Saturday, July 29, 2006

CHARIOTS OF THE GODS: Best Flying Saucers?

CHARIOTS OF THE GODS actually turns out to be a kind of Mondo travelogue which goes from ancient Egypt to Easter Island to Peru to Bolivia in order to speculate if ancient astronauts helped build the pyramids and other pre-Columbian constucts. It seems to have made a fortune in the 1970s during the Erich von Daniken fad when it was released in 1972 by Sun Classic pictures. You may or may not be convinced that "some form of life from outer space landed on Earth centuries ago" and built ancient airbases and famous architectual wonders. It was all directed by the busy German filmmaker Dr. Harald Reinl, who made German westerns, Krimis, DR. MABUSE films and ended up getting murdered by his wife in the Canary Islands in the 1980s. On DVD from VCI ENTERTAINMENT,

I much prefer the actual hardware, those amazing flying saucers seen in many international 1950s and 60s sci- fi films which I find much more charming than anything seen in the megabucks CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. I especially like the gridwork blips in KRONOS, the flying hubcaps in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and the ping pong balls painted like yellow jackets in DESTROY ALL PLANETS. Oh well, there's no accounting for some tastes... .

Supposedly real flying saucers cropped up on a Japanese DVD extra, SPO's disc of Sergio Corbucci's VAMOS A MATAR COMPANEROS . It seems the Italian western veteran was filming in Spain in 1969 when he spotted a strange, darting flying object overhead and had his camera crew film it. What is on the footage has never been explained and was part of the director's estate since his death in 1990 but was included on this DVD: SPO ENTERTAINMENT IMBS-1113. I also remember a ultra cheap UFO movie which I saw at the drive-in circa mid 70s where the objects in question are represented by flashing red lights on some kind of control panel. Can't remember the name of the film, though... I guess the classic of alien landing in a flying saucer movie is still THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, the sauve pilot of that craft was, of course, Michael Rennie who also appeared as an alien invader in the Paul Naschy monster fest, DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN (1969), where you don't even see him landing in a flying saucer. According to Senor Naschy, the scriptwriter, star and Spain's favorite werewolf, they didn't have the budget to include UFOs. But at least you get to see Spanish actors playing all the classic Universal monsters, even the Mummy gets involved! This obscurity made it to US DVD and could be found at local video outlets during the 1990s but in this day and age is available via certain internet sites and EBAY.

1 comment:

Kester Pelagius said...

The 70s had a lot of strange movies inspired by Chariots of the Gods pop culture success. One movie using this theme (IMDB lists it as a TV series but I remember seeing this edited as a movie) was 'The Phoenix' starring Judson Earney Scott. And what about that silly Disney nonsense ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN? It's ten times worse than FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR!

If you liked CHARIOTS OF THE GODS you should try to find out what became of Daniken's attempt to turn this into a regular X-Files like TV series. I kid you not! I remember seeing some clips of test CGI (for an intro?) online a few years ago when the series was first announced but don't recall what became of this project. Too, while I'm not sure of the exact titles, and they mix in some of Zecharia Sitchin's work, look for the recent "Ancient Astronauts" and "Giants" documentaries that were done for either the Discovery or History channels.

As for "those amazing flying saucers seen in many international 1950s and 60s sci- fi films" don't forget the cracked UFO nudie cutie sex comedy WHAM BAM THANK YOU SPACE MAN. It's UFO is more laughable than the UFO lander module used in STAR ODYSSEY and BEAST IN SPACE. And don't forget before ID4 there was V, and if you ask me the alien saucer motherships from V looked much better than the motherships from ID4.

Other fun UFO related flicks: Time Walker, Starman, Hanger 18, Roswell (the movie starring Kyle MacLachlan not the teen angst dramady TV series), and my personal favorite Spaced Invaders.