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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ultimate Geek Fu

On a Tuesday way back in October of 1977, several college friends and I wandered down to the local theater in Clemson, SC, to catch a movie. Back then, Tuesday was Dollar Day at the theater, with all tickets costing just a dollar. It was a popular day for students to catch a movie and we were no different.

This was the year Star Wars had hit the theaters and changed the face of movie science fiction forever. It also resulted in a rash of crappy, quickly produced movies attempting to cash in on Star Wars' popularity. Because of the low ticket price, we were willing to take a chance on one of those rushed-out movies. It was titled Starship Invasions and even had two actual stars; Robert Vaughn and Christopher Lee. Here's how the Internet Movie Database describes the plot:
Captain Rameses and his Legion of the Winged Serpent brigade are out to claim Earth for their dying race. Out to save Earth is an alien guard patrol located in the Bermuda Triangle, the League of Races. LOR leaders warn Rameses that he's breaking galactic treaty rules. The alien villain responds by launching an invasion which telepathically drives Earthlings to suicide. The LOR implore UFO expert Professor Duncan to help them. Eventually, the two alien forces battle. Will the Earth be saved?
Sounds bad, doesn't it? Alas, the description doesn't do the movie justice. It was worse than bad. Examples:
  • The aliens all used "mindspeak," which means they stared at the camera, didn't move their mouths, and we heard them speak.
  • The good guy aliens all wore white while the bad guy aliens all wore black.
  • The bad guy aliens needed to find a new planet on which to settle their entire race because their home star was about to "go supernova an explode." Yes, that's a direct quote from the movie.
  • The bad guy aliens' brilliant plan was to have a lone space ship circling earth issuing some kind of suicide ray. The area over which the space ship passed had a big surge in suicides. The idea was to have the human race wipe themselves out, keeping the good guy aliens from realizing what was going on. The biggest problem with this plan is that the surge in suicides was sufficient to make a major news story but would have required centuries to have any effect on the overall human population.
  • When the good guy aliens had computer damage on their ship, they repaired it using parts taken from the main frame computer on which one of the humans worked.
  • Later, the computer went out again while the good guys were racing through the solar system to reach their hidden fleet out around Jupiter. The bad guys, guided by the supercomputer they had stolen from the good guys, were able to take a fast route through the solar system. Then the good guys got hooked the same computer guy up to their navigation system using special telepathic headphones and he calculated their course using his handy-dandy TI calculator. With this setup, the good guys quickly outpaced the bad guys and their silly supercomputer.
  • After the climatic battle, we watched Christopher Lee's spaceship crash on the moon. It caught fire and burned.
Christopher Lee's character wore what looked like a wrist watch in which there was a slowly expanding red dot. When the red dot filled the dial, his planet's home star had gone supernova (and exploded). This led to one friend of mine giving this description of the plot, "The aliens had to kill everyone on earth before Christopher Lee's wrist watch went supernova." He left out "and exploded."

After the film was released, someone asked Robert Vaughn and Christopher Lee why they had been involved in such a dog of movie. Both gave the same answer. The producers lied to them.

Over the years, I've gained such enjoyment relating the whole silly movie to friends that it's more than made up for the time and (minimal) cost spent to see it in the theaters. Starship Invasions will always be my favorite truly bad science fiction movie for just that reason. Can you top it with a worse movie?

Let the arguments begin!
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