Cosmos: War of the Planets (also released in Europe as Year Zero: War In Space) is a 1977 Italian film directed by Alfonso Brescia and starring John Richardson. It is considered a remake of the 1965 film Planet of the Vampires. It was also released as War of the Planets (not to be confused with the 1965 Antonio Margheriti film of that name), and also as Cosmo 2000, as well as Cosmo: Planet Without a Name. The movie has been made public domain and may be freely found and distributed.
It is the first of 4 films in Alfonso Brescia's sci-fi series, the others being: Battle in Interstellar Space (1978, aka Battle of the Stars), War of the Robots (1978, aka Reactor), and Star Odyssey (1979, aka Seven Gold Men in Space).
The film begins with the crew of a spaceship seeing explosions in space and asteroids flying by. They are afraid that they are going to be hit, but their ship's computer, named Wiz, tells them that they were seeing the "refraction" of an event that took place millions of years ago. Overjoyed, the ship's crew hug and kiss each other.
Next follows a scene within the Orion space complex (whose introduction includes stock footage of the Japanese space launch center) of Captain Mike Hamilton's slapping a fellow officer. Soon he is called to report on this behavior to the base commander. He says that the other officer did not give him a command personally, but told him to follow the directions of a computer. Hamilton's attitude against such machines is one of the few themes of the story.
A scene derived from 2001: A Space Odyssey next appears. Hamilton and his ship, the MK-31, are sent to repair an automated satellite. One of the crew floats over to the satellite and starts work. Viewing this on the screen, Hamilton is upset because it is required that spacewalkers work in teams of two, and predicts that the acid in the battery will eat through the astronaut's suit. The astronaut says that he's in control of the situation - but it does start to eat through his suit. Hamilton himself goes to rescue the continually screaming astronaut, whose life is saved.
Next comes a scene derived from Barbarella. A couple of astronauts wish to be intimate so they recline on separate beds while a light show machine plays between them. The blue orb that separates them has the same geometric shape as the Death Star in the Star Wars series. Normally this would appear to be an homage, but this film came out the same year as Star Wars (a.k.a. Episode IV). This scene is intercut with a scene of Hamilton telling a female crewmember that he doesn't like this mechanized intimacy and kisses her. The scene ends with her telling him that the old-fashioned way was better.
Even though the crew of the MK-31 are only one day's travel from their shore leave on Earth, they are apparently the nearest ship to investigate an unstable planet. Once there, two flying saucers are seen orbiting it. The sensors of the ship state that these alien machines have "disintegrators" and Hamilton commands that they be destroyed - but they strike first and the MK-31 starts to spin quickly. Eventually Hamilton gets the ship's engines to counteract the spin and the ship lands on the planet.
There's an architectural portal on this desert planet which teleports people who walk through it underground. The first man through it, and a woman who wanders away later, get attacked, but the main body of explorers meet a race of green people who have pointed ears. Their elder says that they are under the control of an evil computer. The astronauts pledge to help the inhabitants of the planet escape their enslavement and succeed in destroying the computer. Hamilton dislikes the computer always taunting the crew by ending his commands to them with the vocative, "earthlings."
Unfortunately, the ensuing explosion takes out the planet as well. The spaceship crew and one surviving alien set off for Earth only to face further difficulties when a human member of the crew is possessed by the computer and goes on a killing spree. The alien eventually manages to subdue him, heroically sacrificing his own life. Although the crew are pleased at returning to Earth, the voice of the computer Wiz changes to that of the planet's computer, who ends the movie with the word "earthlings."John Richardson as Captain Mike Layton
Yanti Somer as Diane Greene
Walter Maestosi as Irk
Massimo De Cecco as Azar
Massimo Bonetti as Vassilov
Aldo Canti as Frank Bimble
In his Cinema Italiano: The Complete Guide from Classics to Cult, Howard Hughes criticizes the movie in every respect, stating, "Cosmos is the most consistent Italian sci-fi movie: script, special effects, costumes, music, and acting are all terrible." Likewise, in his TV Movies and Video Guide, Leonard Maltin gives the film two stars and pans the special effects and acting.