“How can this be commander? Is this the workings of a mad scientist, black magic, or mumbo jumbo? A nightmare? Nothing of the sort. This is an application of fact. Facts beyond your ken!” Says the aristocratic, megalomaniac bent on doing something bad that isn’t clearly explained in Antonio Margheriti’s 1967 science fiction thriller Wild Wild Planet.
There are quite a few things that are unclear in this film, beginning with the title. The original Italian title was I Criminali Della Galassia (Criminals Of The Galaxy) which is relatively accurate when compared to the plot, but Wild Wild Planet sounds like a movie about gogo dancers in space. To be fair, there is some dancing in this film. The audience is treated to several performances of a butterfly dance that the evil doctor Normi presents. That’s another point of confusion. Sometimes the evil scientist is called Dr. Normi, other times he is called Mr. Norman or Normal. In the credits, he is listed as Nurmi. Whatever his name is when he isn’t choreographing kitschy butterfly dances he is doing something evil having to do with transgender eugenics and giant beehive hairdos.
The butterfly dances are just one of many metaphorical scenes that point to a transgender subtext, the butterfly being the result of a transformation. Later there will be less subtle hints like when Commander Mike Halstead, our hero, discovers that under their “inconspicuous” black overcoats the alien drones hide a pair of male arms and a pair of female arms.
These black-clad, cleverly camouflaged criminals somehow blend into the crowd where they can prey on the unsuspecting. Once a victim is selected they swoop in with an open coat, bundle the victim up as if to embrace them, and then wait for the victim to shrink down to Barbie doll size leaving only a steaming pile of clothing behind. Why they do this isn’t clear, other than it is easier to kidnap people when they are small and can be slipped into the convenient, vinyl travel bags that the “unobtrusive” operatives always carry.
It all has to do with a plan that involves, Frankensteinian grafting, Nietzschean genetics, and GMO cross-breeding. It has something to do with Mr. Normal creating a master race. What he plans to do with this master race is not addressed. It isn’t even explained during the obligatory “bad guy explains everything to good guy before trying to kill him” scene. As Mr. Nurmi and Commander Mike take a tour of Nurmi’s lair, Nurmi prances about being condescending and pretentious whereas Mike maintains his straightforward, heterosexual, meat and potatahs outlook. Mike’s a guy who’s not afraid to use his fists, while Numri is not afraid to wear a glittery silver ascot.
Commander Mike says things like “I’m a person not a collection of hunks of meat.” Whereas Mr. Nurmi says things like “It was too good for you! You! You men! Meaningless idiots! Fools! You could never comprehend!” There is a third lead in the film, the shapely Lieutenant Gomez. Mike wants her for some healthy, wholesome, intercourse, while the devious Nurmi wants to genetically join with her.
Lieutenant Gomez doesn’t seem too happy with either of them. In a drunken rant, she informs Norman and Mike “I like to be treated as a woman, as a lady. Not as a buddy. ‘A woman is equal in full participation’ is space junk. I am a woman, and woman is obviously different from a man.”
The film serves as a warning to society to keep the sexes straight in both senses of the word. It’s not uncommon for 1960’s films about gender to be conservative but they are usually tempered by some half-hearted lip service to feminism. Wild Wild Planet makes no apologies for its conservative moralism. Whether it’s on the ground or out in space a man is a man and a woman is a woman. It’s simple, one has a beehive and the other one doesn’t.
The Wild Wild Planet (1965) is one of four films made as a sort of quadrillogy called Gamma One. The other three films are, The War of the Planets (1966), War Between the Planets (1966), and The Snow Devils (1967). All four films used the same miniature models for their outer space and cityscape shots. This was already standard practice for Toho studios in Japan where they filmed Godzilla movies. Toho’s sets were considerably more detailed and sophisticated than the ones used in the Gamma One series.
The production crew for Wild Wild Planet managed to build serviceable models, but the lighting crew had a little trouble keeping track of daytime and night time.
It appears as if they didn’t have a blue sky background so every miniature shot was filmed against a black backdrop. The indoor sets were easier to deal with, mostly they just used colored curtains as backdrops.
As for the sound design, the fight scenes sounded like a bunch of deaf tap dancers on speed and the little handheld ray-guns sounded like old-timey ship cannons, but the high school level production value only made the film more endearing. There are so many different kinds of bad when it comes to movies. Wild Wild Planet is not bad like a Roger Corman film is bad. Corman movies have gaping expanses of dead time while actors wait for each other to finish their lines. There is a certain lifeless pawl that Corman has perfected. Wild Wild Planet keeps the pace peppy and there’s lots of saturated color. It’s like Brach’s candy, it’s crap but it’s still candy. OK wait, I just did a search for some Brach’s candy images, and I came across this. What the fuck is this??
No, no it’s real. I looked it up on Brach’s website. The world may be ready to embrace gender fluidity, but it may not be ready for trans candy corn that self-identifies as a turkey dinner.
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