(My guess is that, in most cases, they won't.)
I say this even though I grew up in an era wherein public domain movies were practically all my small town TV set could get on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. Many of these features much later found new life as part of the small screen lampooning done compliments of the knuckleheads at MST3K. While there are pieces of PILOT I found familiar – making me wonder if I had, in fact, seen it before in my youth – I’m happy to forget all about it … except for the two lovely ladies who brought an unbelievable amount of camp to their respective performances.
So – basically – it’s the 1960’s, and Professor Solmi, his aide, and his daughter Luisa are called to investigate a geological phenomenon that turns out to be soil decay caused by the slowly-awakening spacecraft lodged well beneath the soil. Eventually, Solmi and others (some technicians and a few Chinese spies somehow thrown in for plot convenience) find their way aboard the craft and are forcibly enlisted by Captain Kaena and her (ahem) two evil minions (well, after her robots are needlessly slaughtered by the Chinese) to help them raise the ship for yet one more adventure in the stars. Along the way, these two races find common ground … but can they find love?
Seriously, STAR PILOT is the kind of thing one wonders just how and/or why it ever got off the ground (pun intended, for the damaged spacecraft). Films come and go, but truly only the very worst (in most cases) end up falling into the public domain where they used to be scarfed up by syndicated outlets for eventual broadcast. As a story, it’s deliriously unfocused, and perhaps only the cast inclusion of the particularly fetching Leonora Ruffo as Kaena paired up with the equally robust Leontine May interested potential (male!) investors. So much of the action makes so little sense, including the footage truncated from another feature in the latter half in order to perhaps give it a better run-time as well as a more coherent series of events. Performances are stoic (at best) or downright hammy (at worst), giving the entire presentation the feel that it was all culled together by some fancy-pants post production work in the editing suite.
In fact, besides the two memorable lasses there really isn’t much to say about STAR PILOT.
It begins with some obligatory set-up and then suddenly segues into what feels more like an old travelogue piece as the Professor and his small team go about sightseeing because – well – that’s what one does when they’re on the way to investigate unexplained phenomenon. There’s no dialogue, only a long segment dedicated to the Professor and his team looking at this, the Professor and his team now flying in a helicopter over some archaeological ruins, and then young Luisa joking it up with the pilot. Eventually, they (and the audience) make their way to the downed spacecraft’s location … which just so happens to have a fully furnished and useable cabin nearby! The mystery deepens, which gives the team the cause to go out unexpectedly at night, a development that only feels like whatever logically was required for a few shots of actress May in her underpants.
Now, this is about the time when the armed Chinese agents show up (probably because someone realized that a villain was needed at some point in the story), and they’re hell bent on … well … something or other, but they’re not gonna stand there and let the Professor get his hands on that spaceship, no they’re not! But then they do, and they’re forced to join in when Kaena and her henchmen – Artie and Belsy – in getting their ship spaceworthy again so the latter half of the picture can begin.
To the narrative’s credit, they do get into outer space again – hence the need to probably called it STAR PILOT as opposed to, say, “Dirt Pilot” – heading off to visit uncharted worlds overrun by ape-like creatures right out of the third season of NBC’s Star Trek or (worse) CBS’s Lost In Space. (I kid, as neither of these shows had aired at the time of PILOT’s release.) Eventually, science rears its ugly head (as does “love”) with the crew returning to Kaena’s homeworld only to find an obelisk proclaiming everything was dead from nuclear annihilation … well, except for whoever stayed around to erect the obelisk.
Now – all kidding aside – STAR PILOT isn’t a complete and utter waste.
Actually, some of the ship’s interior sets are quite good (especially considering the era and the poor attention to detail by seemingly everyone else), though about halfway through most of the action I started wondering if everything logistically was located on a single floor of the craft. And there’s always terrific value in unintended laughs, for which PILOT was a bit of a viewer’s delight (so far as this viewer was concerned). Plus, so many sequences really felt like they were excuses for Ruffo and May to try on other space-age outfits: who knew that body stockings and feather boas would have so grand a future in Outer Space?