When George Lucas’ Star Wars opened in less than 32 theatres on May 25, 1977, no one could predict that a cultural juggernaut was being unleashed on an unsuspecting world. And yet nothing would ever be the same, as the Kurosawa influenced space opera went on to change movie making, movie watching, and even movie going from then on in.
Yet instead of a scholarly examination of the impact of Star Wars, nor a comparative analysis of the sundry sequels, prequels, comics, cartoons etc. that the franchise spawned, Really Awful Movies is proud to present a review of yet another foreign Star Wars rip off (we previously looked at Starcrash and The Humanoid), and probably the most bizarre of them all, Planet Wars, otherwise known as Brazilian Star Wars.
Planet Wars from 1978 was a vehicle for Os Trapalhoes or The Tramps, a popular Brazilian comedy quartet. Thus, when the film begins and after shots of spaceships so fake they make the ones in Plan 9 from Outer Space look like the height of realism, we’re introduced to our heroes as they’re racing through a rural part of Brazil in a Dune Buggy in order for the group’s leader DiDi to escape the wrath incurred by fooling around with another man’s wife. Why the chase needed to involve countless numbers of VW Bugs, Jeeps, Dodge Chargers and assorted motorcycles, and why it needed to be shot in fast-motion a la Benny Hill, and why it had to take up nearly seven minutes of screen time is well beyond our comprehension. And yet it’s the most logical portion of the film by a country mile.
After finally getting away, our lost heroes decide that they need to sleep rough in the outdoors wherever they may be. While complaining about the preponderance of gnats, one Tramp looks to the sky and exclaims that he sees a flying turtle. As a plastic spaceship that looks nothing like a turtle lands on terra firma, a drawbridge opens and out walks a man dressed exactly as Luke Skywalker did when we first met him in Episode IV (screw you Lucas with your new numbering!) He introduces himself as Flik from the Planet Airos, which is under the tyrannical rule of the evil Zucco who is now heading to Flik’s village to capture Princess Mirra. Flik needs assistance and he conscripts these four idiots to help him in exchange for their weight in gold. The group agrees as long as DiDi can take his dune buggy along with.
Greeting our heroes as they enter the craft is Flik’s co-pilot Bozo. Bozo is a large man in a bargain-basement, knock-off Chewbacca mask who’s wearing khakis and some sort of button-downed vest (guess the producers couldn’t afford to spring for the rest of the Halloween costume.) En route to Airos, we learn that both Flik and Zucco are each in possession of half of a “brain computer.” The one that can retrieve the other half will rule the galaxy or some such other claptrap.
The crew lands on a planet that is a dead ringer for Tatooine at the moment there is a skirmish ensuing between about a dozen Tusken Sand Raider rip-offs and a dozen Jawa rip-offs. They enter the fray for no reason whatsoever and fight their way through this nonsense using dropkicks, judo flips, head butts and paddy whacks. This takes up another nine or so minutes of screen time. In the ensuing melee, a Darth Vader clone exits one of the huts, absconding with a blonde woman clad in blue pants with a top opened just enough to reveal her bra.
Flik gives half-hearted chase as The Tramps inexplicably encounter four women dressed in their best Studio 54 finery. All parties are equally smitten and the women agree to accompany the “heroes” on their quest.
What follows next is Planet Wars’ version of the famous Cantina scene, only this looks like it’s taking place on the set of Soul Train and there’s a dead-ringer for Dr. Phibes playing the organ. The Tramps get their hands on some blasters and dance to some bizarre, psychedelic music while unfunny slapstick mayhem ensues. This scene goes on for about 15 minutes, but at this point it’s hard to say for certain as we began employing the fast forward button.
Flik learns that Zucco is hiding in the “rocky region.” Eventually, the dectet meet the bad guys in the dessert under the guise of an exchange of the Princess for the other half of the brain computer. Sadly, when Flik and Mirra embrace, it’s discovered that it’s not the princess but rather an alien in disguise. The heroes are subsequently captured, but when the case containing the brain computer is opened by the baddies, out pops Didi, blaster in hand, ready to save the day.
One would think this would signal the end of the film, but logic is soon proven faulty as there’s still a further 28 minutes of screen time to go! In that time, we witness more fisticuffs, freeze ray shenanigans, the capture of the villains and an impromptu victory celebration in the middle of the dessert. We also learn the sad fate of poor Princess Mirra and learn what succession plans are in place.
Planet Wars is 1 hour and 28 minutes in length yet feels roughly four hours. The pacing is horrible, the lighting abysmal, the humor unfunny, and the whole thing was lensed on video for that extra shitty look. And yet, when a film is this bizarre and this shameless a rip-off, it begs to be seen. Like a bad acid trip, the experience may feel long and arduous and not much fun, but you’ll be amazed by what you’ve experienced once it finally ends.
**1/2 (out of 5)