WRITERS: Screenplay by Ted V. Mikels and Wayne Rogers
DIRECTOR: Ted V. Mikels
STARRING: Wendell Corey as Holman
John Carradine as Dr. DeMarco
Tom Pace as Eric Porter
Joan Patrick as Janine Norwalk
Tura Satana as Satana
Rafael Campos as Juan
Joseph Hoover as Chuck Edwards
Victor Izay as Dr. Petrovich
William Bagdad as Franchot
Vincent Barbi as Tiros
QUICK CUT: A scientist tries to better our ability for space exploration, but some people don't agree with his methods, and others want to use them for their own gain.
Shhh, I'm skipping this for now.
THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskelions! I hope the new year is treating you well. For this year's review landing the week of my birthday, I decided to get back to one of my favourite and least favourite directors here at Trisk, Ted V. Mikels, and his movie Astro-Zombies. Ted has given us the classic Corpse Grinders trilogy, and if you're a MST3K fan, Girl in Gold Boots.
The movie gets things rolling with a woman driving down the road, pulling into her garage, and immediately being attacked by an incredibly mixed up creature with a strange face who proceeds to claw at her with a garden rake.
From that cold open, we dive right into the credits and...and this almost defies description. It's your usual credits, but they're playing over toy robots wandering around, and the occasional toy tank. It's like a no budget mini movie itself of attacking giant cheap robots.
That segues awkwardly to some random guy who was already in a random car accident, and as he bleeds out, a random guy randomly comes along to carry him away. This makes more sense later, but right now it's out of the blue.
We then eventually find ourselves at a research facility, where one of the doctors reveals himself to be a government agent placed amongst the staff to keep an eye on things.
They mention some mutilation murders that have been going on for six months, and could be related to the work of the lead scientist and another, Doctor DeMarco. No real reasons are given WHY, we're just told, trust us, they are!
Before we get too much plot, they bring in another doctor, Chuck, so he can be in on the exposition dump from Dr. Petrovitch.
Petrovitch rambles on a bit about the history of artificial blood, organ transplants at the time, how they're close to heart transplants, and DeMarco was working on something called thought wave transfer. To which Critter says it can be used for space exploration. By feeding information from computers into the brains of people in space.
Or, putting information into any brains, anywhere. "NO! Only into space! Nyoom!" It's...weirdly specific.
He demonstrates the power of thought wave transmission, by fiddling with an oscillator that makes annoying noises and makes a nearby brain twitch. Dudes, the sound is making MY brain twitch sixty years after the fact.
"Are you saying, a man's thoughts can be broadcast to another man's brain, and he'll respond to it??" "EXACTLY! I...don't know how you got that from my demonstration, but I'm glad you got it!"
Okay okay, I'm being a little harsh, but they are playing a little fast and loose with their scientific explanations. It's like they WANT to science, but they also don't want to take the time to explain things, or bore people.
He goes on to explain this would enable all the top minds to be sent as an amalgamated uni-mind to a 'quasi man' already in space.
"A quasi man? You mean...a zombie?" "What else would you call a man with a synthetic heart, a steel mesh stomach, plastic pancreas..." An artifical man? An android? A cyborg?? NOT A ZOMBIE. He just HEARS the phrase quasi man and goes, A ZOMBIE?? I...argh.
Meanwhile, there's a deal going down with a spy selling some tapes to Satana, who then gets killed after the deal. This will make more sense later.
But for now, we get a lot of scenes of John Carradine fiddling with knobs and buttons and equipment! There's a lot of gibberish here, a lot of BS, but somehow, since he is John Carradine, he still manages to sell it. The man does commit.
Mind extractor! Blood exchanger! SCIENCE!
We watch as they do their science, and wanna be Igor, Franchot, works the blood exchanger. I love how while taking the blood from the corpse, Sancho makes SURE to spray the blood on the SIDE of the container, instead of just letting it flow out of the tube. You gotta make sure people SEE that liquid is coming out of it, to sell the idea of actually draining his blood!
Back at Research Lab Inc, everyone heads home for the night, except for Lynn, and she soon regrets her decision when one of the Astro-Zombies shows up to executional her.
Aaaand because this is a Ted V. Mikels production, it would not be complete unless it had a totally random, unrelated, and out of place scene of a girl dancing at a club, we go there now with Critter and his girlfriend, and Chuck! Critter should at least feel right at home.
Unbeknownst to them, Satana has her men spying on them, since she knows about DeMarco's experiments and wants to know more. But unbeknownst to Satana, she is being spied on by the government, because they know there's a leak. I think.
The movie diverts here for WAY too long from the main plot as Satana and her goons run around chasing some random CIA agents we've never seen before. This feels like classic padding because the runtime was too short. We've never seen 80% of these characters before or since, so they filmed this extra chase just to pad it out.
Back at DeMarco's laboratory, they've got a woman tied down, and I honestly don't know if she's some random victim, or Lynn from earlier. (Future Jason here, it's some random woman!) We also get told that the Astro-Zombies are solar powered. Without light, there is no heartbeat! That is a huge design flaw.
Franchot plays with the experimental heart in a tank, turning off and on the nearby desk lamp that's powering the solar cell. It's basically a life and death version of Homer's "bed goes up! Bed goes down!"
Back at Research Lab Inc, they're talking about the spy who was run over earlier. And they're now sure someone has very sensitive data. And um, okay, they're RIGHT, but...but.. "We found a dead body...someone must know top secret information!" This movie does this a LOT. They just pull facts out of their ass with no real evidence because 'there's a dead body there!'
Over at Satana's she's listening to the tapes some more, "I have found a way to electronically revive dead cells, I have also developed artificial blood that is impervious to infection and disease!" CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT DEMARCO COULD DO WITH THIS ASIDE FROM CREATING MURDER ZOMBIES??
Satana wants to find DeMarco, because her gangster ways would be bolstered by an army of unstoppable zombies, and her assistant Juan has the brilliant idea that if he's broadcasting information to the brains of his minions, they can track the frequency. Dude. Five points to Ravenclaw.
Uhhh. More bad logic abounds though, as the scientists interview DeMarco's former assistant, and she recognises one of the dead men, whom she remembers one day when DeMarco has called to the hospital to harvest his organs, and she remembers the look on his face the moment he died.
"That must be why he came to the lab as an astro-zombie, and killed Lynn!" "He was looking for me??" BUT HOW WOULD HE KNOW WHERE TO GO.
So they try and use Jeanine as bait to draw the monster back to them, and how do they expect that to work? A guy with a skull like alien head is just gonna wander around aimlessly, no one will notice, but he'll suddenly go, "Hey, I'mma swing back by that lab I killed a girl at to see if the girl I remember from the moment I died is there now"??
Also, there is a LOT of sitting around and waiting and fiddling with science while they wait and see if the creature does come knocking.
But they finally give up, and Critter takes the girl home, only to find that oh no, her power is out! This is the height of excitement at this point in the movie. Critter heads outside to check the fuses, while Janine gets undressed just in time to be attacked.
Okay okay, I can almost come up with an excuse for the astro-zombie to find the lab (Maybe they took him there while he was dying) but HOW DOES HE FIND HER APARTMENT?
She starts screaming, and outside, Critter does not hear...a single...thing. Her screams finally catch his attention though, and he runs to her rescue.
Or he attempts to, but gets thrown through a closet door. The creature suddenly grabs the flashlight, turns it on, sticks it to its forehead, and runs away, because Critter knocked off his power source.
This...this is amazing. A creature with a monstrous visage, running around like there should be Yakety Sax playing, with a flashlight held tightly to its forehead. This just went from good to great.
OH and random twist time! One of Satana's men is a traitor. Gasp, surprise.
But Satana and Juan find the lab, Critter and friends aren't far behind, so I guess this is gonna end sometime soon.
"We know you have succeeded in creating an astro-zombie!" "How did you know that??" No shit that's a good question. I'd be asking, HOW DO YOU EVEN KNOW THAT WORD??
The flashlight powered astro-zombie arrives, with the cops and Critter right behind, and they assault DeMarco's home like it's in Waco, TX.
I love that the two main minions, Franchot and Juan square off...and it's a short fight, because Juan's a badass and makes stabby.
The defective astro-zombie wanders outside and finds Janine, and DeMarco decides to pull the plug to stop his rampage. I do appreciate that he actually included a master kill switch in his creations. MORE MAD SCIENTISTS NEED TO DO THIS.
Satana shoots DeMarco, because she wants to control the unstoppable force, and before he dies, he transfers his own brain into the second Astro-Zombie.
The gangster thinks she can control this new Astro-Zombie, but DeMarco's will is strong, he grabs her, and shoves her into the main electrical box, killing her and himself. And he pretty much kills the movie too, because it ends as our heroes run in to see everyone dead.
Video: The colours are a bit wonky, but that's not uncommon for no budget 1960s movies. It's pretty solid quality otherwise.
Audio: It sounds decent enough.
Sound Bite: Too much bad science to choose.
Body Count: Not bad at all, for a silly movie like this.
1 - Less than three minutes in, and a random woman gets beaten in her garage by an Astro-Zombie
2- Random dead body found in a car
3 - Spy run over by a car.
4 - Astro zombie stabs a girl in a lab.
5 - An agent gets killed by Satana.
6 - She murders another agent at poolside
7 - Traitorous goon gets stabbed by Juan.
8 - Juan gets shot up
9 - One cop gets beheaded
10 - Another cop get stabbed in the face
11 - DeMarco gets shot by Satana
12 - Satana gets electrocuted
13 - Astro-Zombie gets electrocuted along with her
Best Corpse: It's random as hell, but that sudden decapitation of one of the cops at the end of the movie is super memorable.
Blood Type - C: It's red tempera paint, and is far to bright, but there's quite a bit of blood here and there. And bolstered by random decapitations.
Sex Appeal: This is actually quite tame for Mikels, and he is largely restrained in his sexuality. But he does find some moments to needlessly sex things up.
Drink Up! Every time someone jumps to a conclusion with no evidence to support it. Finish your glass if they're RIGHT for no other reason than the plot demands it.
Video Nasties: Just a quick clip of the Astro-Zombie hilariously running with a flashlight stuck to its forehead to keep going.
Movie Review: Okay, I've slammed the plot convenience enough, so y'all get that. But that stuff aside...this is actually not bad, especially for a Ted V. Mikels film. It's not TOO dragged out, save for some of the Satana stuff. It's got some good action to it, and the BIG plot is good, it's just the details and particulars that trip up the story. The story is fine, but they didn't care enough to work out the logic. And it's well made enough, again especially for Mikels. But for having such a dodgy plot, this only gets a two out of five flashlights
Entertainment Value: It loses a lot by being coherent, so there's not as much hilarity and silliness that you would find in other Mikels movies, but there's still plenty of cheese here. Carradine is always a blast, and holy shit the gravitas he brings is always great. He says his lines with such conviction that even knowing they're BS science, you go, "Yep, that's entirely possible!" I genuinely like the design of the Astro-Zombies. It's a good mix of a space helmet/survival gear, and what you might get confused and say "That's an alien!" And the randomness of the plot is a hoot. Three out of five visits to the strip club.