["The Wandering Planet"] Film (1966; vt War Between the Planets). Mercury Film International/Southern Cross Productions. Directed by Antonio Margheriti credited as Anthony Dawson. Written by Renato Moretti and Ivan Reiner. Starring Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Ombretta Colli, Enzo Fiermonte, Pietro Martellanza, Goffredo Unger, Halina Zalewska. 80 minutes. Colour.
As Earth is ravaged by unexplained landslides, earthquakes, and tidal waves, Scientists speculate that it may be caused by a "gravity disturbance in outer space never before encountered" and assign Commander Rod Jackson (Rossi-Stuart) to take command of Space Station Gamma 1 (> Space Stations) and look for a possible cause. After crewmate Eric Dubrowski (Martellanza) returns from a spacewalk to report a strange "wind" in space that left three colleagues drifting in space, Jackson leads a rescue attempt, although only two of the men are saved. Soon, Jackson, Dubrowski, communications officer Terry Sanchez (Colli), and Frank Perkinson (Unger) are on their way to the vicinity of a strange, glowing "wild planet" that is evidently causing Earth's problems, though they must dodge some Asteroids apparently being directed toward them by the planet. Although Dubrowski is sucked into a pool of black-and-red "jelly" on the planet's surface, Jackson, Sanchez, and Perkinson land and go into the planet's interior, where the discovery of "arteries" and "breathing valves" suggests that the entire world is a living being, evidently with sinister plans. Although Perkinson is trapped inside a corridor, he tells Jackson and Sanchez to leave while he prepares to detonate some Antimatter to destroy the planet. After they return to their spaceships, the wild planet is blown up, and Jackson and Sanchez comfort Dubrowski's son at a ceremony in honour of his father and Perkinson.
This is the least well-known film in Margheriti's "Gamma Quadrilogy" and is regularly confused with its immediate predecessor, I Diafanoidi Vengono la Morte due to their nearly identical English titles (The War of the Planets and War Between the Planets). It was the only film in the group that was not originally released in the United States, probably because it was the least melodramatic of the four films, offering audiences no human-like opponents or exciting fight scenes. Yet despite its resulting obscurity, it is also the most interesting of the films, primarily since it represents a rare instance – perhaps the only instance – of a Living World appearing in an sf film (though the film provides no discussion of the phenomenon, preferring to avoid the problem of accounting for the motives of this inexplicably malevolent planet, not to mention its unexplained ability to control the movements of asteroids). In addition, Margheriti's special effects impressively make the sinister world seem a truly alien environment, understandably baffling to its visitors, and the film's unexpectedly sombre conclusion, reminding audiences of the inherent perils of space travel, sharply contrasts with the light-hearted, celebratory endings of the other three films. [GW]
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