Monday, July 2, 2018

"It's Mostly Boring with a Little Bit of Violence Thrown In" - Battle for the Lost Planet (1985)

Let us now turn to prolific director Brett Piper's Battle for the Lost Planet (1985) aka Galaxy aka Galaxy Destroyer, one of a rare breed of science fiction film made for adults rather than children. This is clear from scenes of violence, a scene in which the two main characters make love and then must fend off a monster while nude, and in the profanity of the dialogue.

On IMDB, reviewer unbrokenmetal calls the film "Science fiction trash with ridiculous special effects." Reviewer leofwine_draca writes, "This is a very cheap film with a shot-in-the-woods vibe. There's a lot of cheesy action and many special effects, most of which aren't so special at all." (Unusually for films reviewed here, I could not find a third review of this film.)

I must take issue with the reviewers' common theme of insulting the film's special effects. While not computer generated, the effects are quite special indeed, even inspiring. Read on to find out more about this unique science fiction film...

The film is told in flashback from the point of view of an older gentleman who smokes a cigar and writes his story in a school composition book with the traditional black-and-white mottled cover. According to his narration, he knows the story of how the evil pig-monsters were defeated, considerately telling us that humans will defeat the bad guys right at the beginning of the film.

The flashback begins with a man named Trent, presumably the narrator 40 years earlier, running from security guards with laser guns. Trent and the guards are on a first-name basis. Trent manages to steal a space shuttle sitting in a warehouse. He does not have the security code to launch the shuttle, so he simply turns the engines on and flies through a wall.

The film quickly distances itself from mainstream 1980s science fiction films, at least verbally, by using significant profanity.

It also distances itself through the means of racism when Trend flies his shuttle toward a group of space vessels outside Earth orbit. “Hey, computer,” he says. “Identify those ships.”

“I’m sorry,” says the female computer, “they are not registered with my data banks.”

“Asian? Middle Eastern?”

It turns out the ships are alien in origin, the fleet of the pig monsters (or, rather, men with snouts) identified in the opening.

The aliens ignore Trent’s ship because of its insignificance. The ships start shooting laser blasts randomly at Earth. The lasers are devastating to Earth’s great cities.

Earth is devastated.

In voiceover, the older Trent narrates, “This wasn’t fair at all.” He adds. “I wanted to puke.”

The computer informs Trent that the ship is following an elliptical path and will return to Earth in about five years. “I’ll go crazy,” Trent says.

“Possibly,” the computer confirms.

On Mercury, we see a marvelous stop-motion alien resembling a crab and a spider, but Trent does not see the alien and it never shows up again.

When Trent returns to Earth years later, after naming the compute Shirley for no apparent reason, the shuttle is detected by an orbital satellite manned by two humans wearing burlap sacks. One of the men wants to contact the ship: “I can save humanity right now!”

The other man, obedient to the pig monsters, fights him. Then, inexplicably, the man who wants to save humanity hits a self-destruct button and the satellite explodes.

On the shuttle, Trent says, “I had a feeling it was gonna be this way.”

Trent lands in the wilderness on Earth, but he is set upon immediately by mutant zombie humans. Fortunately, his laser pistol takes care of them, in somewhat gory fashion.

When the zombies overpower him, Trent is rescued by a woman named Dana riding a horse and speaking with an Australian (I believe) accent. She takes him to an old man with one eye reading books in the ruins of an old house.

There ensues a confusing scene in which the old man and Dana attempt to explain what happened on Earth but Trent, for no apparent reason, decides to leave without learning anything. This leads to the threat of a knife fight, as conversations often do.

Eventually, the old man explains that the pig men are called Ya-ee-zags, though nobody knows their origins. “They despised the sciences,” explains the old man, “except for two. The science of warfare and the science of astronomy.”

Dana then explains that the Ya-ee-zags experiment on humans to learn about human biology (perhaps not a science in this far-flung future), the results of which are the mutant zombies. The old man says the zombies “are no more capable of real evil as a wolf or a jackal.”

We also learn that Dana and the old man appear to know more about Trent than Trent himself. They reveal they know he stole an audio tape from someone named Steinler on the night he also stole the space shuttle. He leads them back to his shuttle, but they are ambushed by some Ya-ee-zags, who kill the nameless old man.

Dana summarizes the situation: “They were hunting us for sport. They killed him for fun.”

Trent and Dana go back to the shuttle after the attack is over, and he shows her the cockpit, which he has decorated as if he were an 11-year-old boy, complete with “Trents Place” Magic Markered on the wall.

They find the tape, which the computer says describes a Neutron 90 bomb, which can be programmed to destroy any creature with a specified genetic makeup. Of course, they are overjoyed that they have the means to make a genocide bomb.

Trent and Dana fly the shuttle somewhere, and they are attacked by an alien ship firing red lasers. Fortunately, they are aided by another ship helpfully firing blue

At the end of the battle, however, it appears that both ships are destroyed, and the space shuttle crashes and explodes in a massive fireball. Trent and Dana make it out alive.

They trek through the forest, attempting to find the factory where Trent stole the shuttle in the first place. At night, Trent and Dana have a long, long conversation about life. Trent reveals he has been in prison, and Dana asks what it was like. He replies, “It’s mostly boring with a little bit of violence thrown in.”

The conversation evolves into a confusing exchange about eye color, and the two make love.

Then they fight a stop-motion, tentacled dinosaur creature. Cleverly, the filmmakers have Trent and Dana both nude during the fight, as well as the monster, so it is a fair fight.

After they escape into a tree, Dana explains that the Ya-ee-zags, for some reason, brought creatures from other planets to earth, which explains the presence of the dinosaur.

They are saved by a group of cavemen who chase the dinosaur into a pit. “You folks all right up there?” says one of the cavemen.

“Yeah,” says Trent, “thanks to you guys.”

The next few sequences intensify the comedic aspects of the situation, as the main caveman turns out to be a marijuana farmer who lends horses to Trent and Dana. Additionally, Trent proves himself to be a humorously incompetent horseman, unable to even mount a horse properly.

Fortunately, Trent and Dana encounter a motorcycle gang. Like the bikers in Dawn of the Dean (1978), these cyclists appear to be more of a threat than the main antagonists, the pig men.

The bikers are led by Mad Dog Kelly, a shades-wearing young man who looks not dissimilar to Mr. Tom Savini in the aforementioned zombie film.

Mr. Mad Dog tells Trent, “You could be my kind of guy.”

“I doubt it,” replies Trent wittily. “I’ve had all my shots.”

Mr. Mad Dog takes them back to his headquarters, where the real threat is his sexist society where women are playthings for cyclists. When Dana is insulted, Trent challenges Mad Dog to a the death. They fight with long, bladed polearms, though the fight ends with them chasing each other around a table. Eventually, Trent makes Mad Dog surrender.

As with most humiliating movie fights, Trend and Mr. Mad Dog become the best of friends. Fortunately for everyone, Mr. Mad Dog was formerly employed by the bomb factory that houses the materials to make the Neutron 90 bomb. He takes them to the facility, which is in a cave underneath an alien tower.

Their plan to infiltrate the facility leads to another amusing exchange in which they try to synchronize watches, though only Trent has a watch.

Trend and Dana run to a secret cave entrance to the bomb factory.

In an exciting action sequence, Mr. Mad Dog drives his car through a field while a flying ship chases it, shooting lasers. The car blows up but Mr. Mad Dog and his girlfriend survive.

The distraction allows Trent and Dana to enter the bomb factory, a dingy building that resembles Mr. Mad Dog’s headquarters. Unfortunately for humanity, Trent and Dana are immediately captured by the pig men. They react fearfully.

Fortunately for humanity, they are rescued by Mr. Mad Dog and his girlfriend.

The comically inept pig men trap the humans, and also reenact a quick Three Stooges routing.

The humans are surprised by a scientist named Isaac Hoffenstein, who has continued to work on the Neutron 90 bomb. He leads the others through the basement to the bomb, which has already been constructed.

“It’s the most terrible killing machine the human race has yet perfected,” says Hoffenstein.

“All right, where are the controls?” asks Trent.

Hoffenstein tells them it’s voice-activated, but it can’t be programmed.

Mr. Mad Dog has a clever idea that he describes as simple: Program all human and earthly genetics into the machine, then tell it to destroy everything else. Brilliant!

The only thing they still need is a code from the Pentagon. Ironically, the very code is on the tape Trent stole at the beginning of the film!

Hoffenstein simply has to tell the computer what to do. “Now listen very carefully,” he tells the computer. “I want you to cross-correlate physiological patterns of all life forms native to the planet Earth and construct a master pattern of Earth physiology.”

The others defend the bomb from the pig men while Hoffenstein stares at the computer control panel, which resembles a small electrical box in a basement.

Just when everything seems hopeless for the human race, the computer activates its genocidal program, destroying all life not native to Earth in gruesome, Evil Dead-esque stop motion.


With the world saved, Trent gives a long speech while the others simply walk away.

The End

Battle for the Lost Planet could be viewed as a version of Planet of the Apes (1968) with pigs instead of apes, as well as a science fiction film inspired by Star Wars that follows the adventures of two Han Solos and a Princess Leia while omitting Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. In fact, there are no identifiable villains in the film, simply the collective race of pig men. As such, it must be considered quite original, even a breath of fresh air.

Another aspect of the film that is quite original, thought perhaps not such a breath of fresh air, is the willingness of the heroes to commit technologically assisted genocide by customizing a bomb with the genetic signature of all beings not native to Earth. Let us hope that the astonomical scope of the weapon is limited to Earth's general vicinity; otherwise, the consequences would be even more horrendous.

Battle for the Lost Planet was followed by a direct sequel a few years later, Mutant War (1988). We shall be discussion Mutant War on Senseless Cinema in short order, primarily due to the two words with which I shall now leave you: Cameron Mitchell!