Image Entertainment presents
Astro Zombies (1969)
"SEE brutal mutants menace beautiful girls! SEE astro space laboratory!"- Promotional taglines
Stars: Wendell Corey, John Carradine, Tura Satana
Other Stars: Tom Pace, Joan Patrick, William Bagdad
Director: Ted V. Mikels
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:30m:13s
Release Date: 2000-12-26
DVD ReviewAstro Zombies is a rather baffling experience. You may have lived through Ted V. Mikels' Corpse Grinders, Blood Orgy of the She-Devils, or The Girl In Gold Boots (my personal favorite Mikels film), but this one stands out a bit from the rest of his resumé. It stands out because it's so darn odd and quite terrible. In fact, it's so strange that one has to wonder what exactly inspired it. Now, I'm not putting the film down, after all it's sort of an epic of bad taste, but it's also mystifying in that aspect.
The plot is somewhat hard to follow. Basically, it involves a mad scientist, Dr. DeMarco (John Carradine), developing "Astro Zombies"on his own, away from official support. Originally the technique used to create the zombies was going to be used to create super-efficient astronauts. Instead, these "Astro Zombies" are just homicidal and totally useless. Meanwhile, a sneaky gang of criminal spies (led by Tura Satana) are trying to get their hands on the formula for creating these zombies. At the same time, the CIA (or similar organization) become interested in Dr. DeMarco's bizarre experiments. There isn't too much glue holding all this together. In fact, the general pacing, editing, and plot development is quite surreal. The story merely serves to fuel scenes of zombie carnage and appearances by Tura Satana (which are always welcome).
Much about the movie will leave viewers doubting their sanity. A good example is the film's opening credits: scenes of toy robots battling each other with war-movie sound effects and foley played in the background. It's hard to tell where the purposefully humorous parts end and the utterly ridiculous sections begin. The whole thing is a wild ride of utter weirdness and trashy exploitation mixed together in a very unique way. While this is all fun, it's not quite as entertaining as it should be. The biggest problem with the movie (other than the complete lack of budget, taste, style, etc.) is that the main attractions, John Carradine and Tura Satana, hardly help things along. Even at his worst, Carradine always made his presence felt in a movie and added something to it. Here, you can hardly even tell it's him. The nonsense dialogue he utters and cheaper-than-cheap props he's forced to use demean his performance to something almost impossible to laugh at. And while infamous B-movie queen Tura Satana brings her own talents to the film, she also fails to be as exciting or entertaining as one might expect.
The film is also incredibly boring in certain sections. If anything saves a low-budget production like this, it's a fast pace. Here, things just take entirely too long. If you're even thinking of watching this movie, you probably are already familiar with this domain. You may even be familiar with Ted V. Mikels as a director. I have to honestly say, though, I've seen much more entertaining movies from this time period. Astro Zombies has a definite charm and cult-appeal, but it just doesn't click with me the way these low-grade horror films usually do. I guess the bottom line is that Astro Zombies really doesn't live up to it's cult-film hype too well. It's terrible, but a little more terrible than even a B-movie fan may be willing to accept and have fun with.
Rating for Style: D+
Rating for Substance: D
|Aspect Ratio||1:78:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Much to my surprise and awe, Astro Zombies looks jaw-droppingly good here. While the source print has obviously aged enough to cause some grain, scratches, and tears, the general look is amazing. The film uses a lot of rich colors and weird lighting and all of it is reproduced with a luminous transfer that doesn't suffer from any exaggeration in the source flaws. The 16:9 enhancement has obviously payed off with a smooth, easy-to-see depth to the image. Some compression artifacts are evident in the worst scenes, but this is brought on by the poor condition of some of the footage. Otherwise, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better looking version of Astro Zombies in any format, which makes this a must-purchase, in my book, for fans of this movie.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The Mono audio here pretty much does what it is supposed to do, and not much else. The original audio is slightly muddy, mostly in terms of dialogue, but no major problems stick out anywhere. It's rendered well (and is single channel), but it was never that great to begin with.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: The sole extra feature is the original—and legendary—trailer. The trailer is, sadly, in FAR worse condition than the movie itself on this disc. Otherwise, there's not much here. The presentation is rather nice, especially use of the original, theatrical poster as the cover art instead of some newly reworked cover. If I had a solid complaint it would be the 10 chapter stops as many more are needed to really cover the film's length better.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsAstro Zombie fans should check out this lovely transfer. Otherwise, see this film only for its humorous and cult-history value. Having said that, though, I sure hope Image gets the rights to more of Mikels' films.
Dan Lopez 2000-12-31