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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Inseminoid (1981) review


Judy Geeson (Sandy), Robin Clarke (Mark), Stephanie Beacham (Kate), Jennifer Ashley (Holly), Stephen Grives (Gary), Barry Houghton (Karl), Rosalind Lloyd (Gail), Victoria Tennant (Barbra), Trevor Thomas (Mitch), Heather Wright (Sharon), David Baxt (Ricky), Dominic Jephcott (Dean)

Directed by Norman J. Warren

The Short Version: In space, no one can hear you scream what a horrible movie this is. This 1981 alien-slasher space junk was one of a small stack of ALIEN impersonators that burst on the scene in the 80s; and it's one of the worst. In its favor there are some nice photographic touches that put a shine on the cardboard sets and vapid art decor. Judy Geeson is better than the film deserves and Stephanie Beacham looks fabulous in her handful of scenes. The rubbery aliens look like renegade muppets and are thoroughly non-threatening alongside the 'blood n' guts in a bucket' special effects. Blandness from outer space.

An archeological expedition on a distant planet uncovers a vast tomb of some ancient alien civilization. Littered with peculiar crystal-like structures, those who are exposed to the strange rocks become violent. Upon further exploration, something is alive inside the excavation. Kidnapping one of the female crew members, the creature impregnates her resulting in the lady astronaut nurturing the alien babies growing inside her by becoming cannibalistic and killing off her team mates one by one. 

After STAR WARS made a huge impression on moviegoers and moviemaking in general, it wasn't long before outer space spookers were to invade theaters. Ridley Scott's ALIEN (1979) proved that SciFi horror could be just as terrifying as horror of the Earth-bound sort. There had been similar movies in the past, such as Bava's PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (1965) and the film Scott freely cribbed from, IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1958). ALIEN was the benchmark for modern science fiction-horror of the time period. Unfortunately, for every one great genre entry, there's a handful of crummy ones. INSEMINOID is in the latter camp.

A British film from Norman J. Warren (director of ALIEN PREY [1978] and his only worthwhile movie, SATAN'S SLAVE [1976]) co-financed by Shaw Brothers of HK, the budget was fairly low at around 1 million pounds (roughly 2 million in US dollars at the time); but seeing the film, you'd swear they only had a few hundred to throw around. It's one of the single most impoverished looking SciFi movie I've ever seen. It's even more damaging when compared to New World ALIENesque movies of the same time as GALAXY OF TERROR (1981) and FORBIDDEN WORLD (1982). Roger Corman turned out far more impressive results with egg crates and McDonald's boxes; not to mention spending approximately the same amount of money. 

The sets look to be made of the flimsiest of cardboard, or  balsa wood that would collapse if you leaned against them too hard. In fact, towards the end, Sandy wrecks the "control room", overturning all the panels. As they tumble over they fall apart and there's nothing inside! Some of the weaponry appears to be made of plastic; and the fluorescent bulbs, chimney pipe liners, metal gratings, and aluminum foil scattered throughout several feet of Chislehurst Caves is about as futuristic as it gets. The bankrupted budget reaches its nadir during the closing minutes when two gun-toting mercs from a rescue ship are seen wearing motorcycle helmets as part of their spacesuit ensemble!

The aliens -- when you finally see them -- look like hairless rejects from The Muppet Show and are about as scary as an ingrown toenail. Script writer Nick Maley was the effects artist here, and aside from this awful mess, has worked on much bigger science fiction/fantasy fare from the same time period including SUPERMAN (1978), THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1981) and KRULL (1983). Continuing with his work on Warren's outer space cheapie, there are brief shots of an aforementioned bigger creature, but it's only seen from the shoulders up. A novel touch was giving it a gigantic cock that looks like nothing more than a transparent tube! When the film isn't depressing the viewer with its emaciated production values, the characters do incredibly stupid things as written in Nick and Gloria Maley's nonsensical script.

An example of this is when a crew member gets her foot caught in a metal plate. With the temperature dropping near a hundred below zero, and the door leading outside jammed for some unexplained reason, her friends watch as she severs her own foot with a chainsaw, but dies anyways. Apparently cutting through the damn boot didn't cross her mind; nor does simply standing up to try and wiggle her leg free. Her "thermal unit" gets damaged, and she's instructed to reconnect two wires but can't do it. Why the gadgetry that regulates your body temperature would be worn like (and look like) a wrist watch is another of this movies examples of the wonders of techno-advancement.

Warren's movie has often been described as being overly gory and offensive; yet it's an instance of the films violence being grossly over-hyped as opposed to simply being gross. The title of the movie is arguably the most shocking thing about it. It was released here under the more generic title of HORROR PLANET. The fleeting gore is squishy and moderately effective, but you mostly see only the aftermath. With very little action (that's never convincing), infrequent flashes of sleaze, and a muddled script, that leaves only the performers to salvage this fiasco.

Judy Geeson gives her all (maybe a little too much, actually) in a role that's not without interest, it's just a shame her part is written for such a lousy movie. Her rape scene is mildly unsettling, but nowhere near the spectacular tastelessness of the one from Corman's GALAXY OF TERROR wherein Taffee O'Connell is raped by a giant maggot. Geeson got far better genre material in Eugenio Martin's A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL (1973). The rape itself is mostly implied. The upper half of the alien we're allowed to see (obscured in darkness, mind you) just sits there; and the see-through tube that's supposedly the creatures giant phallus acts as a highway for the flood of egg yolk floating in a thick red plasma.

With no money available (really, where did it go?) for actual monster action, the writers devise an intriguing idea to get around this -- but the entire film is so lackadaisical, it ends up about as exciting as watching a turtle cross the street; and it's a shame as it's the only part of this movie that has any potential. Alternately, William Malone's far superior CREATURE (aka TITAN FIND) from 1985 used a similar idea regarding an alien controlling the bodies of humans, but didn't shy away from showing us a monster -- and a well designed one, at that.

After Sandy's (Geeson) impregnation, she goes through a mental, and physiological change -- a possession of sorts. She flits in and out of her natural self in a futile attempt to maintain her human side. The alien seed planted inside her forces her to cannibalize her colleagues to feed the twin monstrosities she gives birth to during the finale. It's an intriguing idea, but feels like it's been written into the script on purpose to keep from spending money on a monster suit. INSEMINOID ends up being more of an 'alien slasher' movie than an out and out 'monster in the dark' type picture. Geeson runs around this underground working station screaming, crying, and bulging out her eyes when she's about to chow down on some innards. She's also supposed to have superhuman strength yet she needs tools to get into locked boxes to retrieve these little plastic toy balls that masquerade as explosives. 

Those who remember her from DRACULA AD 1972 (1972), may want to torture themselves with INSEMINOID just to see the gorgeous Stephanie Beacham in what little screen time she's given. At one point, she's seen in her panties and a tank-top; so the film isn't a total waste of time. Sadly, a potential end battle between Beacham and Geeson never occurs, but the two do briefly tussle towards the conclusion.

John Scott has an eclectic mix of scores on his resume with some jubilant, rousing soundtracks. Sadly, INSEMINOID is not one of them. His electronic score has no memorable cues, and never manages to build any suspense to compensate for the outright lethargy viewers are exposed to.

Amazingly, some critics have deemed it necessary to apply academic posturing when discussing this borefest in a vain effort to find some underlying meaning to it all. INSEMINOID is little more than a terrible movie with a good idea or two that passes out quickly from an anemic script and budget. Possibly if Warren had some of New World's technicians working on his movie, it would have actually delivered some genuinely trashy thrills. If anything, the numerous negatives of INSEMINOID make equally low budget efforts like GALAXY OF TERROR (1981) and CREATURE (1985) look like big studio productions by comparison. Watch those instead and steer clear of HORROR-ible PLANET.

This review is representative of the Elite Entertainment DVD.


Franco Macabro said...

Looks like it might be a fun watch, the dvd for this one is going for 30 bucks...Im glad I didn't buy it, but I certainly do want to see it, just for kicks. By your description, it sounds like a fun ride, I mean, a bad one, but a fun one?

venoms5 said...

I've watched it about four times now over the years and I don't like it any better than the first time around, lol. I chuckled a few times, but it's not that kind of 'bad' movie, it's just BAD. Lol.

icecreamman said...

one of those films that, despite how boring and lame it is, I watch from time to time and stick with. mind-numbing entertainment for the brain dead...

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