Following Assignment: Outer Space and Battle of the Worlds, Italian director Antonio Margheriti was approached by MGM to make four science fiction films back-to-back. Margheriti also acted as co-producer on the series, with Joseph Fryd. All four films were shot on location in Rome and at Rome’s Incir De Paolis studios, using many of the same sets, costumes, props and actors.
The films followed the adventures of the staff of the United Democracies Space Command (UDSCO) on Earth and blasted into orbit aboard the Gamma One space station. The four films were War of the Planets (20 November 1965), The Wild Wild Planet (29 November 1965), War Between the Planets (21 July 1966) and The Snow Devils (17 November 1966).
They were partly financed by MGM and filmed simultaneously over 12 weeks. Sometimes known as ‘The Gamma One Quadrilogy’, they were originally conceived as TV movies, but were released theatrically in Italy and played in cinemas and on TV in America.
In War of the Planets, shapeless aliens from Mars named the Diaphanoids – who are composed mainly of light (they are represented onscreen by green glowing light and swirling space mists) – attack Earth via taking over the astronauts and crew of Space Station Gamma One in watered-down Body Snatchers-style.
It is up to Commander Mike Halstead (Tony Russell) and his crew – including Lt. Jake Jacowitz (Franco Nero) and Halstead’s girlfriend, Communications Officer Lt. Connie Gomez (Lisa Gastoni) – to halt the menace.
After a tepid first half, events in War of the Planets swerve off the beaten track when
Commander Halstead and his men are taken by the Diaphanoids to a uranium mine on Mars.
Captured and held in a cell, Halstead and crew see the strange sights of the Diaphanoids’ world – at the bottom of a food waste disposal chute they witness the remains of the Delta Two personnel and the heroes attend the ‘Ceremony of the Hosting’, where victims wander sleepwalk into a misty cave and are overtaken by their new possessors.
Those who resist are put to death by flamethrower.
Cmdr. Mike Halstead
Lt. Connie Gomez
Lt. Jake Jacowitz
Lt. Fina Marlie
Gen. Paul Maitland