Behind the Stars (1978, dir: Mario Gariazzo; cast: Martin
Balsam, Robert Hoffman, Nathalie Delon; aka Occhi dalle stelle)
Okay, objectively speaking,
this may be a bad film, but ... it's got "something." It's certainly unique.
The story concerns a photographer
who's abducted by a UFO. So is his model, but not before she gives some
photo negatives of the aliens to a reporter. The reporter investigates
the abduction. So do the cops. Meanwhile, "the Silencers" -- an international
secret police force of Men In Black -- try to steal the negatives from
the reporter. Curiously, the aliens are also attempting to cover their
tracks by stealing the negatives and killing witnesses
An end credit scroll tells
us that all the quotes concerning military and investigative officials
are factual. The writer/director even touts his membership in UFO investigation
societies in the opening credits. Rather than a conventional story arc,
the plot is more an attempt to string together some UFO lectures, as our
reporter hero interviews a UFO expert, then teams up with him to solve
the UFO dilemma. An Air Force officer debates government policy with a
Man In Black, going over theories of censorship and the potential of public
panic if the truth of UFOs was revealed.
It's almost like watching
a cheaply made, dramatized, UFO documentary. Its seriousness mirrors The X-Files, although its reporter hero may be likened to a more polished Kolchak.
The film was shot in Italy,
yet is set in England. All the dialog seems dubbed into English. American
actor Martin Balsam is the biggest star, yet his dialog is also dubbed,
by an actor with a vaguely Scottish accent. Which is curious, because none
of the other "English" characters have British accents of any kind.
The aliens are a poor man's
Gray. Their look evokes Grays, but not explicitly. The aliens are just
full-sized actors in full body suits (thermal underwear?) with blue faceplates (right). So we don't see the aliens' faces. Well, that's one way to save on the
In traditional Italian film
fashion, when our hero reporter learns he's been betrayed by a woman, he
slaps her around. But it's so poorly photographed, we can tell his hands
never come close to striking her face.
Toward the end, the reporter
and UFO expert bring in a psychic to make contact with an abductee lying
in a coma. Sure, why not?
The ending itself is dark
and unexpected. Very nasty and conspiratorial.
Yeah, it's a shoddy film,
but it's unique, and it has a funky 1970s attitude. I enjoyed it. The abduction
scenes are not as scary as in Fire in the Sky, yet Eyes
Behind the Stars is spooky at times, if one has the lights turned low, and is in the right
frame of mind.
I first saw Eyes
Behind the Stars on VHS. I later bought this DVD copy. It's full screen, with no special
features. And lots of grain and washed-out colors. It looks like this DVD
was struck from the VHS, which in turn was struck from an old TV film print.
But hey, with new DVD copies selling at a penny a piece on Amazon, you
can't very well expect it to be digitally remastered.
The Italians made some wonderfully
trashy-fun sci-fi films in the 1970s. Apart from The Humanoids (my favorite Star Wars ripoff -- better than Star Crash), I especially recommend The
Visitor (1979), which combined elements of demonic possession, UFOs, antichrist
films, evil children, and Hari Krishna type alien warriors for good.
Review copyright by Thomas
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