US film poster
|Directed by||Norman J. Warren|
|Produced by||Richard Gordon|
|Written by||Nick and Gloria Maley|
|Music by||John Scott|
|Edited by||Peter Boyle|
Jupiter Film Productions
|Distributed by||Butcher's Film Service|
Inseminoid (titled Horror Planet in the United States) is a 1981 British independent science-fiction horror film directed by Norman J. Warren. It stars Judy Geeson, Robin Clarke and Stephanie Beacham with an early film appearance by Victoria Tennant. The plot concerns a group of archaeologists and scientists who are excavating the ruins of an ancient civilisation on a distant planet. After one of the women in the team, Sandy (Geeson), is raped and impregnated by a monstrous alien creature, she becomes psychotic and starts killing her colleagues one by one and eating their flesh.
Inseminoid was written by Nick and Gloria Maley, a married couple who had been members of the special effects team for Warren's earlier film Satan's Slave. Filmed between May and June 1980 on a budget of £1 million, half of which was supplied by the Shaw Brothers, it was shot largely on location at Chislehurst Caves in Kent and on the island of Gozo in Malta, with a week's studio filming at Lee International Studios in London. Composer John Scott completed the film's electronic musical score over hours-long recording sessions.
Despite a positive box office response in the UK and overseas, Inseminoid failed to impress most critics, who reacted negatively to the film's production design and special effects. The acting in general was also poorly received, though Geeson's performance was praised. Inseminoid's reputation suffered from its premise of an extraterrestrial insemination, which led critics to regard the film as a weak copy of Alien (1979). However, both Warren and Alien distributors 20th Century Fox rejected claims that the script for Inseminoid was influenced by the earlier film.
Academic criticism of Inseminoid has concentrated on the film's presentation of the female sex and female sexualities in the context of corruption by an alien source. Commentators have noted that as well as portraying Sandy as an abject Other, the film depicts a battle of the sexes as the character eliminates her former friends. The film was released on VHS to strong sales and novelised by Larry Miller.
On a freezing planet, a team of 12 Xeno Project archaeologists and scientists are excavating the ruins of an ancient civilisation. They discover a cave system containing wall markings and crystals of unknown origin. During a survey, a mysterious explosion cripples photographer Dean White and injures Ricky Williams. Deciphering the wall markings, exolinguist Mitch theorises that the civilisation was based on a concept of dualism: the planet orbits a binary star and seems to have been ruled by twins. Medical assistant Sharon discovers that the crystals are surrounded by an energy field and suggests that the civilisation was controlled by a form of chemical intelligence.
A crystal sample begins to pulsate, causing the intelligence to take control of Ricky through a wound on his arm. In his delusional state, he is compelled to leave the team's base and re-enter the caves. He throws Gail into a pile of twisted metal, damaging her environmental suit and trapping her foot. Desperate to free herself, Gail removes her helmet and tries to amputate her foot with a chainsaw, but instead freezes to death in the planet's toxic atmosphere. Documentation officer Kate Carson shoots Ricky with a harpoon gun before he unseals the airlock and evacuates the base's breathable air.
Ricky and Gail are buried outside the base. Later, Mitch and Sandy return to the caves to collect more crystals. A monstrous alien creature appears and dismembers Mitch before raping Sandy. Sandy is taken back to base and treated by the team's doctor, Karl, who discovers that the rape has triggered an accelerated pregnancy. When further underground explosions block off the caves, the survivors are left with nothing to do but await pick-up by Xeno.
The intelligence takes over Sandy, giving her superhuman strength. She stabs Barbra to death with a pair of scissors and mutilates Dean and the remains of Mitch, drinking their blood. The rest of the team take refuge in the control room as Sandy uses explosives to blow up the base transmitter. When Sandy's psychosis appears to subside, Karl, Sharon and Commander Holly McKay attempt sedation. However, Sandy reverts to her former state, kills Karl and Holly and disembowels their corpses.
Mark radios Sandy from the control room to distract her while Kate and Gary arm themselves with chainsaws from a storage room. The ruse is uncovered and Sandy harpoons Gary outside the airlock, breathing the atmosphere to no ill effect as she feeds on his flesh. She then re-enters the base and gives birth to hybrid twins. Mark stumbles across the newborns and leaves them with Sharon as Sandy blows up the door to the control room and proceeds to smash all the equipment inside. She then wounds Kate with another explosive charge and kills her. In a last fight to the death, Mark strangles Sandy with a length of cable. He returns to Sharon to find one of the twins drinking from her torn-out throat, then comes face to face with its equally bloodthirsty sibling.
Twenty-eight days later, a Xeno shuttle lands on the planet to investigate the loss of contact with the team. With the base in ruins and its occupants either dead or missing, commandos Corin and Roy abandon the search for survivors and shuttle pilot Jeff radios Xeno control for clearance to return. The final shots reveal that the twins have stowed away inside a storage compartment on board the shuttle.
- Judy Geeson as Sandy
- Robin Clarke as Mark
- Jennifer Ashley as Holly McKay
- Stephanie Beacham as Kate Carson
- Steven Grives as Gary
- Barrie Houghton as Karl
- Rosalind Lloyd as Gail
- Victoria Tennant as Barbra
- Trevor Thomas as Mitch
- Heather Wright as Sharon
- David Baxt as Ricky Williams
- Dominic Jephcott as Dean White
- John Segal as Jeff
- Kevin O'Shea as Corin
- Robert Pugh as Roy
After making Satan's Slave (1976), Prey (1977) and Terror (1978), Norman J. Warren was to have directed a film called Gargoyles. After this production collapsed without a finished script, Warren and producer Richard Gordon accepted a story idea from the husband-and-wife duo of Nick and Gloria Maley, who had been members of the special effects unit on Satan's Slave. The Maleys wrote the film both as an amalgam of their favourite science-fiction ideas and to showcase their effects work. Their script, which indicated that the film is set two decades in the future in a militaristic universe, was provisionally titled Doomseeds; to avoid confusion with the 1977 film Demon Seed, this was changed to Inseminoid.
Gordon cast American actors Robin Clarke and Jennifer Ashley as Mark and Holly while on business in Hollywood. Prior to Inseminoid, Ashley had appeared in several independent films, while Clarke had just played a supporting role in John G. Avildsen's The Formula. Beacham, then a mother of two young children, accepted the role of Kate Carson to support her family, recalling in a 2003 interview: "I had to choose between a play that I really, really wanted to do, which would have paid me £65 a week, and this script for a film called Inseminoid. Hey! No choice. Two pink babies asleep upstairs! No choice!"
The Hong Kong Shaw Brothers agreed to provide half of the proposed £1 million budget and became partners in the production, with elder brother Run Run Shaw credited in the opening titles as the film's presenter. Nick Maley reprised his special effects role to build the alien twin puppets. Principal photography began on 12 May 1980 with a crew of 75. The production filmed for three weeks on location at Chislehurst Caves in Kent and one week at Lee International Studios in Wembley Park, London. A fifth week was devoted to effects and linking shots, completed by the second unit at Film House on London's Wardour Street. The crew then travelled to the island of Gozo, Malta for a final, two-day location shoot to film the long shots set on the planet's surface, capitalising on the strong Mediterranean sun to ensure good lighting.
Warren says that shooting the base interior scenes at Chislehurst Caves produced more realistic results for the film's low budget than any possible studio alternative. However, the cold, damp and airless conditions inside the caves, compounded by the uneven terrain, caused frequent minor injuries among the cast and crew as well as damage to filming equipment. Shooting often ran for 12 hours at a time and some of those present developed intense feelings of claustrophobia in the confined space. Gordon believed that the uncomfortable working conditions made the actors' performances more credible, once stating: "I think all this paid off in terms of what we got on the screen for the budget, but the circumstances were very difficult." Due to the lack of space inside the caves, the crew were forced to set up their production office, as well as the dressing and make-up rooms, in a car park some distance from the location. When the filming started to fall behind schedule, Warren was forced to cut some of the scenes of Ricky's rampage inside the caves: "Three pages of script, which I had to condense into one shot. Having to make such an enormous compromise was not a happy choice for me, but it was the only way of getting us back on schedule." The shoot ultimately overran by two days.
As filming progressed, the working relationship between Warren and Clarke broke down. According to Warren, Clarke routinely refused to follow instructions and instead offered his own, unsolicited interpretation of the script, which made every scene featuring him "an uphill struggle". He remembers that during preparations for a fight scene, Clarke's behaviour caused him to lose his temper: "Robin kept on ranting and raving about his ideas to the point where I couldn't take it any more. So I screamed at him to shut up and keep quiet. I told him I was the director and we would do the scene the way I said. He was shocked, he just stopped dead, and from that point on he hardly said a word." Warren's rapports with the rest of the cast were positive. He has described Geeson as "an absolute dream to work with" and praised her acting, arguing that it avoids being unintentionally comic. Gordon was similarly impressed, stating that Geeson fully embraced her role and did not complain that it demeaned her as an actress. Warren also has fond memories of Beacham's "very professional" performance, recalling that "with tongue firmly in cheek, she would often wind me up by asking what her motivation was for a particular action, just as I about to call 'Action!', knowing full well that my answer would be, 'Because it's in the script'."
Inseminoid was shot on 35 mm Eastman Kodak film with anamorphic lenses. Warren remembers that this format produced an "incredibly sharp image and what I would term as the 'American' look." During post-production, the picture was brightened as it was feared that if the film appeared too dimly lit it would be harder to sell to television broadcasters. In addition, some of the more graphic shots of Sandy's labour were removed to ensure that the film would not be rejected by the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC). According to Warren, editor Peter Boyle "had a natural feel for the material and managed to create just the right pace and rhythm throughout the film." The title sequence was produced by Oxford Scientific Films.
As the low budget precluded the use of an orchestra, Warren and composer John Scott agreed that the film would have an electronic score. The recording involved many hours of multi-tracking and overdubbing. Warren has described the completed soundtrack as an "amazing achievement", noting that electronic scores were "quite experimental" in the early 1980s. The soundtrack was released as an LP record in 1982.
|Soundtrack album by|
|4.||"Death in Space"||4:01|
|5.||"The Creature Strikes"||3:20|
|10.||"Birth of the Twins"||2:42|
|11.||"Death of Sandy"||2:27|
Cinemas in Germany began showing Inseminoid in January 1981 under the title Samen des Bösen (English: Seeds of Evil). In the UK, the film premiered on 22 March in the Midlands, subsequently opening at 65 cinemas in the region. It reached London in October. The film was commercially successful, reaching fifth position at the UK box office and seventh in France. Inseminoid was also one of the first films to receive a VHS release not long after cinema release, and in November 1981 reached seventh in the UK video charts. It was re-released on VHS in 1992 and 1998.
The film was originally promoted in the UK partly via a regional mailshot with a circular showing a screaming Geeson in character as Sandy with the tagline "Warning! An Horrific Alien Birth! A Violent Nightmare in Blood! Inseminoid at a Cinema Near You Soon!" Warren later regretted that the film had been announced in this fashion, commenting: "The problem with mail drops is that you have no way of knowing who lives in the house, or who will see it first. It could be a pregnant woman, and old lady, or even worse, a young child. So it was not such a good idea." The BBFC originally certified the film X and later 18. In 2005, this was lowered to 15.
To Warren's displeasure, overseas distributor Almi renamed the film Horror Planet for its release in North America. This was later changed back to Inseminoid. The Motion Picture Association of America rated the film R for "profanity, nudity, violence, rape and gore".
Inseminoid was nominated for the Fantasporto award for best film and won the Fantafestival award for best special effects. Roger Corman congratulated Warren on the film and considered hiring him as a director. However, Inseminoid failed to impress members of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, who according to Warren dismissed it as "'Commercial rubbish! ... Not the sort of thing the Academy should be showing ... And certainly not the kind of film the British film industry should be making!'" Warren also remembers that it displeased female audiences: "It seems it is quite common for pregnant women to have nightmares about giving birth to some kind of monster. Of course, all their complaints and their letters which were printed in the local papers only helped to increase the queue at the box office."
Alan Jones of Starburst magazine expressed a preference for the British members of the cast, describing Geeson as "absolutely first-rate" but criticising the "weak performances from the token Americans" Robin Clarke and Jennifer Ashley. Praising the film's cost-effective production values, he suggested that its violent on-screen killings carried Warren's "particular trademark". He added that Inseminoid "is not faultless by any means," citing a predictable and often "ridiculous" plot as one of the film's downsides. However, he concluded that it met audience expectations for a sci-fi B movie, declaring it "far less routine and far more enjoyable than I had expected."
In the US, Inseminoid made the Los Angeles Times top ten list. Critical response from other commentators was less favourable. Edward Jones of Virginia's The Free Lance–Star praised the "novel touch" of casting an expectant mother as the villain but added that "in what has to be a new low, even for extraterrestrial-horror films, all the men end up punching this pregnant woman in the stomach." He summed up the film as "no more than a mix of everything-you've-ever-seen-in-a-horror-movie-and-didn't-particularly-want-to-see-again." In a review for Florida's Boca Raton News, Skip Sheffield branded the film "horrible" and "cheapo", advising readers to "imagine Alien without the fantastic sets, convincing special effects and literate dialogue, and you have a picture of Horror Planet." He also argued that the film's graphic violence did not create suspense, punning on the name Run Run Shaw in his conclusion that "Horror Planet is a film to run, run away from – fast."
The website AllMovie rates the film one star out of five. Reviewer Cavett Binion calls Geeson's performance "more than a bit uncomfortable to watch", describes the rape sequence as "surreal and truly disgusting" and considers the choice of title "sleazy". To Douglas Pratt, Inseminoid features poor acting and production design with "some gooey gore shots but few other thrills". He concedes that the film "goes through the motions properly, however, so fans will probably find it worth passing the time."
Warren rejected the notion that Inseminoid is comparable to a "video nasty". On the film's supposed cult status, he said: "If Inseminoid has become some form of cult movie, then I am very pleased and, indeed, very flattered." He added that if he were to re-make Inseminoid, he would demand a longer filming schedule and use darker lighting to heighten the suspense.
– Peter Wright
Inseminoid has been criticised as a perceived imitation, "knock-off" or "rip-off" of the 1979 science-fiction horror film Alien. Peter Wright, a film historian and lecturer at the University of Liverpool, believes that the "atmospheric" cave sequences and the mess hall scene preceding Ricky's madness may have been inspired by Ridley Scott's film, comparing the former to the sequences set on the desolate planetoid and the latter to the violent reveal of the alien "chestburster". Wright considers the connection to Alien potentially "exploitative"; to Barry Langford of the University of London, it highlights the dependence of UK cinema on its US counterpart. Alan Jones argues that "any similarity between Inseminoid and Alien is totally intentional. Except here is the basic idea contained in Alien taken to its sleaziest extreme." He finds one such parallel in the character of Kate (Stephanie Beacham), whom he likens to Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). However, he also regards Contamination (1980) and Scared to Death (1981) as less effective imitations of Scott. Edward Jones suggests that the plot of Inseminoid also borrows from the novel Dracula (1897), the TV series The Bionic Woman (1976–78) and the films The Thing from Another World (1951) and Night of the Living Dead (1968).
Though he acknowledges similarities to Alien, Warren has denied claims that Inseminoid was made as an imitation, pointing out that the script for his film was completed months before Alien was released in the UK. He has also said that Alien distributors 20th Century Fox were shown the final cut of Inseminoid and that even they discounted the possibility: "... in fact, the head of Fox sent us a very nice letter saying how much he enjoyed the film and wished us luck with the release ... I find it flattering that anyone can compare Alien, which cost in the region of $30 million, with Inseminoid which cost less than £1 million. We must have done something right."
Various commentators have discussed Inseminoid's depiction of sexual reproduction, female sexuality, conflict between male and female gender roles, pregnancy, new motherhood and Otherness. Wright interprets Sandy's transformation as a "direct manifestation of masculine anxiety regarding female reproductive capacity". He argues that the film's horror is internalised within the seed of the alien being, which renders Sandy "woman-as-other" or "abject "Other". This is in contrast with Alien, which concerns transfer of "fear of woman onto the alien other". Wright suggests that Inseminoid contains echoes of the film Demon Seed (1977), in which a woman is raped and impregnated by an artificially-intelligent computer: "in both films, women are framed as 'Other' by their sexual congress with more conventional iconic others: the machine and the alien." In all these films, pregnancy is depicted as a source of horror; in Inseminoid, this is conveyed by the "uterine and cervical" title sequence, suggestive of "entering the realm of the monstrous womb ... the titling reveals a microscopic insect resident in the body of a larger organism."
Wright argues that the distorted representation of the womb reveals similarities to the 1979 film The Brood, in which a woman parthenogenetically gives birth to deformed offspring. Analysing the rape sequence itself, in which Karl injects Sandy with an unknown substance, Wright makes a connection to dialogue in other scenes implying that the women on the archaeological team are given regular contraceptive injections. Sandy's impregnation, conflicting with the suppression of fertilisation manifested in Karl's use of a hypodermic (and phallic) needle, reveals "coherent sexism": it "attacks the very notion of female sexual freedom, while suggesting, paradoxically, that contraception is the responsibility of women." Sandy's accelerated pregnancy and regression to the level of a savage add to her depiction as an abject Other or object of "male paranoia".
During the struggle between Sandy and Gary, it is not until Gary has half-suffocated that Sandy kills him. Wright suggests that this sequence is reassuring from a male point of view as it implies that no woman – not even one with unnatural strength – is strong enough to kill a man in cold blood. That Sandy is ultimately killed by a man (Mark) makes her an aid in the re-empowerment of the male sex, although her offspring are quick to avenge their mother. Comparing the plot of Inseminoid to Christian scripture, Christopher Partridge of Lancaster University refers to the twins as "essentially space Nephilim, technological demons with appetites and habits reminiscent of the mythic forebears."
The film's sexual references continue into the epilogue, which shows the arrival of rescuers Jeff, Corin and Roy. In an allusion to the menstrual cycle, it is stated in dialogue that 28 days have passed since Xeno lost contact with the team. The deaths of the archaeologists are attributed to an "internal disturbance of some kind"; Wright calls this "an ironic phrase which encapsulates the film's vision of pregnancy as an irruption of Otherness from within."
Discussing Larry Miller's novelisation, which he describes as "imaginative and misogynistic", Wright notes a number of scenes that are absent from the film and portray a distorted image of the female form, causing revulsion in the reader. Miller has Sandy grow sores and her nipples ooze pus, which Wright likens to colostrum. Sandy accepts these unnatural changes with fascination.
- List of British films of 1981
- List of horror films of 1981
- List of films featuring extraterrestrials
- List of films set in the future
- List of monster movies
- Reproduction and pregnancy in speculative fiction
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