part from his stint among the ensemble of AIRPORT ’77, 1977 was truly Annus Horribilis for Christopher Lee: his three genre efforts were easily among the worst exploitation outings of their vintage that I have come across! For the film under review, I sure hope that he did not accept it without even bothering to read the script – in the vain hope of matching the enormous success enjoyed by his frequent colleague Peter Cushing with the same year’s STAR WARS (for the record, he would himself eventually join that most auspicious franchise – albeit with a quarter century’s delay)!
Well, where to begin with this lamentable Canadian attempt at a space opera – which, more than actively ripping off the George Lucas blockbuster, takes a leaf (or two) from yet another 1977 sci-fi landmark, i.e. Steven Spielberg’s CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND! In fact, here we have two sets of aliens, one which is evil and intent on destroying our planet (shades of Lee’s own END OF THE WORLD, one of his afore-mentioned contemporaneous duds) and the other benign and seeking to thwart their plan (though, yet again, they still need to kidnap humans in order to have THEIR computer system fixed – WTF?!). To be fair to this one, it is not as deadly dull as the others – in fact, I ended up laughing out loud a number of times throughout!
Indeed, its unintentionally hilarious moments are perhaps too many to catalogue or remember even at a mere day’s juncture, but I will try regardless: a dim-witted, middle-aged farmer is abducted and conditioned to engage in sexual intercourse with a voluptuous alien (which he cannot quite believe is happening to him!); the costume of the invaders looks like a full-body black condom (which Christopher Lee looks understandably miserable inhabiting – what is more, all the actors playing extraterrestrials have had to loop their lines in post-production, since the writer-producer-director apparently thought it cool to allow them to only voice their thoughts!); equally incomprehensible is the redundant presence of what can only be described as space escorts forever waiting in the wings – maybe they should have called the film STAR WHORES?!; a couple of inept intergalactic goons realize too late that their protective force-field was not switched on, so that they are blown to bits by the typically impulsive and paranoid U.S. military; hero Robert Vaughn (displaying a fixed baffled countenance throughout) is supposed to be an expert on UFOs, yet when one flies over his car he does not immediately notice it and has to be alerted to its presence by his kid daughter and, on realizing that he missed the all-important sighting, he just shrugs and keeps on driving; to recruit his computer whiz pal to the aliens’ cause, he visits him one evening at home, yet this guy is still wearing his coat and tie as if they were his casual attire; the world’s end comes by way of a suicide epidemic (not in itself a bad idea, but would it not just take too long to achieve?) triggered by a laser beam fired from way out in space; Vaughn’s wife, depressed over his absence from home (she had already voiced her concern about how he was being unfaithful to her with UFOs!), goes from peeling onions for dinner to slashing her wrists in a split second; though supposedly emanating from outside our atmosphere, the spaceships are inexplicably seen emerging from the sea several times; Lee does very little here except press random buttons off a keyboard and aimlessly fiddle with knobs to feign his authority, check his wristwatch every now and again to God knows what ostensibly vital purpose, and operate the occasional flimsy ray gun (also worn on his wrist), etc.
Apparently, Lee himself though of STARSHIP INVASIONS as the nadir of his career…but, while I beg to differ (relatively speaking), it was certainly not a fluke of a low point! In ant case, it was shown under various titles to no effect: ALIEN ENCOUNTERS, ALIEN WARS and PROJECT GENOCIDE!