movie review: Eyes Behind The Stars (1978)

Eyes Behind The Stars (1978)

I don’t know about Italian productions that rip off popular movies of their time of production other than they’re badly dubbed in ways I’d used to laugh about as a kid, they look cheap, and often go in weird narrative places I’m generally not prepared for, at least not without asking too many questions for a movie that doesn’t deserve my attention in the first place. ALSO, I should know who some of the actors are in this particular film, but other than Martin Balsam’s name, I don’t recognize anyone else. If they’re mainstays of this kind of genre or had something else going on in the late 1970s, I’m sorry I’m not better versed.

This movie looked interesting, and I knew what I was in for. I’m patting myself on the back for NOT chuckling at the dubbing – why do we do this? Maybe as kids we find the mismatched sound and visual jarring, we’ve not experienced that in our day to day. We know nothing of sound design, and now I recognize that the filmmakers are just trying for basic marketing. Shame on me! So, what’s it about? I won’t even get into names. A bunch of 70s mod guys and a couple of 70s skinny ladies. They are: the Photographer, the Model, the Inspector, the Reporter, the Secretary, the Expert, and (as the movie calls them directly) The Silencers. Also, there’s a medium (you know, a psychic). So, here’s what happens:

The Photographer and Model are in a clearing in a park, or even a forest, and time slows and cars won’t starts and they feel watched. He’s trying to do a fashion shoot and the weird stuff ruins the mood. When the cars do work again, they go their separate ways, and the Photographer develops his photos.  He thinks he sees something in the developed film so he heads back to the forest. While there…he is abducted by aliens!

There’s a confusing sequence where the Photographer heads to a farmhouse, and the guy there lets the Photographer in. There’s a lot of back and forth over if the phone works and who should go outside and shoot whoever the paranoid sweaty Photographer thinks he’s being chased by (according to the creepy music that chases him). I can’t think of a narrative reason why you’d let someone into your house, trust that the phone doesn’t work when they try to use it, and then let them use your gun to confront someone outside your home. But the end result is that the Photographer ends up on the spaceship, aka someone’s carpeted basement and blank white walls. He ends up on a kinda cool desk that glows while aliens, wearing knit sweaters over racing helmet visors (that’s what it looks like) just stand over him.

The Reporter shows up to the forest to see the police going over the Photographer’s car, and tags along to see them discover the old man in a comatose state at his home. Where is the Photographer? The Reporter goes to the Photographer’s studio  and takes a few of the pics from the first scene of this film, with the Model’s blessing. After the Reporter leaves, the creepy film score that hints that the aliens are stalking starts up, and if the POV is that of the aliens, a slight fish eye effect, the aliens (by pov) walk in the studio, with the Model just standing there in frozen fright, and make the remaining photos just disappear, then the POV just backs out of the room. Once we resume to normal view, the Model leaves the studio as well, in a catatonic state, and drives to the forest to be abducted by the aliens.

Follow? The Reporter finds through the police that the Model is missing and her car is in the forest, so he seeks advice from an antiques salesman, who is also a UFO Expert. By the way, the cast (or dubbers) alternate between “You Eff Oh” and “Oof-ohs,” I can’t think of a time when anyone ever said it the latter way. The movie goes around in a few circles after the Expert tells the Reporter with complete authority that aliens exist, they abduct people, and there’s a group of men looking to keep it a secret. Then these guys in suits, The Silencers, show up, and pretty much beat our hero and Expert up. Sometimes they make separate visits with separate beatings, I don’t know. They want the negatives that The Reporter had taken earlier, and when they finally beat it out of him, the aliens show up in their creepy POV and make the negatives disappear and leave the way they came in.

While on the phone with The Inspector, the Reporter overhears at the Model has been found. Some cops DRAG HER IN BY HER ARMS after finding her nearly comatose in the forest where she was abducted. No wheelchair? Not to the hospital? Nope, straight to The Inspector’s office. He puts the telephone receiver down (old school phone, kids) instead of just hanging up, and the Reporter hears everything about the Model being found, and to which hospital she is being taken to.

The reporter’s Secretary plays back the phone recording of the discussion that the Reporter overheard (I think) and it turns out she’s a spy working for the agency that also employs the Silencers. I just thought now about how long she must have been employed as a secretary at one reporter’s office for who knows how long, just to be on hand to tip off the secret agency that beats people up for looking for into UFOs. Not a character who tips off the wrong person they might happen to know for a bit of money, the Secretary has a badge! The Reporter figures out the Secretary has sold out the Model to The Silencers, and BEATS HER UP (what the heck, movie). He forces her to take her to her agency’s secret HQ where the Model is held, and then he uses the Secretary as a human shield after she flashes her badge at the door. She’s killed, the Reporter and Expert rescue the catatonic Model and take her to a hospital. Then they run out and come back with a medium, who reacts with terror from what she senses the Model has seen. The Photographer has died at the hands of the aliens. Having learned that the Model has pointed the finger at them for killing the Photographer, the aliens press a button that kills the Model.

The Reporter and Expert step outside, where The Silencers pull up and machine gun down the Reporter and Expert. They’re dead. The UFO lifts off.

I mean, wha? It’s the 70s, okay I get it. Not everything gets a happy ending. This is just a dumb downer ending. But it’s Of Its Time, so the filmmakers know, with that kind of budget and audience who eats up that kind of ‘horror,’ they’re free to take the movie in that kind of direction. You know, where you make the mistake of investing any kind of connection you might have with whoever the movie picks as its protagonist (the Photographer…no, wait, it’s the Reporter?). And then they’re both killed, just knocked off rather cruelly by the film. Thanks for investing your time, the hero doesn’t rescue the tortured girl. Why did the aliens even let her go? Just to watch her get carted around by goofus cops and then our gallant (not really) heroes? The aliens and Silencers don’t exactly seem to be working hand in hand, but they both just murder people to keep them all quiet. Why align yourself with the aliens, Silencers?

So many questions, so little time I want to spend. I probably missed some back and forth of discovery by our heroes but it doesn’t matter. I do give the movie lots of credit for its creepy atmosphere for the Photographer’s abduction. I’ve read way too many garbage alien abduction narratives (from this time!) and remember some of the consistent details supposed abductees have about feeling frozen, either in terror or because the aliens had a psychic hold on them, and perhaps the filmmakers just didn’t have the added imagination to fill in those gaps for us. Modern movies would have you the viewer doubling back to look for aliens in the trees or other clues for a set up like this. But, it’s cheap, and just devolves into Kolchak style conspiracy & investigation  (before X-Files, kids), and then for what. You all know how much I love actual noir films – there’s a sense of justice when our ‘protagonist’ watches or causes his world to fall apart. Here, it’s just stuff happening. The end. What I’m saying is I would have loved more of the Photographer’s adventure as he feels compelled to head back to the forest, and then tries to escape them, or at least piece together what happened to himself after the fact. That would have been a more interesting film.

I watched it on Tubi, which is an app that has a lot of movies, and possibly airs edited versions of them – I don’t know if that’s the case with this film, in case I’m leaving out the most important detail. Sorry!

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