Norman J. Warren Week: Inseminoid, aka Horror Planet (1981)

Editor’s Note: We featured this film in our two featurette overviews written by Sam Panico, the proprietor of B&S About Movies, on the rash of Alien-inspired films of the ’80s — “Ten Movies that Ripoff Alien” and “A Whole Bunch of Alien Ripoffs All at Once” — as well as his third part of our “Exploring: Video Nasties Section 3” series. Since this is our “Norman J. Warren Week,” I’ve been inspired to give it a full review proper.

Sam, our Movie-Themed Drink Mixmaster of Ceremonies and overall Chief Cook and Bottlewasher at B&S About Movies, experienced Norman J. Warren’s second foray into the sci-fi genre (his first was the truly awful, HBO-ran comedy Spaced Out from 1979) as a home video release. I, on the other hand, was fortunate (not really) enough to see this mess — and Luigi Cozzi’s Alien cash-in, Contamination — at the local Twin Cinema. Is this as gory and demented — and poorly edited as Cozzi’s? Well, like James Dalton tells the patrons of The Double Deuce, “Opinions vary.” The opinion that doesn’t vary: this movie sucks. Well, we take that back: not if you watch the unsensored version. But still: Think of all of the things that made Alien a “wow moment” film. Think of all of the things that made Mario Bava’s Alien antecedent Planet of Vampires a UHF-TV classic. Now, take all of that all away. Then turn the premise into a (trashy) battle of the sexes, message-we-didn’t-ask-for allegory about the male-powered hierarchy corruption of females.

U.S. theatrical one-sheet.

Thus, unlike with 20th Century Fox being sued by science fiction writer A. E. van Vogt over copyright infringement for using his The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950) (you did O’Bannon, end of story) in the creation of Alien, the studio had enough common sense not return a legal volley at Shaw Brothers and company for ripping off what was — regardless of it being of a uniquely layered, superior quality — a ripoff itself.

This movie has been, rightfully, criticized for bad sets, poor acting and bad special effects. However, in truth, these are all things you truly need to make a great genre film. But right there in the title, you know what you’re getting . . . if you want to get it. And you know we do: someone is getting inseminated by something from space. . . .

Image of U.S. home video version courtesy of Amazon.

So, what does £1 million and a two-month production schedule get you?

A British/Hong Kong co-production, this was financed by Run Run Shaw of the famous Shaw Brothers, who would also foist 1979’s Meteor into our theaters, if not our hearts. It’s directed by Norman J. Warren, who was part of a new school of ’70s British horror, pushing the boundaries of explicit sex and violence much further than the Amicus and Hammer studios of the previous decades. Cases in point: the obscure Satan’s Slave (Warren’s third film, but first horror film) and the better-known, also David McGillivray-penned Prey and Terror.

Bottom line: If you’re going to make a movie called Inseminoid . . . and a bunch of censors don’t get upset, you’ve really failed at your job. This was one of the first U.K. movies to quickly be released on home video after its appearance in cinemas, which led to it reaching seventh place on the British video sales charts in November 1981. One of the reasons why this movie was so controversial — I mean, other than the fact that it’s a movie for people who want to see an alien impregnate a human female — is that the producers did a direct mail campaign that featured lead actress Judy Geeson screaming alongside a headline that screamed “Warning! An Horrific Alien Birth! A Violent Nightmare in Blood! Inseminoid at a Cinema Near You Soon!”

Director Norman J. Warren came to regret that exploitation-inspired marketing gimmick, saying “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.”

Concerned with a group of Nostromo-inspired archaeologists and scientists excavating the ruins of an ancient civilization on a distant planet, the screenplay was written by Nick and Gloria Maley, a husband and wife special effects team who worked on Warren’s (very good) Satan’s Slave. The screenplay’s working title, known as Doomseed, was changed to Inseminoid, so as to avoid confusion with the A.I.-rape tale Demon Seed (1977), which makes no sense, as that big-budgeted, Herb Jaffe Productions’ sci-fi programmer for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayor wasn’t exactly a hit (or remembered much four-years later). (In some mainland Euro-countries, the film was releases as Seeds of Evil.)

The U.K.-paperback tie-in based on Nick and Gloria Maley’s screenplay. Image courtesy of Vault of Evil: Brit Horror Pulp Plus, where the book is discussed at length by readers.

Of course, Ridley Scott shocked the world when esteemed British actor John Hurt had an alien rip out of his stomach. So, those scenes of a male impregnated via a “face hugger” had to be one-upped. So, this time, the Xenomorph doesn’t waste time laying eggs in a derelict craft for some wayward space jockeys to stumble into: ol’ Xeno goes straight to the incubator source and (violently) rapes Judy Geeson (who we all fell in love with in her film debut, To Sir, with Love (1970); Rob Zombie honored Geeson with roles in his The Lords of Salem and 31). As would any Earthbound-cum-human rape victim of the I Spit on Your Grave or Abel Ferrara-Ms. 45 variety, Geeson’s raging-Ripley has a psychotic break (or a psychic link with her “attacker,” ugh) and kills the crew — then devours their flesh to nourish her “inseminoid” that soon births as hybrid twins.

Do the twins stowaway on the ensuing rescue ship . . . uh, you really don’t know your Alien ripoffs very well, mijo.

You can find out by streaming Inseminoid on Amazon and You Tube.

You say you want to buy a copy of all of, well, most of, Warren’s films? The Indicator/Powerhouse imprint released Bloody Terror: A five-film box set of Warren’s films, which includes Satan’s Slave, Prey, and Terror, as well as Bloody New Year, alongside Inseminoid. So, there you go: You have yet another reason to own a region-free Blu-ray player.

Here’s some trivia: The alien planet in the film was shot on the rocky, Mediterranean island of Gozo. And here we are, all of these years later, reviewing a psychological horror film shot on the island, Gozo (2020). That’s how B&S Movies, rolls.

About the Authors: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

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