunately, things go a bit Pete Tong just minutes in, as endless scenes of driving and car radios and John Carradine playing with science equipment start to lull the viewer into some rather intense boredom. Even some painted up topless dancing (with the director playing the bongos, no less) isn't enough to break the monotony. Though, it doesn't hurt.

I'll try to break down the plot quickly. Dr. DeMarco (Carradine) is fired from the space program after working on a way to send information directly into the brains of deep space astronauts from scientists and other experts. Sort of like The Matrix, except more awful. So, he goes crazy (natch) and starts working on living patients (with the help of his trusty hunchback), getting both the FBI (investigating a series of mutilations performed by a renegade astro-zombie) and dirty Commie Satana (who is looking to sell the doc's secrets) on his trail.

The whole thing turns surprisingly bloody in the last five minutes as the astro-zombie goes apeshit and chops off a guy's head. He's brought down by the doctor who flicks off his power with his last bit of strength before dying, and as his newly revived astro-zombie electrocutes ol' Satana. That's what they get for tampering in God's domain.

The (sorta) zombies certainly look unique, with their sport jackets and dime-store skull masks. And they are solar powered(!), which becomes evident in my favorite scene in the film, where one of the creatures runs off while holding a flashlight to his forehead after losing his battery pack in a scuffle. It could certainly have used a few more scenes of ridiculousness.

If nothing else, Image has done a wonderful job sticking this piece o' crap onto DVD. I had a beat up VHS copy of the film, and it was almost unwatchable. Here the movie is shown in its original 1.85:1 ratio, and while the print isn't perfect, it's likely the best the film has looked since it was originally shown. And possibly even better. Similarly, the sound is clear and audible.

The only extra is the film's trailer, and boy howdy is the quality bad. Not to mention it includes almost every worthwhile moment from the film. If you do get suckered into watching this thing (and, it's called The Astro-Zombies, so I can understand how you could), you might want to avoid checking it out. Or, heck.. watch it and save yourself the ninety minutes.

Needs more zombie.

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