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Image Entertainment presents
Pinocchio in Outer Space (1964)

"The adventure you're about to see is based on a true portrayal of outer space, and could actually happen... to a puppet, come alive."
- Narrator

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: August 07, 2003

Stars: Peter Lazer, Arnold Stang
Other Stars: Jess Cain, Conrad Jameson, Mavis Mims, Cliff Ownes, Minerva Pious, Norman Rose
Director: Ray Goossens

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (space monsters)
Run Time: 01h:05m:37s
Release Date: April 15, 2003
UPC: 014381558128
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ C-B-C C+

DVD Review

Film or fever dream? If I didn't have the DVD sitting in front of me, I wouldn't be so sure about Pinocchio in Outer Space, a bizarre 1964 animated retelling of the familiar fairytale. In a story that's obviously a product of 1960s Space Race enthusiasm, Pinocchio (now a puppet again, his humanity taken away from him when he acted like a naughty boy—the Blue Fairy as judge, jury, and executioner?) must prove his worth by saving earth's satellites from Astro, the flying killer space whale. Did I mention the story begins with a disclaimer that it is based on true, scientific facts about our universe? Did I miss the day in fifth grade science where we talked about mammals in space?

Pinocchio in Outer Space is a truly odd picture, far too childish and boring for older children, but too intense and frightening for youngsters. It begins innocuously enough with a few banal songs and scenes of Pinocchio and Geppetto chatting (for a former "bad boy," Pinocchio is surprisingly helpful, so much so that he grates on the nerves). But soon, Pinocchio, on his way to school, runs into the wily Mr. Fox (the same who convinced him to go to Pleasure Island) and his beatnik partner the Cat (well, it was the '60s, why not a jive-talking cat, I ask you?). Mr. Fox sells him a pamphlet on hypnotism, and Pinocchio is convinced that he'll be able to hypnotize Astro, if only he could get into space. Luckily, a few minutes later, a spaceship lands on top of him, and Nertle the Twertle pops out and offers Pinocchio a trip around the galaxy.

Nertle (voiced by radio star Arnold Stang, who also performed in the Top Cat cartoons) and Pinocchio are the two least interesting protagonists imaginable. None of Nertle's jokes are funny, and he does nothing but blab about how stupid earthlings are. The effeminate Pinocchio merely whines the entire time. The two travel to Mars for some reason and encounter a lost city full of gigantic crabs and scorpions, and the animation is scary enough to give toddlers nightmares for a month, but nothing really happens. Eventually they fly home, only to be swallowed by Astro, providing the perfect opportunity for Pinocchio to whine some more.

Director Ray Goossens and his staff created the low-budgeted picture overseas, and the animation has a shoddy, inconsistent look about it. None of the designs are particularly creative, so the cheap animation is even more of a detriment. The dialogue is largely expository, and though the film lasts but an hour, it's repetitive and frequently drags. Kids today certainly won't enjoy the hokey space scenes, and there aren't enough campy moments to appeal to adults. Worth watching only if you're curious to know that the Blue Fairy and her mother live in an asteroid belt.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Pinocchio in Space isn't that pretty to look at, but the DVD transfer is actually fairly good considering the age and relative merit of the feature. Colors look a bit dull, but are generally stable. Black level is decent, and I noticed no digital anomalies like edge halos or artifacting. The source print looks a little worse for wear at times, with scratches, lines, and speckling showing up often, and some rather severe grain at times (particularly during the opening credits). A full restoration wasn't really feasible for a title like this, though, and this anamorphic transfer looks ok.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in the original English mono. The track sounds rather dated, with muffled dialogue, occasional background hiss, and a thin presentation of the score and songs. Considering the generally fine video quality, the audio is something of a disappointment, but it's adequate.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
1 Feature/Episode commentary by producer Fred Ladd
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Original Prologue with Commentary
  2. Clean Credit Sequence
  3. Still Gallery
Extras Review: Image has included some interesting archival extras with this release. First up is the odd, live action original prologue, a dull five minutes of classroom babble about launching rockets into space and speculative blather like "we are closer than ever to discovering whether intelligent life exists on Mars!" It seems odd to frontload the picture with all this real science, considering it's a movie about spacefaring killer whales. Producer Fred Ladd offers optional commentary for the sequence, but it consists mostly of him pointing out how all the facts are "true."

You can hear more from Ladd on his interminable feature commentary. He begins by proclaiming himself producer, co-writer, and director, though he is billed only as the producer (he does kindly credit Ray Goossens as the "animation director"). He then alternates between dull facts about the production ("You're hearing the voice of X, a famous radio star at the time." Repeat ad nauseam.) and plot narration ("Here's where we realize Mr. Fox is up to no good!"). Here's where Joel switches off the commentary 25 minutes in.

More interesting is a still gallery offering a look at original sketches and storyboards, and even the theatrical poster art. The opening song is also included sans credits (a precursor to the clean opening animation included as a de facto bonus on every anime disc?).

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

A bizarre mix of fairytale, pulp sci-fi, Cold War paranoia, and good old-fashioned nightmare fuel, Pinocchio in Outer Space is certainly one of the oddest excuses for mainstream children's entertainment ever produced. Image's DVD offers a fine presentation of this minor cult classic, and the disc will likely please animation fans who have been debating for years whether this movie actually exists, or whether it was just some terrifying hallucination.


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