As we’ve discussed previously, UFO was a big hit with Italian cinemagoers from 1973 onwards, in the form of five compilation feature films. Indeed, the success of these films was one of the reasons that Italian state broadcast RAI agreed to provide co-financing for the production of Space:1999. Unlike UFO however, Space:1999 would first be seen in Italy on the big screen a whole year before it first appeared on television there, in the form of the compilation film Spazio:1999.
Opening in Italian cinemas on January 14th 1975 (seven months before the series would premiere on British, American and Australian television) Spazio:1999 combined sections of the episodes Breakaway, Ring Around the Moon and Another Time Another Place into a single story. Understandably, the film does this by replacing the original English dub with the voices of Italian actors – and making a lot of cuts, to reduce three fifty minute episodes to fit the film’s overall runtime of just over an hour and a half. These cuts heavily affected the characters of Commissioner Simmonds (essentially reduced to an extra only seen during the Breakaway itself) and Regina Kesslann, despite both Roy Dotrice and Judy Geeson sharing fourth billing in the opening titles credits after Barry Morse.
Other changes were made in an attempt to smooth the transition from one episode to another, and to help aid the appearance of this being a film rather than episodes of a television series. Although the events of the film largely follow the same narrative as the original English versions, the dialogue is often vastly different. The space phenomena that the Moon drifts into at the start of Another Time Another Place is described as being debris from the destroyed planet Triton, while material from Breakaway is moved into Ring Around the Moon to provide a sense of shock from the Alphans at their new situation. Most notably, Kano was renamed to Ouma to maintain consistency with the first episode, albeit with no attempt made to explain the sudden change to the character’s appearance.
Spazio:1999 also jettisoned the show’s original Barry Gray score entirely, in favour of a new soundtrack from famed composer Ennio Morricone. This score was released on CD in 2016 and on vinyl in 2017, and while listening to it in isolation is for the most part a less than rewarding experience the unsettling and nerve-jangling tone of the music really fits the ominous visuals of Space:1999’s early episodes. The piece heard during the Alphans’ return to Earth (and over the end credits) is a particular highlight.
Unlike the Italian UFO compilations Spazio:1999 did not receive a DVD release, and was instead only available on VHS – that is, until recently. As part of the Super Space Theater Blu-ray collection of Space:1999 compilation films, Network included an HD recreation of Spazio:1999, presented in a 16:9 aspect ratio with original Italian soundtrack and English subtitles.
The world premiere release of the series in any market, Spazio:1999 is a fascinating time capsule of Italy’s contemporary interest in all things Anderson – and for long-time English-speaking Space:1999 fans, its recent return on Blu-ray offers a highly entertaining alternate take on three very familiar episodes.