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First Friday reels in robot terror from outer space

Rocket Captain Hamilton and his crew trace the source of a huge blinking light all the way to an unknown planet just outside the Solar System. There they discover that a giant robot has enslaved a whole population of humanoids by taking their psychic energies. Find out the robot’s next destination (hint, you’re living on it) when the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences sheds light on “Cosmos: War of the Planets,” First Friday, February 4 at 7 pm. Free.

This is one of a number of odd sci-fi flicks directed by Italian Alfonso Brescia, typically under the Americanized name of Al Bradley. “Cosmos” and “Battle of the Stars” were released in 1977, quickly followed by “War of the Robots” in ’78 and “Star Odyssey” in ’79. “Cosmos” is reputed to contain visual and thematic references to “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Star Wars” and even “Barbarella.” But you have to look closely. “Cosmos” is also known as “Planet without a Name” — and it’s pretty easy to see why they wanted to remain anonymous. On the other hand, Brescia is also responsible for directing “Super Stooges vs. the Wonder Women” — one of the most intriguing sci-fi titles ever.

John Richardson stars as the overly intense and persistently humorless Captain Hamilton. Richardson began his career with small roles in British movies at the end of the 1950s, and achieved his biggest and most enviable success playing the role of banished caveman Tumak, the romantic interest of Raquel Welch’s cavewoman in “One Million Years BC” (1966). It was a precipitous tumble from there, with “starring” roles in various Italian-made B-movies such as Umberto Lenzi’s “Eyeball” (1975) and of course our lovely feature. Richardson also led the crew in the aforementioned “Battle of the Stars,” which was released the same year that television’s memorable “Battle of the Network Stars” previewed. (A show I would kill to see again on late night TV.)

Captain Hamilton’s love interest Mila is played by Finnish actress Yanti Somer, who had a habit of popping up in all of Brescia’s Americanized sci-fi adventures. She also played Trinity’s girlfriend in the spaghetti western “Trinity is Still my Name” (1971) opposite Terence Hill (who, by the way, was busy starring in the very respectable “March or Die” with Gene Hackman and Catherine Deneuve when “Cosmos” came out.)

The Museum stays open from 5 to 9 pm on the First Friday of every month, inviting visitors to wander through eye-catching exhibits, enjoy snacks and beverages from the Acro Café, and groove to live music from the Museum’s own blues harp magician Steve Harvell. Before the movie, enjoy a scientific look at nature’s slime-making, vomit-munching and dookie-loving creatures in the Museum’s special exhibit, ANIMAL GROSSOLOGY. All tickets $4 after 5 pm; last ticket sold at 7 pm.

—Jon Pishney