Unknown Origin (Scott P. Levy, 1995)
I watched Unknown Origin immediately after finishing the excellently stupid Irish monster movie Grabbers, which in no small part redeemed itself because at no point did it ever take itself seriously. It’s not the most original movie in the world, but it celebrates that fact. Unknown Origin gets everything wrong that Grabbers got right; it is an obvious, painful ripoff of the much-superior The Thing (the ’82 Carpenter remix) and Alien, but never even nods in their directions. Worse, it takes itself as seriously as cancer. This movie probably had ten times Grabbers‘ budget, but I’ve no idea where it went; it looks like it was made for three cases of beer and ten bucks on borrowed equipment and stock that had been thrown away for being years past its expiration date. If the actors worked for scale, the production company should sue them for fraud. As for Scott Levy (whose next feature was another rip-off of exactly this sort called Piranhas)? Somehow, he got away with it, and kept directing all the way up until the dawn of the new millennium. I am reasonably certain that if I never see another Scott Levy film, my life will be much the better for it.
Unknown Origin, also released under the more-obvious-ripoff title The Alien Within, centers around an undersea mining city overseen by Jedidiah Pickett (Pretty Woman‘s Alex Hyde-White), who looks like the kind of guy who would rather be out in the action than administering things from behind a desk. They receive a distress call from another of the company’s undersea mining rigs, and Pickett, along with the city’s doctor, Henry Lazarus (The Poseidon Adventure‘s Roddy McDowall, slumming it) and a couple of other crew members, head for the other city. They discover it has been torn to shreds. The only survivor is out of his mind and has to be sedated. At least, they thinkhe’s the only survivor, but if you’ve seen The Thing, you know he’s not, and soon the crew are getting paranoid around one another and trying to devise a test to discover who’s infected and who isn’t.
I spent half this movie laughing at it and the other half of it wondering how in the flying Poughkeepsie the casting director convinced Roddy McDowall that he needed to appear in this monstrosity. Blackmail may have been involved. He is, as usual, a slight bright spot in the otherwise ridiculous proceedings, but let’s face it—this is a seventy-five minute movie where seventy-three minutes could have easily been (and should have easily been) left on the cutting-room floor. A couple of clips of McDowell pontificating and a couple others of Sha-Ri Pendleton glowering would have been all that survived, and it would have been better than this. ½