M.I.A.: Spirits of Jupiter a.k.a. Planet Gone Mad

Besides just focusing on the best or most collectible DVDs out there in the world, I'd like to start also occasionally focusing on the most lacking. Films that have little to no official release on DVD at all, the most wanted. Like, sure it's great when a company comes along and gives a movie that's already been released on DVD and blu dozens of times an even better release, with a nicer transfer or more extras. Those are still great. But what about the films that have only been released on shady grey market discs, only in the wrong aspect ratio, only on laserdisc, etc? The films really desperately in need of attention, I'm going to start listing under the Publisher list (the purple box midway down the left-hand column) as M.I.A. so you can find them. If anybody who does work or has influence with a label reads these, I hope you take them as a call to action.
The film today, in fact, doesn't have any kind of release. There is no DVD, grey market or otherwise. There's no laserdisc. Despite it being an all-American film, there doesn't even seem to have been a VHS release here in the states, just overseas. I'm talking about Spirits of Jupiter, a.k.a. Planet Gone Mad.
Spirits of Jupiter seems to have been shot in Colorado in 1984, and it's a fairly ambitious science-fiction themed horror story. A cool, little interstellar prologue tells us that, "Jupiter and Saturn join in the house of Aires. Eternal God, what changes! The great force will pass over the mountains; the great one hidden long in shadows will cool his sword in blood!" Whatever that means.

We meet Big Jim Drill, played by executive producer Rex Cutter, a silver mine owner who unofficially runs the surrounding town. He's intimidating the local sheriff out of investigating the illegal immigrants he has in his employ by threatening to lose control of his private airplane he's somehow got him up in and kill them both. Believe it or not, he's our hero. As soon as they land, they're told a couple of the locals have flipped their lids and taken hostages at the local bar. Jim talks them down, but the cops shoot them to death anyway. The long and the short of it is that the world's slowly going homicidally mad, a la George Romero's The Crazies.
Sporadic shots of the planets and news reports over the radio make it pretty clear that the planets are drifting into a new alignment, and that's what's driving everybody crazy. Only Jim and a handful of others seem to be immune, thanks to a midget named Nostradamus who gives them gold plates to put under their hats as everyone else gets increasingly dangerous. This film presents a weird mix of the grim and silly as people go mad in increasingly violent and/ or wacky ways. We see harrowing mass executions as people are rounded up by the police, and we see scenes played for laugh, set to circus music, as one man argues with a tree ("I told you this would happen, didn't I?") or pretends to be a woman and flirt his way out of a speeding ticket.
Production values are surprisingly high on this one. A big variety of locations, heaps of extras, and extended chases on motorcycle, airplane, helicopter and horseback. Murder by forklift. It's got a couple of weird, original songs... the closing credits even mention an original soundtrack album being available from Finer Arts Records, which was a legit label at the time. There's a funky pop song called "Crazy" during the closing credits, and an even stranger disco song called "Spirits of Jupiter" that plays as Big Jim rides around the countryside on his horse after society has crumbled. The film's not exactly a high art masterpiece - it's talky, with some really stilted, unprofessional acting. But if you like crazy, oddball cult movies, there's all kinds of fun to be had here.
Writer and director Russell S. Kern has a couple other credits on the imdb, but none I've ever heard of, or which have much information about them available. I can't imagine they're as fun as Spirits of Jupiter, though this had me curious enough to dig around looking.

All I have is a cruddy rip of a low quality VHS tape, but I'm pretty sure this movie was shot on film, very possibly even 35mm, so a DVD or even blu-ray restoration of this film could do a lot for it. Even a transfer from an old print would be an eye-opening experience for the few of us who've even seen this old video tape version. A couple of the actors, like Chopper Bernet, seem to still be working, so could probably be contacted for special features relatively easily. Even Nostradamus was later in the dubious Christmas horror film Elves and I'm sure would be a lot of fun to hear from. This would make an excellent discovery title for any of the cult labels from Code Red to Drafthouse, Arrow, Synapse, even Scream Factory. Somebody needs to take this one on!

1 comment:

  1. Could you somehow be able to send me a copy of your copy? My father was born where this was filmed, and we're having difficulty trying to find it

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