Wednesday, 13 July 2016
Zeta One (aka The Love Factor)
UK 1969 Directed by Michael Cort
Tigon/Jezebel Blu Ray Zone A
Warning: I guess this technically
has spoilers in it all the way through.
Wow, this is terrible. Almost entertainingly bad to an extent, sure, but... terrible nonetheless.
I bought this on US Blu Ray a few years ago and have only now just gotten around to watching it. All I can say is that I’m really glad I got this one as it’s a great example of something that you just couldn’t imagine getting green lit today. Very much a product of its time... although I don’t think it was very well received back in its day either. Not surprisingly.
It was conceived as being a companion piece to the sadomasochistic imagery of a science fiction based, regularly running photo spread in Zeta fashion magazine but the film is trying really hard to be a Bond parody, mixing it up with a sci-fi plot line... if it can be seen as having a plot line (or at least one that makes any sense whatsoever). It starts off with a Bondian ‘almost song’, Zeta, playing over some distinctly non-Bond like credits employing some nice, static stills from the production. This is probably the best part of the movie.
We then go into the opening sequence where we see James Word (I guess his word is his Bond?) arriving home at his apartment, played by actor Robin Hawdon. In an entirely unsuccessful parody of a sequence in Doctor No (reviewed here), when Bond realises there is an intruder in his rooms. Here we watch as the moustached Word creeps around his apartment before opening the kitchen door and stumbling over some cleaning equipment, falling at the feet of this film’s equivalent of a sexy Miss Moneypenny substitute, who is there to cook for him and seduce him. It won’t take you very long to figure out why, either... but they unbelievably leave it until the end of the movie as some kind of ‘surprise moment’, I guess.
Anyway, when he falls at the feet of this starlet, his moustache is left hanging half off and it’s half revealed that he was wearing it as, I dunno, some kind of a disguise. Or, I suspect, he was wearing it so that all this footage which forms a bookend to the main ‘story’ in flashback, and which I’m guessing was shot sometime after the main production in order to pad out the running time, would match up to earlier footage of the actor when he had a real moustache... perhaps.
This James Word character seems totally inept when it comes to walking around in the film, often stumbling over things. However, other than constantly picking himself up, he doesn’t play the role with any comedic air at all and so his constant, gravity challenged shenanigans seem a bit strange and disconcerting on a character who is supposed to be the hero. Not that he actually leaves his apartment for the entire first half of the film, believe it or not.
So, anyway, the girl is in his flat and they talk and then play an interminably long game of strip poker, with inappropriate comedy scoring and a complete lack of sexual intrigue, despite the nudity content of this and many other scenes in the movie. She wins the game (but not before stripping off) and therefore gets to ask James about his recent mission, while they are cuddling in bed. Cue the actual film... after this opening scene has gone on for, believe it or not, over 20 minutes. Over 20 minutes of the first bit of padding. I believe the original director may have been ‘removed’ from the production half way through the shoot and, if that’s the case, this could explain a lot.
Word starts telling his story and then we finally get to something which very vaguely resembles a plot. Word’s boss W (which I guess is an inverted M... more Bond games) tells him about a place called Angvia (guess that’s another less than subtle anagram, then) populated by a race of only women, who kidnap worthy ladies from Earth society and brainwash them to fit in with the Angvian way. However, nobody seems to know whether they are from another planet or another dimension or what? All I can tell you is they live in some kind of impractical, psychedelic studio set and they can pop up in our streets out of thin air at the touch of a button. As can their big lorry which kinda phases in and out of reality in a country lane, presumably to load up their kidnapped lady folk. Strangely enough, their ability to materialise and dematerialise seems to desert them at any time they find themselves in trouble... I’ll get back to that in a bit.
Okay... so now we have the main villains of the film. When I tell you the villainous Major Boudon and his favourite henchman Swyne are played by ‘Carry On...’ veterans James Robertson Justice and Charles Hawtrey, I could totally understand that you’d think this movie was a comedy of some sorts but, if that is what it’s also trying to be, it’s a very poor one, it has to be said. Nobody actually does or says anything funny, that’s for sure and seeing the glee in which Boudon and Swyne want to torture any captured Angvians is really not what people are going to want to remember these two beloved National Treasures for. Especially with James Robertson Justice coming out with appalling lines, on discovering an Angvian spying on his house, like “Swyne. There's a bitch in the bushes. Go and see what she wants.” Major B wants to conquer the Angvians and take over their kingdom... but there seems to be absolutely no motivation or reason given as to why that would be during the entire running time of the film... along with lots of other absent details.
Meanwhile, back in the other part of the plot which actually never meets up with these villains, James has lost the woman he’s supposed to be meeting as she’s been kidnapped by Angvians. So he goes to see his boss on the 13th floor of his offices, finally getting him out of his apartment after 45 minutes into the film. He goes up to see him in an automated, talking lift that is a real jobsworth of an elevator and is, presumably, an attempt to ‘comedy up’ the general proceedings. The lift won’t take him up to the 13th floor as it’s superstitious but, when the doors open, James seems to have reached his destination anyway... as he’s sent to Scotland to try and rescue an Angvian from the clutches of Boudon for... oh, the plot points really escape me on this one. Don’t judge me too harshly, I believe I’m not the only person who can’t find a coherent way through this movie.
In the meantime the kidnapped girl is taken to the Angvian headquarters, allowing the audience a splendid view of quarter naked, half naked and fully naked women in baths, eating fruit and in combat training. It is a colony of bizarre decorative shapes and kaleidoscopic effects. The ‘fighting corp’ exercises look very silly, however. Although it’s nice to see one of my favourite Hammer icons, Valerie Leon, wandering around in almost nothing.
We find that the Angvians use those stupid 1960s movie magical tele-screens which allows them to see anything that’s happening in ‘our’ world and that they employ left over sound effects from episodes of my favourite TV show The Prisoner. The kidnapped lady in question is pushed into a mechanical machine and she comes out in a chamber, laying face down but somehow naked on an invisible board in a black room with psychedelic wax lamp style designs swirling around her, badly superimposed into the foreground. We watch her spinning around and upside down for a while but it seems that when she comes out of this chamber she is not, in any way, reconditioned.
Elsewhere, a rescue mission has gone wrong and one of the Angvians is in trouble, so another prominent Angvian, who has been pumping James Word for information (not the person in the framing story), goes to Scotland at the pop of a button to rescue her. For some reason the girls can materialise and dematerialise anywhere, when and where they please... unless they’re in trouble. Then the cavalry arrive with their special powers which the same girls also seem to posses so... you know, they had many easy ways to escape if they wanted to. James also runs around the Scottish forests... or should I say ‘stumbles’ through them... but doesn’t actually arrive until the end of the story and once the two main villains have somehow just completely dropped out from the narrative of the movie, after a gang of henchmen have been taken out by Angvians... I’ll get there in a minute, people.
Meanwhile, our original kidnapped gal tries to escape by opening a pointless tube, much like a ventilation shaft but with no apparent purpose to it, and crawling down miles of twisty, turney tubes, rubbing her clothes against the edges at all angles and constantly revealing anatomical features of her body as the clothes get caught in the pipes. However, one of the trained elite also spots she is gone and gives chase by entering the same series of tubes and... doing exactly the same thing.
When the escapee gets loose, she takes on some of the trained military finest by karate chopping one of them and grabbing one of their belts which she flings at another two, the belt wrapping around their torsos, trapping them together. Except... hold on a minute. For a planet or, you know, possibly a strange dimension, that has no male population, the reverse shot of the throwing seems to show a man’s hand guiding the belt to the correct destination, flashing in from the left of the screen. Hmmm.... good production values on this one then... and all lovingly restored in the high definition Blu Ray format that films like this so obviously deserve.
Meanwhile, again, the head of the Angvians, Zeta, played fleetingly in scenes by Dawn Addams, sends her military unit to the rescue in Scotland using the Anglian intelligence codes for their rigorous strategies... in this case she orders... “Action 69, fast”. Um... which apparently means a lot of scantily clad dominatrix types come to the rescue by using what I can only describe as ‘air karate’ on a load of endless henchmen. And when I say ‘air karate’ I mean just that. They point their hands in anyone’s direction and a manipulated thunderclap peels on the soundtrack as their victims go flying. Which make you wonder why the Angvian they’re coming to save didn’t do that to her captors in the first place... or... you know.... just teleport herself somewhere else, as we know they can do.
And that’s nearly the end. There’s a pile of henchmen laying in the forest but no James Robertson Justice or Charles Hawtrey among them and, bizarrely, nobody asking questions about where they are either. So much for the bizarrely convoluted nothing of a plot. We then jump back to the book end scenes where, big surprise, it’s revealed the Moneypenny character is also, secretly, an Angvian and she kidnaps James Word, taking him to her realm to breed with the population in the ‘inseminating room’ so that they can perpetuate their species. Why they’re only now realising they’re short of men is anybody’s guess. In the insemination room we see various naked women lounging around James between his inseminating duties... apart from one strange lady who is doing the most bizarre and energetically out of place dance you’ve ever seen in the left of the shot. Here, James is constantly fed a diet of champagne and raw oysters to keep him up to his new job, between girls. And that’s that... the end.
Okay... so this is one of the most ludicrously plotless films you’ve ever seen. You may think the 1960s Casino Royale movie or the Dr. Goldfoot films are inanely insane but this movie makes those look like absolute masterpieces in comparison. It sounds fun, on paper but... it really isn’t. I’m not quite sure why this has had a US Blu Ray release but I am at least grateful that Jezebel have put this out... if only so people who watch it can warn others about it. If you’re a seasoned veteran of watching 1960s tosh that possibly should never have gotten out of the script stage, then you’d certainly want to add Zeta One to your library. For anyone else, however, this movie will probably seem like a colossal waste of time. This kind of movie is exactly my cup of tea and even I had some problems with it. This movie gets an A for enthusiasm but an E for effort, I think.