To someone not familiar with the depths of the B-movie genre, our last few journeys into the many knockoffs and imitations of Star Wars may have seemed like the bottom of the barrel, the most off-brand that off-brand Star Wars could be. Well, as it turns out, most of those films were the relative cream of the crop. Star Odyssey, the movie we’ll be looking for the penultimate installment of These Aren’t the Films You’re Looking For, however, is something else. There’s an unwritten rule with B-movies, and it’s that the good stuff, the classics, are the exception. Oh sure, the B-movie genre has given us some of the most infectiously fun films of all time, but it pays to remember that those movies are what floated to the top of a well deeper than most people realize. For every B classic, every ultra-low-budget schlockfest being re-released by Arrow or Blue Underground or Scream Factory on snazzy blu-rays, there are probably at least ten completely dreadful wastes of film that may have never even made it to VHS. You might not have heard about them, but there’s a reason for that. They’re the price we pay for movies like Battle Beyond the Stars, or Yor: The Hunter from the Future, or Ninja: Shadow of a Tear. All in all, it’s not a bad price; no one’s forcing you to watch them, and many remain buried, accessible only to those with the right set of digital tools. Still, it’s worth peeking in on this world once in a while to get some perspective, to take a sift through the dirt that better B-movies grew from.
So on that note, let’s talk about Star Odyssey, a dreadful film that you probably shouldn’t watch.
Star Odyssey comes courtesy of Italian director Alfonso Brescia. In the wake of the original Star Wars, Brescia rushed four dirt-cheap Star Wars knockoffs into production in a bid to refill seats left vacant after A New Hope‘s theatrical run finished. These films are all known under multiple titles (so many in fact that they often get mixed up), but in order they are: Cosmos War of the Planets, Battle in Interstellar Space, War of the Robots, and Star Odyssey. Given that it was the final film of a series of four, all done in the same year and using most of the same sets, costumes, props and actors, it’s no wonder that Star Odyssey is the worst of the lot.
The film begins when evil space despot Lord Kress arrives on Earth in the year 2312, having bought the planet at an auction. Intent on enslaving the populace, Kress finds himself opposed by Professor Maury, a mysterious super-genius with powerful mental abilities. Maury is joined by the usual ragtag group of friends, who are assembled in the first act by Maury’s niece. The team includes chest-puffing space hero wannabe Hollywood, a swindler with the impossible name Dirk Laramie, a gymnast named Norman, who literally does cartwheels whenever he has to exit the frame, and a pair of robots named Tilk and Tilly, who we find in a junkyard after they went through with their suicide pact. No really, and the running gag of the film is that after being rebuilt, neither of them can remember why they decided to kill themselves in the first place. The gang has to find a way to defeat Lord Kress, who comes armed with a legion of blonde-haired robots and a spaceship armored in impregnable “Enderium”.
Star Odyssey‘s crime isn’t that it’s inept, although it certainly is that. Despite occasional flares of creativity, the micro-budget is on display in virtually every frame, from the stock-footage explosions to the “lightsabers” made out of plastic and reflective safety tape. The dubbing is as bad as you would expect in a production like this, and the score consists of two simple tunes warbled out of a Casio keyboard, which never, ever sound appropriate for the scene they’re playing over.
No, what makes Star Odyssey one of the bad kind of B-movies is that it’s just plain dull. Despite including such sights as a human vs. robot boxing match, multiple laser sword battles, an army of golden blonde dudes, and a baddie who sort of looks like Richard Lynch in bad alligator makeup, Star Odyssey never truly manages to be that interesting. Oh sure, maybe you could wring some bemusement out of the two suicidal robots or the atrocious dialogue, but this isn’t even a movie you could have that much fun with while riffing on it among friends.
In a strange sort of way, that blinding mediocrity is the only thing of value in Star Odyssey, because you’d be hard-pressed to find a film that better exemplifies your average B-movie. When you think of B-movies, you end up inevitably thinking of the good ones, the curated ones that have lived on longer than their creators ever dreamed possible. As previously stated, however, those movies are the exception. Star Oddysey, on the other hand, is part of the B-movie iceberg left below the surface, the unseen base that the glittering spire on top is supported by. When people find themselves rifling through boxes of old tapes or film reels, hoping to find the next Miami Connection or Samurai Cop, Star Oddysey is the film they hope not to find: one devoid of that magic quality, neither hilariously bad nor possessed of a certain ineffable charm.
No one will ever go to a midnight screening of Star Odyssey. It will never reach that B-movie Valhalla of a Blu-Ray release with great cover art. It is the silent majority, one of a legion of forgotten movies that brought much more enjoyable examples of this kind of film to our attention through the power of contrast. We know that films like Starcrash are something special, something worth holding onto, when we contrast it with films like Star Odyssey, and for that, we owe it and its countless unnamed brethren a debt of gratitude.
Now go watch something good.