Gigantes Planetarios (Review)
aka Planetary Giants
Story by Alfredo Ruanova
Screenplay by Alfredo Ruanova and Emilio Gómez Muriel
Directed by Alfredo B. Crevenna
Mexican science fiction was in a heyday in the 1960s, not only was the lucha libre genre doing strong work and showing masked wrestlers battling all sorts of beings, but there also was a nice batch of exploration scifi. These features would fit in nicely with the 1950s science fiction output in America, especially the many early rocket films that featured long sequences of astronauts preparing for their rocket missions, taking off in their rocket ships, and dealing with every day space annoyances like meteors, which usually meant an extended spacewalk sequence to repair the damage. These films became superseded in the 1960s by films where things don’t take 75 minutes for something to happen. Gigantes Planetarios (aka Planetary Giants) comes off as a nice hybrid of styles. There is still the homebrew science astronauts and slow build to actual rocket flight, but by then we got aliens and dictators and murder, so things are happening!
Director Alfredo B. Crevenna and producer Emilio Gómez Muriel decided to save on money by producing two films at once, so Gigantes Planetarios is immediately followed by El Planeta de las Mujeres Invasoras. The films have a few mirror parallels, but end up being different in tone and quality. While Gigantes Planetarios features the Planet of Eternal Night, El Planeta de las Mujeres Invasoras goes to the Planet of Eternal Light. Gigantes Planetarios has a society dominated by a dictatorial male, while El Planeta de las Mujeres Invasoras has a society dominated by a dictatorial female (and is an all-woman society!) Both films feature Professor Daniel Wolf pretending to be a tough guy villain in order to fool the aliens. Both films feature an extended boxing match that ends with a character paid to throw the fight. Overall, El Planeta de las Mujeres Invasoras just ends up being more fun, because it fully embraces its campiness while still delivering a good story.
That isn’t to say Gigantes Planetarios is bad, it just takes a while to get going before running around on the alien planet begins. But ultimately, things don’t come together into a bunch of fun, it just goes along being average. And average doesn’t always cut it. There are some golden scenes, especially when the aliens are first invading Earth and blasting people at random. Those darn aliens, who will they blast next?
UFOs fly from the mysterious Planet of Eternal Night and raid the planet Earth, landing and blasting random people. Though the only one we see is an African native complete with spear! Holy casual racism, Batman!
Daniel Wolf is on top of it all, along with his assistant Sylvia. More exactly, they’re listening to the guy really on top of it all, Professor Walter. He tells them all about the aliens – the Planet of Eternal Night in the “Romania” galaxy, they’re controlled by a dictator named El Protector who is a big jerk (like all dictators!), and that he’s building his own rocket ship to go yell at the aliens. Right after he tells Wolf and Sylvia this, he’s gunned down by alien agents!
RIP Professor Walter, you didn’t have a first name… =(
Unless it was Walter Walter. =)
Professor Wolf realizes the aliens are recruiting human help, thus the best way to confront them is to go undercover as a complete jerk, which will make the aliens eager to recruit him to betray the Earth. Despite this plan sounding like something from a comic book written by a first grader, it quickly works, Professor Wolf being approached in a club by the mysterious Mara (Jacqueline Fellay), who refers him to another agent played by Nathanael León, better known as Frankenstein. He’s a major player in Mexican genre film, including Night of the Bloody Apes, Santo contra Capulina, and Chabelo y Pepito contra los Monstruos.
Daniel Wolf then fights alien Frankenstein in a hotel room, causing alien Frankenstein to fall into a bathtub and to begin emitting smoke. He’s dead, so the only leads left are to go to the Planet of Eternal Night and deal with the threat directly. Also, it’s interesting that I typed out “alien Frankenstein”, but it wasn’t a real Alien Frankenstein.
A snafu happens among their crew, because we get two other characters. Boxer Marcos Godoy and his trainer Rey Taquito are all set to fix another boxing match. This enrages the public, who soon chase after them. The duo hide in the hotel room of the two people chosen to accompany Professor Wolf, and punch them out. They hide in their spacesuits as a disguise. But police and launch doctors arrive, injecting the two in the space suits with sedatives, and their unconscious bodies are carted onto the rocket. This is how NASA operates, they hang out in hotels and randomly inject random people. Not only that, but as Daniel Wolf sits in the rocket, Silvia also comes on board, ready to take off. At this point, it looks like Daniel Wolf is the only one on the rocket who is supposed to be there, as he seems surprised she showed up.
So his entire crew is replaced by ringers. This mission will go off without a hitch!
Just kidding, right after they take off and Daniel figures out no one is who they should be, the ship faces all the traditional perils of 1950s rocketship movies: meteors, gravity problems, engine damage, and space walks.
They finally land on the Planet of Eternal Night, which is pretty well lit for being night all the time. They are immediately greeted by locals, who dress in Roman togas with square helmets featuring antennas! Hey, all these Roman costumes and decorations are a cool way to do alien planets on a budget, just ask Star Trek!
El Protector has a cone-shaped helmet because he’s special. He shows off how his machine controls his goons on Earth, and how his ray guns can disintegrate a cowboy on Earth no problemo. El Protector then shows off the huge huge gun in his throne room by using it to blast four of his men in one shot.
Daniel Wolf is less than impressed at this barbarism, and all the Earthling are tossed in the slammer. Despite being captives, the crew manage to hook up with the resistance, because otherwise the movie would end with all the main characters being executed. That would be pretty ballsy, so of course we have to have an ending where good triumphs over evil, and after much struggles, the four intrepid heroes and the band of resistance fighters manage to defeat El Protector and his band of not-so-merry men.
Rated 6/10 (native, alien spy, exploding cowboy, alien love, resistance guy, farewell to Earthers)
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