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Zeta One

aka The Love Factor

D: Michael Cort / 84m

Cast: James Robertson Justice, Charles Hawtrey, Robin Hawdon, Yutte Stensgaard, Anna Gaël, Brigitte Skay, Dawn Addams, Wendy Lingham, Valerie Leon, Lionel Murton

Based on a story published in Zeta, a short-lived magazine from the 60’s that specialised in glamour/art photography, Zeta One concerns a race of women called the Angvians who live in a separate dimension to ours and kidnap women to ensure their race doesn’t die out. Secret agent James Word (Hawdon) is tasked with finding out where they come from, and to stop the nefarious Major Bourdon (Justice) and his henchman Swyne (Hawtrey) from succeeding with their own plans for the Angvians.

At this point I should mention that Zeta One is a sexploitation movie with sci-fi and spy movie trappings. So there’s plenty of partial and occasionally full-frontal nudity (though thankfully not involving either Justice or Hawtrey), and the kind of plot that involves nubile young women running around in next to nothing for no particular reason at all. There’s also a pantechnicon that serves as the device that enables trans-dimensional travel, a talking lift that won’t deposit anyone on the thirteenth floor because it’s superstitious, Angvian women who can kill by “shooting” with their hands, and Walter Sparrow as a strip club employee who repeats that all the girls inside are “lovely” and makes it look as if he got his lines mixed up.

The main storyline involves Bourdon trying to get a spy into the Angvians’ lair. He discovers that the Angvians’ next target is a stripper, Edwina Strain (Lingham). He kidnaps her first, gets her to swallow a tracking device (in pill form), then allows her to be kidnapped again (this time by the Angvians). The leader of the Angvians, Zeta (Addams), is aware of Bourdon’s game – though not the tracking device – and also the involvement of Word. She monitors everything and bides her time until one of her agents, Clotho (Gaël), is about to be killed by Bourdon. Then she instructs several barely clothed Angvians to eliminate Bourdon and his henchmen.

Zeta One - scene

Zeta One was obviously a low-budget movie (there certainly wasn’t much spent on wardrobe), and the deficiencies of such a shoot are there to see on screen. Seen now, over forty years after it was first shown, it has a fascinating my-god-did-they-really-do-that quality. Hawdon spends most of his screen time in bed with either Stensgaard or Gaël, and turns up at Bourdon’s base of operations after Bourdon’s been defeated (and only after he’s put on some waders!). Justice and Hawtrey look embarrassed and non-plussed respectively, while Addams does the least she can in each scene she’s in. Why any of them are in the movie is a good question.

So the movie itself is cheesy, not even remotely prurient, and while there is a lot of female flesh on display these aren’t supermodels we’re talking about.  It’s also slow in parts, notably at the beginning, and Michael Cort’s direction is hit-and-miss, the same as his script (he co-wrote it with Alistair MacKenzie), and the locations are underused. And yet… there are still things to enjoy, or that resonate. There’s the aforementioned lift, which comes completely out of left field; Word vs a revolving door; Hawtrey peering out of a phone box; Justice being kneed in the balls by Gaël and calling her a “little bitch”; the strip poker game that neither Hawdon or Stensgaard can win; and most disturbingly, the sight of Justice and Hawtrey standing over a topless Angvian who’s tied to a rack. On reflection it’s these little moments that make watching the movie worthwhile.

Rating: 5/10 – better perhaps than it should be and only because of its quirkiness (which I’m still not sure was entirely deliberate).

Originally posted on thedullwoodexperiment website.

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