The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Astrologer (dir by James Glickenhaus)


Quite possibly one of the most boring film ever made, 1975’s The Astrologer tells the story of …. well, I’m not really sure what the point of it all is.

Basically, an astrologer named Alexi Abarnel (Bob Byrd) has figured how to combine the zodiac with 70s technology and, as a result, everyone’s potential for good and evil can be determined simply by typing their birthdate into a computer.  The U.S. government funds his agency, which is known as Interzod.  And let’s be honest, that does sound like the type of dumbass thing that the government would fund, especially when the Democrats are in power.

According to the stars, the second coming of Christ is only a few days away.  Alexi is convinced that he has married the woman who is destined to give birth to the Savior.  Because of this, he refuses to consummate his marriage because it’s very important that she remain a virgin.  However, he hasn’t bothered to inform her of any of this so poor Kate (Monica Tidwell) spends all of her time wondering why her husband hasn’t touched her in five years of marriage and why it’s also so important to him that she never tell anyone the actual date of her birth.

Meanwhile, a group of gypsies are traveling the country and, under the leadership of Kajerste (Mark Buntzman), they are both murdering people and also compelling people to commit suicide.  Interzod is concerned about Kajerste because of his “zodiacal” potential but Alexei is also concerned that he doesn’t have Kajerste’s exact birthdate.  But the fact that Kajerste is commanding his followers to kill people should be enough to clue Interzod into the fact that Kajerste is bad guy, regardless of whether he’s a Capricorn or an Aquarius.  Fortunately, Interzod has come up with a plan on how to kill Kajerste, one that involves implanting thoughts in his head via electrodes and tranquilizer dots.  A young congressman (Al Narcisse) wants to help because he’s so interested in Interzod’s work.  However, it turns out that the ludicrously complicated plan to take out Kajerste is …. well, ludicrously complicated.  If my tax money is going to fund Interzod, I would hope they would make better use of it.

The film’s plot definitely has the potential to be interesting but, unfortunately, The Astrologer is a very, very talky film.  It only has a 78-minute running time and the majority of the film is made up people having very long and very dry conversations about how Interzod works and why its work is important.  The problem is that there’s not really any need to convince the viewers that Interzod is important or to show us how it works.  No watching this film is going to be interested in an in-depth examination of a fictional government agency.  Everyone knows that this isn’t 60 Minutes and it’s not like the NSA has hand-picked the correspondent who is going to be reporting on them.  This is a film about spies, astrology, and a killer cult.  It should be a lot of fun but instead it’s incredibly boring.

That’s not to say that it’s a total waste.  This was James Glickenhaus’s first film as a director.  Glickenhaus went to direct some well-regarded action films in the 80s and there are a handful of isolated moments in The Astrologer where it is obvious that the film was made by someone who had a good visual eye.   A cult ceremony scene that is almost totally made up of freeze frames is nicely done.  And, as always, it’s hard not to admire the ambition of someone trying to make a metaphysical thriller and tackle the big questions of existence on a budget.

In the end, though, the most interesting thing about The Astrologer is its insistence on having its characters frequently use the term “zodiacal.”  Take a drink every time that you hear someone say, “zodiacal” but don’t drive afterwards.

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