Alien Private Eye (1987)

Alien Private Eye poster

This film starts off with a puzzler – just who’s holding the gun in that poster? – and keeps getting weirder. You’ll be inclined to mock it at the beginning, but it sort of manages to win you over by the end – a singular vision, for sure (written, directed, produced, edited and cast by “Viktor”) that is technically incompetent but has a good heart.

This film is just the most 80s thing. Firstly, it’s only available on VHS, so you’re taken right back to the days of slightly fuzzy images that occasionally get interrupted by static, thanks to dirt on the tape heads. Secondly, star Lemro (Nikki Fastinelli, in his only film role – he’s described as a woman on IMDB too) dresses in white leather with the biggest shoulders and a jaunty hat – I think an image is in order, because it will do more than my clumsy words could:

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Lemro, just strolling down the street looking magnificent, helps out Rene, a woman who’s being assaulted by a gang of thugs. He does what we’d all do – rescues her, takes her to his place, starts dancing in the middle of the lounge, suggests they go out dancing, takes her out to a club, fights off another group of thugs who want to abduct her, then takes her back to his house and has sex with her, all while keeping his hat on.

Halfway through the sex, though, the wonderfully quiet and slow-moving sex, she takes his hat off and discovers that Lemro is an alien! She doesn’t seem to mind at the time, although Lemro falls for Rene and she says later with a straight face “I don’t think I could ever be involved with an alien”. But Lemro doesn’t have too much time to mourn his own broken heart, as he’s a private eye and is whisked up into a case involving a couple of FBI agents from his home planet (which I thought was called Stits, but is actually Styx) and a black circular device which contains the recipe for the most potent designer drug in the galaxy, Soma.

This is a film of baffling choices. The choice of the director to use no lighting at all is perhaps paramount (see below), so unless it’s a bright sunny day the action can look like one small light chasing another small light across blackness. Even when the scene is supposed to be set in a hospital, perhaps the brightest-lit places on earth! The male alien FBI guy does his entire part as a weird Peter Lorre impression…during the gunfights, most of the people seem to be aiming at random, like one guy who sweeps his gun across a room, at one point definitely aiming at his friend who just walked out of shot to get into cover…the choice of Lemro as a name unlikely to raise a puzzled eyebrow…the way the main bad guy has a tiny picture of Hitler on his wall, which he prays to…the sudden appearance of a magic space gun at the end of the film, never even hinted at up to that point…the lack of any real worthwhile differences between humans and aliens…

This is a real scene from the movie. £100000 if you can figure out what's going on

This is a real scene from the movie. £100000 if you can figure out what’s going on

I could go on and on, because this is a film rich with oddity. Kilgore, the main bad guy, is amazing; and it’s his pushing of the super-addictive and super-deadly drug soma on both Lemro and Rene’s brother that provides what is really the main plot of the movie – the actual big ending fight feels completely tacked on, like the director wanted the real ending to be the two of them beating their drug addiction together. So much time is spent on this getting clean, at such a late stage of the movie, that you can’t really draw any other conclusion.

You may think, from this review, that I thought the movie sucked. And you’d be right, but something weird happens during the course of it. It worms its way into your heart and wins you over. Viktor is Vic Rubenfeld, whose sole other credit is as executive producer on a long-running TV show a decade after this. There’s a story I’d like to hear…but as he does so many different jobs in this movie, the singularity of his vision comes shining through, a la Tommy Wiseau all those years later. I really, thoroughly enjoyed this film, every bit of it. It has so much stuff in it – just listing the different genres it dips its toe in should illustrate that. Street vigilante; dancing; aliens on Earth; softcore porn; martial arts; drug “message”; lone gunman against the bad guys. Get ready for a good time, because if you have any love for Z-grade movies in your heart, then you’re going to have a hell of a time with this.

Rating: thumbs up

 

PS. This is another one for the “misleading tag line” files. The picture up there says “nothing on Earth could compare to the Hell he left behind”, yet, when asked to describe Stits by Rene, makes it sound like a really beautiful place. Lemro is just an inter-galactic playboy!

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