John Hartman’s Planet Diva is the very definition of low-budget weirdness. Shot on Super 8 and comprised of a bizarre blend of erotica, grindhouse, exploitation, and post-apocalyptic steampunk, Planet Diva is an underground film at its finest. In a post-apocalyptic world, a chemical war has made women the dominant species. Most men are subservient to these women, many of which abuse their power in violent and sadistic ways; others, however, seek a life of harmony, and seek the power of Gaia to harmonize Planet Diva.
Comprised primarily of friends of Hartman, the film is littered with amateur acting, bad ADR, and plenty of skin. A giant 18-foot fire-breathing mechanical dragon, women in skimpy outfits, and at one point a slave wearing a metal suit designed to look like an Easter Island moai statue, Planet Diva is an avant-garde film for fans of the absurd. It’s clearly low-budget, and clearly made by someone who simply prefers to follow the off-beaten path, so the film must be viewed within this context.
Failing to understand that will result in an almost immediate dismissal of the film as amateur garbage; in a sense, they might be right. At times the audio dubbing, of which there’s a healthy dose throughout the entire film, is laughably bad; the acting is fairly poor, though much of this is most likely due to the dubbing; and the sound effects are often hilarious. Hell, at one point in the film, one diva lets out an audible and downright hilarious-sounding fart on a slave.
It’s clear Planet Diva was made on a shoe-string budget by those whose creative inspirations exist outside the realm of traditional mainstream film. It’s cheesy, over-the-top, and pure exploitation, and when viewed through that window, Hartman achieved everything he wanted to achieve. It’s straight up weirdness, yet through it all, there’s a lot of heart. I refer to a quote from an earlier review I conducted with Hartman:
“I’m concerned with people trying to dominate each other. I think it’s unhealthy. So I’m trying to take the audience into a very dark and weird tunnel so that harmony and balance could be achieved, even though it’s a struggle. The only way we’re going to have world peace is if we stop trying to control everything on the outside of it and we take that inner journey.”
Planet Diva is a clear labor of love. and while you may not agree on its aesthetic, or its themes, there’s no doubt that Hartman, as well as all those involved, love what they’re doing.