Star Pilot Blu-ray Review: Space Satire Points Finger at Self

Pietro Francisci’s Star Pilot (2 + 5 Missione Hydra in Italian, 1966) stars Leonora Ruffo and Anthony Freeman, and begins with a vehicle from the constellation Hydra crashing into the countryside on the island of Sardinia. A woman named Luisa (Leontine Snell – who has been instructed to strike a fashion pose whenever she moves) and her boyfriend, Paolo, (Mario Novelli credited as Anthony Freeman) pick up Luisa’s dad at the university. Her dad (Roland Lasaffre) is a well-known sciences professor and he is wanted to help with the scientific study of what turns out to be a crashed spaceship.

Spies who say they are not Chinese but Oriental believe the Italians are trying to steal the ship and want it for themselves. They apparently have a beef with the Chinese that gets nothing more than a one-time mention in the entire film. The aliens (Ruffo plays the UFO captain) fire ray guns that turn you into bones and ash, and it is a quick transition to both the Italians and the spies being the slaves of the aliens from Hydra.

The aliens have been studying our planet’s use of nuclear weapons and want to study if we are a planet they could eventually take over and inhabit. The aliens need help fixing their ships, and attempt to get the Earthlings to help them repair it. The aliens no longer have enough crew members and will need to kidnap humans to fully run the ship. Half the movie is getting to the ship; the second half of the movie is trying to get out of the ship.

Star Pilot is considered a satire by film historian David Del Valle in the excellent audio commentary, but there is a thin line between a satire of bad films and a bad film. For it to work, the satire must be funny or it is just another of the genres at which it would like to point a finger. Imagine if Dr. Strangelove or Airplane! wasn’t hysterically funny. Both films would be unwatchable. In Star Pilot, the makings of a satire are there: The actors are hamming it up, the sets are ridiculously “sciency,” and the aliens are often large men in large plastic bags. However, the humor simply does not come through. This is possibly because of cultural differences, but my bet is that the satire aspect just didn’t pan out.

Bonus Features:

  • Alternate English-language cut of Star Pilot (86 minutes) – the acting isn’t very strong, but it is a nice addition if you tire of the Italian subtitles.
  • German Trailer – the trailer has not been restored and is as “trashy” as one would expect.
  • Audio commentary by author and film historian David Del Valle – an excellent commentary that appears to cover almost every aspect of the film and solidly locates the film in the mid ’60s.

Star Pilot is ultimately a failed satire, but it is still a classic, fun, kitschy, sci-fi flick.

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Greg Hammond

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