Star Pilot (1966)

image from IMDB, artist Mario Piovano (found here)

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AKA: 2+5: Mission Hydra
1:29:00 runtime, 1.85:1 aspect ratio

Not released in the USA until 1977 when it was dubbed and re-edited with some Star Wars, sci-fi-soundy terms.

All streams appear nearly identical, cropped to ~1.25:1 and a generally low quality transfer. Both YouTube streams are basically the same with a 1:20:46 runtime and cropped on the sides with the normal black border, but then an additional light border. The other three streams have a 1:20:51 runtime with just the normal black border.

the Portuguese 1 sheet for sale on eBay

Has Kirk Morris (from several sword and sandal movies including Devil of the Desert Against the Son of Hercules (1964) and Triumph of the Son of Hercules (1961)), Mirella Pamphili (small role in Mission Stardust), several actors (Mario Novelli, Gordon Mitchell) also in Seven Slaves Against Rome (1964) and Hercules and the Princess of Troy (1965). Reviews led me away from this one but I was obsessed and had to return to see for myself. No regrets.

Surprisingly good visual framing at times even with this cropped version. I’ve ordered the original; it only comes as a double feature (three versions: with Battle Beyond the Sun, King of Kong Island, and UFO Target Earth) and the Kong Island set is wide screen. I almost passed over watching this movie because the reviews I read were largely negative, but my curiosity nagged at me, and–whether from lowered expectations or genuine quality–I was happy with it. Despite the genuinely bad aspects that you’d expect in a cheap 1960s sci-fi flick, it had its own style.

The story:

A spaceship lands in Sardinia and a rider on horseback watches in disbelief.

Cut to a university office: a bare patch of land in the countryside slowly expanding and no one is certain why. Prof. Solmi, Paolo Bardi, and Louisa Solmi (daughter to the prof and a wannabe actress) leave to meet up with the team investigating it. On the way to the airport, Louisa suspects they’re being followed. En route, they stop to help a man who was hurt in a car wreck and take him with them to drop him off at a medical station at the airport. Spoiler: he’s a spy!

The trio continue on and arrive at the investigation site. The barren area is located over above a cavity in the Earth that periodically emits strange, moaning sounds. An earthquake in the middle of the night wakens the researchers and they discover that an opening to the cavern has been created. The prof leads them to the point where his Geiger counter detects the most radiation (why?!?) an a night of diffing eventually uncovers the hull of a rocket ship. No entrance is visible until a well-timed rock collapses to reveal to circular hatch. They enter and, after some mild sexism mocking Louisa’s wild female imagination, finally agree with her that it’s an alien ship. Cut to the aliens secretly monitoring them, and plotting.

Commander See-Through. Nice framing of her within the back alcove though.
These are–and I am not making this up–the aliens’ robots

We learn that they come from the constellation Hydra and that they landed two years prior (witnessed, as was saw in the opening seen, by a Sardinian horseback rider) to observe Earth’s use of newly-discovered nuclear energy. They stayed this long only because their ship broke down and their horrible looking robots–who moan like Frankenstein’s monster to signify their malfunction–were injured and can no longer help with repairs.

The prof and the gang try to return to the institute but all devices, including the jeep they drove in with and the phone, no longer work. Then the spies appear (saying, uncomfortably, “we are oriental not Chinese” hopefully mistranslated) and accuse the prof of developing the rocket as a secret weapon (why?!). One of the many very poor movie fights ensues and the aliens come to break it up, taking all prisoners. They reveal the facts of their technological stranding and demand the prof to help them repair their ship. They keep Louisa as hostage and put the spies to work on what the robots no longer can. The prof and Paolo leave for the institute to retrieve materials to repair the ship. All are monitored with small boxes placed around their necks that broadcast live video of their activities.

To hide their intent from the humans, the aliens speak their own language to each other: it sounds like some sort of Italian-influenced nonsense language. I’m curious what it sounds like to native Italian-speakers.

The alien trio and the soon-to-be shanghaied humans
Commander Kaena monitors the humans as they gather material for repairs. This is one of many shots that has an assured abstract sensibility.

Louisa spends most of her time flirting with one of the aliens (Kirk Morris, nee Hercules) and goes through several outlandishly sexy (?) outfit and hairstyle changes. Plan ahead. We learn that the aliens are secretly plotting to return the humans to their planet (why?!). One of the men who remained at the camp site calls for help and is killed. The prof and Paolo return and before the military can arrive, the ship takes off. One of the spies had overheard their plans but another very poor movie fight ensues.

They are lost (how?!). Meanwhile, back on Earth, several spaceships takes off from an elaborate fleet of orbiting stations to follow the alien ship.

On the way to the alien homeworld, the captives fight–poorly–to take over the ship but damage it and causing it to go out of control. They then get “caught in a photon shower and can’t get out” and land on unknown planet. Some minor flirting happens between Paolo/Kaena and Louisa/Hercules. This is definitely foreshadowing, but not in the way we expect. They are interrupted and have to fight off Gorilla aliens and flee the planet. Back to space. An Earth ship approaches repeating an unknown message in a Slavic language. Kaena and Paolo board it to find the two pilots dead and an ominous message on the control panel. Flashback to Earth being destroyed by war and environmental disaster.

The “warning?” taken from the Earth ship

A somewhat opaque translation of the message from the Earth ship:


translated from Bulgarian via Google Translate

Kaena points out that–in an unusual moments of scientific realism–because of time dilation, years or decades have passed on Earth. The aliens and humans have eventually developed a camaraderie, but Kaena still stands distant despite her flirtations with Paolo. She poisons the entire crew with knockout gas just before landing on their home planet and disembarks. In a premonition of the apocalyptic sci-fi films of the 70s, she sees that the city is abandoned and overgrown. An obelisk just offshore tells the story of nuclear pollution having made the planet uninhabitable and the population, with no other hope, left to find a new planet on which to live.

The final scene was reminiscent of both the beach scene from Planet of the Apes and the 2001 monolith, carrying a message from an absent civilization. End with melancholy music and the assumption that these two races must join in peace to create a new civilization.

Final scene. 2001 + Planet of the Apes.