Between James Bond, The Avengers (TV show), and Doctor Who, it seems that the 60’s were an exciting time for sharp British tales of intrigue that each featured the exploits of strange shadowy unofficial agencies using cutting edge technology to save the day for Queen and Country. It is from this era that we get ZETA ONE, another topless nudie film that could have only come from Britain and only from this era. Perhaps some background is in order; the original Zeta wasn’t a film after all but the name of an artistic magazine from Britain in the late sixties that featured much topless photography that always seemed to be shot in fantastical and futuristic setting. While there was some attempt to tell a story in the original magazine, the bit of text accompanying each picture seemed to be a sad attempt to justify the always half-naked women caught doing something futuristic, stupid, and soft-core (imagine a cross between Omni and Playboy). In this way, ZETA ONE lives up to its questionable literary inspiration. By that I mean it makes as little sense as the day it was released in 1969, perhaps even less sense as seen over forty years later, well into the twenty first century, a time it seemed to be written for.
The Story of ZETA ONE, the film, is complicated because nothing links up with anything else so I will try to capture the three separate movies going on and leave it up to you to figure out what is going on here besides nudity. Obviously, the gratuitous nudity is the ultimate point for such a film, but seeing as I can’t write the word breast 500 times to fill up my fifty lines, some talk of the films more cerebral bits (over pieces) are in order here.
The film starts out as the story of famous secret Agent James Word, who comes home to find that his secretary, Anne Olsen, has let herself into his pad and has cooked him dinner. After much excruciating flirtation and innuendo, the two decide to play strip poker in order to decide how to entertain themselves for an evening. This scene is only noteworthy in the fact it goes on for an appalling amount of running time and it is perhaps the least erotic strip poker sequence ever filmed. Told in a montage style, the game itself first shows James winning, then Anne, and, before all is done, they have each won enough of the other’s clothes to be as fully dressed as when the game began. As the film is now a fourth over, the two decide to cut cards to figure out what to do together; finally it is decided they will have sex and we the viewer are immediately treated to the passionless aftermath of the act as they lie in bed talking in afterglow. It is then that James Word tells the story of a recent case involving the Angvians (Anagram for vaginas); an Amazonian race of beautiful, scantily clad-yet- sexless space women who spend their lives in an alternate dimension and kidnap unsuspecting earth women to take back to a futuristic alternate universe which looks like a hybrid of the Mylar infested sets of BUCK ROGERS IN THE 21st CENTURY and the form over function futuristic fixtures of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.
It is then we also meet James Word’s superiors, the intolerably brash and perverted Major Bourdon and his foppish second in command, Swyne, an English man in stodgy, formal attire whose task it is to follow attractive women around Britain and make sure that the Angvians don’t abduct them. Of course his staunch dress and demeanor makes him look like a raging pervert, and it is only a matter of time before one of their female agents is kidnapped by the Angvians using their superior technology (an ordinary truck which can fade in and out).
Finally, there is the tale of the Angvians themselves, led by pretty Zeta. While it is indeed true they are from another dimension, and do seem to delight in kidnapping earth women, at no time is it made clear what they ultimately do with them. There are various psychedelic psychological chambers in Agvia which offer all sorts of intangible psychological effects from education, to pleasure, to brainwashing but it is hard to imagine what their ultimate master plan is as they don’t do anything but continue to kidnap and recruit more earth women with no goal plan in sight except the abduction of more women. Admittedly this may at first sounds like an awesome premise for an evil empire in a sexploitation film. Indeed the whole Angvian (planet) seems little more than some drugged out clothing optional lesbian pleasure world dedicated to the erotic satisfaction of you the male viewer. Yet it should be said that the space women are entirely sexless by nature as they’re topless in appearance so this clothing optional, celestial sexual pleasure netherworld is actually an annoying bit of empty space indeed inhabited by hot women who don’t even notice or care they are topless (you won’t either).
At long last there is a showdown between the Angvians and James Word, though told only in flashback, of course, and, even then, seemingly only after the fact. It seems James, himself, is not actually in the finale of this film, which indicates that most of his scenes were filmed separately, likely before or after much of the rest of this film had been shot, whether for purposes of filler or likely to in a last ditch attempt to have this film make any sort of sense whatsoever. During the explosive finale, Word actually returns to his car because he forgot his boots and once he returns, the battle is all but over. It seems the Angvians are effective fighters and they can take an entire squad out skilled English secret agents by merely pointing at them and freeze tagging them to death with a moog synthesizer sound effect. In the end James is allowed to live and is invited to Angvia as a special envoy who will do nothing for the rest of his days but breed joyless women and subsist entirely on a diet of booze and oysters. As often occurs in a film this bad, even its vision of ultimate utopia is an unpleasant, if not unconvincing, ending that you couldn’t imagine living forever in (Waterworld anyone?).
The box blurbs mention that this film is a sexy, psychedelic thriller that inspired the AUSTIN POWERS series. I find this a tenuous connection at best, because the bad guys in the A.P. movies were all distinctly drawn caricatures who all played a clear role in the plot and actually tried to achieve some sort of evil end, albeit a ludicrous one. ZETA ONE has more in common with Benny Hill meets “Laugh In” with just a pinch of BARBARELLA. All events, plots, and ploys are just an excuse to show still more breasts; each and every pair of them belonging to a hot alien (human) women who, truth be told, doesn’t know what sex is anyway which was terribly off putting. The brief scene in AUSTIN POWERS featuring the Fembots (and their machine gun mammaries) had more sexuality and fun than the entire duration of this film, and those futuristic females did it without showing a single nipple or breaking a PG 13 taboo. Tedious, derivative and absolutely a pain to watch, I give it one skull because films about speculator sci-fi motifs tickle me slightly, even if they are all about as scientifically “spot on” now in the year 2013 as THE JETSONS was.