Astro-Zombies, The (1968)

Author: Josh G.
Submitted by: Josh G.   Date : 2009-06-22 16:33

Directed by: Ted V. Mikels
Written by: Ted V. Mikels and Wayne Rogers
Starring: Wendell Corey, John Carradine, Joan Patrick and Tura Satana

Reviewed by: Josh G.

Sporting an attractive cover and over hyped taglines, I knew that The Astro-Zombiesí DVD had to be mine. Brandishing a machete in one hand over a beautiful lightly clothed woman, stood a frightening alien monster Ė a fantastic 60s poster if I ever did know one. As I placed it in my movie collection, I suddenly remembered that this was not a film simply appearing out of the blue. Brett H.ís review for Zombiethon mentioned it near its end, and I was sure that there was another film quite like it called Mark of the Astro-Zombies, a sequel of sorts from 2002. With cult favorite John Carradine as a mad (but stable) Dr. DeMarco, and an opening slasheresque kill, I had a thought that this one may be one worthy of the genreís grade D fans.

Returning home after a day driving out in the town, a woman returns to her garage where she is viciously murdered by a figure with a zombie-like face. Meanwhile, member of the CIA, Holman (Wendell Corey) rounds up agents to try and solve the mysterious case of the recent Ďmutilation murdersí. Also on the case, though unofficially, is Satana (Tura Satana), a sexy leader of a group of spies that wants to be in charge of Dr. DeMarcoís unheard of lab experiments. Who is Dr. DeMarco? Why, heís the scientist who made all of these murders start, stealing body parts from people and using them to create the ultimate living people, controllable by radio transmission. Unforunately, the brain used in his zombie came from that of a killer! Who will come out on top, and what will happen to those that encounter the horrifying Astro-Zombies?

The zombies themselves are pretty cheaply made. You can easily tell that they are just guys in masks, but I canít discredit the film for that. For what scenes one zombie does appear, itís a guilty watch for this type of cinema. I dare say that these creatures are almost cute, in a man killing sort of way. It must be something with their big eyes. For every second that they are onscreen, The Astro-Zombies has our attention. The same should be said for Dr. DeMarco and his assistantís laboratory, filled with techno gadgets and half-naked women on strapped tables. DeMarco speaks a lot of filler dialogue. Itís nonsense talk and only there to make the explanation of how such zombies come together a little bit vague, so that we canít ask with the words Ďhow does one make that?í Itís answered, just in total Greek to us. His scenes are potent, but should have really raised the bar in entertainment as it gets slower and wearisome.

The opening title sequence with toy robots just walking about, falling over and rotating mindlessly, have a lot of meaning and reference to the way that the zombies are wired. Because really, these experiments are being ordered to do tasks by a source, and like robots, there is room for fault and destruction. The scenes with the CIA, just like DeMarcoís, are Ďimportantí to the plot of the story, but can send you off to day dream land. Itís Tura Satanaís sequences that are the fine essences of the dramatic meat. A beautiful, simply wicked lady who doesnít take squat from any men who try to mold her instructions. Sheís intelligent, and with her buddy Juan (Rafael Campos) sheíll find where DeMarco has been hiding.

Spies everywhere! And by everywhere, I mean mostly in the vicinity of Satana, whose phone calls are being tapped. Plus, sheís a spy too. And the CIA are trying to be spies in order to find out where Dr. DeMarco is. Thereís doublecrossing as well. Holy hell, itís espionage city. Going to see The Astro-Zombies is a bit of a trap too. Astro makes you think of space, and so do the planets in the background of the poster art. This movie has absolutely nothing to do with space monsters, and the zombie kills like a human rather than what you might find in Dawn of the Dead, or Zombi 2. For that, it could be a letdown. But for a colorful painted topless dancer, Carradine and Satana, the horror-science fiction of Astro-Zombies isnít a complete disaster.

Simple in story and budget, I find Ted V. Mikelís film guilty of a little clumsiness and false hope. Though we have a collection of scenes where the pace could be stronger, itís an alright picture up until seventy-five minutes. Then, for the last fifteen minutes, itís dumpy cheese horror valley. An exciting attempted strangling of lead Janine (Joan Patrick), climaxing criminal confrontation and a crazed zombie with a massive curved machete somehow come out of this quiet flick. Did I mention DeMarcoís estate is just as atmospheric outside as it is in his lab? What a guilty pleasure of final moments to behold. The trip getting there isnít the easiest, but the payoff is wonderfully Ď68. I canít explain the joy that the last bit of The Astro-Zombies brings me, but it is something like seeing those darn shrew dogs in The Killer Shrews. That said, Image Entertainmentís bare DVD (save for a grimy looking trailer) is a cool reminder of what hurdles filmmakers of forty years ago needed to jump. The scratched and spotty picture print is alright by me, as Image cleaned this puppy up enough to watch in appreciation. It sounds a bit soft, but a bang-up job anyways. I donít see how dire hate could come from this psychidelic silly billy. A minor astro-wonder. Rent it!

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