Anomaly: That Time When Mario Bava and

Roger Corman Almost Made a Movie Together

By Robert Freese

Among the films every filmmaker has made that are cherished by fans, there are as many films those filmmakers did not get the opportunity to make. The reasons why a film does not get made are various, ranging from a lack of funds to an untimely death, which is the case of the great Italian cinema craftsman, Mario Bava.

Passing away from a heart attack at the much too young age of 65, Bava left behind several unrealized projects he was working on at the time of his death. These films have been written about with great speculation as to how Bava, a master of in-camera effects and atmospheric lighting, would have realized these projects on film.

One project that has been speculated upon for years is the science-fiction/horror film Anomalia/Anomaly.

In 1965 American International Pictures successfully released Bava’s science fiction horror film Planet of the Vampires, which in turn years later was credited for partially inspiring Dan O’Bannon’s script for Alien (1979).

For years Bava attempted at getting his science-fiction film Il vagabond dell spazio (The Wanderer of Space) off the ground with producer Fulvio Lucisano but had no luck. Upon a meeting with screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, with whom Bava had worked with on the screen story years before for his Bay of Blood (1971), Bava asked the young writer if he had any scenarios for a science fiction adventure. Sacchetti delivered a story synopsis revolving around the Liberty II’s rescue mission of the lost Liberty I crew in deep space on a distant planet. Bava liked the story and in turn passed it on to Lucisano. Lucisano, who had produced Planet of the Vampires, was so impressed with the story he forwarded it along to Roger Corman, with whom he was in contact.

Corman’s enthusiastic reception and suggestions regarding the story, dated October 17, 1979, prompted Bava and Lucisano to give Sacchetti the green light to write a full script. (The finished script came to 118 pages.) Sacchetti has commented on this script in past interviews, giving a short synopsis as well as mentioning to still having Corman’s letter of comment on his synopsis.

Before the project could move any further, unfortunately, Bava passed away on April 27, 1980.

Now, on the 40th anniversary of Bava’s passing, we can talk about Anomaly in-depth for the first time, as Sacchetti recently made the script available to me to read.

The small crew of the Liberty II consists of Commander Ben Curtiss, Pilot Tessie “Tess” Hawk, co-pilot Jason Fink, astronomer Kay Dos Santos, computer tech Walter Hill, engine tech Carson and weapons expert Eddie Norton.

They have been tasked with locating Commander Fisher’s Liberty I, which recently went missing. The computer follows the Liberty I’s tracer into uncharted space, deep beyond any previous exploration.

When the signal locates the Liberty I on a desolate planet, the Liberty II crew follows the tracking signal. The planet is a swampy wasteland. There is vegetation and wildlife. They trod through the swamps towards the Liberty I, encountering deadly vines that whip around like eels and attack from under the water.

Once they locate the Liberty I they begin seeing ghostly visions of a very dead Commander Fisher, who leaves them cryptic warnings about the planet they are on. They also locate a nearby cathedral and a massive wall made of monoliths. On the surface of the monoliths are etched giant, grotesque nightmare creatures.

Exploring the cathedral, they enter chambers that mirror the interior of chambers and rooms on the Liberty II. Kay Dos Santos, with the help of the computer in the mirror image of the Liberty II computer room determines that they are not so much on an uncharted planet as they are at the very center of creation, where the Big Bang happened, sparking of the first life eons ago.

Commander Fisher appears and warns of an evil entity known as The Great Corruptor that has thrown off the universe’s balance of positive and negative energy. The giant beasts etched in the mammoth wall suddenly come to horrific life and descend upon the survivors of the Liberty II crew, giving way to the fate of the universe and ending on a genuinely surprising final revelation.

Although Sacchetti assured me he never tailored a script to a director’s strength, the descriptions in his screenplay would have been a playground for Bava to realize visually. The mind reels to imagine the images Bava would have put on screen, especially in 1980, when the modern era of science-fiction had been ushered in a year earlier with Alien. (I doubt his crew would have been wearing matching leather jumpsuits like the crew in Planet of the Vampires. I think Liberty II would have had a more lived-in, modern look than the science fiction pictures of earlier decades.)

While the story certainly begins like in familiar Alien story (especially forty years later), it quickly takes a surprising left turn into H.P. Lovecraft territory with ancient evils and an imbalance of negative forces over positive, putting this story as much in the horror genre as the science fiction.

The following snippets of scenes, translated directly from Sacchetti’s Italian language first-draft script, give fans their first real look at what this epic sci-fi/horror outing from Bava and Corman might have been:

From Scene 65, when the Liberty II crew enters the Liberty I’s crew chambers and find a corpse in a bunk:

Those thin threads ... hair ... very long, floating in the air as if they were alive,
still attached to the remains of a horribly rotting body, lying in one of the bunks built into the wall.

An incredible, terrifying image. That unmade, unrecognizable, rotten body and
that long, very long, floating hair for the environment.

From Scene 75, in the interior Corridor of the Liberty I, computer wiz Hill runs in with tentacle-like vines swarming inside his head within his space suit. Curtiss and Tess are unable to help him:

Hill runs and stumbles, slamming here and there against the walls.

He stops for a moment, then, suddenly, launches himself against the wall,
violently slamming his helmet against the metal structures. Once, twice.

“He went crazy ...”

“We gotta stop him ... if he breaks his helmet, he’s [screwed]...”

Carson and Curtiss run towards him. They try to hold him back, but Hill wriggles
out like a fury, uttering a piercing scream, then throws himself back against the wall.

The helmet cracks. The air hisses away. Curtiss looks at him with dismay,
while Hill gives yet another violent [hit against the wall],
completely splitting the plexiglass of the helmet [faceplate].

His face has an expression of blind, insane terror.
Hill brings his hands to his face and, in anger and violence,
tries to tear his skin off, then opens his mouth wide, ejects his tongue,
tries to [rip it free] it with his hands.

Hill’s final fate at the end of the scene is grim:

The stalk of a plant comes out of Hill's mouth, in a monstrous retching of vomit.

“What the hell is going on?!”

The plant grown inside and [bursting] out of his mouth
is feeding on his body. Hill's face is reduced to a [grotesque] bloody mush,
on which other smaller plants are germinating, emerging from the nostrils, ears, eyes.

From Scene 79, when the crew finds the Temple and its giant wall in the swamp:

In front of them, for an immense altitude and infinite width,
stands a superb cathedral of massive stone and light. A marvel without equal,
made of monstrosity and beauty. A gothic façade worked in its incredible expression
in a thousand and a thousand crazy sculptures, representing terrifying stone monsters
born from the darkest nightmares. All the mysteries of the universe are represented in those titanic stones.

In Scene 83, the crew enters the portal into the temple:

The door of the temple. A black cavern, like an evil mouth, wide open, ready to swallow, hungry. A stone mouth.

The presence of evil becomes a more tangible thing, growing and expanding in Scene 88:

TEMPLE – Exterior

The facade of the cathedral.

On the facade of the cathedral, suddenly, a black, monstrous, gigantic shadow is drawn,
then, [from] the swamp, a feverish growl [on the] winds, the scream of a hungry beast,
of a supernatural beast. A terrifying, incredible scream.

IN SUBJECT OF [POV] the one who screamed, the [camera] is perceived towards the [temple] door...

From Scene 92, the crew encounter the Monoliths inside the Temple:


The shapes of huge monoliths are reflected on the plexiglass of Kay's faceplate.

The expression on the woman's face betrays the sense of amazement.

Little by little, with a movement of the [camera], we discover the environment:
huge, circular, made of light that proves compact from the sides and from the ceiling.
In the center, in a circle, huge, titanic irregular monoliths,
a kind of natural colonnade, remotely reminiscent of Stonehenge.

Colossal, breath-taking stones that arise on a flat, smooth floor.

The six astronauts are still close to the door through which they entered. They don't move. Fink murmurs:

“My God! What is it?”

The astronauts find some of the remains of the Liberty I crew in a cell in the temple, peering through a portal in Scene 98:

TEMPLE – CELL – Interior

SUBJECTIVELY, [POV] through the porthole, we see the interior of the second cell,
in all respects similar to the first, only that the niches are occupied here.
Occupied by bodies. That of Fisher, that of another man, then by a being with almost human features,
then by two decidedly alien beings and with strange, frightening, horrible shapes.
They are all clearly dead, some fossilized. Of some there is only the skeleton, of others the body in decomposition.

Kay tries to explain to the other crew members where they are in this snippet of dialog from Scene 111:

“It is difficult to explain ... theoretically this is the point where,
twenty-billion years ago, there was the Big-Bang ... the explosion that created the Universe ...
an almost perfect balance between forces opposed ... at this point, however, there is an anomaly ...
negative charges are beyond the control of positive ones and there is a risk.”

In the following scene, Scene 112, Kay’s curiosity gets the best of her as the crew moves through a temple corridor:

“[Hurry!] ... Let's not waste time ...”

Kay, however, lingers. Stays behind. She approaches one of the portholes to look inside and ...

The glass of the porthole breaks and a kind of tentacle comes out to grab Kay [around the] throat.
The tentacle tightens around the helmet, while the woman tries to free
herself and moves her hands to tear herself away from that tentacle, which squeezes...squeezes ...

Carson sees Kay in danger and calls the others.


The others, after a moment of bewilderment, run towards Kay, who is struggling,
while the tentacle tries to suck her inside the porthole.
A dull noise and, between the coils of the tentacle, blood appears,
dripping densely along the now inert diving suit. The tentacle has crushed Kay's head.

The rest of them stop in horror.

“Oh, no…”

The tentacle locks the [space] suit. The bones crack. Everything inside the [space] suit is shattered.
The tentacle, therefore, manages to tear the fabric of the [space] suit itself
and a bloody mush appears. At the end of the tentacle a sort of fleshy sucker horror opens
with a number of small and thin teeth.

The sucker looks for blood, flesh. It finds it, faces it, and sucks it in with a [disgusting] gurgling.

Tess, with a gagging press, bends her head to the other side.

By Scene 130 the very fabric of the universe is being torn asunder by the creatures who live within the monoliths as Curtiss and Tess try to escape:

Behind them, another thrill shakes the facade of the temple.
One of the monsters suddenly comes alive with a mighty roar.
It detaches itself from the temple wall, moves, terrifying, horrible, the three jaws wide open in search of food ...

The script’s wrap-up certainly ends on a unique final revelation that is not one, if filmed as written, audience members would have anticipated.

It is exciting to imagine these scenes in the cinema of the mind. In his comments regarding the synopsis, Corman stresses how important the look of the film will be to its success. He suggests the film would need the art direction of “a master of the caliber of H.R. Geiger…” Corman recognized the potential this script had and the collaboration of Bava and Geiger is almost too outrageous to imagine.

Sacchetti’s script delivers the “sense of wonder” required by all good science-fiction stories as well as pulse-pounding horror, a modern mix of Lovecraft thrills with the type of classic sci-fi written by master storytellers like Richard Matheson and Jack Finney.

Mario Bava left us a wonderful filmography that will continue to be re-discovered by fans for decades to come, but it is bittersweet, on this 40th anniversary of the maestro’s passing, that we look at this long-lost project that almost was. As it is unlikely Sacchetti will make his script available for fans to read, he assures me that he will soon be working on adapting the script as a novel, ensuring fans a future trip on the Liberty II to the darkest core of creation’s beginning.