Seen by many as the genial, if slightly perverse, young trendy uncle of British horror, director Norman J Warren spent much of the 1970s churning out some of the more avant garde, and gory, horror films of that decade.
Norman (who despite his surname has never shoved any rabbits up his bottom) is apparently a lovely bloke, much adored by fans who have met him. And his 70s output, whilst cheap and nasty, was also undeniably cheerful and entertaining. In a way, he was the anti-Pete Walker, (despite the two directors often being mentioned in the same breath). Whereas Walker was busy bringing out anti-establishment, nihilistic and bleak stuff like House Of Whipcord, Frightmare and House Of Mortal Sin, Warren was busy ramping up the sex n’ gore legacy of Hammer films with stuff like Satan’s Slave (shagging and witchcraft), Prey (lesbians, aliens, shagging and cannibalism) and Terror (shagging, witchcraft and coloured lights). Walker’s films were vaguely political. Warren’s films, made with similar budgets and constraints, come across as much more knockabout affairs. Things getting boring? Chuck in some shagging! Someone needs to die? Make it as violent as possible! Script calls for lesbians? Put two naked (heterosexual) women in a room and film what happens! Warren’s films are as grim as Walker’s in most cases, but their added supernatural overtones at least offer an escapism which Walker’s depressing parables don’t. And Warren, like his peer, somehow managed to make his low-budget 70s offerings exude class, with a smattering of well-known faces and some classy lighting and camerawork elevating them above other cash-strapped offerings of the time.
All of which makes a viewing of his 80s sleaze epic Inseminoid all the more astonishing. Inseminoid is not a good film, in case you were wondering. It doesn’t make any sense, the costumes are rubbish, the effects are diabolical and the acting (even from the two stars, Judy Geeson and the usually reliable Stephanie Beacham) is atrocious.
The story (such as it is) involves a bunch of deep-space explorers who land on an inhospitable planet and disturb an alien lifeform. One of the crew members is impregnated by the alien and gives birth. The entire crew are then wiped out. “Hang on, Chris,” you’re thinking, “surely that’s the screenplay to another film? In fact, it’s a film featured on this very website, and it’s called Alien! You might have heard of it.”
Yup, you’re right. Warren had in the past allowed other films to affect his work (Terror is a case in point, having been heavily, erm, “influenced” by Dario Argento’s Susperia), but on this occasion it appears he thought “Ah, sod it. Can’t be bothered to write a script today, what with it being such a nice day, birds, trees etc. I’m sure Ridley Scott won’t mind if we nick his idea – after all, I am the handsome supply teacher of British horror.”
Of course, Inseminoid isn’t a complete carbon copy of Alien, just a blatant rip-off. After all, in the original we didn’t see a naked John Hurt (Geeson’s co-star in 10 Rillington Place) get buggered senseless with a fluorescent tube by a bloke in a rubber mask while he’s lying on what looks like a sunbed. Because that’s what happens to a screaming Sandy (Geeson). Over, and over (and over) again.
We also didn’t then see a pregnant Hurt run amok on the spaceship, twatting his crewmembers with whatever heavy object was to hand and then pulling out their entrails and eating them.
I feel I might be making Inseminoid sound more exciting than it actually is – and to be honest, it probably could be quite an entertaining film, IF it made any flaming sense. The main problem with the whole thing is that everyone seems to have got so worked up with devising ridiculous deaths and nasty extra-terrestrial rapes that they’ve forgotten to explain anything. We know that we’re on an uncharted planet with a bunch of human explorers, but that’s because it’s explained in a voiceover at the beginning. After that, we’re on our own. Why can crew members breathe the air in some places and not in others? Why can’t they just take off and leave Sandy behind? Why are they there at all? Why don’t they use one of the guns to just shoot Sandy? Why is Stephanie Beacham’s character asking them all stupid questions? Who’s in charge? And most importantly, why does that woman try to chop her own foot off with a hedgetrimmer?
Often such plot inconsistencies and cheesiness help make a bad film watchable, but the problem with Inseminoid is that there are so many of them, and they pile up so quickly, that it just becomes annoying.
The whole hedgetrimmer-foot thing is a case in point. There’s not much going on – things are about to get frantic, but at the moment, as far as the crew are concerned, everything’s reasonably okay. Then one of the women slips as she makes her way back to the ship, and puts her dainty size four through a gap in a gantry. She’s stuck (although it looks like one good yank would get her silver-sprayed wellie free). Cue major histrionics: “I can’t get it free!” / “You must! Try harder!” etc. Conversing through a radio mic, the people on the other side of the airlock start really winding her up: “You haven’t got much time!”
Then: “You’ve got to do it yourself! I can’t help you!”
Eventually, fed up with all this, she rips off her face mask, picks up a nearby hedgetrimmer, and starts hacking through her ankle (in gory close-up). Funnily enough, this tack doesn’t work and she croaks.
If you’ve got a few questions running through your mind on reading this, you should try watching it. The main one which springs to mind during this frenetic five minutes is “why all the hurry?”
You’re left to assume that her oxygen is running out, or something. But that doesn’t even begin to explain why someone else can’t go out and help her, or why she thinks death by suffocation (and the possible help which might come along as she slowly snuffs it) isn’t preferable to a bit of DIY surgery. It’s a stupid, lazy and annoying scene. And it’s just one stupid, lazy and annoying scene out of many.
Is there anything salvageable from the mess that is Inseminoid? Well, I for one can’t get enough of grown men wearing motorbike helmets and pretending they’re in space. I’m also quite fond of Sandy’s outfit as she goes on her cannibalistic killing spree – in her baggy sweatshirt and tight black jeans she looks like she’s off to the school disco afterwards. And there’s one cracking moment which almost rises to the heady levels of some of Warren’s earlier work – when the “hero”, pursued by a now-barking Sandy, manages to pull on his spacesuit and leg it through the airlock into the poisonous air outside. He thinks he’s safe, and tells everyone inside so. But then Sandy follows him, sans suit. She stops, starts to choke, and then breathes in deeply, fixing him with a triumphant look. Unlike the rest of the film, it actually manages to raise a chill.
As a last note, it’s worth mentioning Geeson’s performance too. Given the role of a lifetime (pregnant cannibal rape victim who gives birth to alien twins) she certainly throws herself into it with gusto. Whether that’s a good thing or not is anyone’s guess. But considering that these days she claims not to remember the copious nude legs-apart-on-a-sunbed scenes that it demanded, I’m thinking she tends to show her grandchildren the DVD of To Sir With Love when they ask her about her film career.
Last updated: February 24, 2010
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