6 min read

Points to ponder: Italian Star Wars clones and Vincent Price in 3D!

This week, we’ll delve into the world of Psychotronica with a classic Italian Star Wars clone, an exciting 3D project, and a Repo Man sequel?
Ruby Dawn Reed with a dandelion
Ruby Dawn Reed with a dandelion

My paternal grandmother, Ruby Dawn Reed, whom almost everyone called “Rubydawn,” as though it were one word, was a humble, kind-natured, and God-fearing Methodist from the backwoods of East Tennessee.

Born in 1914, she was a force of nature and a lovely, sweet soul with a strong moral compass. She could ride a horse and kill a varmint from a far distance with a rifle if the situation called for it, yet she never learned to drive a car and had an abiding distrust (read: fear) of electric dishwashers.

She passed away in 2004 at the age of 89. For several decades before heading on to her sweet reward, she filled a series of spiral-bound notebooks with dozens, maybe hundreds of pithy and sometimes humorous observations on life, its vagaries, and its perplexities, which she repeatedly titled Points To Ponder.

Grandma Rubydawn put a lot of effort into this ongoing compendium; likewise, she took a lot of pride in her achievement. A few years after her death, I was surprised to realize that at least a significant portion of the musings in these notebooks was cribbed from other inspirational sources rather than having sprung, fully formed, from the furrowed brow of her own Appalachian noggin.

These days, I can’t help but think of these weekly Friday morning dispatches here on Wicked Messenger as a digital, online version of my very own Points To Ponder. These are things I happen to find interesting that have come across my radar. Now they’ve come across yours.

This week, we’ll delve into dispatches from the world of Psychotronica — which only makes sense, as I founded and have overseen one of the longest-running independent cinema organizations in the world devoted entirely to presenting public screenings of overlooked or underrated feature motion pictures from around the globe.

From October 2003 until the start of the Covid lockdown at the end of February 2020, the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah (PFS of SAV) hosted upwards of 65 events each year, screening foreign, cult, indie, classic, fringe, forgotten, niche, and experimental cinema in a wide variety of settings — from a 50-seat counterculture coffeehouse to 1,200-seat balconied theaters. The organization ceased public events during the pandemic and shifted to a virtual streaming model. But, after almost two years of biweekly online events, it went into extended hibernation, where it remains until circumstances align for a proper public relaunch.

I still keep up with all manner of Psychotronic Film-related developments, releases, and milestones, such as these:


It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a half-century since the fabled Italian schlock filmmaker Luigi Cozzi beat virtually everyone else in the celluloid plagiarism game to the punch by ripping off the original Star Wars with a quickly-made take on that trendsetting, action-packed, and ludicrously profitable space opera. His film cost less than half to complete than George Lucas’ vision required. Not familiar with Starcrash? Well, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a pre-Knight Rider David Hasselhoff as Prince Simon, a member of another planet’s royalty who wears what looks like an Ogilvie home perm and sports a wardrobe that could have come straight from the closeout bin at Chess King.

As the motley crew navigates planets populated by Amazonian women who could have escaped from a Russ Meyer sexploitation and rampaging cavemen who, in a scene that potentially scarred younger viewers for life, hack poor Elle into pieces, the viewer experience takes a turn. You’re still well aware that Starcrash is unadulterated B-movie nonsense, but you also start to appreciate its ludicrous, super-camp charms.

Over the years, the PFS of SAV showed Starcrash on the big screen, as well as a few other foreign-made dime-store Star Wars clones, such as the unbelievable head-scratcher The Humanoid, another Italian “homage” released barely one year after Cozzi’s flick, and starring the future Mrs. Ringo Starr, Barbara Bach. There are enough Star Wars knockoffs to become a sub-genre in and of themselves. But Starcrash, and its Honey Baked performance by the esteemed Oscar, Tony, and Emmy Award-winning — and, one can only assume, broke— thespian Christopher Plummer is easily the most accomplished of them all.

Fun fact: Back in the mid-1990s, I produced and drummed on an independent rock album by the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Greg Williams, which features Grammy-winner Shawn Mullins and legendary lead guitarist Bob Elsey that opens with a tune that's meant as a lyrical tribute of sorts to sultry actress Caroline Munro’s title character in the film, Stella Starcrash, and a musical tribute to David Bowie's landmark 1972 concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Are you a Starcrash fan? Do you get a particular thrill from watching “bad” movies, or do you fall into the camp that finds it hard to appreciate egregiously flawed films on their own terms? Let me know by replying to this email or, for those paying members, by commenting below!

Repo Man Sequel

That brings us to the latest installment of “Sweet Fancy Moses, I Can’t Believe After All These Years Somebody Actually Came Up With The Money To Allow The Original Filmmaker To Do This.” 

The filmmakers promise to “deliver an enthralling mix of punk energy, existential comedy, and unconventional storytelling, navigating the absurd and chaotic world of repo men into a new age of nuclear brinkmanship and driverless cars.

I know my beady-eyed Boston buddy Kevin F. Rose will be happier to hear about this than to learn he just won a delicious, free plate of shrimp. For many independent thinkers of my age (54 going on 27), the original film in question, which now appears after 40 years to be merely the first installment in some sort of a franchise, fundamentally altered our perceptions of just what life could —or should— perhaps be for our generation. No, really, it did. Did it have that effect on you? Or am I spouting gibberish?

The Last Man on Earth – in 3D?!

And, last but certainly not least, while we’re on the subject of cinematic things I am finding it very hard to believe are finally happening… Here’s one that I certainly NEVER saw coming: a team of cinema restoration artists converting one of the greatest and most underappreciated ultra-low-budget, B&W sci-fi/horror films of the 1960s into an extremely impressive 3D motion picture. Oddly enough, once more, it’s an Italian production with an English-speaking American for a lead actor. This 3D conversion is also in old-school anaglyph red/green, no less! And get this: you can be part of making it happen through their Kickstarter campaign. These same folks have done this sort of project before with other cult fave B&W films, to rave reviews from devoted 3D movie enthusiasts.

Our customer feedback has been massively positive on our previous releases, here's some tasters of what they've been saying:

"There are scenes now that pop in a way they never could in 2D, and I was amazed at how good they looked.”

"Holy shit. The conversion is astounding… as if it were planned for the process from the start… there’s consistently fantastic depth and objects protruding offscreen throughout."

"There was never a moment for me where I was taken out of the experience by an obvious conversion error. The film offers a great 3D feeling and also has 3D passages where I just thought ‘Wow, that looks amazing.’ I got exactly what I love about 3D."

Many of us grew up familiar with Charlton Heston’s 1971 vehicle, The Omega Man, the second hippy-dippy film adaptation of the same phenomenal vampire apocalypse novel by beloved genre author and screenwriter Richard Matheson that this feature was based upon. However, 1964’s The Last Man on Earth was a much more accurate version of Matheson’s tale. The story would eventually be adapted again with slap-happy poseur Will Smith in the lead under the title of Richard’s original novel, I Am Legend.

The Psychotronic Film Society publicly screened the original 2D version of this extremely eerie film in 2010, and folks seemed to love it. If you can’t wait for the 3D conversion or prefer your movies flat as a pancake, you can view a surprisingly crisp and widescreen transfer of that 2D version for free right here.

If anyone out there has strong feelings one way or another on the entire notion of 3D films, please feel free to let me know in the comments. I am truly torn on the subject myself.

Until next time!