When Star Wars was released in 1977, the Italians were already working hard to pump out their amazing rip-offs we know and love them for. Hack director Luigi Cozzi’s 1979 schlock masterpiece Starcrash may be the most infamous of the George Lucas replications (and features a young pre-Knight Rider David Hasselhoff in his second role), including blatant copies of the Death Star and spaceship battle sequences. Well, if you’ve seen Starcrash and thought it was the most blatant rip-off of Star Wars, then you haven’t seen Humanoid yet.
Also released in 1979, Humanoid shows no shame in it‘s quest to make bank off the success of Lucas‘s magnum opus. A strikingly similar scrolling introduction tells the tale of how the evil Lord Graal is exiled off Metropolis (formerly known as planet Earth) by his brother to prison. Graal somehow escapes and with the help of an evil scientist named Kraspin, the two develop a chemical that turns men into indestructible automatons which they hope will help overthrow the government of Metropolis. The chemical is first tested on a mild mannered space pilot named Golob, who is subjected to the serum by having a missile filled with it landing on him. Golob becomes a lumbering half wit, who’s only physical appearance that changes is that he loses his beard. He then sets out to destroy Metropolis, and kill off the members of the government who disrespected his master Graal.
Humanoid does have some great things going for it, one being it’s cast and crew. The movie sports three ex James Bond actors; Richard Kiel (the man who played Jaws) plays Golob, The Spy Who Loved Me’s Barbara Bach plays Graal’s lover, and the princess of Metropolis is played by Moonraker’s Corrine Clery. It also includes a respectful who’s who of Italian cinema; American actor turned Italian fave Arthur Kennedy (Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, Killer Cop) plays Kraspin, and a masked Ivan Rassimov (Eaten Alive, Jungle Holocaust, Emanuelle In Bangkok) plays Graal. Director Aldo Lado was the man responsible for the Night Train Murders as well as a few notorious Giallos, and the second unit director was Enzo G. Castellari, the man who made every notable Escape From New York rip off. And the special effects were done by veteran director Antonio Margheriti! So with all this talent, where did they go wrong?
Although it is charming, the most obvious flaw is how far they ripped Star Wars off visually. Metropolis is a replica of Tatooine, complete with Land Speeders transporting the villagers and guards. The attempt to make Lord Graal’s costume look like Vader’s is so laughable it makes you wonder if it was the inspiration for Rick Moranis’ character in Spaceballs. Lightsabers are reused, but this time as arrows, and a few of the girls are given Princess Leia style hairdos. Hell the director even changed his name to George Lewis!
But the hardest part to stomach about Humanoid is the script. Trying to cram an epic story into 100 minutes is tough, as the viewer may feel confused as to why any of this is happening with no real prehistory and there is little, if any character development. The dialog is at moments moronic using lines like “well I’ll be disintegrated” and “kid, you’re out of your gravity zone.”
The movie does have some merit, as it has great sets and atmosphere and also features the only all electronic score by maestro Ennio Morricone, which is fabulous. And it’s way more engagning to watch than The Phantom Menace. It’s a great movie to see with your friends for a laugh, but if you want a really great Star Wars impersonation, watch Starcrash or the amazingly insane Turkish Star Wars. If you really feel like you need to see Humanoid, there are bootleg copies that can be found, but no legitimate U.S. release has surfaced.