Monday, March 30, 2015

The Humanoid (1979)

The Humanoid (1979)

Director: Aldo Lado

Cast: Richard Kiel, Barbara Bach

I've spoken a lot on this blog about Italian rip-offs because they are just so damn entertaining. More so if you've seen the films they are shamelessly copying from. Usually Italian rip offs don’t just copy from one film, sometimes, like in the case of 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982) they copy from various films at the same time. In the case of The Humanoid, they were ripping off only one film in particular and that was George Lucas’ Star Wars (1977). Now, ripping off a film like Star Wars isn’t easy because it immediately involves a higher budget due to the fact that it’s a science fiction film. Problem is that Italian Cinema isn't exactly known for big Hollywood sized budgets, in fact they are known for the complete opposite. But the prospect of making some money off of Star Wars was too great to pass up and so the Italians did not one, but many Star Wars rip offs! The first one is one of my favorite Italian rip offs ever, the inimitable Starcrash (1978). A film that was meant to be a Star Wars rip-off, but ended up being a homage to Barbarella (1968) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963). Now if you haven’t seen Starcrash and love b-movies, do yourselves a favor and check it out. I promise you’ll laugh your ass off while being completely entertained at the same time. Following Starcrash was The Humanoid (1979) which by the way had a slightly higher budget than Starcrash. Did more money translate into a decent film? For the longest time I’d been dying to see this Star Wars rip off, so, how was it?

The story goes something like this. A villain known as ‘Lord Graal’ enlists in the help of an evil scientist to create a chemical that can turn everyone it comes in contact with into a brainless zombie willing to obey his every whim. Lord Graal intends to release this chemical on the population of Planet  Metropolis, hoping in this way to create an unbeatable automaton army, you know, kind of like the clone army from the Star Wars films. But first they try the toxic on a random individual which ends up being a pilot named Golob. Golob ends up becoming the titular Humanoid. At the same time, the people of Metropolis have become aware of Lord Graals plans, so they send a soldier to stop Lord Graal. Will they succeed? Or will Lord Graal turn everyone into a mindless automaton?

Starcrash is a cool movie in my book because while most of its posters and publicity materials screamed Star Wars (just take a look at some of its posters) the film itself wasn’t such a Star Wars rip off. To me it turned into its own twisted, hilarious thing. I’m thinking producers wanted Star Wars, but Luigi Cozzi -the director- gave them a loving homage to old sci-fi/fantasy films. But The Humanoid? Here’s a real, true blue, Star Wars rip off! Oh my god! This one is Star Wars through and through! The sets, the spaceships, the situations are all Star Wars inspired, only cheaper and consequently funnier. The Humanoid cost about 7 million (3 million more that Starcrash) and you can tell because it looks slightly better produced in someways. The sets and spaceships look slightly more expensive, but never as polished as anything you'd see on Star Wars. Producers obviously spent their cash on making this one look exactly like Star Wars, but at the end of the day couldn't really match it. So what we get is a goofy version of Star Wars.

But just how Star Wars is The Humanoid? Well, let’s see…the film starts off with a scrolling text introduction, we get giant triangular spaceships flying through space. The main villain in the film is this guy who is dressed all in black. He is obviously this films Darth Vader, only he reminded me more of Dark Helmet from Spaceballs (1986), but with a Samurai Helmet? They filmed a lot of the film in a dessert that resembles Tattoine, they even have this craft that hovers a few inches off the ground just like in Star Wars. Okay, check this out, how low is this? The film’s director is a guy called Aldo Lado, but in order to make his name sound like George Lucas, they billed him as George Lewis! I mean, that’s just sleazy marketing techniques. This films version of R2-D2 is a little robotic dog called ‘Robo-Dog’ who by the ways pees yellow liquid on which the storm trooper types slip on, then he laughs at them when they fall. He also wags his antenna tail from time to time when excited! The film has some sleazy sexy stuff you’d never see in a Star Wars film, for example, this villainess has these huge breasts…and the camera stays on them for a few seconds too long, I was just cracking up. Lord Graal has a girlfriend on this one whom he wants to share the universe with, and sex as well, there’s something Darth Vader never did. They even have a Princess Leia type character entering data into a robot while saying the words “It’s our only hope”.   

The one element of originality the film has is The Humanoid itself, played by Richard Keil. When he is under the control of Lord Graal, he screams like The Hulk, breaks down doors and throws bad guys up in the air! He looks like the James Bond villain in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), because he is! This film gets really weird when it deviates from the Star Wars and goes into its own crazy territory, like this little Asian kid named Tom Tom, who has these amazing powers? He is basically like Jesus. He is also protected by these ghost like warriors, who by the way shoot glowing blue arrows! This magical kid kept reminding me of The Golden Child (1986). At one point, when he completes his mission a ghost ship comes flying and picks him up to go to who the hell knows where, because who or what this magical kid is, is never truly explained. He does say that he is “going back to Tibet”, laugh out freaking loud. But then again, many things are never explained, like the villain who sucks the life out of beautiful girls to get younger. This sub-plot goes nowhere! Why does she have to suck the life out of girls, if it has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film? Whatever, who cares! Ultimately, it’s crazy elements like these that make these movies so entertaining. 

Other Italian Star Wars rip offs include: Space Odyssey (1979), War in Space (1978), Cosmos: War of the Planets (1977) and War of the Robots (1978), but I have a feeling none of them are as entertaining as either Starcrash (1978) or The Humanoid (1979), so watch those at your own risk. The Humanoid is the most blatant of all these rip offs. It has to be. I mean, you can’t get more Star Wars than this! No way! You remember that scene in Star Wars where Han Solo and Luke are on board the Millennium Falcon and they start shooting all those Tie Fighters? There’s a copy paste of those scenes on this one! It even looks like they used the same explosions! That whole scene where Leia is captured and tortured? Same thing here.   But then just when you think it’s a copy paste of Star Wars, Lord Graals hands light up and he begins to shoot blue laser beams out of them! So it’ll feel like a Star Wars rip off, but then totally not! It’s entertaining that way. Ultimately, I enjoyed Starcrash more (because its even crazier than this one) but The Humanoid is actually not that bad as far as bad movies go. It’s actually quite fun and recommend it if you ever want to turn your frown upside down.

Rating: 3 out of 5   


Sean Gill said...

This looks like a pretty fantastic plagiaristic-Italo-cultural-mishmash––I'm going to have to check this out. Nice writeup!

Franco Macabro said...

Thanks Sean! If you liked Star Crash, then you should have fun with this one as well, though I found Star Crash funnier and a bit more original.

robotGEEK said...

Great review man. I'm with you. It was very entertaining and probably the biggest Star Wars ripoff out there, but I have a feeling that I'll enjoy Starcrash a whole lot more. LOL. I have to commend them though, the set design was impressive, considering. And I thought Richard Kiel was awesome. He totally passed as the Han Solo type in the beginning. I wish he'd stayed like that for the rest of the film....but oh well. Not Bad Movie Night worthy, but a fun watch for sure.

Franco Macabro said...

The sets were a bit more impressive cause the budget was slightly higher, Star Crash is funnier and better for other reasons, hope you get a chance to see it. It's one of my favorite Italian Rip Offs.


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