Sunday, 13 January 2013

Sunday 13 January 1963

The hugely entertaining The Last of the Zanadus begins magnificently.  In a frozen landscape, a strange structure like a cluster of icicles rises from the ground.

We go inside this icy fortress, and the camera pans across a series of incredibly spooky portraits (I'd love to know who painted them, if anyone more informed about this sort of thing can tell me):

Eventually the camera comes to a robed figure, apparently addressing an appreciative audience.  But after a while it's apparent there's nobody else there - the encouraging cries we hear are coming from a tape recorder.  This character is Kudos, the titular last of the Zanadu people, and on the tape are the voices of the ancestors we've seen in the pictures.

Kudos swears that he will exterminate the Lazoons, who infested the planet and caused the near-extinction of the Zanadus.  And based on the one Lazoon that the viewer has experience of, Space Doctor Venus's vastly irritating pet, Zoonie, this seems a perfectly reasonable ambition.  Meanwhile, blissfully unaware of the hate being vented in his species' direction, Zoonie's being dolled up like Little Lord Fauntlazoon by Venus, whose own rather extravagant outfit makes her look like Gypsy Wedding Barbie.

They're off to a dinner party at Steve Zodiac's swinging bachelor pad to celebrate the return of his friend Major Ireland after many years of exploring space.  Steve cements his status as the world's most sexist puppet by addressing the camera after some innocuous comment from Venus: "They may have electric dishwashers, but women? They haven't changed a bit since the 1960s."

Dames, huh? Amiright?
Later he describes Venus to Major Ireland as "a brilliant young Space Doctor who can cook the old fashioned way."  Anyway, the very glum-faced Major Ireland's hiding a secret: he's been brainwashed by Kudos and sent to infect Zoonie with mylomatosis (sort-of-topical: everyone watching would have known all about the myxomatosis outbreak that nearly wiped out the UK's rabbit population a decade earlier) and then whizz him round the galaxy infecting the rest of his species.  The fiendish method for this is an infected box of Zoonie's favourite confectionery, Martian Delight.

Discovering a poorly Zoonie, Steve and Venus take him to the Fireball XL5 lab only for the ship to be flown off by Ireland.  Steve and Matt Matic manage to overpower Ireland and fly the ship to Zanadu, where the only cure, water from the Frozen Fountain, can be found.  A memorable exchange on arriving at their destination reveals Steve to be a major spoilsport as well as a chauvinist (I don't like him, you may have gathered):

Matt: Ohhh Zanadu.  So bee-yooti-ful - and so evil!
Steve: Never mind the poetry, Matt.

What a cock.  Anyway, our heroes find their way to Zanadu's frozen, mummy-stuffed catacombs, eventually discovering the object of their search.  "It's bee-yooti-ful!" Matt cries.  Hmmm.

Steve shoots off an icy tendril,and grabs it in a chortlesome shot featuring a distinctly unpuppetlike hand (wearing a glove, which Steve isn't).

Kudos discovers the intruders, and makes the endearingly dim mistake of demanding to know who Steve is before he shoots him, thus practically asking to be shot himself.  He's only stunned, but the breaking of the fountain causes him to suddenly grow old.  Deciding there's no point going on now he's past it (tch! ageism as well as sexism), he pulls a handy lever that makes the citadel blow up.

Obviously the Fireball gang escape, Zoonie gets better, etc. etc., but I feel sorry for poor, lonely Kudos.  The Lazoons don't get any kind of punishment for practically causing genocide and his attempt at revenge fails miserably - but, well, kudos to him for trying (sorry).

If you'd like to experience the loony fun of Last of the Zanadus for yourself, you can do so right here:

Cliff Richard and the Shadows are still number one in the UK charts.  Here's "Bachelor Boy", their latest single's second A-side:

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