The Beast in Space (1980)


a.k.a. - La Bestia nello spazio

Alfonso Brescia's insanely daft sex filled space adventure is a unique chapter in sci-fi cinema. Severin USA R0 DVD.

The Film

European film makers had never really gotten into science fiction, with the exception of some low budgeted Italian productions from Antonio Margheriti and an impressive entry from Mario Bava, leaving the genre's best entries to the Americans and Russians. However in the light of the phenomenal success of Star Wars (1977) the exploitation industy immediately kicked into gear with the first film, Battaglie negli spazi stellari (1977) even hitting cinemas in Italy before the George Lucas film was released. Four more productions would follow in quick succession.

In the distant future the military are desperate for supplies of Antillium for their neutron bombs. When Captain Madison hears that a space trader has returned from a planet considered unexplored where he found some of the element, he is sent to the planet to investigate. The navigator, Sondra Richardson, is haunted by dreams of a mysterious planet where she finds herself in the clutches of a strange man of whom she is terrified but unsure in the dream of why. On arrival at the planet the crew set out to explore and Richardson realises that the events of the dream are coming to pass - but when she meets the mysterious man she sees no reason why she would fear him....

Written by Brescia himself The Beast in Space sets the exploitation tone early on with a gratuitous sex scene, but surprisingly follows this up with some simple but effective storyline that leads our small band to the 'unexplored' planet. Now of course this leaves a million questions unanswered - one would imagine that when it comes to exploration and charting unknown planets, even in the future, you would send a scientific team rather than a seemingly random bunch of space pilots; the lack of any mining equipment or anything at all to carry the Antillium to the ship might also pose them a disadvantage, but this never seems to matter. While Star Wars had a pretty straight-forward narrative story, The Beast in Space takes a typically European surrealist twist as the characters arrive on the planet - more in keeping with Mario Bava's Terrore nello spazio (1965). However as you would expect from a 1980s European film, this is combined with a fair helping of sex and some quite curious sleaze in the form of the titular beast. The science fiction does return as the film's rather slow middle section picks up pace to an effective climax into which Brescia amazingly even throws in a light saber fight!

Working with a cleary tiny budget, Brescia does a commendable job using interiors as often as possible and giving the future a fitting 'futuristic 1970s' look. The interiors on the planet look rather effective and suit the surreal nature of these scenes well. Unfortunately the budget does not stretch to exteriors and the actors are forced to trek through some smoke-machine filled woodland, probably just outside the studio. The sex scenes are quite well helmed - although never particularly erotic they at least look plausible and show off enough flesh to keep the audience happy. Rather jarring though is the obviously post-production addition of some extra groping shots that clearly do not match in lighting or background with any of the scenes they are added into and just seem rather pointless.

Equally strange is the obvious stock shot used in the middle of the film as the crew trek through the planet and stand in shock as they see something beyond the camera. What we eventually see is a grainy stock shot of two horses mating, clearly not even filmed in widescreen (it is stretched to fit the frame) and with a wooden barn visible behind (which would probably have attracted some attention on an unexplored planet). The impression is that something else should have been shown there, but as the film stands this is probably one of the most unexpected and laughably ridiculous scenes in European cinema. The special effects work doesn't provoke any less laughter - the model shots are so clearly just that, the robot looks like a cheap school pagent costume and the climactic explosion is an amazing damp squib. The sythesised music track is rather suited to the film's atmosphere but has a stange habit of cutting between tracks randomly.

Finnish actress Sirpa Lane is cast in the lead role, a clever marketing move to capitalise on her similar role in Walerian Borowczyk's infamous La BÍte (1975). Rather unusually attractive and certainly not the typical Scandinavian beauty, she does give a good performance in the film in some quite tough scenes. Vassili Karis who appeared in nearly all of Brescia's series plays the captain and the rest of the cast are Euro-cult regulars.

The Beast in Space is not a film for the unexpecting viewer - anyone expecting a nice low-budget sci-fi picture remniscent of the best of American 1950s cinema will no doubt be rather taken aback by the relative lack of sci-fi and the lengthy sex scenes. Equally anyone looking for an all out piece of erotica or sleaze will probably equally find that this film never reaches the height (or depth?) of the Black Emanuelle series and its various clones. However for fans of Euro-cult and the 1980s trash cinema The Beast in Space makes for some great fun and its amazingly daft nature gives plenty of opportunities for a good mocking.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Sirpa Lane - a little known Finnish actress best known for her lead role in La BÍte (1975)
Directed by anyone interesting? Alfonso Brescia (usually credited as Al Bradley) - one of the masters of the lowest of the low budgeted Euro-cult cinema, he did also helm the impressive Spaghetti Western I Giorni della violenza (1967)
Any gore or violence? Nothing of note.
Any sex or nudity? Numerous softcore sex scenes and female nude scenes.
Who is it for? One for fans of the most trashy euro-cult films.


The DVD
Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print is quite grainy with some light damage and slightly faded colours, but always very watchable and there is generally good detail. A few of the scenes look rather soft and blurred - but this is a stylistic choice and is part of the original print.
Audio Italian mono - sounds good although the dubbing is quite noticeable on several of the actors.
Subtitles English
Extras The disc includes:
  • A newly shot interview with actor Venantino Venantini film at an art exhibition of his. They discuss this film as well as his career in general. There is also a voice-over that gives some other details about the film. The narration is in Italian (with subs) but Venantini speaks English. (16 min)
  • A lengthy Italian language trailer (with English subs) that really shows off the feel of the film. (3 min)
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Other regions? Not otherwise available on legitimate DVD.
Cuts? This is a softcore print of the film. A slightly extended hardcore print was made using some seperately shot hardcore sequences - this version is also available on DVD from Severin. The print used here is Italian.

Summary

Links





All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 11th May 2008.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

Please contact: