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I WENT INTO THIS WITH MY EYES OPEN - AND ENDED UP WITH A RIGHT EYEFUL...!
on 1 October 2013
I had read about this film in author Simon Sheridan's KEEPING THE BRITISH END UP, his strangely compelling book about British sex comedies, and what with being a bit of a Valerie Leon fan, I'll admit that I was sold once I discovered that she would be making an appearance!
True, ZETA ONE is not a great film, even by the dubious standards of British sex comedies. Simon Sheridan is right in his sleevenotes when he describes the opening strip-poker game between Robin Hawdon and Yutte Stensgaard as "laboriously sluggish", while it is also quite plausible to assume that most of director Michael Cort's meagre £60,000 budget for the picture was blown on the highly exclusive Monteverdi sports car which can be glimpsed being driven by secret agent Hawdon throughout the film. There certainly doesn't appear to have been much left over for the special effects or, indeed, for the costumes worn (if that's the right word) by the invading Angvian women, all of whom must have been freezing as much of the location footage appears to have been completed during the winter.
Those reading this, then, might consider my three-star rating somewhat generous. Well, it's not that badly acted for what it is - a comic-strip romp - and once that interminable strip-poker game is out of the way, the remaining hour or so moves along pretty swiftly. Dawn Addams seems fully into the spirit of things as Zeta, while James Robertson Justice also appears fairly game - contrary to Sheridan's notes, in my view - as Major Bourdon, the pantomime villain of the piece. And as for Charles Hawtrey... well, what else is there to say?
But the star of the show for me is Valerie Leon, whose jaw (much like my own) must have dropped to the floor when she saw the barely-there apparel she was obliged to wear as Atropos, the apparent leader of Zeta's kidnapping squad. Still, she's at her haughty best here, fending off Major Bourdon's deerstalker-wearing gang of gamekeeper henchmen - a truly surreal spectacle under the circumstances.
Technically, the DVD transfer of the film isn't too bad. The exterior shots look a bit grainy, which gives the impression that a 16mm print has been blown up to 35mm, although the sets constructed to represent planet Angvia are given a lot more vibrancy than they perhaps really deserve, thanks largely to the restoration the film has supposedly undergone (at the BBC of all places!).
So, there you go. ZETA ONE is pretty daft. In fact, no, it's more than that: it's ludicrous. But compared to the endless stream of depressing drama series on the telly on Sunday evenings, watching - or rather enduring - this film actually made a pleasant change!