Justifiably obscure, Zeta One (1969) is an alleged spy spoof/sci-fi sex comedy, made for just £60,000, but which still managed to attract name talent very familiar to British audiences. Neither fish nor fowl, the film tries to be several things at once but fails miserably at absolutely everything and is nearly unwatchable. It is, however, a peculiar artifact of its time and place, and not completely without interest.
Kino's Blu-ray of Zeta One, released under its "Jezebel" label, offers a pretty good 1080p transfer of this 1.66:1 Tigon British Film production. A trailer is included.
British secret agent James Word (charisma-free Robin Hawdon, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth) returns home to his swingin' bachelor pad, resembling a college freshman's dorm room, only to find Ann Olsen (Yutte Stensgaard, Lust for a Vampire), personal secretary to James's boss, "W," waiting for him. There follows an interminable strip-poker game so deadly dull even a naked Stensgaard is unable to liven things up, which is saying a lot.
Naturally, they end up in bed where Ann grills James about his just-completed mission. From this point the bulk of the film is told in flashback, though Hawdon's spy is barely in the flashbacks at all and most of what's shown he couldn't possibly have seen or known about. Not that it matters. The story returns to James and Ann for the "surprise" ending.
He tells Ann of a race of superwomen from the planet Angvia, led by Queen Zeta (Dawn Addams, A King in New York), who abduct earth women and take them back into outer space ("or perhaps not," James adds, unhelpfully) in a "time (or space) machine...a large van." A large van is then shown driving down a road and then disappearing into nothingness.
In more flashbacks, several brunette Angvians, one played by Valerie Leon (The Spy Who Loved Me), follow stripper Edwina Strain (Wendy Lingham) back to her club, "Tease for Two," kidnap and take her back to Angvia.
Elsewhere, criminal mastermind Major Bourdon (James Robertson Justice) dispatches his devoted, owlish assistant, Swyne (Charles Hawtrey), to follow the Angvians. Their interest in the Angvians isn't any clearer than why the Angvians want to kidnap earth women, considering their ultimate aim is to kidnap an earth man to help them repopulate their planet. Regardless, Bourdon and Swyne eventually kidnap an Angvian of their own, Zara (Carol Hawkins), strip and torture her. Emphatically gay Hawtrey feigns interest while Justice reads his lines off cue cards.
This extremely peculiar film plays almost as if it were three unrelated, partly completed films grafted into a single work. The Angvian planet scenes, notably psychedelic, '60s-a-Go-Go in design, apparently adapt a comic strip that appeared in Zeta, a short-lived fantasy magazine. All the footage of James and Ann flirting with one another feels tacked on, designed to bring the film up to an acceptable running time. (The opening titles are also interminably long.)
The footage with James Robertson Justice and Charles Hawtrey likewise plays completely disconnected from everything else; possibly the actors agreed only to a one or two-day shoot for their scenes. Hawtrey's alcoholism was contributing to his frequent clashes with Carry On producer Peter Rogers, so it's easy to imagine Hawtrey winding up in something like this, but Justice had been alternating between more respectable British comedies (notably the "Doctor" films) and big Hollywood productions like The Guns of Navarone and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the latter made only the year before.
The women in the film, including various Hammer and/or Bond girls, are attractive, particularly Stensgaard and Hungarian Anna Gaël (as Angvian Clotho), but the film is so badly directed and photographed that no one comes out of it alive.
Video & Audio
In 1.66:1 widescreen and 1080p high-definition, Zeta One looks surprisingly good. The 35mm elements sourced vary from reel-to-reel, and even scene-to-scene at times, and all of the opticals (fades, dissolves) are on the muddy side, but overall it's a good presentation. The DTS-HD Master Audio, English mono only with no subtitle options, is also good, considering. The disc is Region A encoded.
Extras are limited to two trailers, both it mediocre condition: one for this and the other for The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968).
Of interest solely to seekers of saucy cinema, Zeta One is quite bad, though some might want to take a peek less for its sex scenes than for the inexplicable appearance of several major character actors and starlets better known for other films. Rent It.
Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes film history books, DVD and Blu-ray audio commentaries and special features. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.