version reviewed: VHS – £2 from a bargain bin

There are certain factors involved in the production of a B-movie. You automatically gain 10 B-movie points for any of the following criteria:

  • A character says “here they/it come/s!” whilst the rest of the on-screen actors turn and gawp
  • Unrealistic blood
  • Hardly any music – and any that features is sub-par
  • Regurgitated plot/characters from other movies
  • Give George Kennedy a role

altimOf course, there are lots of other ways to become a B-movie. AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT, Alien Terminator features most of the above – and a few new ones.

The plot? Franco Nero plays a moustachoied globetrotting writer who leads an exciting life – you can tell, because a mysterious woman enters his room and produces an antique knife from her bosom. This Aztec artefact sparks our facial-haired hero into action – and seeing as he’s months behind his publishing deadline, this new story could pull him out of his Pernod-drinking doldrums.

Sadly, his boss doesn’t think so, and sends him a one-way plane ticket home. But Franco has other ideas. Cashing in the plane ticket somehow, he remains to investigate the Atzec treasures. Along the way, he stumbles across a spaceship buried in the side of a mountain. In doing so he encounters an obsessed gold collector, various FBI types, and the most useless robot assassin since Short Circuit 3: Johnny 5 Goes Apeshit.

This is bad in the way that only an inter-continental movie can be. Mixing amateur Italian and American actors/crew, dubbing some voices and not others, and shot on film stock seemingly soaked in brine. It feels like a TV movie converted to video in order to meet the demand for movies that boomed in the 1980’s. I think it’s a fair guess to say that’s the only reason it exists.

Franco Nero demonstrates anger by way of squinting a lot, and he looks uncomfortable with anything physical. So quite how anyone thought he’d be a good action lead is beyond me. He’d be more at home in a Carry On movie.

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The real star of the show is ‘guest star’ George Kennedy. He really is the King of Cack – the anti-midas of the film world. American by birth, he attempts a Russian accent here for some reason. It stinks. When he is called upon to be villainous, he exudes as much menace as the left knee of a daddy longlegs.

Plot-wise, the movie goes nowhere until the discovery of the alien ship – which is about 25 minutes in. For some reason the craft looks like a pirate ship, but has a pitch-black chamber up a ladder, with a load of black barrels in it. Franco touches one – this causes three lights to flicker on and off, some nearby water bubbles, and then INEXPLICABLE CAVE IN. This is why you should never touch strange pods.

Anyway, the action comes thick and fast after that. For about 8 minutes. I would recommend fast forwarding to this point in the flick, but then you’ll miss the hilarious morgue scene. This starts off in serious mode – and remains so as the police officer in attendance shows Franco the dead body of his antiques contact / friend. “The work of professionals” he intones, grimly. Franco looks despondent, and utters a few words in remembrance of his pal. He ends with something like “he was a good man.” The policeman looks up, a smile on his face. “Those are hard to find, senor” he says, with a coy look on his face. There’s a time and a place for flirting, good sir, and this is not it.

There are many more giggles to be had – Franco evades some hitmen by taking his shoes off, only to be chased by George Kennedy who is driving a car. George swerves to hit Franco, who is then forced to run barefoot through a field of cacti, like a low rent John McClane. This scene lasts for a painful couple of minutes, which is basically Franco running and going “ow ee oooh arrgh”, with the occasional cut to George in his car laughing like a ham. I won’t ruin the climax of the scene for you, but I guarantee it is the most rubbish example of sadism you are ever likely to witness.

Other moments of worthy note are the hitmen who enjoy stabbing pillows, George Kennedy’s dusty demise, the inventive use of eggs in a car chase, and Franco getting his moustache kissed.

The coup de grace comes over an hour in, when the alien terminator FINALLY turns up. Up to this point you endure awkward sex, a nonsensical conspiracy theory storyline, and ridiculously bad supporting characters.

It’s all worth it to see this red shirted robo-doofus track down Franco and his lady friend. He looks like a bad guy from a 70’s cop show. He has an Uzi. People punch him in the stomach – which has no effect. Then, for some reason, he walks through a load of fireworks and his face melts off a bit. This exposes his shoddy prosthetics. Did you ever make a monster from cardboard when you were a kid? Did you use the bottom of an egg carton to make the eyes? Yeah.altim2

This is one of those unfortunate movies that came out at the end of a decade, and neither captures the zeitgeist of the time (how likely is that though? “Oh, this movie about aliens and robots really sums up how we feel!”), nor exists comfortably outside it.

It’s dated, badly paced and rips off far too many other movies. The video case boasts “an action packed adventure in the tradition of ‘The Terminator’…” Well, it lives up to none of that. At 90 minutes long, it seems a lot, LOT longer, but it has a certain campy charm that pulls me back in every now & then. A very 80’s oddity.