Horror / Sci-fi
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25th Nov 05
It all goes wrong for an archeological expedition team when they investigate a tomb-like object on a distant planet.
Review Reviewed as part of The Norman J. Warren Collection boxset.
Many people have wrongly accused Warren and his crew for attempting to cash in on the success of Alien by making Inseminoid. Truth is, Scott’s picture hadn’t been released in the UK at the time Warren’s film went into production. Sure, the films have similarities but while the real masterpiece of the two had a much more significant budget as well as creature design by HR Giger, Inseminoid displayed more of a Roger Corman sense of ballsy yet scaled-down space fun, featuring a monster which is clearly not designed by HR Giger.
When an archaeological expedition team arrive on a planet to investigate a strange tomb-like object, things go very wrong indeed. Initially, one of the crew – Gary - falls victim to some kind of explosion. He is brought back to base alive but in a Quatermass-style trance, and soon wrecks havoc but is eventually stopped by Stephanie Beacham’s ray gun. But it gets worse. If the cosmonauts aren’t getting wiped out by a largely unseen physical presence, then they’re committing all sorts of questionable actions, such as sawing their own feet off. Next, Sandy (Judy Geeson) is strapped to a table and impregnated by a huge alien with what appears to be a transparent tube penis carrying mushy pea semen. Aliens have no sense of romance. From this point forwards, Sandy goes quite insane. Her mind and body seem to be possessed by the alien evil and she will stop at nothing to give birth to the babies, which are developing at vastly accelerated speed. This of course includes killing and eating her concerned colleagues.
Not much monster action here, folks. Instead, we have a very convincing Judy Geeson as a crazed, homicidal, screaming bitch from Hell and credit where its due, she’s pretty darn good at it. Considering the customary modest budget, it makes sense to humanise the immediate threat, rather than use a rubbish-looking monster, even if it means adjusting the volume control on your television in an effort to minimise the effect of Geeson’s piercing screams. In space, so it goes, no-one can hear you scream, unless it’s Judy Geeson doing the screaming, in which case everyone can hear it.
The mostly capable cast in Inseminoid work off an occasionally silly script which doesn’t always come across as if it were written for adults. Most details are explained, spelled-out for us, thereby flavouring the whole affair with a strong scent of cheese. But you know what? It adds to the charm of the sci-fi b-movie experience. That’s what makes movies like Starcrash so endearing, although Inseminoid doesn’t feature half as much monumental silliness as the Luigi Cozzi cheesefest.
Shot in cold, dank Chiselhurst caves outside London in an effort to avoid studio interior expenses, the film looks pretty good; the caves are used to great effect and Hayden Pearce’s set design is characteristically resourceful in trying to compete with other, more budgeted films of the time. When we watched Inseminoid recently at Zombie Club, we couldn’t fail to notice how stylish the doors were. Yes, that’s right, the doors. The retro artwork design on these doors is a delightful addition to the aesthetic of the film – look out for the orange airlock door as well as my personal favourite – the Explosives Room door, all white with groovy red lettering. Due to the dampness in the caves these doors gave the crew a lot of headaches - see our interview with Norman for more details.
John Scott’s (who scored Satan’s Slave) music for Inseminoid won an award for ingenuity and originality at the 1981 Madrid International Film festival. Without necessary funding to orchestrate the soundtrack, he opted for the electronic approach. Instead of hitting us with insistent John ‘Casio’ Carpenter-style repeated motifs and rhythms, Scott pretty much wrote the way he would for a large orchestra, using different synth sounds instead. It’s a wildly brave move on his part and although it adds to the charisma of the film, does sound a little dated today.
Inseminoid is my least favourite of the films in this collection. It is no doubt many people’s favourite one. My own impression is that Norman J. Warren seems more at ease working with less adventurous (but by no means dull!) subject matter. It could be that those amazing doors distracted me from what was going on. Maybe I’ll never know why, but Inseminoid is still worth a look if the idea of a British-grown sci-fi horror film intrigues you.
Bonus disc material: Subterranean Universe – excellent 45-minute documentary featuring Norman J. Warren, producer Richard Gordon, executive producer Peter Schlesinger, production designer Hayden Pearce, composer John Scott, cast members David Baxt, Stephanie Beacham, and Barry Houghton.
Extras on Inseminoid disc: Feature length commentary
Electronic Approach – soundtrack featurette with composer John Scott
Inseminoid Interview with Judy Geeson