When UFO first aired on Italy’s national television service RAI in October 1971, the country was still broadcasting in black and white. However, since the series had proved extremely popular on television, and there were still episodes the Italian public had not yet seen, it was decided that the show might do even better in Italian cinemas. Director Bruno Mattei was employed by the Italian film distribution company Kent to create a ninety-minute UFO feature film using material from the show, and the result was 1973’s UFO: Allarme rosso… Attacco alla Terra! It was the first of what would ultimately become five UFO compilation movies produced in Italy over the next two years.
Although the episodes featured in the films followed largely the same story as their English language originals, the opportunity was taken to revise the narrative at certain points. Sometimes these were minor changes in order to allow for links between the stories; for instance, in Contatto Radar Stanno Atterrando, Paul Foster’s Court Martial is the result of his collaboration with the Alien in Survival. Likewise, in Prendeteli Vivi, Foster’s abduction by the Aliens in Ordeal was not a dream and instead really happened.
Occasionally the changes became more ambitious; for instance, the game warden shot by an Alien in The Square Triangle met the same fate in the pre-titles sequence of Uccidete Straker – but was then taken aboard the Alien’s UFO, interrogated by the Aliens and executed, all via reused footage from the series turned negative and given a neon green tint. There were also several more instances of “un attacco en masse!” by the Aliens, as Foster’s disabling of Moonbase in Uccidete Straker allows for a fleet of UFOs to enter Earth’s atmosphere and begin a devastating night-time assault on various ground targets, making creative re-use of explosions from such episodes as Flight Path and The Psychobombs. Despite this, continuity between the films was non-existent, and just because material had been used in one film did not mean it was off-limits to another – as witnessed by Kill Straker’s Captain Craig dying in more than one film!
Perhaps the most notable addition in the first three films was in their use of additional music, much of which was lifted from John Barry’s scores from the James Bond films From Russia with Love, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice. The 007 theme (not the main James Bond theme, but instead a recurring action track used in several Bond films scored by Barry) was heavily used in both the films and their trailers, while the main title theme for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was often heard in Uccidete Straker – which is also where the familiar James Bond theme can be seen underscoring the activities of SHADO Mobiles and Skydiver!
The Protectors and Space:1999 each also received a single Italian compilation movie in the subsequent years, and all five Italian UFO compilations have remained available to fans over the subsequent decades on VHS, DVD, and now Blu-ray – albeit with the latter in a reconstructed form that doesn’t quite match the original films. Very successful in their day (with several being released in other international markets and even receiving their own dedicated merchandise) their legacy is in helping to cement the vast UFO fanbase that still exists in Italy to this day.