Alien Attack (1976) – Film Review
Directors: Charles Crichton, Lee H. Katzin, Bill Lenny
Cast: Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Barry Morse
By Roger Crow
September, 1975, and ITV launched one of the most ambitious sci-fi shows ever staged. I still remember it like it was yesterday, and in the years that followed, I watched every episode of Space: 1999, but never saw the spin-off films, until now.
So, just when I thought I knew everything there was to know about Gerry Anderson’s iconic saga, along comes Alien Attack.
Released in 1976, it was a movie spliced together from the pilot film, Breakaway, and other elements of the series.
It might not have boasted brilliant scripts and some of the acting was a bit wooden, but the effects and model work were out of this world. (Key creatives would go on to work on Alien and The Empire Strikes Back).
So, Alien Attack then, which through a clever bit of future proofing, does not take place in 1999 as the series name would suggest but 2100. It may as well be called Space: 2100, which doesn’t have the same ring to it, but obviously is more believable these days.
The scene is set up with some fascinating Earth-based boardroom stuff featuring Patrick Allen (king of the voiceovers), which is so mesmerising, I almost will him to launch into that opening speech from Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Two Tribes’.
(Sharp-eyed viewers will also spot a model Starcruiser on the desk, an Anderson project which never saw the light of day, but was launched as a Look-In comic strip, and a model which I loved building circa Christmas 1980).
A few years ago I’d bought both series of Space: 1999, and was amazed by how good it was. As a kid I wasn’t bothered about Barry Morse, the obligatory boffin in the unflattering jump suit, but eventually I realised he was one of the best actors in the show. And this was way before Martin Landau delivered some knockout performances in Ed Wood and The X Files movie.
“Hurtling away from Earth”
The plot, for newcomers, involves Moonbase Alpha, which is basically a dumping ground for Earth’s nuclear waste. Naturally when a disaster occurs, the moon isn’t destroyed, but blown out of Earth’s orbit, and sets off on its merry way across the stars. This was high concept stuff even before Hollywood grasped the idea. (New Roland Emmerich disaster epic Moonfall covers similar ground).
It does beg the question what happened to the tides on Earth? And some suggestion is made via a news report, but that’s about it.
One of the funniest lines is Landau’s Commander Koenig telling his crew that they’re hurtling away from Earth and there’s no chance of finding it again… so they won’t bother. Which is a hoot, and goes in the face of most of those sci-fi offerings where that’s the exact point of the saga.
It’s also great to see the much missed Anthony Valentine and dreamy Isla Blair as a bulbous-headed aliens. The third act is more cerebral than thrilling, mainly because the shadow of 2001: A Space Odyssey loomed large over the series. Stanley Kubrick was not happy with some of the comparisons between his epic and the series, but that’s showbiz for you.
Pre-Star Wars, thinking person’s sci-fi was more the rage than watching thrilling dogfights, which seems bizarre now, where nearly all sci-fi shows are about visuals and hardly ever about tickling the brain.
Koenig pontificating about his fate while drifting through space is weirdly mesmerising.
But then the whole thing turns into a bit of a cheat – a whole chunk of the film is “What happens if we don’t fire on those alien spaceships?” And we’re back to an early point in proceedings, so it all feels a bit meh. However, that funky closing theme, far different to any of the TV versions, is a treat.
Despite being incredibly stagey at times, the remastered version looks and sounds terrific in HD, and the production values are out of this world.
Four ‘Space: 1999’ movies, ‘Alien Attack’, ‘Journey Through the Black Sun‘, ‘Cosmic Princess’ & ‘Moonbase Alpha‘, rebuilt form the high definition restorations created for the series episodes, are presented here in their original 4:3 fullscreen aspect ratio alongside new 16:9 widescreen special editions.
On Blu-ray from Network, £50.