For this installment of “Yes, It’s a Real Movie!” we’ve got a dubious little flick for you. And that’s dubious with a double-D, my friends. Released in 1969, ZETA ONE is a British movie that’s all about the breasts. The plot is unapologetically mammary-centric, as it concerns a race of large-breasted women who kidnap Earth’s females in an effort to repopulate their planet. I think it would be safe to say that the goal here is sheer tit-illation. On that count, ZETA ONE is surprisingly unsuccessful.
The ostensible hero of the picture is superspy James Word (played by Robin Hawdon). He returns home from a mission to find a hot blonde in his apartment. They play the world’s longest game of strip poker, and the promise of nudity has never seemed more dull. After finally losing, Word gets the woman into bed, where she pumps him for information about his most recent case. Also, she just plain old pumps him.
This leads to the proper plot of ZETA ONE. Queen Zeta (Dawn Addams) leads a race of women who live on the distant planet of Angvia, on which there are no men. (Many women would call this “paradise.”) To keep her planet populated, Queen Zeta identifies suitably-proportioned Earth women, then kidnaps them and brings them back home. A criminal mastermind named Major Bourdon (James Robertson Justice), generally a fan of shapely ladies, wants to find out where exactly her planet is so that he can invade and lay claim to all the busty beauties living there. Bourdon sends his right-hand man, Swyne (Charles Hawtrey), to investigate, and he learns Zeta is preparing to nab a stripper named Edwina (Wendy Lingham). Swyne invites her to a meeting with Bourdon, who asks for her help in foiling Zeta, all while staring intently at her panties. Edwina agrees, swallowing a homing device and agreeing to be snatched. Meanwhile, the government, which has been keeping as close an eye on Bourdon as he kept on Edwina’s knickers, assigns James Word to follow and protect Edwina.
At this point, ZETA ONE pauses the action to show a woman stripping with a large snake draped around her. Why? Because it’s badass, that’s why!
Queen Zeta, not wanting anyone to prevent her from taking Edwina, beams down one of her well-endowed lovelies to distract Word with sex. He’s nonplussed by the girl’s sudden materialization in front of him; then again, most guys who have a gorgeous naked woman inexplicably appear and offer sex aren’t going to waste a lot of time asking questions. With him thoroughly preoccupied, Zeta follows though on kidnapping Edwina, who is then shoved into a psychedelic x-ray machine for brainwashing. Major Bourdon returns to his headquarters, where we learn that he has several Angvian women shackled to the walls. He lecherously threatens one of them in a scene that can only be described as disturbingly rapey.
While this is taking place, Edwina is shown around Angvia (which, astute readers will notice, is an anagram of “vagina”). Suffice it to say, Zeta’s operation involves a lot of naked women engaged in fight training. Disturbed by what she sees, Edwina escapes, only to be taken down by a nude girl giving her cinema’s fakest-looking karate chop. Seriously, Miss Piggy’s karate chops look more threatening.
Bourdon’s captive escapes, too. The woman sent to distract Word beams her back home, but then is nabbed by the Major herself. He gives her one minute to rat out her queen before siccing his dogs on her. Queen Zeta, steadfastly refusing to allow Bourdon to enslave any more of her minions, promptly orders “Action 69.” No, it doesn’t involve a sexual act, but it does entail an army of nude Angvian warriors coming to Earth to wage battle. They take down Bourdon and his henchmen with magical hand movements that resemble the ’90s dance craze known as Vogue-ing. James Word, meanwhile, puts his peen away long enough to show up just as the battle ends. He is an utterly ineffectual spy.
We then flash back to Word in his bedroom as he wraps up this unnecessarily convoluted story. The woman he played strip poker with, under Queen Zeta’s order, then kidnaps him and takes him back to Angvia, where he is tasked with inseminating all the buxom beauties. The movie ends with them feeding him clams (get it?) and beer.
ZETA ONE (also known as THE LOVE FACTOR) is unmistakably a product of Britain in the 1960s. It’s got that whole “mod” visual style that was later popularized in America by the TV show LAUGH-IN and spoofed by Mike Myers in the AUSTIN POWERS movies. The instrumental musical score has the distinct psychedelic sound of the era, and there’s even a naked, painted go-go dancer in the final scene. This is the kind of movie that, if you showed it to someone who knew nothing about ’60s culture, they might well think it really was the product of an alien race.
The plot I described in detail above probably sounds like a blast. Unfortunately, for all the crazy stuff that takes place, ZETA ONE is shockingly slow-paced and somnambulant. Simple scenes drag on interminably, and the attempts to mock the 007 series are one-note at best. (Unlike Bond, James Word never gets out of the sack long enough to see any action.) A low budget is a liability, as well. The sets are stunningly cheesy, often little more than thin, multicolored walls placed in front of a black backdrop. And it would be generous to call most of the people in this movie an actor, since acting does not appear to be something any of them are attempting to do. Showing up and reciting lines is more like it. The sole exception is veteran British actor James Robertson Justice, who was reportedly embarrassed to have had his career reduced to appearing in pseudo-softcore fare such as this.
Yes, there are plenty of naked women on display in ZETA ONE, but if that’s your (fun)bag, there are scads of other pictures making better use of the female form. Just rent any Russ Meyer flick. If it’s a spy spoof you want, stick with AUSTIN POWERS. That series has all of the groovy-ness, with a hundred times the laughs.
This could have been a fun piece of cinematic naughtiness, but with poor writing, lackadaisical direction, and substandard performances, ZETA ONE manages to make flagrant nudity boring. This is a movie about boobs, made by boobs.
— MIKE McGRANAGHAN.
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