Eyes Behind the Stars (1978)
This is the fourth Italian science fiction movie in a row I've reviewed, and might be the last for a while as they really hurt my brain. First released in 1978, I'm sure it came and went from theaters with barely a whimper. Ending up on the public domain list in the late 1990s, it began to reappear on cable TV and on cheap-ass home video. I will be reviewing a 2002 DVD released by b-movie specialists Brentwood Communication.
To its credit, Eyes Behind the Stars tries to be a good movie, a fusion of Spielberg's ET and the old 1970s British television show UFO, but is sunk by a muddled plot, lame dialogue, dicey production values, and bland direction. Still, there was enough here to keep me interested, mostly trying to figure out how I would write the review with an X-Files theme.
I loved the X-Files. I loved it so much that I named my first born son Fox after Fox Mulder (and don't think I didn't get killed by my relatives and friends for that...). I have seen most every episode (even the crappy ones after Duchovny left) and sat through the movie about five times. So, with all that said, when I first watched this movie I realized I was seeing an early X-Files story, except from 1978, and from Italy, and very badly acted.
And now on to our show...
BTW, I've always enjoyed the "alternate titles" on IMDB's listings for movies, some of these literal translations of foreign titles are the funniest things you will read. As I work a few actor bios into the review, I think I will give you some of these alternate titles, just to be different.
We open out in the English countryside, as a photographer and his pretty model are out taking some fashion pictures on a brisk fall day.
The photographer is named Peter Collins, and is played by Franco Garofalo, who appeared in (hehehe...) Cop in Drag, Hell of the Living Dead, Colt 38 Special Squad, Naked Exorcism, and Sex of the Witch. This dude has probably the ugliest haircut in any movie ever. Seriously, worse than Robert Di Nero in Cop Land or Adam Sandler in Little Nicky. As well, few people ever in the film business have been so butt-ugly as Mister Garofalo, and that includes the Orcs from Lord of the Rings. Well, Steve Buscemi is pretty damn ugly...
To pile on the man some more, he's driving a mid-1970s Land Rover Series III SUV, which I have to tell you is the ugliest, most ungainly affront to the automotive gods that was ever drug out of the primordial ooze, hosed off, had a set of tires slapped on it, and foisted upon a car-buying public so drunk on its own ego that it actually believed that name cachet and image was more important than physical attractiveness or mechanical reliability. God, I hate Land Rovers. Seriously, look at them. I don't care if you look at one made in 1968 or 2018, they're all fucking ugly, clunky, misshapen bricks. Don't give me any "tradition" or "British heritage" crap, they're underpowered, gas-guzzling train wrecks driven by ascot-wearing Philosophy professors and pretentious inhereited-wealth Anglophiles trying desperately to impress their cluelessly arrogant suburban neighbors with their "cosmopolitan style" and their fat wallets. Crap, this movie already done set me in a mood...
Fucking Land Rover.
Anyway, these two are out in the woods, posing and snapping photos.
The model is named Karin Hale, and is played by Sherry Buchanan, who just the year before was Emanuelle in the sex romp Emanuelle and Joanna. She also appeared in (hehehe...) Doctor Butcher, Medical Deviant, Tentacles, and What Have They Done to Your Daughter?. She is a fairly pretty woman, I must say, with full lips, long blonde hair, and blue eyes. She looks strikingly like Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30, which is a very good thing. For the photo shoot she's wearing a very 1970s peasant dress, with a wide skirt, high boots, and a crocheted beanie hat.
Suddenly, they begin to feel a bit "weird", as if something is watching them from the trees. Their watches die, as does a portable radio, which freaks them out more. While a bit apprehensive, they talk each other out of any real fear and continue with the photo shoot.
Some time later, we join the photographer back in his studio, which looks more like a hotel room adorned with stand-up lights, camera tripods and random photos tacked on the walls. He's developing the negatives of the photo shoot when he notices something peculiar in one of them.
So he leaves a note for Karen, jumps in his fucking Land Rover and heads back out to the woods. Carrying his camera, with his bell-bottom trousers, turtleneck and Girard Depardieu hair, he wanders out to the spot where he shot the photos earlier. The eerie feeling returns, and he snaps a number of photos at random of the surrounding woods, hoping to capture something on film.
And, indeed, something is out there, watching him. We get the first of many (way too many) Fish-Eye Point-of-View shots of the "something" as it lurks behind trees, watching the man. Soon, it moves in closer, coming up behind the man's fucking Land Rover as he runs to it. The vehicle won't start (no surprise, the starters are made of plastic milk jugs and bailing wire...) and he's now out and running scared, flapping his arms and looking all gay like Robin Williams in The Bird Cage.
Might as well tell you, since you already guessed it, that these are aliens from outer space. Duh.
Running frantically, the photographer comes upon a big house at the edge of the woods. The only one home is an old man with a pipe and a smoking jacket and his German Shepard. The photographer tries to use his phone, but it's dead! They both then get the willies, something is outside the house now and it has them scared. The lights go out, the dog starts to go crazy barking, and the old man pulls down a double-barreled shotgun and starts for the door to investigate.
For some reason, the photographer takes the man's shotgun from him and heads out into the yard to confront his nemesis. We hear one blast, and then silence. The old man gets nervous at the silence, and then really nervous when one of the aliens actually enters his house and approaches him. The old man is zapped and his dog is blinded (!).
So the photographer is abducted by the aliens and brought aboard their ship, which I assume is still sitting in the woods. The ship model is your standard flying saucer, not very exciting and certainly nothing new. The interior set is extremely Spartan, and looks suspiciously like a basement with white-painted walls and a fake computer bank set up against one wall. The computer bank is oh-so-typically covered with rows of rhythmically-blinking unmarked lights and switches.
There are three aliens here, the only three we see all movie. They're a bit shorter than an average man, and walk stiffly like C-3PO. They're dressed in black and gray bodysuits of fabric and shiny leather, and their heads are completely covered with gray knitted balaclavas covering blue-tinted face shields.
They place the bug-eyed photographer on a bare, internally-lit table and wave some spooky lights over him. Clearly the budget couldn't support some anal probing... We're to assume that he just had his mind wiped clean or something similar.
"This won't hurt a bit."
Later, we see Karen the model coming to the photographer's studio, looking very hot here in a flowing brown blouse. She's surprised and a bit concerned to find him missing and she uses her key to get in. Hmm...I think the relationship between these two is a bit more than just professional, perhaps she lives with him. She reads the note and then finds the photos of the aliens.
Freaked, she calls in...FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder! Well, really he's a newspaper reporter named Tony Harris, but it's my review and I will make him whoever I want. Mulder is played by 38-year old Austrian actor Robert Hoffmann, who appeared in (hehehe...) German Guy Sexy! The Story of Ilone and Kurti, The Cursed House Close to the Mushroom Belt, Death Carries a Cane, Certain, Very Certain, As a Matter of Fact...Probable, and Death Has No Sex. He looks like a young Pierce Brosnan, circa Remington Steel.
Mulder is a friend of both Karen and Peter, and she called him to come over and look at the negatives that Peter took. He looks them over and announces that if they are legit, they're the most important scientific discovery in history! Which they really would be. When will the mainstream media finally realize that the existence of alien intelligence is a story that tops anything else in the entire history of our species, of our entire planet even? Limitless resources should be poured into the question of UFOs and aliens, for if even one case proves to be true, then it will fundamentally change human society and history forever. I digress.
Mulder pockets a strip of the negatives, saying that he will return them after he has made copies. Keep this in mind, it will become important later. He then leaves, and Karen stays there waiting for Peter to come back.
While she waits, we get that Fish-Eye POV effect as an alien creeps into the room with her. As she stands shocked and mortified, the alien zaps the prints and cameras, removing any evidence on film. They seem to leave Karen alone, but later we see that maybe they shined the Brain Control Light on her here.
We then see Karen stand up, all glassy-eyed and stiff-legged, and walk out of the room (grabbing her purse first, which seems strange). She's clearly under some sort of mind control here. We don't see it onscreen, but we later learn she drives down to where Peter was abducted and is herself brought aboard the alien ship.
The next morning, Mulder gets a tip and goes down to the woods where all this started, driving a late 1960s Ford Mustang coupe. He arrives to see the entire area crawling with cops. A large section of the woods is roped off and he's refused entrance. He's able to see and check out the two vehicles here, the photographer's fucking Land Rover and the model's cute little Triumph convertible. Both were reported abandoned here by a local farm couple, precipitating the police investigation.
"Yeah, these are pieces of crap."
We now meet...FBI Assistant Director Skinner! Well, really he's a Police Detective named Jim Grant and a friend of Mulder's. Skinner is played by 59-year old American actor Martin Balsam, best known for playing Detective Arbogast in 1960's Psycho, and was only 13 years removed from an Oscar nomination for A Thousand Clowns. He's less well known for appearing in (hehehe...) Legend of the Spirit Dog, The Silence of the Hams, The Smell of Onion, Smiling Maniacs, and The Hassled Hooker. Skinner is a gray-haired old man with a commanding voice and a long coat. He needs to lay off the donuts.
What the police found nearby was a circular burn-pattern in the soil, with three indentations of a tripod landing gear. Mulder is not allowed to see this, but we do see Director Skinner as he checks it out. In light of later events as the aliens try to remove any evidence of their visit, it seems very strange that they would leave such a large and obvious physical sign on the ground.
Skinner gets a call just then, the farm couple who reported the cars is available to talk now. Skinner goes down to see them, accompanied by Mulder and another cop. They talk to the man and woman, both of whom seem to know more than they're letting on. They will only repeat their story that they only saw the two cars in the woods and called the police.
Another call comes, the police have found the house of the pipe-smoking old man and his dog. Skinner and Mulder drive there and are shown first the shotgun lying in the yard. Skinner tells another cop, "mindful of the fingerprints", and then immediately grips the gun by the pistol stock and slide grip, totally messing up any fingerprints! Clearly, he has never watched CSI.
They then go inside, where the old man is lying on the floor, unconscious. The German Shepard is alive as well, but blinded. Skinner then goes over and picks up the phone and calls in the military. The Ministry of Defense immediately takes over the situation, and from here on out even Skinner seems to be working against the establishment.
Back now at Mulder's house, we meet...FBI Special Agent Dana Scully! Well, really it's Mulder's personal assistant Monica Stiles. She's played by 37-year old French actress Nathalie Delon, who appeared in (hehehe...) Seagulls Fly Low, The Edifying and Joyous Story of Colinot and Easy Down There!. Not a very pretty girl, really, sort of looking like Peg Bundy from Married...With Children here. Her left hand is heavily bandaged in this movie, which she waves off as a coffee-pouring accident. Since it's strange to see this, perhaps the actress hurt herself just before filming started and they didn't have the option to hold up production until she healed?
Anyway, Mulder then goes to the hospital to see the old man. Unfortunately, he learns that the man died as soon as he got here and the MoD has sealed off all access to the corpse. A doctor does hint that the man was suffering from severe radiation burns.
Mulder next goes to see a UFO expert named Coleman Perry, someone who he has consulted with in the past on other similar cases. He's a middle-aged man with 1970s English hair and fine taste in suits. Might as well call him the Lone Gunman, because that's the role he plays here. He's an antiques dealer by trade, and a UFOologist by hobby, and Mulder goes to meet with him in his shop, which is full of up-scale antiques and rare books. The Lone Gunman tells Mulder all about UFOs and the global cover-up, letting us know that he's a True Believer.
Meanwhile, the aliens are working to clean up any evidence of their landing. We go out to the circular burn mark in the forest, now guarded by six blue-beret wearing RAF security troops who patrol the perimeter in the darkness. The alien Fish-Eye POV lurks through the thick woods, and zaps! them all dead.
That circular burn mark looks like undeniable UFO proof right there.
Later, we go to some British Military base, where the six dead soldiers are laid out on bunks. Some doctors and high-ranking officers are here, discussing what happened to them. We hear a conversation between a Wing Commander and the Air Marshall, which is interrupted by a phone call from the MoD. It seems that "They are taking over once again." and the matter is now even out of the hands of the military.
A bit later, Mulder goes back to see the Lone Gunman at his house. They chat some more about UFOs and the cover-ups and the Lone Gunman tells him all about the famous "Estimate of the Situation" made by the US Air Force in 1948. Mulder then asks to borrow a stack of UFO papers and heads for home.
As he leaves, we see that a dark-colored car with three serious-looking men in it is parked down the street, watching him. We also see that the alien Fish-Eye POV is in the nearby woods, watching all of them, though they never realize what's happening. The alien's presence disables both their cars for a minute before it moves off. Mulder then drives home, with the other car tailing him.
Next see the farm couple, the ones who reported the two abandoned cars. It's night and they're sleeping peacefully. We see the alien Fish-Eye POV creep up on them, and zap! them dead. The witnesses are dropping like flies now.
The next morning, Mulder, Scully and the Lone Gunman (who will be traveling around with Mulder for the rest of the movie) go to the photographer's studio again. They find the place totally ransacked, clearly someone was looking for something. Mulder now comes clean about the negatives he took (remember?) and he's sure that whoever turned over the studio was looking for them.
Now we go to Mulder's house, late at night as he's pounding away at his typewriter. A noise brings his attention to the foyer, and he's very surprised to see three large men in trench coats standing in his house (the three dudes from the car that was tailing him the other night). They beat the stuffing out of him and toss him on the couch. One of these men is the prototype for the Cigarette Smoking Man, played by 47-year old George Ardisson, who appeared in (hehehe...) The Man More Venomous Than the Cobra, May God Forgive You...But I Won't, and The Long Hair of Death. He even bears a resemblance to William B. Davis.
The CSM then gathers up all of Mulder's papers on UFOs, all the stuff that the Lone Gunman gave him, and puts it in a briefcase attached to his wrist with a chain. As Mulder comes to, the CSM tells him to forget all about UFOs, bury the story and go back to writing fashion reviews, or he will end up in the Thames with the fishes. They then leave him to nurse his bruises.
The next day, Mulder is called in by Assistant Director Skinner. It seems that he got a report that Mulder, Scully and the Lone Gunman were seen snooping around the photographer's studio and he wants to know why. Mulder tells Skinner about the negatives he took, but refuses to tell where he has hidden them. Big risk he's taking here, trusting Skinner with that information. How does he really know that Skinner isn't involved in the cover-up? At this point, I'd think Mulder would trust no one (hehehe...).
Skinner and the Lone Gunman then take turns telling Mulder about "the Silencers", a group of men who work outside of governmental or military channels to subvert ufologists, eliminate troublemakers, and generally "impose silence and suppress all the facts" of UFOs. Clearly, these are the men who visited Mulder last night, and the Cigarette Smoking Man is a bigwig in the Silencer organization.
Sometime later, Mulder and the Lone Gunman have yet another lengthy conversation, this time back in the antique shop. The Lone Gunman tells him all about alien abductions and the Silencers rubbing out anyone who asks too many questions, including the 1969 murder of UFO investigator James McDonald. Their conversation is cut short by a suspicious woman customer who seems to be eavesdropping. Indeed, we later see that this woman is a spy for the Cigarette Smoking Man, who's lurking outside in a car.
So the Silencers decide to take the direct approach and kidnap Mulder, dragging him off in the dead of night into a car. Blindfolded, they take him to a basement and shine a bright light on him. The Cigarette Smoking Man tells him that the public are sheep and they're actually doing them a service by suppressing UFO knowledge. He then tells Mulder to hand over the negatives. When he denies having any, the Cigarette Smoking Man pulls out a tape recorder and plays several taped conversations Mulder had with Scully and the Lone Gunman, where he talks about the negatives.
"Damn, Mulder, you need a maid."
Mulder now just gives up basically and leads the Silencers back to his house. There they're surprised to see the place ransacked! The Silencers didn't do it, so who did? Mulder produces the negatives, which were hidden in a fountain pen, after they beat him up a bit more.
Just then, the alien Fish-Eye POV enters the room! The Silencer thugs are "frozen in place" and the negatives are zapped out of the Cigarette Smoking Man's hand. The alien then leaves and everyone regains the use of their muscles. No one seems too shaken up about this, and we wonder if the Silencers have seen this happen before. Mulder is left alone then, with another admonishing to forget the UFOs. So, did the alien ransack Mulder's house? Seems a very pedestrian thing for them to do.
Mulder then starts to put the facts together. Since the Silencers had a recording of a conversation that only he, Scully and the Lone Gunman had, one of those two must have taped it, and is therefore a Silencer agent. He naturally confronts the Lone Gunman first, who deflects suspicion by telling Mulder that his house was also ransacked and all his research on UFOs taken. The Lone Gunman suggests that maybe Assistant Director Skinner is the turncoat.
Back now with Skinner in his office, who's talking on the phone with Mulder. He claims he didn't rat out anybody, and we believe him. Just then, two cops bring in Karen the lost model, now looking all scraggly and dazed. She was just found in a meadow some distance from where her car was. Now nearly a vegetable from the shock, Skinner orders her taken to a psychiatrist's office.
Karin, not looking too good.
Now, Mulder was on the phone still and overheard all this. He has Scully patch him through to the Lone Gunman and they arrange to go down to the psychiatrist to see Karen. However, when they get there, they learn that she was just kidnapped by the Silencers!
So now the game is up, the only person who could have tipped off the Silencers was Scully. Mulder and the Lone Gunman go to Scully's house and confront her. Mulder starts to punch the woman in the face several times! Wow, that's a lot of violence towards a woman there, wouldn't see that in an American movie, that's for sure. Scully eventually admits that she's working for the Silencers, though we never learn of her motivations for doing so.
She knows where they took Karen and Mulder forces her to lead them there. So they take Karen's cool Mini Cooper and drive down to what looks like an abandoned clinic in the country.
Ok, Mulder and the Lone Gunman now slip totally out of character, turning into Double O agents, shooting their way into the compound and liberating Karen. Along the way, Scully takes a bullet and goes down hard, and two Silencers are killed by pistol fire. They grab Karen (flashing us some nice booty as they carry her off) and load her into the back seat of the Cooper.
They take the comatose Karen to a small hospital where the Lone Gunman knows a sympathetic doctor. They then go off to get a "psychic" that the Lone Gunman knows who can maybe "read Karen's mind" or get her to talk. So they bring back this faintly Gypsy-looking woman named Carol and she sits down at Karen's side and begins to "mind meld" with her.
What happens next is pretty hard to understand because the editing sucks. Basically, the Gypsy gets some mental images of the spaceship, Peter lying dead on the table, and a whole lot of flashing lights and spooky synthesizer sounds. The gist is that poor Karen has seen way too much for her fragile human mind and will probably never recover.
My chiropractor suggested this once.
Just then, the lights dim and Mulder knows the aliens are near! They open the windows and look out into the darkness. A light brightens the room and Karen is zapped dead. The last witness is now gone.
Mulder, the Lone Gunman and the Gypsy run downstairs and out into the open, searching desperately for some sign of the aliens or their ship, which they know is out there somewhere close. As they peer into the darkness, a car screeches up. Out jumps the Cigarette Smoking Man and two Silencer agents! They pull out their submachineguns and shoot down Mulder and the Lone Gunman in a hail of bullets! Holy Fuck! Our two main characters just got killed, what the hell kind of movie is this?
We close as the alien spaceship takes off and flies out into space, its mission done. What a messed up ending.
Bonus! Some handy statistics for you:
13: Number of punches/kicks that Mulder takes at various points in the movie.
11: Number of people that the aliens kill.
6: Number of cigarettes smoked by our cast.
Written in October 2005 by Nathan Decker.
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