08 April 2015

"THE ASTRAL FACTOR" (Chilling 20 Movies Pack, #1)


Alternate Titles:
Invisible Strangler / The Astral Fiend

German Titles:
The Transformer / The Transformer - Der Astral-Faktor

USA, 1976/1984
Directors: John Florea,
Arthur C. Pierce (uncredited), Gene Fowler Jr. (uncredited)


"The Astral Factor" (not to be confused with the 1992 sequel "976-Evil 2: The Astral Factor" which was released as "Astral Factor" in Germany) is a typical piece of low-budget 70s horror/sci-fi rubbish, combining the then-popular telekinetic horror with the serial-killer genre and the classic "Invisible"-theme, following a mother-obsessed psychopath with telekinetic powers and the ability
to become invisible who breaks out of prison and starts strangling women,
because why not.

The movie was shot in 1976 but not released until 1984. Reason? Dunno. It could have been easily marketed as something in the vein of "Carrie", "Patrick" or "The Fury", maybe even as a sequel to one of these movies. Well... whatever. The movie isn't exactly good, but good enough to check it out if you're into cheesy 70 b-stuff. [According to Imdb, it was at least shown on Japanese TV in 1981.]

John Florea's direction is inept and rather lame, no wonder he spent most of his career shooting episodes for "Daktari", "Bonanza" or "CHiPs". I couldn't find out why there are two more uncredited directors attached to it. Okay, Arthur C. Pierce ("Women of the Prehistoric Planet") wrote the screenplay and apparently did some extra work on the film, but I have no idea what Gene Fowler Jr., the
Oscar-nominated editor of 60s classics like "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" or "Hang 'Em High" was doing here...

The special effects all look silly as hell (glowing eyes = stars painted on a still picture | becoming invisible = 'dissolving' into bright blue... um, particles) and most of the kills are unintentionally hilarious. Being strangled by invisible hands obviously isn't fun and a capable director would have been able to make these scenes creepy - but under Florea's direction, the kills turn out to be simply ridiculous, even the one I'd consider the most "impressive" one where a dancer gets killed during a live-show, an interesting but poorly developed kill that could have been done soooo much more better...

At least the cast is very, very nice. We get to see an unbelievably sexy and pretty amusing Elke Sommer ("A Shot in the Dark"), and an equally sexy and surprisingly hilariously quirky Stefanie Powers ("Hart to Hart") who's constantly joking around, baking various terrible birthday cakes or simply showing her naked butt. Also, more sexiness by Marianna Hill ("Messiah of Evil"), Sue Lyon ("Lolita") and Leslie Parrish ("The Giant Spider Invasion").

Weird but watchable 70s obscurity, a semi-must-see for fans of old-school telekinetic horror... and Stefanie Powers' butt.

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