Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Zeta One (1969)

AKA The Love Factor
Alien Women
Directed by Michael Cort
Starring Dawn Addams, Robin Hawdon, James Robertson Justice
Rated R

"Well, this is the most ridiculous story I've ever heard."

Zeta One's opening credits are pretty incredible. Not only do they use that instantly recognizable Rollerball font, they've got all these dramatic-looking topless women posed in skimpy futuristic outfits while a freaked-out spacerock/psych-jazz tune by Johnny Hawksworth warbles away. Far out. The credits note that Zeta One is based on Zeta Magazine, one of erotica photographer Michael Glassman's many short-run books of the era. Zeta was a photo-essay mag that featured, as the opening credits do, scantily-clad spacegirls in Fumetti-type adventures. Zeta One is based on one such ribald tale. It was most likely also inspired by the Bond films, given its 'suave' secret agent, and Barbarella, another comic book-y space-chick come to life.

James Word (Robin Hawdon) is a top-secret agent with a press-on mustache and a decidedly low-rent (but mod!) pad. He walks in to said pad one afternoon to find Ann Olsen (Yutte Stensgaard, Lust for a Vampire), his top-top secret boss W's private secretary, sitting in his futuristic egg chair. They exchange some hilariously vague dialogue, sip some scotch, and then Ann unlooses her blouse.

James thinks he's got this one stitched-up, but she won't budge until he tells her how his recent mission in Scotland went. He refuses, and then changes the subject, suggesting a game of strip poker. She agrees, and he says, "One should always play cards in style, don't you think?"
And then he walks over to one of the flimsiest card tables I've ever seen.

Astonishingly, they play poker almost in real time. Sure, Ann eventually gets naked, and it's a delightful sight, but they sit there playing cards for over twenty minutes. Were it not for Stengaard's gorgeous teacup tits and Hawksworth's bouncy score, this scene would start to feel like some sort of punishment. After playing for two hours with no clear winner, James has had enough.
"This is ridiculous," he says. I agree with him.
James decides to just cut the cards. Whoever wins chooses their next activity. Ann gets the higher card and tells James she wants to talk about his recent mission.
"Very well," he says. "We'll talk about the mission. In bed."
This fucker knows how to operate.
After sex n' smokes, James launches into his cockamamie tale.

There is a place called Angvia, you see. No one knows where it is, exactly. As James tells Ann, "I think its out in space somewhere. Or perhaps it's not."
At any rate, Angvia is an all-girl colony/planet, and it's populated by Earth women who have been snatched from all corners of the planet and brainwashed into becoming whatever fancy hairdo'd Zeta (Stella Stevens look-alike Dawn Addams, RIP), queen of the Angvians, wants them to be.

Clearly, all this girl-snatching cannot go on, so the mysterious Major Bourdin (James Roberston Justice, RIP) dispatches the skittish Don Knotts-esque Swyne (Carry On vet Charles Hawtrey, RIP) to follow the Angvian kidnappers around London. They're pretty easy to spot, since they wear matching orange velour mini-dresses and go-go boots.

Swyne figures out who they plan to abduct next - a stripper named Edwina Strain (Wendy Lingham) - and brings her back to Bourdin's office. Bourdin informs of about the sinister plot developing around her and asks her to take a capsule that will serve as a homing device. They want Edwina to infiltrate the Angvians so they can swoop in and bust up/take over the operation.

Meanwhile, an agent from yet another secret governmental department is spying on Bourdin and company. He reports his findings to W (Lionel Murton, RIP), who calls up James while he's busy banging two blondes to tell him what's up. So that's a lot of intrigue.

Zeta dispatches Clotho (Hungarian cutie Anna Gael) to distract James while the velour girls snatch Edwina off the street, shoot her in the ass with a tranquilizer, and dump her in the back of their car. When she wakes up, she's in Angvia. She's stripped naked and carried on a stretcher to a machine that looks not unlike the people-mush machine in Ted V Mikel's Corpse Grinders, only instead of being turned into cat food, she floats around in a psychedelic light show.

Um, also meanwhile, Angvian spy Zara (Carol Hawkins, Confessions of a Pop Performer) is caught snooping around Bourdin's estate. They strip her down to her skivvies and force her up into the attic, where they attempt to interrogate her.

The attic appears to have several women held against their will, suggesting that Major Bourdin is actually some kind of villain in disguise. Zeta dispatches Clotho to save her. It is at this point where you realize they're just making all this up as they go along.

Edwina survives the naked light show, and after informing Zeta that she knows zilch about Bourdin or anybody else, she's given a tour of the colony, including the "Self-reflection Room" which is not even a room, it's just a sheet of tinfoil that they shake in front of her while a theremin whistles away on the soundtrack. Later on, they show her their training room, where topless girls wearing ropes and purple panties wrestle. They try to bring her to the "Conditioning Room" for brainwashing, but she escapes in an air vent. Her freedom is short-lived, however. She is no match for the Kung Fu Space Girls!

Back on Earth (unless we're already on Earth...who the fuck knows, at this point?), Zara is getting tortured by Bourdin and his stooges. She manages to break free and makes a run for it, but falls off the roof and dies (not really). Clotho shows up and unscrews a pen, which makes Zara disappear. Bordin nabs Clotho and then he and his men put on Sherlock Holmes caps and grab guns and decide to let her loose in the woods and then hunt her down. Zeta sees all this on her interstellar TV and starts yelling about "Action 69! Do it now!"

And so, our thrilling climax, wherein James (in thigh-high rubber boots), Clotho, Bourdin and his men, a bunch of German shepards, and several titty-girls from outer space all square off in battle. Who will survive, and what will be left of them? And perhaps more importantly, did James just make all this crazy bullshit up to get the luscious Ann in bed?

Shoddy and mostly incomprehensible, Zeta One is nonetheless a consistently entertaining bit of clueless, faux-psychedelic pop-art full of eye-watering set pieces, fuzz-rock guitars, and bare-breasted beauties. There are those among us who would prescribe an anti-feminist slant to Zeta One, given the Amazons-building-a-world-without-men theme of Angvia (an anagram for vagina, if you haven't noticed yet), but it is unlikely that anyone involved thought that deeply about it. I mean, it's a pretty fucking dumb movie, after all.

Zeta Two?
Zeta One did nothing for the careers of anyone involved, including director Cort, who never made another full-length film. Nor did it do much for Michael Glassman and his magazine. Most of the girls went on to do lesbian vampire movies for Hammer, but that probably had more to do with their ample cleavage and willingness to show it than it did with their appearance in this film. A good portion of the male actors were quite a bit older than the women, and are now quite dead. My assumption is that this was not the highlight of their lives, but that it was probably fun while it lasted, what with all the naked girls running around.

Availability: Zeta One is available on DVD.

Clip: Zeta One trailer!

PS: Subscribe to the Boobs podcast, Poor and Weird, to hear our upcoming Zeta One special!

- Ken McIntyre

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