Color, 1980, 91m. / Directed by Al Bradley (Alfonso Brescia)
Starring Sirpa Lane, Vassilli Karis, Lucio Rosato, Robert Hundar, Venantino Venantini
Severin (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Wow. High up there on the list of rip-off hybrids that just absolutely, should not exist in this universe, the sci-fi/softcore pastiche The Beast in Space is one of those titles that's been gracing psychotronic reference books for years with only a few lucky souls actually setting eyes on the thing. Now that Severin Films has bravely unleashed it upon an unsuspecting populace, there's no telling what could possibly happen. This strange celluloid mongrel was the brainchild of the late "Al Bradley," aka Alfonso Brescia, who had already turned out a stultifying string of bargain basement Star Wars imitations like War of the Robots, Star Odyssey, War of the Planets and War in Space (see a trend here?) along with the occasional head-scratching goofball entry like Super Stooges vs. the Wonder Women. With a distinct fondness for very leisurely pacing and droning, sleep-inducing music scores, Bradley never earned much of a cult following like his peers, but there's no mistaking his work when you stumble across it. Of course, it goes without saying that there's nothing else in his skewed filmography that even comes close to the amazing The Beast in Space.

Our interstellar saga begins when studly Captain Larry Madison (Giallo in Venice's Karis) decides to hit on sexy spacechick Sondra (Sirpa Lane) while chugging, ahem, "Uranus Milk" at the ship's bar. Another guy, Juan (Venantini), has eyes for her, too, but Larry wins out and takes her home for the night, only to learn that his competitor had a valuable container of a space mineral that rest of the fleet could really, really use. Sondra's experiencing some strange dreams about a country house and a hairy, beast-like guy running through the woods, so when she and Larry wind up assigned to a team sent to explore a nearby planet for more minerals, she's more than a little surprised to see the setting from her dreams entering into reality. Oh, and the female crew members are also driven to horny distraction when they spy some space horses copulating nearby. Soon the real space-sex-beast shows up in a frisky mood, and Larry and his crew find themselves battling a bunch of laser-happy space robots. Can they all get back to their ship in one piece?

As art-trash film fans may have already gathered, the second half of this film decides rather arbitrarily to inject elements of Walerian Borowcyk's The Beast into the storyline, and it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that a big, hairy, hilariously-endowed forest beast doesn't sit very comfortably among all the laser zaps and marauding robots. The fact that the film was obviously shot with leftover props and costumes from Bradley's previous space operas just adds to the weird atmosphere, giving it the feel of a cheapie kiddie matinee movie gone very, very, very wrong. Of course, casting the tragic Finnish actress Lane (who figured prominently in the Borowczyk film's most notorious sequence) was clearly meant to provide some legitimacy, though one can only wonder how far her career had fallen by this point. The Tangerine Dream-lite music by electronic noodler Marcello Giombini (who also drove viewers insane with his plonking around on such films as Waves of Lust and Joe D'Amato's '80s cannibal cycle) sounds almost exactly like his other Bradley sci-fi scores, under which he hid under the name "Pluto Kennedy." Contributing even more to the overall weirdness, cinematographer Silvi Fraschetti (Alien 2: On Earth) never seems to be filming anything from the right angles, instead conveying the impression of a constant stream of outtakes that somehow stumbled over into a completed feature.

Obviously one of the finest whacked-out DVD discoveries in ages, The Beast in Space actually comes in no less than two different variants. The first version available from most retailers offers the standard theatrical cut, which offers plenty of softcore groping and topless nudity amid the bouncing spaceships on strings. It's transferred from the original negative and looks pretty great, considering the dodgy nature of the manner in which this film was originally shot (what with the horse-screwing stock footage and ultra-dark FX space scenes). The Italian language track is ably accompanied with optional English subtitles. Too bad an English dub wasn't ever commissioned, as it would've been hilarious. The soft version includes the original Italian trailer and a lengthy interview with Juan himself, Venantino Venantini, who's evidently now a painter. The onetime star of Black Emanuelle and Contraband talks at length about his career and his memories of working with Bradley, which apparently had gusto even when budgets weren't accommodating.

Even weirder, Severin also managed to uncover a previously obscure hardcore cut of the film, which adds in a few minutes of unsimulated grinding from some anonymous body doubles and, more importantly, some hysterical prosthetic nastiness with the beast, whose monstrous appendage manages to stop the film cold for about five minutes. The transfer is a bit more erratic as the nasty stuff had to be spliced in from the uncovered print from some Italian porn theater, but hey, how else are you gonna see it? The interview isn't carried over here, but you do get a different XXX theatrical trailer and a very funny reel of deleted footage, including a ridiculous "beast climax" bit of business obviously intend to outshock the Borowczyk original.