Once, during an interview, the distinguished British horror actor, Christopher Lee, was asked to name the worst film in which he had appeared.
Being a very busy actor who appeared in well-over 200 films, Lee paused for a minute to give it some thought and then eventually said that, in 1977, he had appeared in a Canadian science fiction film in which he played a mute alien who was using a suicide ray to conquer Earth. Though he wasn’t quite sure what the title had been, that was his pick for the worst movie in which he had ever appeared.
Now, considering some of the films in which Lee appeared, that’s a bold statement. Was Lee correct? Was that film — which was entitled Starship Invasions — the worst film in which he ever appeared?
Well …. maybe. It’s certainly not one of his best. Lee plays Captain Ramses, who is the leader of the Legion of the Winged Serpents. The legion’s home planet is about to be destroyed by a supernova so he has taken it upon himself to find a new planet to colonize. Earth looks pretty good to him!
Christopher Lee remembered Ramses as being mute. Actually, he communicates through telepathy. We hear his words but his lips never move. The same is true of every alien that appears in the film. And yes, this could be an example of how different and more advanced the aliens are when compared to the humans but a more likely explanation is that it was cheaper to film the outer space scenes without sound and then just dub in the character’s “thoughts” later.
For reasons that are never quite clear, the Legion of the Winged Serpent abducts several Earthlings before then unleashing their suicide ray. Prof. Allan Duncan (Robert Vaughn) is the UFO expert who investigates the abductions before eventually getting abducted himself by a race of good, gray aliens. The gray aliens are determined to save the Earth from the Legion. It’s never really explained why.
Meanwhile, the suicide ray is causing chaos on Earth as people all over are driven to kill themselves and others. And the ray has just been aimed at Duncan’s wife (played by Helen Shaver) so Allan and the good aliens better hurry up and defeat Ramses and the bad aliens!
Is Starship Invasions really that bad? Well, it’s certainly not …. great. Christopher Lee is properly imposing as Ramses but even he occasionally has a “What have I gotten myself into?” look on his face. Most of all, Starship Invasions is very much a product of the 1970s. When Ramses visits a space station, it looks a lot like an incredibly tacky mix of a fitness center and a cocktail lounge. The fashion of both the Earthlings and the aliens is very much of the era. Robert Vaughn wears a turtleneck that just screams “community college history teacher.” The special effects are rather cheap and the plot never makes much sense. The scenes with the suicide ray, however, are surprisingly effective and the film does have a certain campy charm to it, especially if you’re into low-budget 70s sci-fi. Starship Invasions is probably not Christopher Lee’s worst film. It’s just one of his cheapest.