New Year’s Eve on Gamma 1... Or a review of War of the Planets (1966)
By John A. Frazier
(John A. Frazier wrote a piece on Outland (1981) for It Came From Hollywood Book 3 (writing as J.A. Frasier). John Frazier is an avowed science fiction fan. This piece originally appeared on our friend Sam Panico's bandsaboutmovies back in 2019.)
It’s New Year’s Eve and on the Gamma 1 space station the party is in full swing. There’s a “Space Spectacular” wherein Commander Michael Halstead’s crew take to the stars in space suits, link their bodies and spell out “Happy New Year.” It is a raucous affair going all night. At one point one officer is found buzzing around outside, drunk as a skunk. The officer who brings him inside says, “He’s drunker than a miner on Mars!”
As the revelers continue celebrating, the Delta 2 space station is attacked by strange lights. When Halstead sends men to investigate, the people they find are frozen stiff. “Seems like they all died from fright,” reports back one rescue team member. They realize some of the frozen people are still alive.
The attack is the result of the Diaphanoids, malevolent creatures made of light. “You can’t stop them. They’re lights but they have shape. They’re more than light! They’re things! They’re things!”
Then the Delta 2 space station completely disappears, followed by Alpha 1 and Alpha 2 space stations also disappearing.
Back on Gamma 1, when the Diaphanoids attack, Commander Halstead moves everyone into a room fortified with lead titanium walls. It is a move that saves their lives. “They can’t get through. That was my hunch.” A couple blasts of radiation send the Diaphanoids scurrying away.
Captain Dubois is commandeered by the aliens. His body is used as a vessel to communicate with the humans. He takes Michael Halstead and his crew to their planet. (Connie Gomez has also been taken to the alien’s planet. Connie and Michael constantly bicker like a couple of little kids, but they seem to like one another.)
General Halstead, Michael’s father, gives Michael and his men a small window of time to save as many abducted people from the alien planet before he blows it up.
Halstead and his troops locate Delta 2 personnel tossed away like garbage on the alien’s mining planet. Any living bodies are serving as hosts for the aliens.
Time is ticking away and General Halstead is hot to press the button that will blow the Diaphanoid’s planet out of the cosmos.
Will Michael Halstead save Connie Gomez and the others from the clutches of the Diaphanoids? Will he survive to live another outer space adventure? Will he keep bickering with Connie Gomez if he gets her to safety?
I won’t spoil the fun this science fiction comic adventure delivers. War of the Planets is a fun Italian space opera that is part of a four chapter series. The other movies in the series include Wild, Wild Planet (1966), War Between the Planets (1966) and The Snow Devils (1967). They are all pulp space tales of heroic men of action and women in peril, told just before man actually walked on the moon.
The miniature effects are pretty fun, the space fashions are shiny, and the interior sets are colorful and mod. Not the entire same cast is in all the movies of the series, as the Gamma 1 space station is the main continuity throughout the series. All of the films were directed by Antonio Margheriti, who used the name Anthony Dawson.
I encourage you to give these films a watch, especially if you are a fan of pulpy 60’s space adventures. War of the Planets, Wild, Wild Planet and The Snow Devils are all available on the Warner Brothers Archive Collection DVD-Rs. War Between the Planets is available on a double feature disc with Creation of the Humanoids by Dark Sky Films.
(I don’t know how familiar fans are with these movies. From what I could locate, these movies don’t seem to have had much of a Home Video presence. I could only dig up an old Midnight Madness VHS copy of War Between the Planets, which was released under the TV title Planet on the Prowl, from Montgomery Home Video, from the mid 80’s. Before these DVD/DVD-R releases, I could only find that Wild, Wild Planet had been released on Laserdisc by MGM.)