OMICRON [1963]

()
Directed by:
Written by:
Starring: , , ,

ITALY

AVAILABLE on YOUTUBE [see bottom]

RUNNING TIME: 102 mins

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera

Factory worker Angelo is found dead in a park in very mysterious circumstances except that there’s what looks like an insect bite on his neck. Then, during the autopsy, he comes back to life! He’s now very different though, because his body has been taken over by Omicron, a disembodied alien entity. His mission is to report to his superior at The Ministry of Amalgamation for Planet Ultra information about us humans, in particular our weaknesses. Unfortunately, Omicron’s problems in operating his new host somewhat hamper his job, while both the police and the press take a great interest in Angelo, whose ability to work very fast and tirelessly arouses both the greed of the bosses and the ire of the Union members. However, maybe he’ll finally be able to properly talk to Lucia, the canteen lady he’s fancied for ages….

The fact that a film exists which is called Omicron became known to many late last year when the latest, South African-born incarnation of this bloody virus was given the same name. In fact for a while it seemed that there was even a film called The Omicron Variant, though it turned out that this film never existed despite fake posters appearing. nor is it even a retitling of Omicron, something that can be proved in a few seconds by comparing the listed [fake] cast on the poster for The Omicron Variant with the cast members of Omicron. However, Omicron most definitely does exist, and, being the sort of person that I am, I intended to check it out, though busyness prohibited me from doing so until now. There’s little doubt that it would have probably have remained extremely obscure if it hadn’t been for its name; it doesn’t even seem to have ever had an official home media release, including video. A quick search revealed that unofficial DVD releases can easily be found at the moment, but I opted to check out the version which is on YouTube, which might have been a mistake. It doesn’t have English subtitles, but you can supposedly switch them on using the YouTube closed caption method. Unfortunately, the translation is absolutely dreadful [sample line; “you won’t come back unless you have sucked inside it“], not to mention constantly telling us when there’s not just music but applause happening even though there’s none of the latter at all, while only around half the dialogue actually has subtitles anyway. Nonetheless, I got the gist of most of what was going on, and a little bit of surfing did fill in a few plot details that I failed to pick up on even though some mysteries remain.

I suppose what you want to know first is if Omicron has any parallels to certain things going on right now. Well, Omicron himself does have slight virus-like properties, and some of a certain mindset may interpret the message of the ending as a sort of warning or prediction, but otherwise there really aren’t any connections to be made at all, so lets move on and ask a more important question; is the film actually any good? Well, it’s certainly offbeat, an uneven but mostly very likeable affair that often comes across as a melding of [I’m not joking] I’m Alright Jack and Mork And Mindy [even if one takes into consideration that the latter wouldn’t be made for some time after], centering around a really fine physical performance from Renato Salvatori, an actor I’ve only previously seen in serious mode [Rocco And His Brothers being the best example] who really does give us the impression that his character is possessed by an alien who’s having trouble operating things; his use of his body and his facial expressions will make you both laugh and marvel at his skill at this sort of thing. Some of the humour is the kind a 6-year old will laugh at and some of it is more wry or just plain odd, while  it’s possible that not all of it fits in very well alongside digs at capitalism and commentary on human society and nature. I was rather liking the script’s unpredictability and slight scattershot nature, but it does sometimes feel that it was constructed in a hurry, and things do sadly go down hill in the final quarter with a very weak ending, as if writer/director Ugo Gregoretti just could not how to figure out how his story should end.

A lengthy aerial shot of whichever city we’re in [the picture quality is really poor in this bit though I think we’re in Turin] that gets closer and closer to the ground, possibly or possibly not representing Omicron’s point of view or the point of view of his spaceship if indeed he has a spaceship, makes for a good beginning, after which we get a rather good horror scene which perhaps suggests that the film we’re watching will be darker than is actually the case, as well as being, mysteriously, dubbed into English. A mother is in a park with her three children, only Giorgio and Antonio keep up running too far ahead and eventually they disappear. Mother, carrying her youngest, arrives at a row of pipes and obviously thinks that her other two kids are in one or two of them. The camera cuts to the far side of the pipes and tracks the lady’s progress who’s not seen in full while we wonder if James Bond is going to pop out somewhere. The daughter sees something and points this out to mama, who looks into one pipe and we cut to a shot of a dead man before we then cut to a photographer. Said dead man is, of course, Angelo, who promptly revives in the autopsy room beginning with one of his legs suddenly stretching into the air and his mouth rapidly opening and shutting, and we get an even more well handled scene where we experience both his awakening and that of Omicron nside him, with interesting shots of a virus-like entity and blurry faces along with a camera trick later employed in Mork And Mindy while we listen in on Onicron establishing contact with his boss The Minister. Now these conversations are probably pretty amusing or witty with proper translation from the Italian, though in the version I watched I understood so little that there were times when I got a bit bored with these sections. I did, though, realise that Mission Control threatens his agent with disintegration if he leaves his post early. Apparently, he’d been punished for a similar transgression on a previous mission when he‘d been left trapped in a Martian body for 217 years!

The press make sure Angelo’s recovery is very widely known indeed and follow him around, while the police think that he’s connected with a gang of Union troublemakers at the factory where he works, which by the way is called SMS. Angelo can’t help but be conspicuous when he does things like fall asleep standing up. Omicron’s control of his physiology allows him to work faster and tirelessly at SMS, but this arouses the greed potential of the bosses and the anger of the Union members who consider him to be a management stooge, and the once quite popular guy seems to have rapidly diminishing friends. He does almost have a sexual liason with the daughter of one of his bosses – or maybe he does, it’s hard to tell. Her father doesn’t like the attraction that quickly develops between the two right before his very eyes and Angelo starts to leave, but his goodbye kiss, controlled don’t forget by an alien who probably hasn’t experienced such a thing before, seems to be so passionate that she all but drags him into her bedroom. Soon after that we hear crashing coming from the room and he comes out. I guess it’s more fun left to the imagination. But at least Angelo finally gets to know Lucia who he’s been pining for for years and up to now only managed some slight and awkward flirtation, though Omicron’s decision to kidnap and rape her, even if given a reason [he can return home early if his host body dies and a newspaper report about a man who was killed after carrying out kidnap and rape prompts him to do the same thing so that he’s killed] strikes a false note even if we accept that we’re in the politically incorrect ’60s; despite its satire and jabs at us humans, Omicron is essentially harmless fun that’s suitable for family viewing. Thankfully this plot element doesn’t really go anywhere, much like several others, suggesting that Gregoretti was trying to juggle too much, and it’s not obvious in the YouTube version anyway where it’s sometimes really hard to discern what and why.

At times Angelo seems to come back to a state of normality and even speak when Omicron is even more lacking in motivation [or even competence] than usual, and Salvatori also plays his human side very nicely; in fact he’s wonderful throughout. Perhaps the highpoint of his performance is when he walks extremely fast around a hospital in a manner even John Cleese would have trouble bettering before espying some rabbits running about in one of the corridors [!] and therefore chasing them on hands and knees. Perhaps funnier is Omicron spending a night speed-reading loads of classic literature but only keeping a photo book of Brigitte Bardot. He’s becoming a bit more like us. But then Omicron is just a working stiff who’s exploited and is disgruntled with his job just like many of us are even if he’s an alien invader. The parallels between boss and worker alien and the human bosses and workers are nicely made and don’t feel forced, while Omicron reports that the only humans the invaders need to concern themselves with are the rich and powerful because no-one else matters, cue for a bizarre sequence where loads of rich folk are at a party but only partially dressed. I’m not sure the point that Gregoretti was trying to make here but never mind, I think I got what he was saying elsewhere until the ending where events occur that seem to contradict his point of view – unless that was the point and Omicron is an even cleverer film than it seemed. On a much simpler level, a montage where several characters earn money contains some more good chuckles, as does a silly dance by Omicron and another behind one of the unknowing bosses. In fact the diversity of humour – slapstick, satirical, surreal, political, smutty – is quite impressive, meaning that you’re probably bound to laugh at something, even if, obviously, not all the jokes translate well; in fact Omicron comes across as having been aimed primarily at Italian audiences.

Rosemary Dexter is a nice presence as Lucia but could have done with being given more scenes, while Gregoretti, aided immensely by his cinematographer Carlo di Palma, gives the film a surprisingly down to earth look and feel despite the outrageousness of what he sometimes shows, and handles some moments with a lot of extras extremely well. While information on this film seems to be almost zero, I got the impression that it certainly wasn’t a cheap affair despite there being very few special effects and the fact that so many details, mostly concerning the aliens, are both vague and unseen. Piero Umiliani contributes a jazz-flavoured music score that isn’t particularly catchy but which does go with what’s taking place on screen. I didn’t expect Omicron to be anything special, but it turned out to be a rather beguiling watch even in the very compromised version I saw. While I’ve included the YouTube version below so that you get a taster, If you do decide to give it a go, I really do recommend that you look beyond YouTube and try to find a properly subtitled edition; I doubt that this movie was ever dubbed into English though it does have that peculiar English-language opening so you never know. Even though it’s obviously been latched on to by some, I don’t honestly think it will make many viewers think of things like predictive programming and worldwide conspiracies, but it might make some think nonetheless. In many of its best moments, Gregoretti seems to be commenting on how weird and screwed up us humans are, using an alien as our point of view.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

 


About Dr Lenera 3150 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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