Metadata from IMDB: run time of 2 hours and 15 minutes at 6.0/10 from 4411 ticket holders.

A couple decide the solution to (some of) their problems is to downsize themselves. Years before a Norwegian scientist found a way to shrink the kids and anyone else. (Remember that episode of ‘The Avengers’?) After much angst they do so, well, sorta, because at the last moment after hubby has done it, wifey baulks and backs out. Mini-him is now on his own. Adventures in Disneyland follow.

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SPOILER ALERT.

I loved the characters, the boring physiotherapist Matt Damon, the devil may care Serbian neighbour, the laconic boat captain, and most of all the feisty Vietnamese. Watching them bounce off each other in their little world is diverting for a time, but not two hours and fifteen minutes of it.

The story is like a combined Thanksgiving and Christmas lunch with the extended family. There are too many courses. It just goes on and on and loses its way. No sooner is one course served than another appears competing for table space. Desserts are followed by savoury courses, again.

What is it about? A satire on materialism? That is why Matt and Audrey decide to shrink, so their dollars will go further and they can have a big house like those In Elkhorn. Is it a warning of things to come about climate change? Hence the Norwegians digging in. Is it about being different? The discrimination against the little people. Is it about dislocation? The Vietnamese refugee. Is it about saving the world one hot meal at a time? The food distribution. Is it about saving the world? The original Norwegian concept. Was shrinking a metaphor for retirement, since no minis seem to work, though in fact some do, and in social isolation. Is it a parable according to which paradise has a slum to service it, pace ‘The Magic Mountain’ (1924) by Thomas Mann?

The list goes on. Way too much to digest in a sitting. Indigestion follows.

There are so many themes that they get lost, one after another, and none is developed. The mini-me-s live in Disneyland, and some one makes little cars and buses for them, but who and why since in the end they represent less than three percent of the population.

The Serbian and the sea captain are vital to the Norwegian’s final plan. But why? No idea. They take Matt along. Why?

Why are there Norwegians in the first place” (The external shot of the Norwegian laboratory in the opening looked a lot like the College of Business office building at UNO in Benson.) To have fjords latter, I guess, there had to be Norwegians. But why were fjords even in it? It started in Omaha and went to sunshine in Arizona and then fog in Norway.

Can mini-theys only live in sunshine? Aren’t there any mini snow shovels?

As the doomsayers disappear underground, the best lines in the film come from the Serbian 'They’re just people. They will behave like people. Fight, kill each other. The usual.' There is no technological salvation from humanity itself. The final fizzle was a sign not to take it all too seriously; that is understood, but the joke then is on the audience that has sat though one hundred and sixty-five minutes to get there, not counting the deafening advertising barrage before the feature, which always set my teeth on edge.

'Downsizing' should be downsized by at least forty-five minutes. The prologue about the discovery of shrinking could have been done in a two minutes voiceover, and without that prologue, the epilogue could be omitted, too.

Boring Matt made one big decision because he thought he knew what he was doing. The consequences followed. Nothing is added to his character by giving him a second big decision, the more so when the has no one to go with him. His only three friends never for a moment consider the hole in the ground.

And none of the problems of these leprechauns has been addressed. If they are but three percent, will airlines cater for them. Is there an ACLU division for minis? Will there be any new minis now that the Norwegians have given up?

Leafing through the paper, the indication of the Sy Fy genre caught my eye and since there seemed to be no CGI exploding heads involved, I read on and came across a name I knew, Alexandros Papadopoulos, to the fraternity brothers that is Alexander Payne. His ‘Nebraska’ (2011) was compelling. ‘About Schmidt’ (2002) was memorable. ‘Election’ (1999) conjured dark memories from high school. He knows a story and how to convey it. Better luck next time. We missed his ‘Descendants’ (2011) despite the Hawaiian setting.


A superb novel that traces the early life and career of the Spartan Gylippus of the Fifth Century BC. He was a major figure in the Peloponnesian War and the spine of the novel is derived from Thucydides’s ‘History’ of that war.

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There is much insight into the inner workings of Sparta. The author knows the detail well but wears the learning lightly, though making no concessions to readers by spelling everything out. The reader is left to figure it out when Greek terms are used or to refer to the glossary at the end.

The divisions in Sparta are well realised. There are personal and clan rivalries and also personal ambition. As one character says much later to Gylippus from the outside the Spartans appear as one man. Hardly. The author makes the Spartans all too human, at times vain, myopic, venal, ambitious, resentful. But those tensions are played out behind many curtains.

Athenians are no better and their fractious conflicts are largely played out in the open air.

The contrast to Gylippus is the Athenian Nikias, another giant from the pages of Thucydides. Nikias does all in his considerable power to avoid war, and rejects command twice when it is thrust on him, and yet he dies in the war on duty,

Readers of Thucydides will know that the crucible for both Gylippus and Nikias was the Athenian invasion of Sicily. The arc of the story begins with the Athenian reduction, pillage, and rape of Melos, where the cry ‘The Athenians are coming!’ anticipated the German cry ‘The Russians are coming!’ in 1945.

That was Athenian democracy at work. The opening scene of the Athenian slaughter of chained Melian prisoners and then forcing the surviving women to stack the bodies of their faheres, husbands, sons, and burn them are gruesome indeed. After that the rape begins, followed by a slave market. Two young girls escape, and though that was unlikely, as a plot device it takes them to Sicily for later events.

We went to Melos in 2007 as homage to this atrocity.

On a pretext Athens invaded Sicily to seize the island and its agricultural wealth now that the Persians have closed the Egyptian grain trade. The expedition was gigantic and command was divided and proved contradictory, aggressive in one instance, and passive in another. Nikias searched for a political solution to accommodate the appetite of the demos on the Pnyx in Athens, while the other generals wanted a battle in which to be a hero. There is no pretence at unity among the Athenians.

Melos had appealed to Sparta for help in deterring the Athenians, but Sparta did not act.

In Sicily the democratic city of Syracuse likewise appealed to Sparta, and Sparta sent one man, and that was enough. ‘Throughout time allies did not sent to Sparta for ships, or money, or soldiers, but for one man,’ said Plutarch.

The divisions within Syracuse are well realised, and full of the irony of reality. The staunch defenders of democratic Syracuse’s independence are the oligarchs, while the Syracusean democrats sell out to the invading Athenians at every opportunity. They do so not for ideological reasons but because they hate the oligarchs.

The Athenians expect a show of force will bring Syracuse to its collective knees, and are mildly surprised by the resistance, but they remain confident that Sparta will not act. Though Nikias is less confident about this than his associates. Indeed he is so very cautious that he does not want to risk a battle for the gods can be fickle and his army is a long way from home, so he set about winning local allies on the island, establishing a supply base and so on. Time passes with small skirmishes.

Then comes Gylippus. There is a marvellous scene where the Athenians are marching around the walls of Syracuse in a demonstration of shock and awe when they encounter in a field a battle-line of hoplites standing at rest. The raw Syracuseans do not stand easy. When they lined up for a battle earlier, they fidgeted, wavered, squirmed, twisted, turned, and all but ran long before the fighting started. Not so on this day. The line is firm.

The Athenian force is great and this opposing line is much less and it is near the end of the daylight. Yet these hoplites stand calm and relaxed with their shield turned side ways to the Athenians. The Athenians approach and then on command the hoplites turn the shields faces catching the last rays of the setting sun to the Athenians who then see the lambda on the shields for Laconia, or Sparta.

Spartan shield lamda.jpg The shield is big enough for a man to hide behind it when the arrows fly. Together with body armour from toe to head the load on a hoplite was about thirty kilograms in battle.

The Sparta have, this time, come, about a thousand of them face this Athenian contingent of perhaps five times that number. The frisson through the Athenian ranks is electric. Spartans! Darkness falls and no battle is joined but the news travels fast and by sunset everyone knows the Spartans have come.

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Game on. Over the next three years there is much cat-and-mouse between the protagonists, each undermined by rivals there and back home. Both Nikias and Gylippus have a two-front war, one military the other is a double political one with their respective home cities and local allies.

While Gylippus did not come quite alone, he came with only a token force compared to the forty thousand in the Athenian expedition. He relied on the defensive walls of the city and concentrated on cutting Athenians supply lines and stealing silver from them so they could pay the mercenaries that comprised the bulk of their forces.

Nikias was often infirm but he was not permitted by the demos to resign and he dared not leave on his own initiative for the demos had more than one unsuccessful general put to death, sometimes along with a few relatives to drive the point home. Likewise Gylippus, frustrated as he is by his reluctant allies in Syracuse, cannot go home without a victory.

The use Hermocrates makes of the two escapees from Melos is cleverly done by the writer. The exposition of the divisions within Syracuse are well set out though the Athenian sympathisers are largely cardboard. The author leaves aside the larger question that confuses modern readers, how could democratic Athens attack democratic Syracuse. The answer is, of course, that Athens by this time would eat anything. Even as this expedition was launched there was talk of Carthage, then but a legend.

The writer’s wit, insight, sympathy for the principal characters and the way he interprets the facts recorded by Thucydides is wonderful.

J E Martin.jpg Jon Martin

Clearly he has walked over all the ground he describes and done so with a sponge in his mind soaking it all up. I read his ‘Shades of Artemis’ (2004) about Brasidas some years ago and found it fine, too.


4.9 from a measly 46 opinionators

An earnest portrayal of the political, social, and technical challenges of space exploration two years after Sputnik. The Cold War backdrop is there in the frequently mentioned enemies.

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In the foreground is a massive space station wheel serving as a base for Moon exploration and landing with a view of colonising for purposes not specified, but to get there before the enemy does. Here as in many space ship films the underlying cinematic conventions come from submarine movies.

The technical problems of space travel are many but mercifully the Geordie-Speak is kept to a minimum. The social problems are surfaced. There are jealousies among the space station crew. The long stints there undermine normal life on earth. But the major problem is politics, the securing of ever more appropriations from Congress. Nothing is cheap in space and Amazon Prime does not deliver there (or here).

A qualification is in order before continuing. This 51 minute film was the pilot for television series and one assumes the other issues would be played out in future episodes. In contrast ‘Project Moonbase’ (1953) started as a television pilot and was converted to a movie, with the result that it is neither an episode nor a movie.

The bulk of this episode is the aftermath of a meteor strike on the station. What would script writers of space Sy Fy do without meteors arriving on cue? Some of the reaction is technical, fix it, and some social, get over it. But the major result is political, going back to Congress for more money.

The big scenes are courtroom-like committee testimony which is well done but which is more Perry Mason than Flash Gordon. The opposition wants to scrap the money pit that the space station is and blast multi-stage rockets straight from Florida’s Cape Canaveral to the Moon to get there before The Enemy. That would be like launching the D-Day invasion of Normandy from New Jersey, though no one says that. But then the American invasion of North Africa in 1942 was launched from Virginia.

Perhaps the best scene involves a visiting scientist come to the station to have a look, being confronted with a leap of faith into space to move from the commuter rocket to the wheel. The look on The Chief’s face was superb as was the crocodile smile Townes gave him before pushing off the ramp into the void. It is The Chief from ‘Get Smart.’ This effect and many others were well done but they came from that mishmash known as ‘Conquest of Space’ (1955).

At the end we are left uncertain of the outcome, but the characters have been established, the station, the Moon mission, the protagonists on Earth, and so on. The outcome of course was ‘No Sale’ and so no more.

Though John Agar is there, his part in this episode is small indeed. That surprised me since I supposed he would star. Rather Harry Townes leads the cast in camera time, and he does it well but he is no leading man.

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He was a well travelled television character actor with a long string of forgettable credits and an Alabama accent where he was an Episcopal preacher between takes. He had gone north to Columbia University where he caught the acting bug. He certainly could act and here he twitches with nervous energy and delivers his testimony with conviction. Yet I could not see him attracting an audience with his earnest admonitions. Neither did the network buyers.

John Agar by contrast had worked for John Ford in the Cavalry Trilogy with John Wayne and married Shirley Temple. He was definitely on the A list of celebrities.

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But came the fall. Temple divorced him citing alcohol, and he proved her right by finding the bottom of many more bottles, and spending months in jail on drunk driving charges. He made a comeback of sorts in B movies, especially Sy Fy and creature features and then television. But the drunk driving recurred.

The comparison must be Star Trek in 1966 where the Earth is left behind for space in a clean break. In ‘Destination Space’ the crew are all Americans and all are in Airforce coverall uniforms with the exception of the scientists who wear suits and ties to space. The crew is entirely masculine, and no women appeared on the space station, thus depriving the script writer the opportunity for the stupid sexist remarks prevalent at the time.

Absent are any women. Absent are the futuristic fashions of Star Trek. Absent are the multi-national and poly-ethnic crew. Absent is a united Earth. Absent is the alien Mr Spock. Absent is much technology, clipboards and pencils are in use. Though no one seemed to smoke on the space station. Absent is a dynamic leader, for Townes plays the committee man to a T but that is all. Absent also is any humour; no Bones to bring things down to the ground, though there is by-play among the crew that lightens the load a little, though it sounds like something the writer heard others say, and is so stale in the re-telling.

Most of all, absent is any sense of adventure or wonder at space and the cosmos. By the way, Harry Townes appeared in 'Star Trek: Original Series' as Reger in ‘Return of the Archons’ where he announced the Red Hour! Strong stuff that.

The fashions may seem out of place in the list above but the fashions alerted one and all that ‘Star Trek’ had left our time and place. Ditto the technology of coloured lights, automatic doors, tri-corders, and the medical scanners. Taken together these two dimensions helps convey the distance, the break between 1965 and this world of the stars.



The second in the Universal franchise after ‘The Invisible Man’ (1933). In the intervening years the magic of special effects improved and those that moved slowly and awkwardly in 1933 flow nicely in this one, e.g., the telephone in the air.

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Pedants will note that the Invisible Man played by Claude Rains died at the end of eponymous film, and seven years later his cadaver must have been in no fit state to return. But Universal had paid H.G. Wells for the right make five films, though corporate memory failed until 1940, and a return on investment was to be had. Voilà! Put the scriptwriter to work. On that hack more below.

What we have then is a new invisible man. This one is the brother of the deceased Claude, who in death is portrayed as a nice guy. The scriptwriter evidently neither read Wells’s book nor saw the first movie. Claude became a right bastard from the get-go and the drugs that made him invisible only made him even worse. He was vindictive, small-minded, thin-skinned, vitriolic, inhuman, and cruel. Sound like any Twits-in-Chief? Readers and viewers were all glad when he snuffed it.

But history is written by the survivors in the first instance, before the revisionists make careers out of muddling things up. In retrospect Claude is portrayed as the victim of the drugs, ahem, which he himself developed specifically for the purpose of terrifying others. Some nice guy.

Anyway he is in misty hindsight much missed and it has been concluded, again by those unencumbered with knowledge of the novel or film, that his brother did him in, and this hapless brother has been tried and found guilty and is about to be hanged. Meanwhile the brother’s chaste fiancee frets and his stalwart friend, the doctor, tinkers in the lab. This doc has a nurse but no patients and so, like Batman, is always ready to hand.

While in the early going there are many references to brother Geoffrey, he remains unseen in the slammer.

Spoiler.

On a visit to the slammer Doc slips Jeff some invisibility juice and he does a bunk in the nude. An invisible man hunt ensures and some of it is brilliantly done, as when his ghostly outline appears in the rain or amid the cigar smoke of the detective in charge, who is avuncular and unhurried about the pursuit of a convicted murderer.

Of course Geoffrey was framed and the three try to uncover the real culprit who is before their very eyes and quite visible to us all because he is top billed. But now invisible Geoffrey develops a Trump-complex and starts to rant about world domination seemingly having forgotten his own situation. He blames Hillary for everything. Meaningful glances are exchanged by chaste fiancee and stalwart Doc.

With Jeff on the loose the careful façade of the real villain crumbles and justice wills out, as it does in cinema. There is a terrific fight scene at the colliery and Geoffrey is near death. However Doc finds treating his wounds is difficult since…. he is still invisible. But the blood he has lost is evident.

Invisible or not, Geoffrey needs blood so Doc does a transfusion. Whoa. How did he find the right spot. When I go the Red Cross that is not always easy. Sometimes impossible. Quibble. Quibble. Quibble. Anyway the transfusion works and the new blood brings Geoffrey back to the land of the visibles, and low and behold it is none other than Vincent Price! He appears only in the last scene.

Price arteries.jpg First to reappear at the arteries with the new blood, then the skeleton and then the man himself.

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Earlier on the run Geoffrey dons the clothes of a scarecrow in an amusing scene that took hours to film, but seems effortless on the screen.

Like Claude Rains, Price was cast for his mellifluous voice and crisp diction, since the voice alone has to carry the leading role. His work is superlative from the resigned prisoner to the disturbed invisible to the lovesick man to the gloating would-be tyrant.

Surprising enough the effects were not special enough for an Academy Award. Beaten instead by the flying carpet in ‘The Thief of Bagdad’ (1940).

The director was Joe May, an expatriate German who fled the Vaterland in 1933, and who, despite his name, never learned a word of English and who is said to have had the dictatorial manner of his mentor Fritz Lang which earned him many enemies and ended his career. The scriptwriter who bridged the gap from the first film was the redoubtable Kurt Siodmak who gave us Wolfman and much else in Sy Fy and creature features.


Just the facts: 1 hr 7 m and IMDB 6.9/200

Janne Wass includes it in his blog ‘Scifist, a history of science fiction movies in reviews,’ and so I had a look on You_Tube. Such is the Finn’s influence.

Wass Janne.jpg Janne Wass

The film is a conventional krimi set in an airplane. The players are fine but the script is neither fish nor fowl, but more of a homophone of the latter. The villain is so flamboyant even the naive boy spots him long before the dense and dull copper does. The shyster blackmailer is too stupid to live. Sometimes it played for laughs, hearts and flowers at other times, and deadly drama, and back and forth.

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Another case of the lobby card bearing no relationship to anything in the movie.

As to its credentials as Sy Fy, it was made in the USA in 1937 but is set in the distant year of 1938. No, that will not make the cut. After much dithering in the first half, the second half all takes place on a giant airplane that flies from London to New York, non-stop! In eighteen hours! Non-stop! Gasp!

That seems to be it.

The size of the craft is enormous and the non-stop flight over the Atlantic, these get it on the SciFist list. In 1937 that would have been phenomenal because Trans-Atlantic flight was still for daredevils. Most flights were by flying boat aircraft taking off from the waters of western Ireland and landing in Newfoundland. The alternative route, again by flying boat, was to go south through Lisbon, the Azores, Bermuda, and so on. Straight across from London to New York City only came with jet engines in 1958 when the British Overseas Airways Corporation, as British Airways was then called, flew did it. The route was over the northern most North Atlantic to Gander in Newfoundland where the aircraft stopped for fuel, catering, and relief. I once laid up there for a few hours because of weather. I cannot find a time given for these trips in 1958 but they were not non-stop even twenty years after this film.

Today the British Airways web site gives 8 1/2 hours from London to New York City. It is 7 1/2 back to London thanks to the winds. Both of these flights are direct. Singapore to New York City is more than 18 1/2 hours these days. Imagine sitting next so some fool bellowing into a mobile phone for that flight.

Let’s call the aircraft Titan, a flying boat, too; inside it is even bigger than the Tardis. The staterooms put those of ocean liners portrayed on film at the time to shame. The windows are far bigger than those that brought the Constellations down. And, get this, there are open air balconies frequented by the passengers as it wings over the North Atlantic. The baggage hold is cavernous and largely devoid of bags. There is more than one dining room. There are multiple decks and if that is not enough room our hero has to climb outside over the top of the speeding aircraft to enter the cockpit, because its doors only open from the inside. While we can appreciate this limitation as a security measure, it begs the question of how the pilots get in.

Considering that context, ‘Non-Stop New York’ is certainly futuristic in its background, but….. [quibble alert] still not Sy Fy. That futurism contributes nothing to the plot which is an unsolved crime, a missing witness, young police officer meets young woman, etc. It just so happens that the resolution is on the Titan. It could as well have been on a ship, in mountain hotel, on a lake. The futuristic element is incidental background. Harrumph. No outer space, no science of any kind, no aliens, no superwomen, none of the usual Sy Fy suspects.

The heroine, Anna Lee, is feisty, independent minded, and smart. She knows what to do and does it.

Stowaway.jpg The stowaway strides up the gangway to board the airship.

There were a few such celluloid female role models in the 1930s but they evaporated from the screen by the homogenous 1950s. Lee had top billing on the poster and cards of the time and carries the picture.

The story is confused and confusing and tries to slip a ninety-minute feature into an hour. It starts in New York City, then the heroine travels by boat home to England, then back to New York City as a stowaway in the aforementioned Titan. It ends somewhere over Newfoundland. All this to’ing and fro’ing reveals all too clearly the mini-budget. The New York City sets look just like the London ones and vice versa. The whole dynamic rests on the idea that in those pre-NRA days a gangland slaying in New York City is world news, and there are many spinning newspaper headlines from around the world. Some in foreign languages. Wow!

There are some good laughs and some good lines but they do not zing in the spongy morass.

By the way it is derived from a novel by Australian Ken Attiwill and one of the players later emigrated to Australia, namely Desmond Tester, who is the youthful comic relief in this tale. Tester made a career in children’s television in Australia during the 1950s and 1960s and those of certain age remember that name. He also did some Strine television drama in the 1970s. In contrast Attiwill was born in Adelaide and migrated to England. Three of his novels were filmed. As with me, there is no entry for him in either the 'Australian Dictionary of Biography' or 'Wikipedia,' but traces in the former suggest he was a journalist who married an English woman in Adelaide and went to England with her.

The saxophone playing boy Demond Tester is in the charge of his Aunt Veronica and she seemed so familiar to me, but from where? And then it came to me, as things less and less often do, from the mind palace: she was a biologist in ‘The Man-Eater of Surrey Green’ (1965) from ‘The Avengers,’ one Athene Seyler.

Athene Seyler.jpg Athene Seyler in the 1950s.

She had earlier been in ‘Build a Better Mousetrap’ (1964) where she showed the local biker gang a thing-or-two. Curmudgeonly and quirky with a lived-in face even in 1937, she was in much demand in films of the 1940s and 1950s.


Those quaint English villages always scare me. First there was ‘Village of Damned’ (1960) and if that was not bad enough along came ‘Midsomer Murders’ (1997+). Thus alerted, when this title opened on a picturesque English countryside I feared the worst. and I was not disappointed.

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Two pals do science, a lot of it. There is a tedious backstory first, but the chase is this. They invent a replicator that 3-D prints anything from energy not raw materials. They refer to making works of great art available by reproducing them and supplying rare drugs to hospitals. So far, so altruistic.

Then their prepubescent friend Lena reappears and, gulp, there has been much puberty. Scientist Robin marries Lena, leaving scientist Bill, who is a dopplegänger for Liam Neeson out in the cold, old shed where they have perfected the 3-D replicator.

Neeson Steve Murray.jpg Stephen Murray as Liam Neeson.

Robin goes off to London to square the deal with Whitehall, while Bill mopes. A lot. Mopes some more.

Then, no doubt while thumbing though a copy of Mary Shelly’s most famous book, sets to work on improving the replicator to replicate…..Lena! Yep. It is quite a step from replicating a blank cheque to replicating a person but Bill does it. Much bubbling of liquids, flashing of lights, throbbing of boxes, muttering of incantations in the shed and the rabbits multiply. Next up Lena.

He talks her into it. He talks fast because this a short film. She agrees though why is by no means clear. Hey presto! Now we have the original Lena and the duplicate, Helen.

She is such a perfect duplicate this Helen that she, too, loves Robin, though he still in London. What is he doing there anyway when he has Barbara Payton back in the shed, chorused the fraternity brothers? Strange.

Bill has Helen but he does not have Helen. What to do? Ah ha! He will fine tune her in the shed. Not with roses and sweet words but with the mad scientist’s old friend, electricity! He will adjust the clone to erase her memories of Robin and start fresh with her. Lena, having come this far, agrees to assist so on a dark stormy night the three of them gather in the shed and strap Helen into the dental chair and set to work.

Kaboom! Too much juice and the contraption blows up like a Samsung Galaxy: Bill and one of the women perish in the fire. But which one? A nail biter that.

There is also the implication that the details of the replicator have also been lost in the fire and we will have to wait until the Twenty-First Century for 3-D printing. No more duplicate rabbits or Helens in the meantime.

Gosh, where to start. The ideal of reproducing at will objects from energy is to be found in much Sy Fy like Star Trek. But here no consideration at all is given to the consequences of doing so, though maybe that is why Robin got stuck in London. Some pedant there wanted to think about it. If gold is replicated in masses then its value will fall. If rare works of art become commonplace, they are no longer the rarities they were. If rare drugs proliferate like penicillin maybe diseases will mutate faster.

Still less is any thought given in the screenplay to the moral consequences of replicating a sex toy. Bill just assumes Helen will love him. He just assumes he will love her and not pine for the real thing. He just assumes no one will notice or question the uncanny resemblance of the two women.

Barbara Paton plays both Lena and Helen and she is indeed eye candy in the garish manner of the time. Never do we see any interaction between Lena and Helen, though each is aware of the other. That would have been too expensive to film for a quota quickie.

payton-barbara-1.jpg Payton at the time.

Payton was dead a few years later. The sex, drugs, and alcohol of Hollywood drove her to an early grave. She went to England to film this, it is implied in the Wikipedia entry, to escape these bad habits, but a few weeks in a facsimile English village and she could not wait to get back to Sin City. Once back there she reverted to her old ways.

Together with the robotic ‘The Perfect Woman’ (1949) and the retiring ‘Invisible Woman’ (1940) we certainly get the manners and mores of the times for women in Sy Fy. However in both these titles the women more than hold there own, not so here where Payton is little more than a Barbie doll.

It rates on IMDB 5.9 from 425.

This early Roger Corman effort comes in at 4.8 over 1,618 votes on the IMDB. It runs 1 hour and 11 minutes.

What is the set-up? Buddies Peter Graves and Lee van Clef are doing science of some sort off camera in the desert southwest where most Sy Fy science seems to be done. Each has a wife with whom to play house. While the impossibly handsome Graves is very playful, van Clef with those beady eyes even at this early stage in his career has discovered the pleasure of (H)am_ateur Radio and talks to the stars, well no not his wife played by the redoubtable Beverly Garland who outlasted the man from Davanna in ‘Not of this Earth’ (1957), but to Zontar of Venus. Okay, so it is a planet and not a star for the pedants.

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Zontar plays an old sweet song. He, well maybe Zontar is a she, gendering slime ball aliens is not in my pay grade, but Lee calls him a 'he,' Zontar, has travelled to Earth in Qantas economy class and is recovering strength from the rocket-lag of the trip in nearby cave motel. Been there.

Zontar promises Lee a heaven on earth for all humanity if only he is allowed to take over their souls. Seems a fair deal to Lee. After all Lola wanted a soul for a ball game, admittedly the stakes were higher there with the World Series. (Ray Walston had to go to Mars to escape Lola, but that is another story.) Zontar wants all souls, not just infielders.

In return for this Red Faustian bargain the reign of Zontar promises the peace and prosperity of slavery. No more wars. No more conflict. No more fights. No more pollution by green voters. No more tweets by twits. Please, no more ‘Top Gear’ I asked. Is this world communism, or what!?

Lee has no sales resistance and has bought the pitch and will do anything for Zontar in his blind alien-crush. He is the idealistic, weak-willed intellectual sort who would sell us out to the Enemies of Freedom so conspicuous in movies of the era. He is an enthusiastic fellow traveller. Amen. Meanwhile Zontar is mind-napping some local military types who are pushovers and Big Z wants Peter Graves, not for his chiseled chin, but because his scientific knowledge will help with the enslavement. It is a big world for one Zontar to conquer single-handedly but he is an ambitious red alien.

While Lee runs up the astral roaming phone bill talking to Zontar, his wife listens. She puts up with a lot as 1950s wives were supposed to do. She does protest when Lee kills some people at Zontar’s direction but relents when he gets all sweetness and light. Briefly. On it goes, back and forth. Zontar has brought a few trained bats in his checked baggage from Venus to transmit his mind control venom, but Graves fights them off. I left the room.

Graves’s wife however gets a hickey and becomes one of Them, a Zontar zombiette! Evidently there is no way back, and Graves with barely a moment’s hesitation shoots her dead with his handy NRA piece. Whoa! That was a surprise to this jaded viewer. Was that within the informal production code of the time? Shouldn’t he have socked her and tied her up for a later cure? On the other hand, there is no salvation for those who go Red. Better off dead.

Meanwhile, Zontar is running out of bats and orders Lee, who by now is so batty no bat is needed to infect him, to whack his old college roommate and buddy Peter. Lee pauses, briefly, before reaching for his rifle. All this NRA product placement has got to be seen to be appreciated. This is the last straw for Bevs, a registered Democrat, and she sets off to top Zontar herself with the last line, ‘I’ll see you in hell!’ (In that pithy phrase she sums up my reaction to 'Top Gear.')

Zontar looks like a tall condom with tentacles. No one would notice him at Frat party.

Zontar.jpg See.


This is one of many such creature features with Peter Graves, who was just too handsome to be a movie star. No one could take him seriously as an actor.

Graves.jpg

The masculine version of the Dumb Blonde, there for his looks. (I know the feeling.)

‘Zontar: The Thing from Venus’ (1966) remains to be seen. Keep watching this space for a report.

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Thoughts on the canon of poltical theory and life.
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