ZETA ONE (1969)
Director: Michael Cort
Kino Lorber/Jezebel

By the late 1960s, British sexploitation films where at the height of their naughtiness, but this one is somewhat different in that it spoofs psychedelic-era sci-fi films like BARBARELLA, as well as the popular Bond/spy cycle. Made the same year that Hammer failed with their kitsch space saga MOON ZERO TWO, ZETA ONE is a tame skin flick mainly of interest due to its cast of starlets, and it makes its Blu-ray release through Salvation’s Jezebel umbrella.

British secret agent James Word (Robin Hawdon from Hammer’s WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH), a lazy James Bond wannabe (he reports to a department head named "W"), comes home to his apartment to find his boss’ lovely blonde secretary Ann (Yutte Stensgaard, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE) making him a surprise hot meal. Ann wants to learn about James’ last big assignment, and she gets the information out of him by playing a friendly game of strip poker, and letting him bed her where he gladly reveals the details. In flashback, Word relates his adventure (which he doesn't seem to have much to do with anyway), and we are introduced to Zeta (Dawn Addams, VAULT OF HORROR) and her army of beautiful alien women. They live in a colony in another dimension uninhabited by men called Angvia (clever anagram), kidnapping pretty earth girls to bring back and unite with their race of superwomen. In the meantime, villainous Major Bourden (James Robertson Justice, the burly, bearded actor from the “Doctor” comedy film series of the 1950s and 1960s) and his inept assistant Swyne (Charles Hawtrey from the "Carry On" film series) are trying to conquer Angvia, and they do this by capturing some of their women, interrogating them in torturous ways.

The film concludes with some of the alien babes (including that luscious Amazon from Hammer's BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB, Valerie Leon) wearing nothing but pasties on their nipples and a space-age thong costumes, battling a group of hunters by extending their arms and pointing (a loud sound effect is supposed to imply some sort of stun blast). Other cult actresses spotted are Brigitte Skay (TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE) as one of the Zeta girls, Anna Gael (THERESE AND ISABELLE) Wendy Lingham (THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES) as an abducted stripper, and Kirsten Betts (TWINS OF EVIL) who does a sexy dance during a climatic orgy scene.

Here making his only feature film, director and screenwriter Michael Cort envisioned ZETA ONE to incorporate a mix of animation and live action (it was based on a photo-story comic strip), but he was given a limited budget by British film company Tigon Pictures (Tony Tenser served as executive producer). So what we get instead is an array of femme fatales, some wacky futuristic sets and glitzy fetish outfits, but the performances are mostly indifferent and the humor doesn’t work. The idea of having an anti-James Bond, a buffoon who spends most of the time bedding vixens, smoke cigarettes and showing up late at the scene of intrigue, fails to be anything but annoying. There’s some psychedelic optical effects (including a kaleidoscope mind-altering montage very similar to what could be seen in Tigon’s CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR) as well as considerable location shooting in and around Grim’s Dyke, the manor seen in such British gothic horror films as THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR and CRY OF THE BANSHEE.

ZETA ONE’s productions problem were not just limited to “The Countess of Cleavage” Imogen Hassall (BLOOD SUCKERS) bailing out due to the required nudity, but reportedly, veteran director Vernon Sewell was brought in to direct the scenes between Stensgaard and Hawdon (which act as kind of a drawn-out wraparound) as well as several other bits which called for a stand-in for James Robertson Justice. Hammer fans will be delighted at the amount of nudity the remarkable Stensgaard does here, as she’s seen topless and then scurries out of bed full frontal to try and save the dinner burning in the kitchen stove (the actress, who was suggested for the role by her husband’s father, has said in interviews that she appalls the film).

ZETA ONE was released in the U.S. as THE LOVE FACTOR, and it later resurfaced on video as ALIEN WOMEN. Salvation released the film on DVD through Image Entertainment about a decade ago in a full frame transfer, so this Blu-ray re-do comes as a welcomed surprise. Mastered in HD from the original 35mm negative, ZETA ONE is presented in a 1.66:1 anamorphic 1080p transfer. The image is impressive throughout, with only some minor speckling and subtle grain. Colors are rich, fleshtones look super and detail is sharp throughout, with the mono English audio coming though flawless. An original British theatrical trailer is included, as is a trailer for Jack Cardiff’s GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE. (George R. Reis)