Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Wednesday 19 January 2022

Burl reviews The Groundstar Conspiracy! (1972)


Blast, bang, boom, it’s Burl, here to review a curious item from the early 1970s! It’s a conspiracy thriller, I guess - ha ha, “conspiracy” is even in the title - but the conspiracy, it’s raison d’etre, and its perpetrators remain fairly oblique! Well, maybe it’s just me! The picture is The Groundstar Conspiracy, and if you can’t readily call it to mind, don’t be too hard on yourself! Ha ha, it never got much attention!

I’ll say it right off: I admire the picture for creating its own nearly unique tone! I say "nearly" because the movie, with its damp British Columbia locations and its halfhearted chase structure, and the note of semi-desperation it so consistently plays, reminded me quite a bit of Explosion! They're very different movies, of course, but once these connections have been made in my mind, they're very hard to sunder!

I’ll give you the particulars of the plot as I can recall them! Bang! Ha ha, that’s how the movie begins, with an secret laboratory exploding and many science types blowing up along with it! One man escapes by the skin of his bum, but not without suffering a mutilated face and brainbonk amnesia! As he recuperates, he becomes an object of suspicion to a turtleneck agent called Tuxan, played by George Peppard from Damnation Alley! Why, this escapee is almost certainly the saboteur who blew up the facility, Tuxan thinks!

Ha ha, he also suspects the woman upon whose doorstep the staggering mutilee was discovered, a lady played by a younger and less-severe-than-I’m-used-to-looking Christina Belford from Pocket Money and Christine! Tuxan is sure they’re in league, and after hassling the man to remember who he is, the bandages are finally removed to reveal that the reconstructive face surgery has left him looking like the slope-browed Michael Sarrazin from Selkirk of Red River and The Reincarnation of Peter Proud!

The heart of the picture is these three characters binging and bonging against each other! Tuxan, an unreconstructed hardass and a genuine fascist, deliberately allows Sarrazin to escape, then keeps close tabs on him and Belford as they hook up and slowly fall in love! Ha ha, Tuxan bugs the couple six ways to Sunday and films them in the act of bohankie, all the while expressing a desire to bug every bedroom in the country! He’s a real piece of work, that Tuxan, and I guess is meant to be the face of Nixonian paranoia and rights violations!

There’s some talk of double agents and deliberate amnesia, giving the picture that Total Recall feeling, but this lasts only briefly! As in Sleeper, a fellow more or less obviously from Earth - the Sarrazin character, that is - is repeatedly referred to as an alien, even though he’s probably from this planet and nobody ever seems to think otherwise, except for calling him “the alien!” In fact, I believe this picture might be based on a book called The Alien, ha ha! And I guess they cast the right guy, because Sarrazin does have an alien quality about him, and maybe this is why he never really made it big in the acting game!

In any case, The Groundstar Conspiracy is an interesting picture more than it is a good one! It has its own tone, as I say, and that qualifies as an accomplishment; and it has nice widescreen photography with good use of Simon Fraser University and the surrounding area! But for a thriller it rarely thrills, and the central mystery of who Sarrazin really is and did he do it, is curiously unengaging! It’s an early-70s curio, of that there’s little doubt, and if you decide to track it down, you’ll probably file it in your head alongside other mid-budget 70s British Columbia movies of roughly the same era, stuff like The Mad Room and Shadow of the Hawk! And you could do worse than that, ha ha! I give The Groundstar Conspiracy two and a half punches on the nose!

1 comment:

  1. Ha ha, thank you very much! I will do my best to live up to these stirring words!