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IMDb meta-data is runtime a brisk 1 hour and 18 minutes, rated at 6.5 by 1155 cinemitizens.

Genre: Noir, Mystery

Mr X card 1.jpg Mr X card 2.jpg

Verdict: Noir at its best.

Babe is a two-year widow who starts hearing his dead husband’s voice in the air without a BlueTooth headset. Oh Oh. This irritates Richard Carlson, her new suitor. She has an Ingenue sister who lives with her in a mansion on a cliff top. Where else?

Walking on the beach below one night, she encounters Mr X, who tells her about herself for he is a medium and sensitive to her vibrations. [There were snickers from the fraternity bothers at his point.] The Viennese Mr X oils his way into her life.

He is an utter cynic, having planted an accomplice as a maid in the mansion to glean information. His aim is to separate this widow from a lot of moolah. Ingenue falls in love with him and his oily ways. Widow is perplexed by it all.

A séance is arranged in Oily's wired up studio. The party is crashed by Carlson and the private dick he has employed. The crashers insist that the show go on; Oily tries to grease his way out of it to no avail. His hand is forced and the lights go down. Then….

The dead husband appears to all. No one is more amazed than the amazing Mr X in a star turn.

Seems husband has had several widows pining for him and he has plans to reduce the number. The plot twists even more, and Oily discovers, to his own surprise, that there are some things he will not do for money. Ingenue figures it all out and ….

It is a master class in creating an atmosphere heavy with mystery and peopling it with rounded characters yet including all the clichés, to wit, a crystal ball, a turban, and a raven. All in just over one hour of runtime.

The dead husband is menacing and ruthless. The private dick has a sense of humour. Carlson is so earnest that he made the fraternity brothers feel guilty. Ingenue is so enthusiastic it is hard to take. Babe is so perplexed that she must have been reading some of Martin Heidegger hieroglyphs.

But the real star of the show is the camera, and the lighting that emphasises the air of mystery and confusion. Harvard graduate Bernard Vorhaus directed. He is another victim whose career was blighted by the HUAC, the monster that roamed Hollywood off camera for far too long. He gave David Lean his first job in movies. After being black listed Vorhaus went to England with his Welsh wife and changed careers, working on home renovations. Our loss.

IMDb meta-data is Dali time of 1 hour and 10 minutes, rated a generous 3.0 by 837 cinemitizens.

Genre: Sy Fy, Horror, Boredom

Verdict: Incredible alright.

Petrified screen.jpg

Here is the deal. John Carradine wants to touch the bottom of his career and so manufactures a diving bell and sends four nitwits to the bottom in it, two of each. That sounds a lot better than it is.

The first ten minutes is stock footage of the ocean. Thereafter the characters line up against a semi-circular wall and talk. Sometimes the wall is supposed to be in the mansion sized diving bell, sometimes in a Titanic ballroom on the tugboat transporting the bell, sometimes in Carradine’s California Marine Institute arena, and sometimes in the Golden Caves of Arizona.

Lined up.jpg Now, no one move!

Once aligned no one moves so that the focus does not have to be pulled again.

Is it Post-Modern? It does not privilege intelligence or interest over static and boring.

The four descend and get stranded, but that is all right because they find submarine caves rich in oxygen. Forty minutes of stumbling around and they encounter Santa Claus whose sleigh went down over water. He says he got there the same way they did. Evidently he acted in an earlier Jerry Warren movie. Poor guy.

They stand and talk, talk and stand, and, for a change of pace, stand and talk. Then thanks to a cut away, they are rescued by the second diving bell Carradine had up his sleeve.

Never have the words ‘The End’ been so welcome.

There is no tension. That two nubile women and two virile men are about to die in the caves, produces nothing but boredom in them and in us.

Boredom.jpg They read the script.

That the bearded Santa spies on them and has strange ways, leads to nothing. That they are rescued is done off-camera so there are no heroics there. Indeed the only mystery is why Robert Clarke keeps taking his shirt off and putting it back on again. The fraternity brothers counted three times, but they may have missed one when the beer keg popped.

Carradine is as always Carradine of the compelling mien and voice, but there is nothing for him to do and he does it — nothing. Lois Lane is there with even less to do. For the rest of the cast, this is their ‘Best Known For’ entry on the IMDb.

Written, produced, and directed by Jerry Warren who enjoys the reputation on IMDb as the auteur of cheap and ridiculous horror movie quickies. His CV includes ‘The World of Bat Woman,’ ‘Teenage Zombies,' and ‘Terror of the Blood Hunters,’ each of which orbits a rating of 3, as does the waste of space at hand.

It was finished in 1957 but not even the Lippart Brothers would distribute it so it languished for two years before being paired with another turkey and released for the Drive In market confident no one would see it.

The fraternity brothers thought petrification happened to them while watching this drab and pointless use of celluloid.

IMDb meta-data is runtime 1 hour and 5 minutes, rated 6.7 by 336 cinemitizens.

Genre: Noir, Horror, Comedy.

Man Wouldnt Die cover.jpg

Verdict: Spooky and snappy.

It was a dark and stormy night as moody, muddy, and misty camera angles play over the dark mansion when a gun shot is heard from within. The front door of the mansion opens and three men emerge from it hefting a bundle into the trunk of a car and drive off. Through the wind and lightning the camera follows. They extract a deadman from the trunk and bury him on the vast grounds of the estate, while in the bushes they are silently observed by a solidarity and soggy onlooker. Whew! All of this before a word is spoken.

While this is going on, excited Daughter returns to the mansion to announce her wedding, finding her step-mother distracted, as her damp father and his two retainers return from their secret nocturnal errand. Bubbling though she is, Daughter realises something is amiss, the more so later when a spectral figure fires a gun at her while she lies abed. In the subsequent fuss, Father, Step-Mother, and retainers deny a shot was fired, while casting side-long glances at each other.

Despite being treated like an hysterical child, Daughter knows what she saw, and off-camera she places a secret phone call to the 4F Michael Shayne. Who else!

There is fine cinematography of the old dark house, the constant rain with thunder and lightning, and most of all the spooky and spectral figure who keeps reappearing in the night, he of the title.

Spectre.jpg

There is much to’ing and fro’ing, mistaken identities, a bemused butler, a befuddled lawman, an intrigued undertaker, a pompous father, a scheming step-mother, a strange laboratory in the basement, plotting retainers, all in all it is a veritable school of red herrings in which Shayne fishes.

This is an entry in the Michael Shayne series started in 1940, starring Lloyd Nolan as the eponym.

Shayne.jpg

He made a career out of playing the New York City Irishman, following in Pat O'Brien's footsteps, though he was born and reared in San Francisco, attending Stanford University until catching the acting bug. He spent virtually no time in NYC, least of all Flatbush and Brooklyn, except for location filming. While his Irishisms are gratuitous in this film, he delivers them with an effortless panache. He is described as 'an actor's actor,' whatever that means.

The excellent screen play was by Arnaud d’Usseau, California born, but who took this name for caché, says inter-web gossip. He was later black-listed thanks to the efforts of Elia Kazan, which brought d’Usseau's career to a premature end.

Released on 1 May 1942, within a week Corregidor surrendered and 12,000 GIs became POWs to join a like number captured on Bataan. You would never know the war was on watching this film, which perhaps was the aspiration of the filmmakers, because none of the news at the time was good and it got worse. As the film travelled the country the news reels preceding would have covered Corregidor. The Bataan Death March was censored until 1944.

IMDb runtime an eternity of 1 hour and 2 minutes, over-rated a generous 6.0 by 1147.

Genre: Sy Fy

Dies Screaming@._V1_.jpg The earth does not scream.

Verdict: A quota quickie in every way but fact.

The set-up is a nice opening with a British Rail train, late as usual, ploughing off a bridge because the engineer is dead at the controls. (Union rules mean a dead driver cannot be fired.) Then an airplane does the same with a dead pilot at the controls. (Same union rule.) A bowler-hatted gentleman at a train station, who failed to notice the dead bodies littering the platform, keels over. There follows pan shots of village streets with folks who fell dead in their tracks, the newspaper delivery boy, a lady shopper at a green grocer, a bus driver, and so on.

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This is nice and there is no sound to distract. The silence makes it more ominous.

Into such a village of the dead drives Worster in a Land Rover, as he exits the vehicle he takes out an Enfield rifle. Whoa. He helps himself to food at a shop and then a drink in a pub, stepping over and around the littered bodies. As he sips in the pub he is accosted by Dennis Price, whom I could not take seriously as a villain, but villain he is. For a start he is in the company of a lady who is not his wife, but whom he introduces as his wife, and we know she is someone else's wife! Go figure. On this subject there is more tittle-tattle to follow. Read on.

Later they are joined by a young couple. Thus we have gathered in the village of Otranto the crew. Worster is an American among the Brits. Ok. He claims to be a test pilot with the Vertical Take Off and Landing project, the Harrier Jump Jet as it was later called. That was a nice topical reference, but, hey, Worster is forty-nine (49, for those who cannot read words) and long in the tooth and grey in the hair, and large of the waistline for a flyboy and it shows in his leaden movements. Then we have Dennis without menace. His companion is Old Virginie, and she is forty-five. They are joined by a couple in their late twenties. Thorley Walters and his companion are also there to add the buffoon touch to the gathering.

They make an uneasy alliance and try to infer what has happened. The conclusion is that there was a gas attack and those, like themselves who survived, were sealed up somewhere, the pilot in an airplane, the villain and his moll is sealed room, and so…(I forget what the others said). (This quarantine also figures in the superior ‘The Night of the Comet’ (1984) reviewed elsewhere on this blog.) The gas has now dissipated.

Ah ha! The pilot was in a plane, but one of those was shown in the lead-in...and he was dead at the controls. How come Worster did not cack it, too, chimed the fraternity brothers. Dunno.

The young woman is pregnant and Old Virginie is assigned to look after her because she is a woman and women know about such things. To her credit she denies such knowledge, but the chaps disregard this is the best style of the times. While they are drinking themselves into oblivion in the pub they see strange figures in the streets. The requisite hysterical woman in their number rushes out, and has to run after and after, in her six inch high heels, the Reynolds Wrapped creatures, who are oblivious to her until she grabs one. It is a nice moment when it turns and reveals itself to be … a Republican Congressman and zaps her.

Bot eyes 2.jpg

Another Brexit voter exits.

Brexit vote.jpg

Zap! The others observe this zapology from a distance.

Later in a twist some of the dead rise as white-eyed zombies and there is one nice moment of tension when Old Virginie hides in a wardrobe from one such zombie. Being dead, they have an excuse for their leaden motions. Along the way Thorley also gets zapped, or did he. Can’t remember. Dennis without menace is offed. That leaves the young and old couples, plus the newborn baby.

Later these Reynolds Wrappers move like lead, even slower than Worster, and seem to be deaf, dumb, and blind as well as Republican. If their mission is to finish off the survivors of the gas attack in a search and destroy mission they have failed the KPIs miserably. It turns out they are robots controlled by radio transmission from a conveniently located tower which Worster blows up (because as a test pilot he is also a demolition expert) and that frees the local area of this scourge. Whew!

What next? They will find a plane and fly around to attract the attention of other survivors. Huh? Won't that attract the attention of other Reynolds Wrappers, too? And the plane we see take off is a four engined Constellation that needs a long hard runway. It will not bob down to pick a few folk standing around an SOS sign.

The end.

Worster and Old Virginie (she being Brit) were married in 1951, more than a decade before they teamed up in this outing and they stayed married until her death in 1992.

It was not a quota quickie, as explained elsewhere on this blog, but it has some of the qualities in the cheap production and gratuitous insertion of an American actor from the C-list, and it was distributed by Lippart, a well-known bottom feeder. The chatter on the inter-web is that Old Virginie went back to England for family reasons and Worster came along and they did this film to pay for the trip.

It fits the Brit practice of Sy Fy in rural settings. Long before Midsomer Murders the English countryside was a strange place where strange thing happened to the strange people who are there. It was also cheaper to film that.

IMDb meta-data runtime is 1 hour and 27 minutes, rated way too high 7.0 by 1401 cinemitizens.

Genre: Sports, Comedy, Romance, Sy Fy, Nothing

Happens Spring cover.jpg

Verdict: Odd and off.

The set-up is this. Ray is a college chemistry professor engaged to the dean’s daughter, working on a consultancy to treat timber to repel pests, borers, fraternity brothers, insects, boors, and any and all of the above. This job will win the dean’s approval by bringing much needed funding to the college and so his consent for the hand and what is connected to it of his daughter.

Into this neat plan intrudes a baseball, hit through a window in the Chem Lab, that obliterates the project, including note books, etc. Depressed, Ray cleans up and notices that the baseball, which got soaked in a solution, is now repelled by wood. It just so happens that Ray is a baseball fan of the First Water and decides this is the way to fortune. He will become a baseball pitcher no one can hit, make dosh, marry daughter …. the end.

While the supporting players were dandy, including the very young skipper from ‘The Minnow,’ the story left me cold. Very cold. There were two reasons, one odd and the other off.

The odd one first to get it out of the way is this. When Ray got on the team in St Louis everyone refers to him as the Kid. He becomes Kid Kelly. Right. A 44 year-old kid, making him older than any other player on the St Louis rosters the time time. Yes, I checked for both the Browns and the Cardinals. Some kid. By the way, Ray was 44 and his romantic interest, Jean Peters was 23 at the time. Make of that what one will.

Kid Kelly.jpg The 44 year-old kid.

The off irritant is that Ray’s secret was ball tampering. Such ball tampering as Ray gets up to when he rubs the solution on the baseball was outlawed in 1920. End. Illegal. This dead obvious fact any baseball fan in the theatre would know is never broached, skirted, or implied. Huh?

That ball-tampering solution is what gets it a Sy Fy tick.

A slight redemption occurs at the end when Ray notes he made more money in one baseball game than a year of teaching chemistry. Think about that today when athletes make more money individually than entire colleges faculties put together and then tripled.

Ray seems hopelessly inept pretending to be a baseball player. Clearly, like Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig, he had never played baseball in his youth. Yet Ray at least had been as sportsman in his native Wales, and become a member of the Household Cavalry in 1928. That is indicative of his horsemanship. The Great Depression ruined his family and he took to acting for a crust. It seems he slept his way into pictures. He wore a toupee from his mid-thirties and so would have sported it in this picture.

Jean Peters sparkles in this small role but she quit when she married Howard Hughes and disappeared into Santa Monica hills seldom to be seen again. Though the ever reliable Wikipedia has it that the hilltop life was boring and under aliases she did one or more degrees at UCLA.

But the best performance in this movie, and in most others he graced, comes from Paul Douglas whose blue collar approach seems so fresh and direct compared to the ever twitchy Milland. Blue collar Douglas came to affect, but he was born to a wealthy Philadelphia surgeon who sent him to Yale where Paul rebelled, as sons do, and instead played semi-professional football. That led to sports journalism, newspapers and then radio. He liked an audience and soon dabbled in amateur theatrics…and made his way to Hollywood. Many of his films involved sports, like the whimsical and much redone ‘Angels in the Outfield’ (1951).

My glance fell on some of the reviews linked to the IMDb entry and I am moved to remark again on the human condition. One opinionated reviewer huffed and puffed about the film, and was particularly critical of the title because it is never explained. That reviewer needs to get out from under the rock more often. What happens every spring? Even the fraternity bothers know that. Well, two things. One it is the mating season and hence Ray’s round-about courtship of daughter. More importantly here, the baseball season starts!

IMDb meta-data is runtime 1 hour and 1 minutes, rated 4.6 by 510 cinemitizens.

Genre: Horror

Revenge Z card.jpg

Verdict: Only for completists.

Set-up. Veda is dead. (What a waste since she is usually a corker.) But then John Carradine is her husband so maybe that explains her preference. He is Dr Max Heinrich von Altermann. Get it? Look at the release date, 17 September 1943. Max and Veda live in foggy Louisiana on the German Coast.

Veda’s brother, Stupid, comes to mourn her and vents his suspicious on anyone with a German name. He brings along Handsome. Neither one of these dorks can drive a car or carry a bag so they have Black Stereotype to look after them. There they find Gale Storm straight from secretarial school typing away, oblivious to everything.

Turns out Max has seen ‘Revolt of the Zombies’ (1931) and ‘King of the Zombies’ (1941) and mashed them together. From ‘Revolt of the Zombies’ he got the idea of an invulnerable (and cheap) army of the living dead and from ‘King of the Zombies’ he got a Germanic mad scientists to unleash such an army on YankeeLand, well, in this case DixieLand. Is that creative thinking, or what? Hmmm

So diabolical is Max that he is experimenting on Mrs Veda in life and in death. The fraternity brothers thought the worst. For them situation normal.

Now Stupid, Handsome, and Stereotype arrive to gum up the works. Stereotype realises almost instantly some creepy things are happening but when he tries to tell Stupid and Handsome they dismiss his reports as the hysteria, foolishness, and ignorance of a black man. The duty of being the butt for the arrogance of superior white men to kick often went to women.

Mantain M.dms Mantan Moreland

Stereotype investigates and finds out more and more but his information is rejected, ignored, and disregarded even while Stupid and Handsome investigate matters by smoking cigarettes. In this case it is very like, though no doubt unintended, ‘King of Zombies’ where the same black stereotype was far ahead of his white, superior masters.

Bob Steele is there, he of distinctive voice and mien that made him a delightful villain in Westerns, here partly in parody of that sort of role, as a double and triple secret agent to paper over the script holes.

Also in the cast are Uncle Remus and Madame Sul-Te-Wan who played maids, slaves, and natives in countless Hollywoodisms, going back to W. D. Griffith’s ‘The Birth of a Nation’ (1915) and ‘Intolerance’ (1916) and including 'King Kong' (1933).

Mantan Moreland has 130 credits on the IMDb. He and other black actors of the era were later reviled for embodying stereotypes as noted above. Madame Sul-Te-Wan said, her choice was to work as a maid and earn $7 a day or to play a maid in a movie and earn $70 a day. She found it an easy choice.

Even at 61 minutes, it seems padded. Carradine sleep walks through this one without any of the intensity and malevolence he could muster. There is not much Veda can do as a corpse,
Veda coffin.jpg
though she tries. The only energy comes from Stereotype. There are a couple of good one-liners but the fraternity bothers were dozing when they came. The ending in the swamp is neat but leaden in execution.

IMDb meta-data is runtime is 1 hour and 21 minutes, rated 5.5 by 535 cinemitizens

Genre: Sy Fy

Riders card.jpg

Verdict: Stolid.

Setup? Things are going badly for the US rocket program, despite the best efforts of Herbert von Marshall. The rocket go up whole and then come down in pieces. (That was true, about sixty in all.) What is happening? What is to be done? Herbie V ponders these questions behind his owlish glasses with his team in the heart of the darkest California desert.

Then Ice Blonde concludes the rockets have to be shielded from the cosmic rays that are disintegrating the hulls. ‘Ah ha,’ mutters Herbert, ‘Yes, we have to do this before THEY do.’ This would be the Red THEY of the Coldest War.

Now the talk shifts to what kind of shield? Meteors rocket around without disintegrating until they burn in the Earth’s atmosphere. They must have a protective coating in space which is lost when entering the atmosphere. What we need is a meteor from space so we can examine its protective coating of carbonised bumpkin. Well, why not, the meteor shower is in every Sy Fy scriptwriter’s play-book. (Of course, this line of reasoning makes no sense since the rockets will have to pass through Earth's atmosphere twice. If the atmosphere strips the coating off a meteor on entry, it will have two chance to do that to a rocket.)

Rockets they have aplenty from the bottomless budget allocated to get ahead of THEY. Mission they have, lassoing some meteors in the wild. Now they need some rocket boys to sit atop of tons of volatile liquid nitrogen that can go bang at the spark of a split infinitive. Herbie has been sending white mice — discrimination against brown mice? — up in rockets to study weightlessness but he is pretty sure the Aryan mice are not up to meteor-grabbing. Why not use a computer? Because in 1954 a computer was a mile long and weighted more than a Hollywood actor’s ego. Ok, it has got to be people, well, as of the times, men.

And not just any men but a carefully selected set of Hollywood supporting actors who are chosen by the whirring of computers scanning punch cards. (Be glad if you don’t know what a computer punch card is.) About twenty supporting actors and the leads are invited to join a secret project. Some say ‘Buzz, off.’ Others rush to the door to escape the unwanted consequences of a wanted act. Others go as relief from the boredom of life on civie street. Because it is a curious offer. Because it must be important. Because it is on the way to the pay office. Because the alternative is another McKinsey training seminar. And finally because the script says so.

The twelve who said 'Yes' arrive, all wearing neck ties and business suits and about half wear hats. Several smoke pipes and more than half of the others are sucking cigarettes. Is it any wonder lung cancer surgeons look back on the old days with nostalgia.

Next comes the rigorous testing for the mission. It is in two parts, the first psychological and the second physical. The psych test is fiendish. They are seated in a meeting room and told that the training session will begin shortly! There is no escape; the door is locked! And they wait. For hours. Hours. Hours. What to do? Light up. Everyone smokes. To some perhaps lung cancer was preferable to enduring yet another training session given by twenty-year olds who never use the system and have no corporate knowledge or interest.

James Best goes all whiny and storms around. Another one paces a hole in the floor. A third smokes three times faster than anyone else and disappears behind a midden of cigarette butts. A fourth goes all WTF and pounds on the door. While others sit calmly waiting, napping, talking about sports, or thinking about that Ice Blonde, as were the fraternity brothers.

Sorted. Whiny James (who is he best whiner in the business) is out. Ditto both Pacer and Pounder. Smoker though seems normal enough once he is disinterred from the ashes. How he is going to smoke in space is one of the imponderables that does not get pondered.

Next comes the needles to start the physical examination. Sight of the needle sends others packing. Then they go to the fairground and ride around to test stamina. Next comes the equipment training and more are winnowed out until only four are left. Then for reasons the fraternity brothers missed another one leaves. Some testing! They started with 150 million people and got down to three.

The rockets have scoops which were later passed on to Hugo Drax. But for now our trio go meteor hunting in the heart of darkest outer space. Whew. One bites off more than his scoop can chew and blows up. His skeletal face in a pressure suit floats by the window of a second scooper who panics and tries to bail out. So much for the rigorous testing program. Sight of the first stiff and he wants to bail, scoffed the fraternity brothers, while cowering behind the sofa in fright. Only the stolid William Lundigan prevails and returns to save US from THEY! That melts Icy.

This the third of Ivan Tors’s trilogy about the Office of Scientific Investigation, and as usual Tors tried to get some science into the story. Wacky though it is.

Ivan Tors.jpg Ivan Tors. Note the microscope. [Witticism needed for caption.]

Ergo the computers look like computers of the day and not Christmas toys. That is bland with nary an array of blinking lights to keep the audience awake. There are no voltmeters, retorts, or Tesla coils passing as advanced scientific equipment. The stock footage of rocket launches is well integrated into the props and effects. The pressure suits the flyboys wear are the real thing. The term 'astronaut' is not used.

There are no villains except for the off stage THEY. Space flight is hard enough without villains or papier-mâché spiders. Overcoming the laws of physics like gravity takes all the ingenuity there is. I certainly feel that way many a morning.

The fairground ride was in fact a centrifuge at USC which Tors got permission to use.

Lundigan G force.jpg Lundigan getting G-forced for real.

Some of the other effects are not as good. The wires in the weightless scenes are visible.

While all the potential fliers are men, the Ice Blonde comes up with the core idea, and she is a mathematician not a coffee-maker. Like everyone else in the script she is a Doctor and the title is uttered at least fifty times by one character or another about or to another. Fifty at least, because the fraternity brother who was counting ran out of fingers (don’t ask) at that point. Of course, Icy is there to pair off with Stolid Bill though how he could melt her is a tribute the the screen writer’s imagination. By the way the writer is the redoubtable Sy Fyian Curt Siodmak. All hail!

Speaking of Bill, well, it is hard to speak of him, because he is soooo bland. But there is a light in his eyes that sets him apart from the catatonic John Agar whose existential being was eroded by the hundreds of terrible parts he played until there was nothing left beneath. Bill is just attractive enough to be noticed by women but not so damn handsome as to irritate men. That middle way would seem to be his major attribute. He is calm, reassuring, steady, and stolid, and he had that mellifluous voice that got him started in radio advertising when his football career ended.

Having been a BMOC at Syracuse University he had a knee injury that made him 4F in 1941 but he volunteered anyway and in time served. That he volunteered voided his film contract and his career never quite recovered from that. Was he brown-listed? Did such tacky things happen in Tinsel Town? Most of his post-war career was in television. He was the one constant in the very realistic series ‘Men into Space’ (1959-1960) over thirty-eight episodes.

Richard Carlson of much Sy Fy fame is there as second lead and he got the directing credit in a deal with the producer Tors, though this is much discussed in the Cine Nerd Cyberdom. He is another Mr Ordinary, but with an intellectual and reflective mien that served him well. He had hoped to go into directing and this was his first outing, which was made difficult by playing in it as well, but it was a chance to try and he took it. He directed television episodes in the 1950s and 1960s including one starring Bill in ‘Men into Space.’

Hidden in the Ice Blonde’s one hundred and six credits on the IMDb is one star turn in ‘Some Came Running’ (1958), where she had more to do than be eye-candy. She is by the way Martha Hyer whose voice alone melted four of the fraternity brothers. Here she is endowed with sense, poise, intelligence, and purpose. Later she had the screaming, tripping, and fainting duty in ‘First Men in the Moon’ (1964) usually allowed to women in Sy Fy of the era.

Herbert Marshall was owlish in 'Gog' (1954), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. After having a leg amputated in Great War, he gave up a career as an accountant and took to acting. His first and most sustained act was to develop a walk that concealed his prothesis so well most did not know he had it. Ivan Tors thought his walk, which he had noticed, was an affectation for the role, only to be astonished later to see the wooden leg. That wood was a constant source of pain which Herbie doused with whiskey at all hours of the day and night without slurring or forgetting his lines. Thus did the show go on.

IMDb meta-data is runtime is 1 hour and 32 minutes, under-rated at 7.0 by 82,620

Genre: Sy Fy and empathy.

Earth Sky.jpg

Verdict: Recommended for adults.

An intense tale of hubris, tragedy, and redemption with a blinder at the end.

It charts the budding relationship between a distraught man and the guilt-ridden girl, he nearly psychotic and she certainly neurotic, each with good reason.

What's to like? (In no particular order.)

- the living Jupiter in the opening sequence.

- the video boxing.

- the essay about the losers being the people who go first.

- the other earth hanging in the sky ever an invitation to think twice.

- the chance meeting with a one-time high school classmate at the convenience store and his incomprehension that she is a janitor and her directness in saying so.

- the working class side of New Haven in the fall and winter as a setting: Barren, foggy, hard, bleak.... Yet the spring will come.

- the saw concert for one.

- that there was no resolution at the end just more questions.

And I really liked the very end. It was quite unexpected and yet dead obvious, both at once. If only…..

Cryptic and enigmatic at times, but it assumes an audience of adults who will not implode if everything is not rammed home with shouting, primary colours, and capital letters, an audience of adults who might later think about what they have seen in this empathy machine. The air of mystery that hangs over the film adds to its forlorn appeal. For example, what are we to make of the elderly janitor? His suicide attempt makes no sense and does not relate to either the major theme (the other Earth that is within us all) or the minor theme (the relationship of the wounded man and broken girl).

The rough edges show in some of the photography and camera work. Please use a tripod in the future.

The idea of another Earth figures in 'The Journey to the Far side of the Sun' (1969), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. But there is no other point of comparison between the two movies.

I cannot recall what prompted me when I bought on iTunes except that it was Sy Fy just before leaving for Honolulu in August 2012, and watched on the unendurable (see next paragraph) flight to Honolulu on my own before I went on to Omaha. Loved it. Put an edited version of these notes on IMDB and read Roger Ebert's laudatory review. I posted a review on the IMDb but forgot to put it on the blog, until now when I went looking for it.

This flight to Honolulu promised to be unforgettable because my Economy seat mate wanted to tell me his sad life story at full volume even before seatbelts were fastened to make me a captive audience. Ten hours of that might have been fatal for one of us. But immediately after take-off a cabin steward said I could [hint, should] move to an empty row up ahead. There is a god. I did so, though even at that remove I could still hear my former seat-mate going on about his woes to those sitting behind him, and they encouraged him to go on, and on, and on, and he was still at it when those ten hours later we stood at the baggage carousel in Hono. Why this cabin steward picked me is the miracle in this story.

I read some of the one-star reviews on the IMDb. What a world! Lifeforms below Republicans exist. Who would have thought that was possible.

IMDb meta-data is runtime of 1 hour and 27 minutes, under-rated 7.9 by 153342 cinemitiziens

Genre: Sy Fy.

Verdict: Unique.

MAn Earth cover.jpg

Dr John is leaving town, having resigned from the local college where he taught for several years. He will pack up and leave without fuss or fanfare, but…..

Friends arrive bearing beer for a surprise send-off party. They gather: a biologist, an anthropologist, a geologist, an historian, a theologian are among their number. Some are solo, and others have paramours with their own academic fields. They sit around, joking, talking about sports when one notes that it is Columbus Day. (That used to be a national holiday in honour of Christopher Columbus blundering into the West Indies.)

Warning SPOILER. To read on is to find all.

At which point John says, ‘I had a chance to sail with him'…and goes on to describe Columbus, the ships, and crew and his fear of a flat earth which precluded going along. The others sit in silence, surprised, bemused, anticipating a punch line, stunned, but John, though low in key, is serious, sustained, and systematic.

Man Earth Colon.jpg

His mien is shy, diffident, reluctant even. Yet he goes on.

He says he is a very old man, despite his appearance of a thirty-five year old. In fact, he estimates his age at 14,000 years. That is right 1 4 0 0 0 years. [Think of all those IRS returns.] Estimates, because there is no 14,000 year old birth certificate.

When he first noticed others ageing and dying, he began to realise slowly that he was different. He learned that in small tribal societies being different was dangerous and moved on, and on. He has since travelled the world slowly and learned to move on before others noticed that he does not age. He has been injured. He has been ill, but he has always recovered.

He has no superhuman powers. No special insight. He is just one individual and he only grasped the significance of many things later when he read about them, e.g., Columbus. At the time, Colon was just another Genoaese adventurer going West instead of East. When Genoaese sailed East they were pirates preying on Venice and Constantinople. When they went West they were explorers.

The assembled scholars do what scholars do best — 'Make snide remarks and quibble,' chorused the fraternity brothers — no, ah, yes, well they do that, but they also ask questions, many of them, and he has answers. All simple. He has lived a long time and learned a lot but he has forgotten most of it over time. He has no superhuman mental powers. He can be hurt. If shot, as one proposes, he will die. It was a scary thought that the dean carried a gun. The fraternity brothers have pledged themselves to be more respectful.

Has he met others like himself? Maybe, he says. Not sure. Not the sort of thing to talk about with strangers in an elevator, and as he is always moving on, he is usually with strangers. Of course the premise of the story is that he has chosen to tell these people who have surprised him with this gathering.

Does he have proof? No more than any one of them. A Driver’s License. Not a stone age name tag or SSN 000000000001.

Isn’t he weary and bored? Well, yes, but that is why has earned so many degrees over the centuries and moving on is always a stimulating challenge.

He has mundane but credible answers to the questions they throw at him. The night wears on. The beer flow is exhausted and the whiskey bottle ebbs. The nods begin.

Finally, in anger one guest tells him to stop teasing them with this hokum. And he does. He says it was all a lie, all a joke that got out of hand. Everyone laughs in relief, especially the theologian for whom an immortal is a god. The party members leave. All but two.

One of the two remaining asks him, ‘Why did you lie?’

Which lie? Clearly the interrogator believed the super Methuselah story and means the lie that it was all a joke. The truth is that he is 14,000 years old. [Image his pension payout.]

Now I would have left it there. But the screen play has other elements which are well played but which cut across the intellectual plane of the story. One is about the historical Jesus and two others are about emotional relations to these last two characters. Well played though they be, they are superfluous. And the emotional connections defuse that last ambiguous remark about which was the lie.

The screenplay by Jerome Bixby is a corker, but he did not live to see this pet project to completion, having written the first draft in the 1960s. His other credits include ‘Fantastic Voyage’ (1966), and many episodes of ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Twilight Zone,’ and ‘Men into Space.’ His Sy Fy CV is rich. The direction of Richard Schenkman is invisible. That is high praise for what is a one set, stagnant play. He injects just enough movement and establishing shots to retain visual interest and to remind viewers that nature is indifferent.

It is sometimes performed as a stage play. All it takes is a few chairs and some players.

The screenplay passes lightly over love and sex, though not entirely, but it does completely elide language. Has this travelling man from India to Indianapolis learned all the languages in-between. Does he retain the Latin Columbus spoke? Urdu? Aramaic? Greek? Gypo? Arabic? Hindi?

David Lee Smith carries the picture as ‘The Man from Earth’ with a subdued intensity, though what the title means remains a mystery to this viewer. The ensemble cast includes the marvellous Dr Phlox from ‘Star Trek: Enterprise’ and William Katt, who was memorable in ‘Big Wednesday’ (1978), made a return to my consciousness here with his soul patch.

IMDb runtime is 1 hour and 25 minutes, rated 6.2 by 292 cinemitizens.

Genre: krimi but honorary Sy Fy, as below.

Atomic City lobby.jpg

It opens with Trinity at 05:29 on 16 July 1944 in the Jornada del Muerto desert. In just over three weeks another gadget destroyed Hiroshima.

The Atomic City is Los Alamos, shown here enclosed by cyclone fencing topped with barbed wire, the perimeter patrolled by armed guards with dogs, entry and exit is tightly controlled. (Much more tightly than the Brits did in ‘Spaceways' [1953]. Much.) Inside the wire no one talks about the work but everyone works on weapons. Secrecy is all.

Alamos 1.jpg A part of Los Alamos in 1952.

Top Scientist is distressed by an accident at work in which a worker was badly burned. That the burns are very serious is made clear. At the time the official line was that worries about radiation were evil Commie propaganda to undermine Yankee-doodle nuclear research. While no fuss is made, any viewer, apart from the fraternity brothers, can see these burns are likely fatal.

His home life is displayed with Corporal Rusty much in evidence. The tone of the film is set by Rusty when he says, ‘if I grow up,’ and is corrected by his mother to say ‘when I grow up.’ But he lapses back to the subjunctive ‘if.’ That word ‘if’ conjures the threat nuclear war and it is striking. Well done, screenwriter Sydney Boehm, who also did ‘When Worlds Collide’ (1951).

Mrs Top Scientist, and that is how she introduces herself, worries that Los Alamos is a bad environment for Rusty surrounded by all these mad scientists dedicated to blowing things up with the prospect of more burns. Until the Big One.

Children.jpg Published by Katrina Mason in 1995, recollections of some who lived there.

Top points out that there are 4000 other children, the schools are excellent, there is no crime, and the newspaper is delivered on time. Enuf said.

Nonetheless it is also true that every time he steps out of the house he is followed by security officers who dog his every step, the mail is censored, the telephone calls tapped, the kitchen cupboards bugged. That he has to show his pass at every corridor and so on. He chafes at this while accepting its purpose. Inside the wire it is a benign police state.

Alamos security.jpg Everyone and everything is searched even inside the wire.

Top accepts this situation as necessary and in this acceptance he is far more mature than many of the scientists who developed the bomb there a few years earlier.

Rusty goes on a school outing to Santa Fe where THEY snatch him. THEY are RED. What is interesting about these Reds is that they are all homegrown. Not a creepy Eastern European accent among them. They want to extort atomic secrets from Top in return for Rusty’s safe return. Top and Mrs are distraught and try to go it alone, as per the instructions of the Red Rusty-nappers. See ‘Tobor the Great’ (1954) for a parallel plot done badly, reviewed elsewhere on this blog, where Steven Geray added menace with his accent.

But the ever vigilant FBI agents — well it is a work of fiction, hooted the fraternity brothers — have already noticed Rusty’s absence and spring into action, led by Doc Adams.

The Reds are ruthless and murder their own to cut the trail. Bad Reds!

When the FBI agents finally arrest a suspect, they must not waterboard him, because if they do, then they become just like THEM, says one agent to another in restraint. This tension is one of themes in the film. To defeat the merciless totalitarian Reds, the Yankees may have to be equally totalitarian and merciless.

In the story the tension is resolved in another good scene. When Top confronts the suspect and says his name. The gloves are off! Out comes the waterboard off camera.

Aside, early on we have a scene at a minor league baseball game, probably the Lost Angeles Cubs in those days. It is a nice bit of location shooting that is done very well. But what is striking at this remove is that the crowd at the game is integrated, conspicuously so. Check the date, 1952.

While we see much FBI effort, there is no result apart from the little info Top beat out of the suspect using a waterboard as a cudgel. And that goes nowhere.

Meanwhile, we see a grimy Rusty imprisoned by the All-American Reds in the Puye Caves of the cliff-dwelling Anasazi People. He is ever so polite, but even so we can see he is sizing up the situation and does not believe a word of the assurance the villains give. Remember ‘if I grow up.’ He does.

Puye 1.jpg

When the Reds are busy planning world domination (but not smoking), he sneaks off, and makes use of the cave system to worm his way into tunnels the beefy All-American Reds cannot enter. Nice use of the location with some grand vista shots.

It must have cost a packet at the time to hoist the camera to the top of that mesa. Equally it must have taken an effort to film at the baseball game with a camera the size of an automobile.

While all the principles are white-bread there are Latinos, Indians, and Blacks in the background at the ballgame and in Santa Fe. Even that little is rare for the time when Hollywood was All Aryan.

In addition to Mrs Top who does a lot of knuckle biting, there is a sassy school teacher. They add emotional depth, though Top is good at distraught, too.

There is cigarette smoking, to be sure, but it is not quite as overwhelming in this offering as it sometimes is. Hence the parenthetical remark above.

Honorary Sy Fy when it showed up in searches for Sy Fy because at the time anything atomic evoked Sy Fy. In addition, Top went on the beat the Martians in the next year and later to save the world on the 27th day.

IMDb runtime is a brisk 1 hour and 4 minutes, rated 5.2 by 330 cinemitizens.

Verdict: The end of the world. Again.

Night World Ex.jpg

The setup? Dr Drone beavers away in his laboratory to invent….a quakometer to predict earthquakes. He does. It does. We all know whose fault that is: San Andreas! That’s whose.

No sooner does Drone develop a drum printer to predict earthquakes than it predicts a big’un and soon. Efforts to persuade anyone to believe in science fail. Faux News rejects his data as fake. It is ever thus.

When the quakes start as predicted panic stations ensue. Faux News blames the quake on immigrants.

In this work of fiction the script gives public officials some credit for preparation and disaster relief. As if, once the budget cutters got done.

Off to Pasadena to consult the Datatron computer.

Datatron 205.jpg Datatron 205. (It took 204 others to get it right. Is that encouraging?)

Datatron confirms Dr Drone's prediction.

To get to the bottom of quakology Dr Drone takes his comely offsider and assorted extras to Carlsbad Caverns. 'Unknown World' (1951) boldly went to these Caverns first and is reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

Carlsbad.jpg

Only down there can the rotary printer predict accurately. The news is bad. Very bad. Worse than bad. The end is nigh. The explanation is mumbo-jumbo.

It is element 112, kaboomium, which is about to go critical. The demonstration of popping a balloon of earth convinces everyone to run for cover. Run where? Good question.

Instead Dr Drone coordinates a worldwide effort to quell element 112. They have twenty-eight days, one more than allowed in ’The 27th Day’ (1957), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. All across the world scientists everywhere pass water onto 112 and it relents. The fraternity brothers volunteered to pitch in.

The pace is brisk. The acting is improved by the absence of John Agar. The comely offsider gets on with the job with neither a scream, trip, nor a faint. The sets are miniscule. The authority figures seem authoritative. Dr Drone is committed to the role, as they say on thespian street.

However, there is far too much yakkity-yak. Everyone cooperates. No one nit picks. Quibbles. Back stabs. Undermines. Or any of the other Standard Operating Procedures of life. Nor are there any villains. Not even a Red. Where is the tension in a clicking calendar? Even kaboomium seems pretty sedate say compared to those walking menaces in ‘The Monolith Monsters’ (1957), reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

Curiosity. There is no musical soundtrack. The union missed this one.

IMDb metadata is runtime of 1 hour and 20 minutes (it seemed longer, much longer), rated a heady 2.4 by 294 cinemitizens.

Genre: Sy fy

Verdict: There is no UFO and little else.

UFO Target.jpg

The opening credits are juxtaposed with grainy photographs of ostensible UFOs from the 1940s and 1950s. Then in a prologue we see a journalist with big hair and flared trousers in a double-knit suit interviewing Georgians about UFO sightings and abductions. The interviewees look rural and sound southern. This seemed a reasonable start.

Then the unreasonable set in.

A graduate student, wearing a three-piece suit and necktie with his own office and desk telephone at the University of Gainsville (Florida) makes a telephone call during a thunderstorm and over a crossed wire hears a conversation between a general and someone else about strange goings on.

During this call he has flashbacks to his own childhood in a similar storm, though the exposition is so lame it took ages for the fraternity brothers to realise this was a flashback and not a parallel cut-away. Later these flashbacks might be relevant, but at the time they seemed bad editing.

What to do? He consults his supervisor (bearing a frightening resemblance to what Justin Beiber will become) who wisely tells him to forget it. In the great tradition of student rebellion Three Piece disregards this sage advice, and recruits Mystic to help him get to the bottom of this mystery. Who better than a mystic to deal with a mystery? Mystery? What mystery? The phone call.

He goes to see General, there is only one in all of Florida, who wears an Army-Navy store uniform and who chides him for the liberal ideas of students (in Florida?), and then denies everything. Well he would, wouldn’t he. During this conversation Three Piece represents himself, a lowly grad student, as negotiating for the university. Sure. Even so the conversation is reasonably well written but so slowly executed the suspicion grows that they actors had to be word perfect because their was no dime for a re-take.

It seems there is a long history of electric power disruptions in the area. That the Buford Plant generating station has had some strange accidents. And that the mystic hears voices in the air, and not from a BlueTooth headset.

Three Piece and Mystic trace the voices to the lake. ‘The lake! Gulp. The lake? Yes, the lake.’ This dialogue went on for five-minutes. What they need is proof. Sure, but proof of what? That Three Piece is nuts and Mystic has an ear pod stuck in her lobe?

As darkness falls, they wait. We wait with them. We all continue waiting. That is followed by more waiting.

Then Three Piece also starts hearing voices in the air. He puts on a grey wig like Christopher Lloyd in ‘Back to the Future’ and walks into the lake as the voices tell him he has been chosen, only the fourth to be so honoured in a thousand years. By his sacrifice the world is saved (from the Trumpettes for a time?). We wondered if Virginia Woolf had been so honoured.

The end.

Get it? Get it! No, neither did we. What were we saved from? A sequel?

If the phone call was hot why didn’t the general do something like lock up Three Piece. Like rip his office apart. Like send thugs to warn him off. Like put on reflective dark glasses. Like tell the aliens to look out. Like try to kill Mystic. Come on. This is standard B-movie fare.

Did Florida grad students in 1974 wear three-piece suits? Did scientists team up with mystics quite that readily? Did someone really write that dialogue?

We never see a UFO, nor is there any reason to think that there is one. The voices, well there are other explanations. See a textbook on psychoses for a list.

There are lots of swirling lights to imitate Space Odyssey (1968). Some of the sound track works.

None of it takes us ‘To The Edge of Tomorrow’ per the lobby card. Nor do we broach ‘UFO’s…the truth about them might just blow your mind for the last time.’ Nope. Unblown.

One of the critics linked to the IMDb entry suggests it be re-titled to ‘Target Extreme Boredom’ because it succeeded at that. Amen, chorused the slumbering fraternity brothers.

Then there are the effects, like the boom microphone hanging overhead.

Target boom mic.jpg

The post-production editing and (dis)continuity render most of it incomprehensible without a script to follow. Hmm. Maybe that would not help.

None of the cast or crew has other listing on the IMDb. Ergo they learned from this experience to go into paediatrics or something.

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 13 minutes of treacle time, rated a generous 4.1 by 818 members of the producer’s extended family over the generations.

Genre: Sy Fy

Verdict: The search for intelligent life on Earth continues, with limited success.

Phantom Space card.jpg

It opens with fifteen minutes of stock footage of radar dishes, screens, technicians who are tracking a flying object, so intones a narrator. The object is making 70,000 miles an hour! It was first spotted over Alaska and then tracks down the Pacific Northwest coast (skipping British Columbia) toward Hollywood. Gulp!

In May 1953 this had to be a Red rover, and not Santa Claus! Stock-footage of F-86 Sabre-jets ascending to meet this Soviet menace! Whoa! Sabres could hit 650 mph. The Red Saucer whizzes past them before the Sabre pilots can buckle a seat belt! What to do! Fear the worst.

Then the flying object slows and drops off the screens near Santa Monica Beach. Nice place.

As this latter event occurs we cut to citizens who find radio reception has been jammed. Some of these citizens go on and on about what they wanted to listen to on the radio. And on. All that jabbering galvanises the Federal Communication Commission to action. (As if.) Its technical vans, recognised by their revolving roof-top antennas drive around Griffith Park while the crew talk to each other. A lot of driving and a lot of talking.

By this time the fraternity brothers were dozing on the sofa. ' Zzzzzzzing' is a direct quotation.

Then a frazzled woman lurches in front of one of the vans and says she and her husband along with a friend were attacked by a man in a diving suit. The technicians leap into action. Yep, they talk some more, but they do radio in the alert and a call for an ambulance. Their radio can, it develops, send but not receive now, like some people. The intermittent radio trouble is well handled in this scene.

Ben Casey’s offsider working his way through medical school as a police officer arrives. Lights up. He finds the husband dead. Story is he picked up a club and swung at the Diver (Phantom to the cognoscenti) who shoved him down, fatally. Cops aren’t buying the malarky and conclude the friend killed the husband for the wife. In a touching bit of dialogue the police keep calling this friend ‘the young man’ when he looks about forty. (He is not listed in the credits so no check is possible.)

While the cops are fabricating a case against ‘the young man’ there is a break-in and fire at the Getty oil refinery. Someone was killed in the fire. But it seems it was started by accident.

At minute 27 second 43 we get the first glimpse of a figure running around the oil refinery in a onesie. This must be Phantom! About time!

The audio had to be turned up to be heard over the snores of the fraternity brothers at this point.

By now the ambulance medicos, army, police, and feds are mobilised in a one camera frame shot, squeezed together, but none of them make any connection between

1) the disappearing Red Saucer,

2) the radio interference, and

3) the Diver.

Instead they grouse about the bad coffee.

Back to the Getty oil refinery. They chase after Phantom in the diving helmet and onesie. Then poof! He goes invisible. Every producer’s dream. He strips off his onesie and helmet and voilà nothing! Instead, wirework opens and closes doors, windows, spins chairs and so. Invisible he eludes the posse. Invisible he eludes a pay-cheque.

The cops, army, medics, and Feds finally realise the obvious at minute 47 second 5 that all three events above are connected. They take the onesie and helmet to Griffith Planetarium to be analysed. Guess they want to hold it up again the stars or something. In the lab (sure) is a woman scientist with her pet dog, Venus. Pay attention because these two are the only ones with any sense. She finds the suit radioactive and dons kitchen washing-up gloves to handle it. This was the official Atomic Energy Commission line at the time. Radioactivity was like poison ivy. Don’t touch.

The helmet, however, is not hot, but its breathing apparatus has unknown gases in it. Hmm. They sit in a cramped office and talk. Talk. Talk.Talk.

Periodically Phantom returns to the lab to inhale some of the helmet gases while the crew sits next door talking. Talking. Talking. Talking. By the way, contrary to rumour one fraternity brother stayed awake and counted forty-seven cigarettes lit by the onscreen cast. During some of the talk all of them are puffing way in a cloud.

Ah ha! There is an 'Ah Ha' moment. They will set a trap for Phantom. They set up the Planetarium with invisible eyes on all the outside doors to give alarm when he enters. What if Phantom is already in the building is a supposition none considers. Why they do not use the helmet as bait is down to their stupidity. Into their trap wanders the elderly and annoying journalist after some cheap sensationalism. Nothing has ever changed.

Every time Phantom is present Venus the dog goes ballistic but no one pays that any attention. Yes, Phantom is searching for intelligent life on Earth and so far only the dog passes the test.

While the men smoke and talk, talk and smoke, the Dr Woman goes back to the lab to pour stuff into vials. Phantom comes in for a helmet dose. Now get this.

What is B-movie woman supposed to do at this point? Scream. Faint. Trip. Scream. Faint. Trip. Those are the choices. NOT SO HERE.

Noreen keeps cool.jpg See, she keeps a cool head.

She is frightened when the helmet floats in air, but keeps calm and tries to communicate with the being! She also discovers that he becomes visible in ultra-violet light. She is a thinker. Another one passed the intelligence test. Both females, Venus and Woman, one dog and one not.

Needless to say the lads are unhappy about being shown up and to prove their manliness they set out to chase Phantom around the Griffith Planetarium for about fifteen minutes. We see repetitions of this footage five times. Then bored to death, Phantom runs out of his air and dies.

The end.

Well, it could have been worse. On the bright side, John Agar was not in it. Despite the zero budget it had some good special effects. When the Phantom carries Dr Woman off it is spooky since he is invisible. (In a black suit suit against a black matte.) When Phantom becomes partly visible under the ultra-violet light is good, too. Dick Sands who did the stunt work as the Phantom is good at running, jumping, tumbling, and falling. He does not speak and that saves him from the terrible dialogue.

One of the great moments in reasoning occurs when the talkers, conclude that because Phantom is invisible he must be silicon like glass. Tweet that. Who needs the National Science Foundation with brainwork like that.

It just ends, leaving nothing. There is no conclusion. No explanation. No expectation. No one wonders why he came. What he wanted. Where did he park the Red Saucer on Santa Monica Boulevard. Was he really a Russkie under all that white pancake make up. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

The lobby card is as erroneous as these usually are, written as they are by journalists. Phantom seems to have no power. He does not menace anyone. He was attacked by the husband and defended himself. We have no idea where he came from or why. No one checked the odometer on the saucer. Maybe he came from Outer Schenectady.

W. Lee Wilder produced and directed based on a screenplay by his son Myles Wilder. Yes they are kin of Billy Wilder. Elsewhere on this blog I have reviewed others of Lee Wilder’s oeuvre for which I did homework on the relationship to Billy. See the review of ‘Snow Creature’ (1954).

To some jaded viewers, among whom your correspondent takes a place, it seems the Widers saw ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ (1951) and set out to imitate it with a benign alien. But like someone trying to recite poetry phonetically in a foreign language, he had no idea how to intone, phrase, and colour it. Instead it is just a blurt.

The zero budget is reflected in the use of Griffith Park and the Griffith Planetarium which were readily available for filmmakers for years until the welcome mat was worn out. The cramped office scenes were shot in Wilder’s one-man office. Most of the extras were walk-ins recruited at a cattle-call.

IMDb meta-data is 52 episodes of 50 minutes each, overrated 8.0 by 2712 cinemitizens.

Genre Sy Fy.

Verdict: Improves after episode 1.1 thanks to writer Terry Nation but pales then without Terry Nation.

The director(s) need masterclasses from Val Guest. It is evident more money was invested in Seasons Two to Four in costumes, sets, and stunts. Then it goes on and on without Blake and without ever making it to seven.

Blakes7 card.jpg

It first aired the same week that ‘Star Wars’ opened in England. There are similarities and differences. The technical effects of ‘Star Wars’ outstripped everything at the time including this.

The similarities are in the story. Both feature a small band of righteous outcasts who challenge a behemoth. In the case of ‘Star Wars’ the band members cooperate, some friction aside, and prevail over the mighty, whereas in ‘Blake’s 7’ the members quarrel constantly, to the point of tedium, well, far past the point of tedium, and lose slowly but inevitably everything (including viewer interest).

The sequence of my viewing got jumbled but that did not seem to matter after the second season when any sense of a quest with a chronological order was lost and it reverted to swords and sandals in space with a new wardrobe each week. Blake departs but the name stayed.

In the far future (or past) the Terran Federation is a nightmare of McKinsey Micro Managers with Macro tasers. Things are worst on the home world of Earth where it all started. There micro-management involves brain washing. Today’s managers can only dream of this, and some do.

Malcontents who failed 360-degree reviews, missed the KPIs, or used plain English instead of deracinated McKinsey-speak are consigned to transportation to Au-star-lia in the far distant Botany Way. En route the prison ship encounters a Marie Celeste spaceship of an unknown design and it is big. Space is always crowded. Cannot go anywhere without running into an obstacle.

The Big Ship is ominously silent and the first boarding party goes that way, too: Silent. The captain of the prison ship decides to use some expendable prisoners to explore and secure the ship. Genius! He sends Blake because he is a pain and might get toasted; Plucked Eyebrows because she is a pilot who could steer it; and Nasty because he is a computer plumber who might be able to start it. Of course if they succeed ….

Thanks to his heroic self-control with which the script endows Blake, he zaps the self-defence systems of the Big Ship, whose computer then politely introduces itself as Zen, Siri’s cousin, and the ship as Liberator, and off they go.

In this case, bigger proves to be better. BIG disappears, leaving far behind the prison ship and its many keyboards which the actors pound with hammers. The prison ship captain is sure now to fail his 360-degree review. Gulp!

Blake has two then. ‘Blake’s 2’ did not cut it as a title. The fraternity brothers thought it could be ‘Blake’s 3’ by counting the man himself. Not so, a higher authority ruled. Blake’s One does not count. That one is covered with just the word ‘Blake.’ There are many convoluted discussions in the cyber world about this very deep and perplexing question. Abandon syntax all who would plumb those depths.

Blakes5.jpg Blake and five makes six.

By the way, the opening title card from Beeb above has no, repeat no, possessive apostrophe. It reads ‘Blakes 7.’ In fact it reads ‘Blakes7’ without a space between the word and the number. Grammar, too, must be abandoned it seems. Some wits and wags say those omissions were due to budget constraints. Neither apostrophe nor space could be afforded. Silly? Maybe not. If the title card and publicity material were done by mistake without the apostrophe and space, the budget might not have been sufficient to do them again. The IMDb in a rare display of grammar has inserted an apostrophe and space on its entry for this series which reads ‘Blake’s 7.’ As did I above.

The pilot seems willing to do what Blake wants. (The fraternity brothers made several suggestions.) Nasty wants to… be…nasty. They decide to follow the prison ship to the prison world and rescue any other prisoners who want to come along. Why? Because the title calls for seven, that is why. Yes, Blake says it takes seven to fly BIG but in fact there are never seven at a time on BIG. Moreover, every time something comes up, they run back and forth to the controls. It is clear to everyone but Blake that more than 7 are needed. However, often the ship, with Zen at the helm, flies itself and 0 are needed. At no time are there seven (7) on board flying Liberator.

These three show no curiosity about BIG or its absent crew, but find plenty of wardrobe that just happens to fit each of them. Go figure. The threads by the way are strictly Robin Hood. At least they are not flared trousers. No one stops to think that may BIG’s people will come looking for it with BIG things. This they do in the opening of Season Two with decals stuck on their foreheads and even worse dialogue. It is this episode the Nasty says, ‘Beam me up!’ Whoops. Ditto in this episode Blake says we call the ship ‘Liberator.’ Read the script, lad. Zen told you the name of the ship was Liberator in episode 1.1. It calls itself that. And the interrogator, even without a waterboard, should have already known all that since they came to reclaim the ship. Does anybody reads the syllabus, eh, script?

Thereafter they argue among themselves as their number increases toward but never attaining the magnificent but elusive seven. Mostly the tension is between Blake who wants to subvert the McKinsey Terrans with rebellion and Nasty who wants to enrich himself. We have action man who wants to blow things up versus the hacker. Blake’s merry band includes a strong man who can throttle villains two at a time, a cringing coward who can pick locks, a rebellious young woman who wants to do things her way, and someone I have forgotten. Or should that be two? By Season 1, Episode 6 they are Blake and four others.

Is Siri, the talking computer Zen, number 7? Stay tuned to find out! I did, stay tuned, and I didn’t, find out. Later we have another talking computer.

They are opposed by passing pirates, nut cases, Brian Blessed as a crazed Holy Roller, and pursued by McKinsey Operatives with Power Point lasers and training modules. Though these official pursuers are easy to elude because they wear blinding head gear which they only remove so they can clonked on the head.

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If the director ever lets them take off those tin cans, Blake’s Seven will be None, Zero, Nada, Gone.

Blake emotes over microbes, broken pottery, litter on the spaceways, and is always going out of the way to get into trouble as required by the script. He is Mother Teresa in space.

The characters do not change though some are killed off and others just disappear. The pilot continues to do as told. Nasty remains nasty. The coward cringes when a draft blows. The strong man rips the top off tins when a can opener is handy. Blake emotes. It is all predictable. Scanners reveal a banana peel floating in space. Blake has to stop and collect it in case a passing ship slips on it. Nasty objects that doing so is a waste of time. Wimpy hides in case a chimpanzee comes looking for the banana. Pilot does as told. Petulant female pouts. Strongman stomps on it. The end.

By the end of season four only Nasty and the Coward remain from the original crew, a]having repeated their paper thin characterisations fifty-one times.

Strangely, Blake is in less than half the episodes. The question then is, who does the emoting if he is not there? When he is absent the crew goes looking for him but not very hard. Maybe he got a better offer, I know I did. Should the title have change to….? ‘7 without Blake?’ Or, how about, ‘Blakeless7.’

5without blake.jpg Five without Blake.

Most episodes of the first two seasons are bleak, and the fraternity brothers proposed it be renamed ‘Bleak 7’ and obviate the need for an apostrophe. There is never have a Zorro moment, and they leave a trail of destruction behind them, despite their intentions. The distant, space-powered future is worse than today. In most episodes they encounter malign beings and occasionally they turn on each other.

By the by, Nasty is called Avon. Yes he is. And yes he does….once, say into the communicator ‘Avon calling.’ I waited fourteen episodes for the moment. But it was anti-climactic, because Paul Darrow says it like he means it. What an actor! It became his show when Blake went missing. But how can Nastyman carry the show. Answer, he couldn’t.

There are some interesting ideas sprinkled throughout, and occasionally some fine acting. Ideas? The chair sized computer shrank itself to fit into a pocket. The idea that a universally used computer chip in the Federation can be hacked by the largest portable computer ever seen, Oric, was prescient. However in the kickoff to Season Two when The System comes to reclaim Liberator it seems computers there also use that chip. How can this be since this is the first contact between the Federation and The System is anyone’s guess. The fraternity brothers were sure of this, because those forehead decals are memorable.

While the fount, Wikipedia, reports a steady fall in audience from Season One to Two, the budget increased as evidenced by the every more expensive wardrobe, costumes, and stunts. The designers were also called to create new sets for new villains. The money went to these superficial bibelots and not to screen writing. Terry Nation’s name is seen less often in the credits. At one point it seems the script writer also plays a part. Never a good idea.

Good acting? Well, none of the regular and fabled ‘7,’ if ever that number was reached qualify largely because the scripts give each of them only one note, but Space Commander Travis in the first season has some moments in the last episode of real complexity. However this actor was replaced by Travis II who is one-dimensional. Avon certainly tries to inject gravitas into the limp scripts.

Blake had a long career in Brit TV, including — of course — 'Midsomer Murders,’ but this series is listed as one of his three ‘Known For’s’ on the IMDb. Since it is virtually unknown that is little consolation.

I watched some of the early episodes at the time with only a vague recollection, but I did not follow the series to the end. That was not an aesthetic decision but a result of travels on sabbatical 1979-1980.

IMDb meta-data is runtime of 1 hour and 30 minutes rated 4.1 by 529 cinemitizens.

Verdict: nice premise with a certain charm.

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The set-up? It is the 13th Century in medieval Europe. Alchemy and Catholicism vie for the patronage of the local Duke, who has a comely daughter. Little Harv wants to be a Sir Knight but isn’t. He affects the chivalrous speech and manners of such a knight, badly. He is called Klever but isn’t. Even the fraternity brothers got that one.

To pay taxes to the Duke, the peasants expect him to protect them from, say, a passing dragon. One passes overhead. Yikes!

The Duke seeks the counsel of Priest who prays, and Alchemist who gathers data. Then Daughter goes missing. Presumed dragon-meat. Duke offers big reward for her return, including her hand. Vlucan logic that. Bring her back and I will give her away.

Harv puts inserts into his shoes and sets off to rescue her, and garner the aforementioned, including her hand, and more.

Thing is, the dragon is a space ship with one occupant, Alien, who goes around in a spacesuit which is taken to be a suit of armour. He is a harmless lad. He swoons for Daughter and she reciprocates. He has to remain in the suit, and he does not speak but glows and murmurs like a puppy. She reads his mind, and he hers. Not too hard. Well…. [had to quell the fraternity brothers on that one].

Priest is more interested in displacing Alchemist than he is in getting back Daughter. Alchemist is curious and befriends Alien and manages things to bring Daughter back, saved by Alien. This turn of events royally displeases little Harv and Priest who contrive to enter the spaceship which takes off to the stars with them on board bickering, as Harv says, ‘All I ever wanted to do was to get ahead in the world!’ And now he is out of this world.

The End.

What’s to like. The premise that an alien space ship might appear in medieval Europe. Why wait for Area 51 in 1947. That the spaceship might be mistaken in the night and in the mist for a dragon. That a space-suited Alien might be taken for a knight in armour. The rivalry between the witch doctor Priest and scientific Alchemist. The Daughter and Alien are charming. It is daring that the Alien does not ever speak but he looks beatific.

Not so likeable is the slapstick humour of Harv falling over his first friend. The recurrent and pointless Green Knight who is there to remind viewers of Monty Python.

Wasted is Fernando Rey as the Priest. Klaus Kinski is the alchemist and to see him smile benignly is to be very afraid.

As the original title indicates this is a Spanish production from Barcelona. It has an element of Don Quixote with the knight jousting with the spaceship.

IMDb meta-data is a total of 3 hours and 24 minutes in four episodes of fifty minutes, rated a scant 7.1 by a scant 558 cinemitizens. Scant squared is….

Genre: Sy Fy.

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Verdict: Nigel Kneale in top form!

Professor Quatermass leaves the hibernianation of his emeritus-cave in Scotland the Brave to get his sideburns trimmed by his missing granddaughter. He hasn’t been out much in the last thirty years - check those sideburns. He has to turn sideways to get through a door.

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He finds the world is on the verge of chaos. Gangs roam the streets pillaging, beating, and raping (off camera). They also make war on each other and the cash cops, loved that phrase, let them get on with it. Think ‘Clockwork Orange.’ Garbage is piled in the streets. Abandoned cars are strewn about. Petrol is not available. Public services don’t. Electricity cuts are recurrent. Hospitals turn away patients. Police are the problem, not the solution. Think London in 1982.

Instead of Hippies we have anti-vaxxer Planet People who wander around in tie-dyed saris waiting for the alien space ships to land and rapture them away to a better world. In their eyes Earth has been corrupted by science, by government, by J J J Radio, by hot water, by knowledge, by books, by thinking. They are proto-Trumpettes with waistlines.

Book fire.png A Planet People library.

For now the old order hangs on, barely. Cash cops try to quell violence with the tried and true policing method of more violence. Scientists keep looking for solutions down microscopes and up telescopes. No cure for stupid can be found under glass. That is where Prof Q comes in. What? Is he an expert on stupid? That would make him in demand.

The crumbling regimes of the USSR and the USA are combining to build a space station, and given Prof’s previous experience with space (and aliens) in ‘The Quatermass Experiment’ (1955), ’Enemies from Space’ (1957) and also ‘Quatermass and the Pit' (1958), all reviewed elsewhere on this blog, he is invited to comment on a television panel show of talking heads - groan! In the hall of mirrors of the media journalists interview each other and as an outsider Q is made to feel it. Some things never change.

John Mills is the sort of Prof Q writer Kneale wanted all along and he finally got his wish here in the last entry in the cycle. Eccentric, slovenly, confused, unkempt, indecisive, exhausted, just the man for the job. At the television studio he hooks up with Joe, a young astronomer; in the bucolic countryside Joe has a research team and family cowering in a bunkered observatory with voltmeters and CRTs galore. Who they are and what they are doing is left buried in the abyss of backstoryland, unless it was explained during a rest stop.

The Planet People are everywhere, stealing food, using parks as latrines, making trouble, leaving rubbish behind — a lot like dedicated Greenies in Camperdown Park today — and not above killing when a weapon is handy. These Hippies may have flowers in their hair, but they also have gats under their ponchos. They hear voices that tell them what to do, and they do it beyond good and evil. Starting to sound relevant? Tune into to the Russian-sponsored evangelical TV channel for an update.

The highest rating program on the television channel features amateurs in rubber suits hitting each other with sticks. Just caught a glimpse of the very same this morning on Australian Spartan, Ninja, Clown, Warrior or something. Prescient as usual is Kneale.

Prof Q and company are completely at a loss to understand, explain, comprehend, or communicate with the Planet People, though they try with evidence, argument, and reason. Huh! Two different species encounter one another in mutual incomprehension and contempt, young and old, Republican and Democrat. Isn’t this a story for our times?


Those efforts are as successful as negotiating with a dog or a Republican. Whoops, maybe that is an insult to canines.

The Planet People are scary and silly all at once.

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They use plumb bobs on strings to follow lei lines and gather for raptures in the sunshine, repeating vacuous phrases, waiting for the Tweet in Chief to raise them to the orbs. Several hundred gather at the Ringstone Round, a small and fictional version of Stonehenge. They chant. The BO index matched Woodstock. This is an England without rain.

In the interim, the Soviet-American space station blows up. At the same time, instruments on Earth go awry. Because communication is so hard, it takes a while for the connection between the events to be made.

Then at Ringstone Round the gathered crowd is vaporised. Poof! Despite the remains of some dead bodies, this vaporisation convinces the other Planet People who were nearby that the rapture has occurred, but they missed it because they were a few yards too far away. Disappointed, they will have to wait until next time. As the sage said, there is no cure for stupid.

By rapture they seem to mean being whisked away to a better world. How the whisking will occur is beyond understanding. That is its glory. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Nothing will shake their beliefs since their beliefs are based on nothing. See, it has contemporary relevance.

The evidence of their own eyes is explained away because aliens work in mysterious ways. Kickalong is their voice and he is perfect at it. However I would have cast Patrick Mower, who is unequalled in exuding energy and malice.

For the bigger picture on all this see Leon Festinger, ‘When Prophecy Fails’ (1956), reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

The vaporising convinces Prof Q and company that an incomprehensible Dark Force is at work killing these people. Dead is dead for them, and not immigration. Cryptic news from around the world indicates other vaporisation have occurred on ever larger scales. And there, too, the mass vaporisations have encouraged others to line up impatiently for their turn. Imbecilic yes. Credible, too. Lemming-like, too.

Q and company consult the voltmeters and stare meaningfully into the CRTs. The fraternity brothers were making lists of candidates for such raptures, starting at the top.

Meanwhile back at the ranch Joe’s sweet, innocent children recite the Huffity, Puffity song. Spooky since its lyrics seem to fit the events though none of the adults notice. Their baby-sitter, who seemed sane and sensible wearing flat shoes, goes all brain-dead, votes Republican, and joins the Planet People.

The four episodes were edited into a feature length film called ‘The Quatermass Conclusion’ for theatrical release. The latter seems to sum up and accelerate the four episodes which would be about twice as long. It is described as a cut-and-paste from the television episodes with Prof Q’s sideburns au naturel. Some additional footage was filmed simultaneously for the theatrical release to abridge deletions.

Q concludes that the megalithic sites, monolithic sites, and (old) Wembley Stadium* were erected by prehistoric peoples thousands of years ago to mark dangerous spots. Because every and now then Dark Force, as above, comes along and microwaves anyone stupid enough to stand around there. The young dolts of the Planet People are being harvested.

The fraternity brothers began to redouble their list-making, as noted above, but were disappointed to learn that the vaporiser only wants young people. The way that is wrapped up into the plot is ingenious. Suffice it to say here that BO comes into the equation.

Kneale once again shows his keyboard genius though here he is not working with director Val Guest who directed the earlier Quatermasses with verve. Even so the screenplay has ideas, drawn from the commonplace made uncommon, namely that nursery rhyme, and tapping into the fears of the age (Hippies, drugs, cults, feral sideburns) with an orthogonal rotation ( = new spin).

It seems to have been a major project to judge from the location shooting, the number of extras milling about, the costumes, and sets. Imagine all the assistant directors with megaphones marshalling those Planet People extras, and the gaffers lugging the 1970s camera around for outside shots, after waiting days for the English rain to stop, the sound engineers and focus pullers. Then there are the sets of the observatory, the car yard bunker, and the street barricades.

Bibliographic note for pedants. Ernest Bloch in the three doorstopper volumes of 'The Principles of Hope' (1954+) supposes, as evidently does Kneale, that fairytales are repositories of psychological and historical meaning.

By the way, the principals are all whitebread as usual but the Planet People include some of the human variety as they pass in front of the camera. Kickback is the only one to speak, however, and he is whitebread for sure.

The screenplay was completed on commission in 1970 but it took nearly a decade to get it filmed. The BBC owned the rights and started, and then stopped it, but held the rights for years. The original plan was to film the climax at Stonehenge but permission to film there was denied. Other snags were hit. Maybe John Mills shaved his sideburns and it took years to grow them back. Then a new producer came along, namely Ted Childs who had backed his hunches before, notably with ‘The Sweeney’ (1975+) and more.

The critics linked to the IMDb listing are sure the story is dated. They should get out more. The Planet People deny science with much the same attitude as is done today by anti-vaxxers, flat-Earthers, climate-change deniers, Republicans, UFO abductees, NRA zealots, those who hear voices in the air without BlueTooth, and other morons from Earth. It is a story for our time. What distinguished Q and company from the youthful Planet People is that Dark Force does not want their old proteins and that they have knowledge. These subtleties seem lost on such critics.

* Pedants will object that the old, roofless Wembley Stadium was built in 1923.

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True, but what was there before? Gotcha!

IMDB runtime is 1 hour and 13 minutes, overrated at 3.5 by 648 cinemitizens.

Genre: Sy Fy and nothing but.

Verdict: One of the first Eye-tie Sy Fy but not the last. Alas.

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In the year 2116 Rik van Nutter….[ponder that as a stage name] is assigned by the 'Interplanetary News' to visit a space station, one of several, it seems, and do a series of human interest articles, about the crew members, their work, life in space. That might seem a reasonable set up.

Here is how it plays. Rik is an insufferable know-it-all, busy-body, girl grabber, and endless pain. He has barely set foot on the station when he starts telling everyone how to do their jobs, getting in the way, and complaining about everything from the soup to the nuts. (Couldn’t resist that one.) After that he gets quarrelsome.

Even the ever whining fraternity brothers grew weary of Rik at 10 minutes and 05 seconds.

His initial meeting with the botanist sums it up. He astounded that the botanist is a woman. He astounded that a woman is a scientist. He is astounded that a woman is an astronaut. He is astounded that a woman is doing vital work. He is astounded that a woman is content to wear the work coverall that all the men wear. He is astounded….

After belittling her work, disparaging her capacities, and insulting her tastes, he turns on the charm and begins to grab and grope her in his state of astoundment. That was then. But what can one say? Has anything changed?

There are some nice shots of weightlessness.

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Though why they wear bikers’ helmets all the time is anyone’s guess. Still the white helmets with the dark sun screens make nice images and were cheap to hire.

The station is on a routine maintenance mission when things go wrong. Right on cue the meteors shower up. In part the accident happens because Rik got in the way, but he is sure he saved the day in so doing. In between pouting sessions he declares his heroism and demands a parade in his honour. He goes around expecting to be thanked. He is royally pained to discover the crew is too busy doing important work to celebrate him.

Never does he ask anyone else about themselves, about their work, or write a note. No doubt to complete his story when back on Earth he will interview another journalist and go from there. Some things never change.

To add colour, so often lacking in Sy Fy, Kmoto is there to make sage remarks. He makes the banal lines he has sound important. This one is not all white-bread. Noted.

More things go wrong and this crew has to save the world. None of them are up to the job so Rik has to do it. Ho hum.

This was director Antonio Margheriti’s first solo foray into Sy Fy. 

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In this outing he took the English pseudonym Anthony Daisies, but Sy Fyians know him better as Anthony Dawson of the Gamma 1 sequence, reviewed elsewhere on this blog. It was with this picture that Mr D proved he could make a movie in ten days for ten lira, and off he went to do for the next fifty years. His last credit was in 2010.

IMDb runtime 1 hour and 35 minutes, is rated a miserable 6.5 by 15020 cinemitizens.

Genre: Sy Fy. Horror. Comedy. Fun.

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Verdict: The search for intelligent life on Earth ends in the San Bernardino Valley.

Once every sixty-five million years a big red comet passes close by Earth.  Get it?  Last time it called, dinosaurs exi(s)ted.  

It is Christmas Eve and everyone wants to see the red comet, being all Republicans they have no knowledge …. of extinction events or anything else.  Everyone who can, stands outside to watch the comet fly-by. The red light shines and life is eradicated.  Anyone exposed to the comet’s red glare turns to calcium dust.  An improvement for the moral majority.  

Some who were partly sheltered slowly turned into Pat Robertson zombies.  A few who happened to spend the relevant hours in a tightly sealed, steel-lined room are uncontaminated.  That latter number includes theatre projectionists, quiz show participants, survivalists, garden gnomes brought into sheds at night, truck drivers sleeping in the back, and …  

Two Valley girl sisters survive and want to keep doing so.  They have plenty of training from soldier dad, who is away fighting Sandanistas 'in Honduras.' Hey, don’t blame me, that is what is said. Apologies to everyone in Honduras but maybe dad was on R and R there.  

In their search for life, they hear a radio station DJ broadcasting, so they go to the station. There they find a tape on a loop.  The DJ taped the graveyard shift program in the afternoon and went home. He might have survived had he been in the airtight station booth. That same tape also lured Commander Chakotay.  They team up, a little.  Not enough, cried the fraternity brothers.

The girls show a few zombies some moves and break into NRA headquarters for some heavy weapons. Thus prepared, they head to the mall. The fashion parade cum shopping spree is great fun until the zombies come to the party which disintegrates into an NRA shooting spree.  The fraternity brothers thought they recognised a couple of Sigs among them. 

Just when it seems things cannot get any worse - Remember ‘Deer Hunter’ (1978) - they do.  They are rescued by a crack team of GOVERNMENT scientists.  Much relief... is short-lived. All those capital letters mean trouble ahead.

The scientists are more interested in…. [spoiler].

However Commander Chakotay comes to the rescue, and the girls again put their dad-training to good use. The fraternity brothers chortled when the lab assistants were tied up with the Santa Claus sign.

But best of all is the finale.

While our gang is sequestered in the desert bunker a cleansing rain falls and washes away the killer red dust and all the little calciums. A new dawn rises. After blowing up, up, and away the mad and bad scientists, aided by one of scientists who retains a conscience despite years of McKinsey-speak, our crew return to Lost Angeles….to go shopping in Eden Mall.

Chakotay and Big Hair look married, and are accompanied by the two tweenagers they rescued from the clutches of the lab assistants, they make a family. Many selfies are taken with a Polaroid. (Remember them?)

They dance down some steps to the street and stand at a crosswalk waiting for the light to turn green so that they may cross. No spoiler. But the next few minutes are worth the price of admission. Delicious and delightful.

Impossible not to like.

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Thank you Thom Eberhardt, writer and director.

It is energetic, full of tributes to other, better movies; fast and furious; has some ripper one-liners, the mandatory 1980s fashions, big hair, big teeth, and Mac30s.   Loved it when the gal pals compliment each other on their rigs in between slamming would be zombies to the ground and cutting others in half with a hail of sound effects.

Commander Chakotay breaks two of the barriers to Sy Fy, being Latindio. Get it? And one of the tweenagers might be Sansei plus. It is rare for Sy Fy to be anything but white-bread.

The empty street scenes in Lost Angeles were shot on Christmas Day and then scrubbed, say the reviewers.  

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 22 minutes of treacle time rated 5.5 by 500 relatives of the cast and crew.

Genre: Sy Fy and Boredom.

Verdict: 0 and this despite the star-studded cast of John Stead, Tony Curtis, Niles Doppelgänger, and Valley Girl.

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The trope is a movie within a movie, the former is sold to producer Tony as a tax write-off that becomes a hit. Mel Brooks did this better with ‘Spring Time for Hitler,’ recalled the fraternity brothers.

Lobster French card.jpg Sounds no better in French.

The within movie has the rest of the cast and the rubber suits from Parties R Us. The Martians are running out of air so Lobster Man is sent to Earth to collect air and return with it in his overnight claw. Once there, LM drifts off-mission to hunt down and consume Niles and Valley Girl, who rush back and forth in the 1950s movie nightmare they inhabit. They are shadowed by a PI who repeats invented 1950s PI slang tirelessly and tiresomely.

'Inane', 'inept,' and 'pointless' are some of the kinder things the fraternity brothers said of it. Tony enlivens about seven minutes of screen time before fleeing to the pay window. Stead has no more before making the same move. He also appears in another Sy Fy spoof I have been unable to finish. Saving it for much later. With these two absent that leaves more than an hour…. zzzzz. It is a long cast list and one suspects the contracts stipulated entering a ten vote on the IMDb web site.

Lobster stub.gif Read that stub carefully and believe it, or not: Sundance!

That a movie is so bad it attracts a following of idiots from among the rich pickings of idiots out there is the wet dream of every inept filmster since the late Ed Wood, Jr.  Ed, you have a lot to answer for.

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 35 minutes of Dali time, rated 3.5 by 2285 generous cinemitizens.

Genre: Sy Fy and Boredom

The Verdict: Bad enough to be Italian.

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On a deep space United Worlds (or some such nomenclature) police cruiser the crew is Captain Dorito, Cigarman, Stetson, and various rubber masks rejected from Star Wars. The ship is run by the title android, whom we style Pinocchia for reasons explained below to those who pay attention, who is perfect in every respect but is not even partly functional.  

While the crew is asleep for twenty-seven years after an epic beer bash which the fraternity brothers were to sorry to have missed, Pinocchia reprograms herself to be fully functional. She is motivated by Cigarman’s lust and learns what to do by watching within copyright clips from 1970s romance films.  We watch her watching these excerpts for twenty-seven years, or so it seemed, groaned the fraternity brothers. All very post-Modern meta, not privileging entertainment or intelligence over boring and pointless. Like innumerable cultural studies seminars, croaked the fraternity brothers.

While in cryogenic sleep Cigarman keeps a stogie clamped in his cancerous jaw, Captain Dorito has corn chip crumbs in his beard, and Stetson.... [go on, guess]. Fortunately, the stogie limits Cigarman’s dialogue. Good move that.

The end. ‘Hooray,’ shouted the fraternity brothers! ‘That was the best part.’

Disclosure notice: I took the dog to the park for an evening walk while it continued. Upon on return the fraternity brothers assured me that I missed nothing that they had noticed. Hmmm.

Pinocchia is eye candy for some as is Cigarman for others.  Regrettably, said the fraternity brothers, the latter is the one who is undressed though this fact did not stop them faire du léche vitrine. (Figure it out.) Captain Dorito and Stetson are the comic irritants.  Drying concrete is the pace. There is no screenplay apparent. The special effects were $49.95 at K-Mart.

On we go in our tireless quest for Sy Fy grail.....

IMDb meta-data is runtime 1 hour and 30 minutes, rated 4.5 by 1555 pathetic cinemitizens

Genre: Sy Fy Comedy

Verdict: Monty Python is an alien!

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In Sy Fy-land the aliens coming to Earth are most often (1) invaders, (2) technologically advanced, and (3) rubber creatures. In this case the alien are humans, retarded, and lost. (‘Space Invaders’ [1990], reviewed elsewhere on this blog, takes a similar premise regarding the intelligence of the aliens and offers a different exposition.)

Four of these hum-aliens have rented a space pod for a holiday and are tooling around the universe; they take a wrong turn and enter the solar system. The pod is from Rent-a-Wreck and it breaks down, making a hard landing on the M4 near Bristol. One of their number got lost in the confusion and makes a solidarity hard landing in Area 51.

The Brits' Secret Squirrels round up the trio and interrogate them for the advanced technology and alien physiology they must possess. Ah huh. These three possess next to nothing. Asking them about the space pod’s working is like asking the fraternity brothers to explain an automobile's rotary engine: ‘There are pedals…’

Their physiology is also a disappointment. Human. And nothing but. Not even very good specimens of that.

What to do? Lock them up and let the next minister decide. Well, that is Whitehall SOP. There will always be a next minister in a year or two.

The satire is heavy. The pastiches on other Sy Fy films are several. The musical numbers are two. The social criticism floats like a sledge hammer. The pace is swift. The humour is jolly.

The American cultural attaché arrives with six-guns drawn. The Prime Directive of US foreign policy is eradication. A verity. The British minister falls in love with the alien crumpet and tries to woo her. The media vultures descend but soon grow bored with how ordinary it all is. Realistic then.

Then one hapless journalist helps the trio to escape confinement and inadvertently turns them into celebrities. They are eminently qualified to be celebrated, being vacuous, retarded, greedy, lazy, amoral, self-serving, and lacking any talent or ability. Thus they are perfectly suited to the role. Move over Paris Hilton! Realistic again.

Meanwhile, Bernard, the fourth alien, searches Arizona for intelligent life. He searches. And searches.

News of these alien celebrities reaches far Arizona and Bernard makes his way to England with the help of the Chief from ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’ It’s not a happy reunion. The members of the now celebrity trio do not want a four-way split.

Just as muscle chucks Bernard out, there is a Close Encounter of the First Kind (hinted at in an early instrumental number) with a repo man from the Hurts space pod rental company come to collect the overdue vehicle. He takes the trio away from their adoring fans to settle the bond.

The hapless journalist has lost his meal ticket, but, well, there is Bernard. The end.
Morons_from_Outer_Space_39321_High.jpg Alias Smith and Jones getting on with it.

It is a self-parodying film, leaving nothing to add. There are some truly great deadpan performances from Dinsdale Landen and James Sikking. Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones have zingers and sight-gags galore in the screenplay, though it does seem like an extended skit on the television programs. Sorry lads but it is true.

Some of the humour is pie-in-the-face, which the fraternity brothers eat up.

IMDb meta-data is runtime of 2 hours and 10 minutes, rated a measly 6.2 by a paltry 2129 cinemitizens.

Genre: Sy Fy when it was made, fact now.

Verdict: memorable as well as prescient.

An indictment of reality television made forty years ago by a French director with an English-speaking cast in Scotland.   Bored the fraternity brothers to sleep.

Death Way=tch card.jpg

In the near future, medical science has eradicated nearly all diseases. Most of us die of old age in our beds. But not all. There are still some incurable, fatal diseases.

Recognising a market niche, the Television Network launches a reality program called ‘Death Watch’ which will air the final, death agony of individuals with such rare diseases. The concept is salacious, puerile, invasive, vulgar, and crass, all the qualities of a ratings winner. Coming to Channel 7Mate soon! Why do I think of Richard Carlton? (Nigel Kneale did something even more cynical in the ‘The Year of the Sex Olympics’ (1968), reviewed elsewhere on this blog.)

Filming old folks in hospice care cacking it is rejected as boring what with bed pans and all. Who wants to see wizened oldsters croak anyway.

Better that the victim is young, preferably with a tear-jerked family, and seemingly healthy before the wasting away and pain begins. The bored cynicism of the producers is heavy duty. Into the frame comes Romy Schneider. She is diagnosed and prognosed in a one shot stop.

She goes through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and shopping for the remainder of the film.

First off, the carrion eaters descend to pick her living carcass. In return for the exclusive rights to broadcast her death, the Network will shield her from the other vultures. There’s the bargain, Faustia. Surrender privacy to get privacy.  Romy refuses and is besieged by the free press. She is harassed, hounded, humiliated to get reaction shots. Evasive tactics are demeaning and exhausting. She becomes a celebrity, signing autographs, getting book deal offers, and so on. That is depressing in itself.

She relents and takes the money, and then runs. She is shadowed, accompanied, and sometimes protected, and at other times manipulated by Harv who is the Network’s agent. Here is the Sy Fy gimmick, he has a camera eye. He transmits her flight back to the studio which edits and airs it. (Herbert Lom had one of those in ‘Journey to the Far Side of the Sun [1969],’ reviewed elsewhere on this blog. Didn’t do him much good. Too bad Harv did not know that before he cut his eye out to make way for the camera.)  

Harv makes sure that she never realises this is going on. On the run, they are, after all, trying to avoid others, hiding out in the gloaming, darting through the heather, though not a single tam o'shanter nor a man in a skirt was sighted. These latter omissions made the dozing fraternity brothers question the claim of location shooting in Scotland. Where are the cat strangling bagpipe players, they asked.

Most of the runtime is these two leaving a grey on grey Glasgow and travelling the hinterland to the coast so that she can see the sea and die. It becomes a road movie that we have seen many times before, albeit one with a sharp edge. As Harv plays her to spin out the story, the producer manipulates him to do ever more to wring the sob out of the story. The manipulator is himself manipulated per Michel Foucault. It takes Harv a long time to realise that. Not the sharpest knife in the hack's drawer is that one.

The mouth-breathing passive viewers of Channel 7Mate lap it up.

In this future the conditions are mostly Third World, perhaps we are all living longer but not producing more since we are watching Channel 7Mate all day. Glasgow looked better after German bombings than it does here. Most people dress in worn rags. Even the Network producer drives around in a dilapidated Leyland.

Unlike so much Sy Fy which is replete with gizmos, this one is shorn of that paraphernalia, much to the irritation of some reviewers on the IMDb. The only toy is Harv’s camera eye (and in one scene a Siri computer the size of a refrigerator). Moreover, and again in contrast to Sy Fy norms, no one is out there roaming the galaxy, but rather the focus is introspective. Additionally, it celebrates nature rather than the stars, though not quite in the same intense reverence as Edward G Robinson’s final scene in ‘Soylent Green’ (1973), not yet reviewed, because it depresses the fraternity brothers.  

The musical score is perfectly aligned to the ambience. That is another departure from the Sy Fy norm where usually the score is bolted on later, priced by the minute.

That 6.2 rating puts it 0.2 points ahead of D-movies like 'The Earth Dies Screaming' (1964), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. Figure that out.

Bertrand Tavernier, lawyer turned cinemaista, is the director, writer, and producer, whatever the credits say. Like Howard Hawks, his intellectual fingerprints on a film are obvious.

Tavernier.jpg

There is a 2012 informative and thoughtful short interview with him about this film on You Tube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpaVvh51Rbw). It remained as fresh in his mind during this interview thirty years later as the day it started.

Some of his other credits include these noteworthy titles:

‘Quai d’Orsay’ (2013) - a fool become foreign minister
‘In the Electric Mists’ (2009) - a mystical krimi in NOLA
‘It all Starts Today’ (1999) - a school teacher learns from children
‘Life and Nothing But’ (1989) - a bitter veteran buries the dead
‘Clean Slate’ (1981) - white savages in Africa
‘The Watchmaker’ (1972) - a father’s love is blind

For Romy perhaps the ones to name are the enigmatic Rosalie or the spectral Chantal.

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 22 minutes of Dali time, overrated at 3.3 by 2302 cinemitizens. (How come so many votes for this loser? Dunno.)

Genre: Sy Fy

Phantom Planet card.jpg

Verdict: Davy Crockett in space!

The set up is this: in far distant 1980 the United States Air Force is rocketing hither and thither, Mars, Woolworths, Venus…per Marvin Miller’s opening voiceover. (Marv was taking time off from handing out the dosh for ‘The Millionaire.’)

Get this, the pressure suits of the astronauts (and that term is used) have the Davy Crockett touch, a fringe along the arms to keep the space flies away.

DAvy fringe.jpg Check out the fringe down the left forearm of the dark-haired red shirt.

We see these same two fringed pressure suits on no less than eight astronauts, two at a time, throughout the eternity of this film. Even the fraternity brothers noticed the fringe on the fourth viewing.

One of the USAF rockets goes missing. Who you gonna call to find a missing rocket? Steve Canyon, that’s who! A bleached, gaunt, and comatose Steve, but Steve nonetheless.* He reaches for the clichés and says ‘it is too quiet’ in space. Vacuums are like that, Steverino! Maybe Steve shouldn’t have graduated from spaceboy school.

Spruced up after a meteor shower, Steve manages to lose his co-pilot in that too quiet space vacuum, accompanied by the Lord’s prayer. Yep. It takes Steve a while to notice this loss, and he recovers from the emotional trauma in seconds. That’s, Steve! Tough as nails where others are concerned.

By the physics of scriptwriting he ends up on an asteroid, which is sometimes called a planet. Confusing, no? Confusing, yes! He collapses in despair after reading the rest of script. Urgh. Then the leprechauns appear. Is this Ireland? They certainly are little people.

The Lilliputians are led by Nebraska’s own Anthony Dexter, on whom more in a moment. Rather than stake Steve to the ground like a beached Gulliver, Dex has a better idea. Open his face mask. They do. The catatonic, I think but with him it is hard to tell, Steve breathes the asteroid’s air. (Yes this weeny asteroid has an atmosphere in the script if not in physics.) This is the good scene. Steve shrinks inside the fringed pressure suit to Lilliputian-size. Every part of him shrinks. Get it? Now the whole of Steve is six inches. The fraternity brothers shrivelled.

Turns out the planet-asteroid is called Rayton, Rayon, Rheton, or something and flies around under the control the oldest alien seen in B-movie land, namely Francis X. Bushman, who is obviously reading lines from cue cards most of the time and still gives a better performance than the rest of them. This old stager was born in 1883. Driving an asteroid was a demotion for him because the year before he had been Secretary General of the International Space Order in ’12 to the Moon’ (1960), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. Earlier still in 1925 he had been Ben Hur and drove his own chariot. Experienced he is then at driving.

By the way, the controls are Tibetan rock crystals and X just waves his hands over them. This trope became a commonplace when theremin players were recruited as UFO pilots.

X at controls.jpg With X at the helm there are no worries.

Steve wants to fill out his pressure suit again and go home. The Raytons are shy and do not want to become a tourist destination, so are reluctant to let him go. To show him hospitality a jury of six young women sentences him to stay. They do so in silence. See, shy. Then the Solar Panelists attack, led by Jaws in the strangest rubber duck suit yet seen outside a bathtub.

Jaws Kiel.jpg See.

They fight it out. Fight. Fight. Fight.

Fighting back-to-back bonds Steve and Dex, who then shows Steve how to escape, full-sized and fully functional.

The end.

Dex is Nebraska’s own; he peaked as ‘Valentino’ (1951). His next lead was in ‘Fire Maidens from Outer Space’ (1956), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. Dex was also with X in ’12 to the Moon’ so they could reminiscence about that around the script-fire.

The fraternity brothers could detect no Cold War themes in this movie. If there was such a message they did not receive it. Situation normal.

Disclosure statement. I watched this ages ago and no write up followed because of the benumbed state that viewing produced in me. Now that I have been hardened by so much else, I watched it again, such is my dedication to bleaders.

* For years the syllabus in 'Power' had this entry: 'Beyond Steve Canyon and Rambo: Histories of Militarized Masculinity' by Cynthia Enloe. The reference here is to the comic book which became a television series in the 1950s.

IMBd meta-data is runtime 1 hour and 27 speedy minutes, rated a measly 7.2 by 21,596 cinemitizens.

Verdict: Chapeaux!

The Thing card 1.png

At a remote scientific station above the Arctic Circle in Alaska a giant carrot appears with a taste for blood!

Here's the set up. A NORAD airbase tracks an incoming craft that crashes near a polar science station. Since it is time for a supply run to the base, Captain Tobey and his crew are dispatched to deliver the goods and check the wreck. Simple. Ah huh! That’s what they think. (No one seems to think it could be a Russkie.)

After that leisurely start the pace increases. Finding skid marks on the ice, and a shadow under the ice, as if a hot object had slid along and then burned into the ice which then froze back over it, they fan out to measure its shape. It is one of the several brilliant moments in the film. As they shuffle around beating their arms to keep warm in the Arctic wind, they come to form a circle which no one notices since each is preoccupied with slippery footing and the biting cold, until…..

UFO ice.jpg

‘We found one,’ says one of the grunts in amazement. (You either get it, or you don’t.)

After some of this and that, they find an NBA body frozen in the ice and drag that sizeable block of ice back to the station for further examination. By now the weather, per script, has closed in and they are cut off from the outside world in the Science Station of Otranto.

The ice block thaws and a very hungry Marshall Dillon emerges to find a late lunch. Several huskies will do, one of which tears his arm off. No problem, he will just grow another one. Bullets have no effect.

The scientists examine the detached arm and conclude…. It is a carrot!

When Carrot Dillon runs out of dogs, the scientists are next in line. Gulp! This is some vegetarian.

Howard Hawks wrote, directed, edited, and produced this masterpiece. The results is a B movie with A movie pizzazz. It has all the touches of this cinema doyen. Overlapping dialogue as two or three people talk at once. When Robert Altman did that in ‘Nashville’ (1975) he was hailed as a genius. Old news to cinemitizens. Role reversals when a woman takes charge of Captain Tobey. Inverted hierarchy when the best ideas come from subordinates.

Moreover, the soldiers act like scientists and the scientists act like soldiers. That is, the soldiers discuss the problem, test responses, revise, amend, try again, evaluate, and improvise. The scientists obey the senior man’s silly orders and he holds to his interpretation of the facts despite the evidence to the contrary.

The Captain’s authority lies in melding the men together, not in shouting out solutions or orders. The Senior Scientist, by contrast, gives only orders and silences other voices.

There are two women at the station and neither screams. One offers the first practical response to the Thing. How un1950s it all is.

Equally unusual is the presence at the station of Chinese cook who is later there at the denouement, cleaver in hand ready to fight this man-eating carrot. In most films of the day such a character would have been comic relief, i.e., stupidly stereotyped, and then forgotten.

H Hawks.jpg Howard Hawks

Like Frank Capra, Hawks gives the supporting actors facetime and some of the best lines. It is a large ensemble cast of perhaps twenty and everyone of them has a line or two.

The conflict between the scientist and the soldiers is a trope in Sy Fy, but here, before it was done to death by later and lesser hands, it is fresh and vital. The scientist wants to keep Thing alive at all costs, including his own life. It is a being from another world. ‘We must communicate with it.’ ‘We must study it.’ ‘We must learn from it.' He goes like it is the Second Coming. ‘What are a few human lives compared to the chance to learn from a creature of another world.’ Well....

To his credit, the Senior Scientist risks his own life to try to communicate with Thing, and in this the soldiers give him due acknowledgement for the courage of his convictions. Nicely done. No cardboard plot devices here.

By contrast the soldiers know an enemy when he attacks and respond in kind. It is a perfect contrast in almost every way to its 1951 cousin ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ where Klaatu came in peace. The Carrot from another world came for dinner!

At the end, the final words are a warning 'to watch the skies' because more may be on the way. Of course in 1951 Thing has to be a Red Thing. Hence, carrot.

It has been remade number of times but I have never bothered to watch the imitations. Though I note that Janne Wass of ‘Scifist’ writes that John Carpenter’s version ‘The Thing’ (1982) is one of the finest science fiction films ever made, and Janne is an oracle on these matters.

Wass and others go on about the Senior Scientist, with his double-breasted brass-buttoned blazer there in the Arctic hut, sporting a fur hat and a roll-neck cashmere turtle neck sweater. He has a goatee which suggests, to the rune-readers, that he is homosexual, a Russian spy, a villain, a male model, a.... Well he is the pole of an argument but as for the rest. No dice.

He presents his arguments and he lives up to them. In the end the soldiers pay him his due for that.

IMDb meta-data is runtime of 1 hour and 16 minutes, rated 5.0 by 307 cinemitizns.

Verdict: a snappy krimi with rockets’ red glare.

Sapceways card.jpg The space wheel shown on the lobby card is not even mentioned in this film.

In the heart of darkest Devon a stereotypical assortment of 1950s Brits are playing with rockets. In their midst are an American stereotype and Hungarian Eva Bartok who together add international respectability to the Brit’s efforts to build and launch a spaceship. Sure, right. Britain as a world power. In 1953 England meat, sugar, bacon, chocolate, and much more were still rationed. But rockets needed no ration book.

We see models of multi-stage rockets and twice, in this short film, hear expositions of how they work. These lectures are interspersed with stock footage of the launch of single-stage rockets. Prof says we are about to launch a multi-stage rocket which works like this…. Then we cut to the launch of single stage rocket. This is the sort of continuity error that even the fraternity brothers notice, the second, or third time.

All the scientists and their families live in a fenced in compound with only two gates guarded by elite guards. No one can leave without the principal’s consent. No one can enter without a box of cookies. The place is tight, because it is super top hush secret. Los Alamos was like this in remote New Mexico.

Living cooped-up like this irritates the English wife of Mr American Stereotype so she, brazenly for the times, cuddles up to Dr Weasel. Meanwhile, Mr Stereotype sweats under the melting looks of that one-woman sauna Dr Eva. ‘An easy choice,’ shouted the fraternity brothers. But Stereotype is — briefly — full of scruples.

Then Wife and Weasel disappear from this top secret super hush impregnable establishment!

Yes, Erich, what other explanation could there be? Aliens abducted them! No, wait the limp-wristed investigator come from the Heap Big Smoke of London concludes Stereotype murdered Wife and Weasel.

So far so krimi.

But here is where we come back to the rockets. To get their corpora delicti off the secure, airtight base, reasons Limp Wrist, Stereotype put them in a test rocket which was then fired into the firmament where it will orbit for decades. If so, his guilt cannot be proven, but if the missing couple is not found elsewhere neither can his innocence be established. What a conundrum! What will happen! ‘Ho hum’ is what happened.

Without innocence he is not going to get Eva, so he is motivated to clear his name!

He climbs into a deep-sea diving suit and sets out on in the next rocket to retrieve the previous one and find out if any corpora are on it. Though quite why anyone on the ground would believe him is a scriptwriter's secret.

Eva goes along for the ride, and she gets to deliver a noble speech about the need to conquer the stars.

Meanwhile, Limp Wrist has figured out that the missing two bribed an elite guard with a chocolate bar and vamoosed out the gate. They did so not for love, money, Superbowl tickets, or sex, but because Dr Weasel is an agent of Them. Wife traded Stereotype and the boring test site for a series of dank hotel rooms as Weasel eludes pursuit on his way East. Not what she had in mind. She gets even crankier when a life of eastern borscht appears on the menu. She squawks. To make it easier for Stereotype to end up with Eva, Weasel divorces Wife with a revolver, just as Limpy breaks in.

Question, why did Weasel bother with her in the first place? Answer, it is in the script.

Why is it called ‘Spaceways?’ The term is never used in the film during my consciousness.

Stereotype is now free of both Wife and suspicion and he and Eva can….. One of Stereotype’s biggest roles was once as Mr Adam(s). Get it.

Howard Duff is Stereotype and the word on the Wikipedia Street is that he was a man’s man, that means in this case, he was a repeated beater-upper of women. ‘Repeated’ because the Hollywood police were always sure the women provoked him. So no jail time. Drunk driving in the Hollywood Hills got jail time in those days -- ask John Agar --- but not aggravated assault. Ah the good old days.

This was a quota quickie from the early days of Hammer Films before it started to concentrate on Horror. It was distributed in the USA by Lippart, a bottom feeder. Quota Quickies for those who missed the earlier explanation were made in England to meet the legislated requirement of local content. Since the British Film industry was at full bore it could not meet the demand for 25% local content, it subcontracted much of the work to American shelf companies set up in England to meet that need. Ergo while the purpose of the legislative requirement was to promote British films, it had the opposite effect. A nice example of the backfire of a public policy. American investors in these quota quickies usually required an American actor in a leading role so that the films could be packaged for Yankee release.

Éva Márta Szőke Ivanovics's backstory is more gripping than any role she ever played. Born in Hungary, at age fifteen she married a Nazi officer to shield her Jewish father. Later she married again to escape Communist Hungary and made it to Great Britain, where more marriages awaited. This from Wikipedia where it is said that she was a woman's woman, i.e., did not suffer fools gladly. No wonder her career did not prosper.

IMDb meta-data is runtime of 1 hour and 41 minutes, rated 6.4 by 2792 cinemitizens.

Verdict: Intriguing premise lost in a morass of non-sequiturs and toys.

Far Side sun.jpg

‘Thunderbirds are go!’ Yes, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson brought their talents to bear on his feature length film, and for once had a budget. It has the garnish colours and hip 1970s costumes, purple wigs, and players from their stock company.

The acting is fine, the effects are good, the story has interest, but somehow the whole is less than the parts. The direction is so slow that some of the actors must have had their feet glued to the floor. While the miniatures and effects are good, when the camera lingers on them for minutes the cracks start to show. Robert Parrish directed some excellent films but this is not one of them.

Repeatedly action, character development, plot twists are interrupted for long intervals of miniature models to’ing and fro’ing. The models are good but no one tunes in to watch them.

Before any more of that judgemental stuff let’s get the set-up. In the near future the European Space Exploration Council finds a hidden planet on ‘the Far Side of the Sun.’ In typical European fashion the member nations refuse to pay for a flight to look at this physical impossibility. Physics be damned. In steps NASA with a wad of cash and an astronaut. He teams with an unwilling Brit and off they go.

Whoosh!

Their mission is to survey this planet. When they get there, the sensors report no sign of life below. During an IOS update the onboard computer lands them in the worst possible place on this new world and their landing craft crashes, burns, and injures them both. While dazed, they are rescued by a chap who wants to know if they speak English. Huh!

Figured it out yet? This is ‘Another Earth’ (the title of an excellent film which will be reviewed elsewhere on this blog) but it takes everyone a long, long, long time to figure this out. In fact it is an identical Earth right down to the pimples. The only difference, spotted immediately by all viewers and one of the players is that everything is reversed. Well, the lettering and writing. However once that is established nothing follows.

The screenplay is a mess. There are rabbits and hares running without rhyme or reason. The American astronaut’s wife rails at him for exposing himself…to radiation on his spaceflights, claiming this has caused him to become sterile. That is why they have no children to her expressed regret at high volume. He then confronts her with the birth control pills she is taking. They yell at each other. Nothing is resolved and nothing is ever later explained. This is one example among several of threads set out and then ignored, leaving the fraternity brothers as they were before, none the wiser.

While the two injured astronauts are hospitalised, none of the doctors notice that their organs are reversed, until Hendry dies and an autopsy is done. What Med School graduated them! Some viewers suspect that Hendry was deleted because of his infamous unreliability whenever a bottle was near.

That the spaceship sensors reported no life signs during the survey is never explained. That the computer landed them in the bad lands is never explained. No one learns anything.

‘Another Earth’ (2011) is a low budget, independent film that considers how we would react to another you, and another me. It is poignant and touching expositions of roads not taken, accidents avoided, and choices made. None of these ethical, moral, existential, or metaphysical issues arise amid the Andersons’ toy miniatures.

Gerry Sylbia.jpg Gerry and Sylvia with some of their many toy miniatures.

The release title in Europe was ‘Doppelgänger’ but fearing the word was too big for Canadian audiences it was changed.

Roy Thinnes is fine as the astronaut, before he took on ‘The Invaders’ (1967-1968) and Ian Hendry as the reluctant Brit is, as always, credible even when slurring.

Invaders.jpg 'The Invaders' turned out to be the Republicans!

Herbert Lom is there to provide a villain, but in his case on only one earth. George Sewell, Ed Bishop, Lisa Hartman, Lynn Loring, and Vladek Sheybal from the Anderson stable are all adept at the parts they play. Sewell is a longtime personal favourite from way back in ‘Z Cars’ (1965-1967).

IMDb meta-data is a runtime of 1 hour and 18 minutes, rated 3.6 by 381 cinemitizens.

Genre: Sy Fy, sorta.

Verdict: Sword and sandals in space! Well on high, in the Himalayas anyway.

Snow devils.jpg

One of the quartet of Gamma 1 movies directed by Anthony Dawson aka Antonio Margheriti on whom more below.

Climate change is happening in 1967 and the crew of the Gamma 1 space wheel, which looks a lot like a blow-up water ring, are on the job. Ice caps are melting. Sun belts are flooding. Dust bowls are mud. Rivers are deserts. Deserts are teeming with wild flowers. The hills are alive with the…. Ooops. Getting off track.

Wait, no! It is not climate change, Erich. It is a team of alien NBA players in the stock footage of Edmund Hillary’s Himalayas turning the heat up and down. How they do this is anyone’s guess. The screenwriter did not bother trying to explain it.

These big, hairy aliens have come not to praise humanity but to bury it. Impatient with our efforts to murder ourselves, the aliens have come to speed catastrophe, bringing ballot boxes stuffed with
Russian votes for the Twit in Chief. What do they want? Real estate! When do they want it? Now!

Although we get early shots of the water ring in the space, it has nothing to do with the story. That’s the way it is.

The aliens start by wiping out a weather station in the mountains. Square Jaw and crew set out to see off these creatures. The girlfriend of one of the weather station personnel comes along to provide screaming. Girlfriend is no sooner there than she falls into the arms and related matter of Square Jaw. He is used to this and extends comfort to her. Missing boyfriend is forgotten.

There are nice touches that do not compensate for the runtime. When Square Jaw and his loyal band are taken captive, they engage in a speculation contest — think seminar —- to interpret what they see: The hairy apes tending the high tech volt meters. ‘The creatures are slaves. They are automatons doing the bidding of a higher intelligence.’ Then one of the apemen speaks to them in a BBC voice that one never hears on the BBC these days. What! The ape speaks! And he makes sense. This was the year before the reversal in ‘Planet of the Apes’ (1968) when Chest Heston spoke and made sense for the last time.

The boss ape’s argument is that humanity is doomed and the apemen are hitting fast forward because they need to relo. It seems one of their science experiments went wrong. They gotta go and fast. It unleashed a plague of GOPers on their home world. Following the Dr No playbook King Kong apeman shows-and-tells his whole set up to Square Jaw, including where the off-switch is.

There follows the escape of the captives who foil the plan. The end? Not quite.

Then it goes on. Yes that was only the first 45 llllooonnnggg minutes. The apemen have a second base, strangely it looks exactly like the one just destroyed. Square Jaw and his team attack it and destroy it. Is now the end….? There was tension among the fraternity brothers at this point. But yes, the end.

That the Yeti in the Himalayas might be superior beings waiting to claim the Earth once humanity committed Republicancide is brilliantly done in ‘The Abominable Snowman’ (1957), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. Nothing like that mystery and insight is to be found in this mishmash.

Antonio Margheriti (1930-2002) used the name Antony Dawson, and once, memorably, Anthony
Daisies, perhaps to avoid embarrassing his nearest and dearest. He started life as an engineer, shades of Roger Corman, and got into films as a technician. Once in the door there was no stopping him. IMDb credits him with fifty-seven films as director and scores of others as assistant director, producer, and special effects.

Antonio-M.jpg Antonio Margheriti aka Anthony Dawson.

His first feature film was Sy Fy, namely ‘Assignment: Outer Space’ (1960) followed by ‘Battle of the Worlds’ (1961), both reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

He established himself as a director who could produce a film with or without a budget. Accordingly producers gave him no rest. He was contracted to do four Sy Fy films and he did them all in three months, using the same sets, costumes, and actors. These titles live in infamy as the Gamma 1 quartet. All are reviewed on this blog, such is my commitment to serving readers.

‘Wild, Wild Planet’ (1966) ‘I Criminali della Galassia,’
’’War of the Planets’ (1965) ‘Diafanoidi Vengono da Marte,’
‘War between the Planets’ (1965) ‘Il Pianeta Errante,’and
‘Snow Devils’ (1965) ‘La Morte Viene dal Pianeta Aytin.’

There is no connection between the Italian titles and the English titles. There is little connection between either the Italian or English titles and the stories. Nor is there any connection of one story to another nor any continuing characters. Nor much of anything else.

IMDb meta-data is 45 minutes of runtime, rated 7.3 by 936 cinemitizens.
Genre: Documentary

Verdict: More, please.

This is an account of the conception, development, production and preparation of Spirit and Opportunity bots to rove Mars. There follows launch, landing, and exploration. Where the cameras cannot go CGI does.

Challenges, there were a few. The rockets bearing the twins — Spirit and Opportunity — travel 12,000 miles per hour to cover the 40 million miles to Mars. But to land the rovers' speeds have to be reduced to 12 miles per hour or less without damaging anything. 'We can do this,' mutter, the tech heads and set to work. This illustration is one of scores of such problems that had to be first identified, then analysed, and finally solved.

The robotic twins were designed to last three months. Yet on and on they have gone like good automatons. Spirit lasted from January 2005 to October 2010. Opportunity is still going! Go girl!

The names resulted from a competition among school children. The girl who submitted these two names was an adopted immigrant child.

Sofi_Collis_MER.jpg Nine-year old Sofi with one of her namelings. Her 40-word submission says more than the collected tweets of the Twit in Chief, and then some.

The assumption was that 90 solar days on Mars would be enough to extract data to prepare for the next mission. These two were rock choppers to gather that data. It was also assumed that after 90 days the ever-present dust on Mars would cover and clog the solar panels powering the rovers. Without battery power overnight, the rovers would freeze and rupture since it falls to -100F overnight. Do not believe the bare chested approach taken in ‘Robinson Crusoe on Mars’ (1967), reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

220px-Sol582A_P2299_L456-A590R1_br.jpg Mars.

The two rovers were put down on opposite sides of Mars to collect the geological data. They found evidence in worn rocks that there was once water on Mars. And where there was water there may have been life as science knows it.

Spirit broke a wheel and got stuck. All the details are on Wikipedia.

Each rover was handmade and rigorously tested, though no test on Earth equals the real thing on Mars. The unfolding arms were made by hand and tied into place with slipknots. A technician spend days tying the thirty-six knots on each arm, and then testing to see if they would indeed slip. And then doing it again, and again. Yep that is why she went to Cal Tech to do engineering, to tie shoe laces. There were many setbacks and much of the procedure was exhausting, and equally exhilarating.

The whole story is inspiring for even this jaded hack.

IMDb meta-data is runtime of 1 hour and 40 minutes under-rated 4.2 by 1112 cinemitizens

Verdict: That it features Catherine Schell is the only thing the fraternity brothers noticed.

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It opens with a silent sequence of five minutes as a space-suited figure leaves a lunar landing module in flight to retrieve a satellite. That was well done in an eerie and prolonged silence. No production would do that now with the attention-deficit audiences in every theatre only to ready to each for the smartphone.

It was an unexpected start, the more so after the long and loud credits which in retrospect seem to have been from a different movie; these credits are told in a cartoon of USSR and USA conflict over the moon. None of which is seen or mentioned thereafter in the film. Puts one in mind of Italian Sy Fy where scenes from other movies seen to wander in and out.

James Olson is the salvage space man using a very old LEM -- three years from now -- in 2021 when the Moon is so well colonised for mineral mining that there is a game called Moonopoly. It seems the Twit in Chief is still in office and there is no funding for spaceflight beyond the Moon. Twenty years ago in 2001 when men were still astronauts and he more hair Olson once landed on Mars but now no one wants to pay for another rocket to that dust bowl. So he is reduced to hunting for salvage in a dented old banger that cannot escape the Moon's weak gravity.

It is a set up we have seen before in westerns, in sea stories, in…. [everything]. The rusticating professional gets involved with the greedy claim jumpers. Alf Garnett takes the villain duties a because Dr No was tied up with James Bond, and makes Olson an offer he cannot refuse: Enough Moon dust to buy his own interplanetary rocket.

Schell is looking for her missing mining brother by hanging around a saloon. She is new to the Moon and that excuses much exposition.....zzzzz's were heard from the sofa. The saloon is a lender from 'Gunsmoke.'

Guess! Turns out no dastardly deed is too small, and Alf Garnett and his posse have topped brother. There is much to’ing and fro’ing in miniatures. There is a gunfight on the Moon! Much stressed in the above lobby poster. There are some in-jokes alluding to ‘Space Odyssey 2001’ (1968). In the brightly coloured space suits on the Moon is a tribute to ‘Destination Moon’ (1951), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. Be nice if it was.

The acting is fine, apart from Alf as the ham off the bone, and most of the effects are adequate though none quite match the opening sequence. This is a Hammer Film Production at a time when Hammer owned the Horror genre. Perhaps some enthusiastic MBA wanted to return to Sy Fy, which is where Hammer started in the early 1950s. If so, it failed. While most of the cast is Brit, Olson is there for the American market, and he went from this to the ‘Andromeda Strain’ (1971) before concentrating on television. Of Katherina Freiin Schell von Bauschlott nothing more will be said. [Sigh.]

IMDb meta-data is runtime of 1 hour and 33 minutes, over-rated 4.6 by 668 cinemitizens

Verdict: ‘Italian Sy Fy,’ that says it all.

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In 1966 the television series ‘The Wild, Wild West’ (1965-1969) was hot on American television and the title of this exercise was changed for Yankee release to ‘Wild, Wild Planet.’ The Italian title, for the literal minded, is ‘The Galaxy Criminals’ and has as much relevance to the film as the alternative title: None.

A Mad Scientist, played with oily charm and face moles by Massimo Serato works for The CBM Corporation and is aboard a United Democracies Space Command space station - shot of the same space wheel from countless other Italian Sy Fy films. Commander Mike, who looks close to retirement, reluctantly plays the host offering up his girlfriend to Oily.

Oily works his wiles on Mike’s squeeze and off they go. Sniggering was heard from the fraternity bothers’ sofa. Mike looks none the wiser, and stays that way.

Meanwhile, bald men with wrap-around sunglasses wearing Nor‘easters are kidnapping 6000 people a day in one city alone. Wow! Those KPIs are something else!

Garbbers.jpg Here they are comatose at a training seminar.

The authorities notice these disappearances, eventually. Italian bureaucracy is like that. This Herculean kidnapping labour is eased by the fact that the villains shrink the unconscious victims to pocket size. Oh, and the baldies also have four arms. Yup.

Since Commander Mike has nothing else to do now that Ms Squeeze is ...., he investigates the disappearances. He does this work by answering the telephone. Exhausted. He rests.

Chin up, Reader. It gets worse.

Oily’s plan is to use the carefully selected kidnappees to create super race in Dr No’s lair, which Doc is subletting to Massimo. That is not the worst.

What’s worse? Here’s worse.

He has lured away Ms Squeeze, and it took little more than a crooked finger to do that, because he plans to join with her. ‘We knew that,’ chortled the fraternity brothers! Hang on, you dolts! Not like that. He plans to splice the two of them together with Dr No’s laser into one perfect being. How and why is not included in the screenplay.

What’s the word that comes to mind….? Nuts!

In this one instance alone I admit the fraternity brothers had the better idea.

Commander Mike blunders around with blow torches and saves the day. The lair is flooded with fatal tsunami of cherry Kool Aid. The end.

There is no galaxy in sight, nor any planet. The only wild part is the 1960s use of primary colours.

The effects are straight from a primary school classroom. Credit the players for trying and among their number is Franco Nero, who now wishes he had used a pseudonym. The production team made three more films of this ilk, reviewed on this blog, ‘Battle of the Worlds’ (1961), ‘War Between the Planets’ (1966), and ‘Snow Devils’ (1967). The same shots of the space wheel appear in each.

IMDb meta-data is runtime of 1 hour and 3 minutes, rated 5.4 by 242 cinemitizens.

Verdict: There is no jungle and no captive. The last and least of the Ape Woman three-part franchise.

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A sedate mad scientist brings Paula Dupree back to life — again!—- and prepares her for a brain transplant. If the latter is successful perhaps it can be applied to Republicans.

The gimmick here is that the mad scientist is in plain sight as the mild mannered Stendahl who is ever so polite, calm, and reassuring, even as he approaches with that big needle in one hand and knife in the hand behind his back. He is a Mr and not a Dr but he is nuts all the same. A doctor’s degree is not necessary to be crazy, though it is a first step for many.

Kruger.jpg Evil Otto

His laboratory assistants fail to notice his psychosis until he approaches them, for blood, for a brain, for a quarter to put in the clothes dryer. Jerome Cowan, who often played light, is the plod on the job, and not a dumb as he looks.

The assistants are an item but are both so bland, no one notices.

More distinctive is Rondo Hatton as Stendahl’s disloyal accomplice, Moloch, who draws a moral line. That name says it all. Hondo has more dialogue here than any of his other roles. He was a Doughboy in the Great War where he was gassed. The consequence was acromegaly which caused deformation of the bones and tissues of the extremities.

Rondo.jpg Rondo before and after.

His freakish appearance got him noticed by Hollywood and he eked out a living as a celluloid brute, usually silent, in small parts in twenty-five films, often uncredited, until his premature death.

The smooth, attractive, well-spoken doctor is a murderous, insane criminal, while Moloch who looks and moves like a freak has a conscience and moral sense both of which the doctor lacks in his KPIs. That was a nice twist.

Why this scientist should be a misspelled French novelist is a poser. The mad scientist Otto Kruger has neither the intensity of John Carradine not the depravity of Erich von Stroheim, both masters of such a role.

The Ape Woman franchise was the effort of Universal Studios to stake new ground in the genre it had pioneered, namely Horror, with a female monster. A good idea at time, perhaps, but the execution did not establish it. The first film is very well made but the cinematography and stagecraft could not conceal a one-idea script though the aforementioned Carradine as the villain carries it off. That was ‘Captive Wild Woman’ (1943). The second, ‘Jungle Woman’ (1944), did not have even one idea to justify its existence. Paula was resuscitated in this one, too. Cannot keep a good Ape Woman down for long.

IMDb meta-data is runtime 1 hour and 18 minutes, rated 5.3 by 1231 cinemitizens

Verdict: Better than many of its kind. Atta girl!

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In distant 1990 lunar travel is routine and on Moon Base One plans advance for flights to Venus and to Mars. On earth all is peace and goodwill. Yes, fiction alright.

Sherlock Holmes, clipboard in hand, runs the show. Carmine Orrico will board the Venus flight and Judi will go to Mars. Judi and Carmine are an item. Her flight will be first and Carmine accepts that with good cheer and moral support. Already there are differences from others of this ilk. The woman is an astronaut, not a nutritionist, coffee bearer, or object of either sexism or comic distress. She is just there to do a job. Moreover, Carmine is urging her on.

Wait! Before the off there comes into this carefully planned (see clipboard for details) program a message from the stars. SETI answers. Dit-dat-dat-dot it goes and by consulting the screenplay they can decipher this static as: ‘Hello! Our ambassador is on the way in a spaceship.’

Anticipation moves Sherlock to give a speech. Mercifully brief. Wisely he does not tell Faux News.

Next thing another message arrives. This one is a video log. Check the release data above. Somehow these star travelling aliens have managed to transmit a smartphone video log to the Moonies.

Quuen ship.png The alien ship.

It is exotic indeed, this video. It is from the ambassador-bearing ship which, by relying on Apple Maps hit Mars instead of Earth and has crashed. ‘Help!’ is this second message.

All hands to the clichés! They launch the Mars rocket first and Judi goes. Carmine mopes. Of course things go wrong. then Carmine tanks up his rocket to go to the rescue. No Apple maps for him! It’s Rand McNally or bust!

Meanwhile, Judi and company have found the alien ship. More moody, exotic interiors, where they find one dead green skin and another barely alive whom they cart to their damaged ship. Humanoid it seems. More so than most Republicans in Congress. Female it seems with a beehive hairdo, sort of. Let's call her Queenie for reasons to be explained.

She revives. Easy Rider nurses her back to health. So he thinks. Meanwhile she examines the menu. By now Carmine has arrived. We have a full complement on the spaceship of Otranto. But not for long.

Queenie dilates her eyes and Easy Rider falls at her feet. He is the first course. Yum! Yum!

The fraternity brothers loved what came next.

Captain Science, Carmine, and Judi find Easy Rider deceased. Queenie is still licking his blood from her lips.

Hmm. Captain Science is not sure she did it. He is obtuse enough to be a professor. ‘Of course she did it,’ shouts Carmine! Grudgingly Captain Science admits she must have. But he says — get this — ‘We cannot judge her!’ ‘What [bleep, bleep],’ shouts Carmine! ‘We sure can!’

It was all too much like a cultural sensitivity training course, or worse, a snowflake seminar.

'No, no,' says Captain Science. 'Murder and cannibalism are just her cultural ways which we must respect.' Carmine proposes that she respect his cultural ways while he puts a pistol to her head. 'No, no' reiterates Captain Science: What we do is we tie her up and feed her on the blood plasma [we carry for just such emergencies] during the return flight. Is there a shortage of vampires in Hollywood that they have to import another one? So asked the fraternity brothers.

And — get this! — continues Captain Science, if we run low on blood plasma, then we will have to….. Yes, drain our blood for her dinner. Carmine is not on board for this. Captain Science is so unfit for command, I wondered why he was not POTUS.

Any guesses for where this going?

None of them were ever Boy Scouts so when it comes to knots, tying shoes laces is it. Slip knots are called that for a reason. Having slept off digesting Easy Rider, she waltzes free the moment she wakes up.

She dilates her eyes again and the Captain Science drops his test tubes. Two down. Victims of cultural relativity.

Queenie eyes.jpg The eyes will have it!

Carmine calls Sherlock who tells him to man-up because Queenie is more important than a couple of underlings. There is an ominous implication that the loss of a couple more underlings named Carmine and Judi would not phase Sherlock one bit. ‘Bring her in, unharmed,’ he orders. They shoe lace her up again.

Got it? Yep. She is free again and has eyes for Carmine. He is pasta in her hands and she is about to dine when…..

Judi crashes the party, belts her, and scratches Queenie’s shoulder. Queenie runs off in a snit. Carmine regains such consciousness as he has. Slugger Judi dusts her knuckles.

Unarmed Judi and Carmine set off to find her. Dumb, but turns out Queenie is royalty and green-bled to death. That very big word ‘haemophilia’ was used much to the annoyance of the fraternity brothers who reached for the aspirin. Evidently all royals are bleeders. Hence the title ‘Queen of Blood.’

They speculate that Queenie was a telepath who could control men, but not women. The fraternity brothers scoffed at that conclusion. Oola, who was green, had no need of telepathy to control them.

They land and Sherlock is happy enough with an autopsy. The end.

That Kingie might come in search of Queenie does not cross a page of the script. That they have been party to the death of the first two aliens they have met gives no pause for remorse. Instead we have the eggs she has hidden on board, which Sherlock wants for an omelet. She is a queen in another way, a Queen Bee or a Queen Ant. That explains her hunger. Yeah, right.

It was marketed under several other titles to catch unwary theatregoers, including 'Planet of Blood,' 'Planet of Terror,' 'Planet of Vampires,' and 'The Green Woman.' None of it takes place on a planet; another triumph from the marketing department. Since there is only one, the plural is also erroneous. Green, yes, that is conceded.

Get this, jaded Reader: Not only does no one deprecate the woman astronaut, but she saves the day. Go girl!

Moreover, no one smokes. In era when an actor could not play a scientist without a pipe there are no pipes, and no ciggies either.

The alien space ship scenes were cut from a Russian Sy Fy film and pasted into this one. That inserting was often done in Roger Corman productions, but in this case it was well done, which was not often done in Roger Corman productions. The lighting, set design, and camera work is such that the seams do not show. Curtis Harrington was the director and he made maximum use of these aspects to create an eerie, mysterious, and alien atmosphere.

He later directed Debbie Reynolds, Simone Signoret, Katherine Ross, and Shelly Winters in other films. Impressive. He often worked in television. The black widow is a theme in a number of his other works, some of which he wrote, as he did this title. He wrote the story around the available footage from the Soviet film, whereas in most Corman productions the Soviet footage was shoe-horned into a story that was already written or even filmed, and it always showed.

Carmine had his first role in 1954, and he is still at it with a 2018 credit and 200 others in between. Those monkey glands must work a treat. His reputation remains as, hmm, someone with interesting lifestyle choices even by Hollywood standards. Johnny Depp is a homeboy in comparison.

This film was made simultaneously with another Roger Corman production, ‘Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet’ (1965), also derived from cuttings of the same Russkie movie, reviewed elsewhere on this blog. Keeping his white coat on and clipboard in hand, Sherlock walked from one side of the set to the other to do his lines for the other film. The man was the consummate professional, doing two roles in two different movies at once. Curtis Harrington directed that, too, but chose a pseudonym to protect the guilty.

Corman bought Russian Sy Fy films for two reasons, and in this order. First, they were cheap. Second they had superior special effects, though these were often mangled when inserted into Corman productions. The word on the internet street is that in 1950s when the Space Race began, some wits in Soviet policy decided to enthuse the populace for space with Sy Fy films and budgeted for the special effects. That is what caught Corman’s eye.

IMDb meta-data: 1 hour and 1 minute to treacle time, rated an astounding 5.2 by 277 masochists.

Verdict: a creature feature devoid of both.

Universal Studios broke the gender barrier in creature features with a trilogy of wild, captive, and jungle women films. This is the second instalment on this mercifully short-lived franchise.

The first was ‘Captive Wild Woman’ (1943), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. This earlier film was a masterclass in making something from the nothing on a micro-budget. A third of that film’s one hour time was clipped from a still earlier Universal film, ‘The Big Cage’ (1933). But director Edward Dymtryk did it so well, there was no distraction. Not so here.

About a quarter of the runtime of this treacle is excerpted from ‘Captive Wild Woman’ (which excerpts include scenes from ‘The Big Cage’ as explained above). In this movie the underside of the weave shows. To accommodate this earlier material much of this script is set out in flashbacks. Long before Roger Corman this studio had learned to plagiarise itself.

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Evelyn Ankers is top billed but has but one opening scene of three minutes and then disappears. In fact that scene is a lift from ‘Captive Wild Woman,’ recycled here. Ditto Dr Adams. The ever reliable Douglas Dumbrille has one early scene and is gone.

There is no jungle and no woman to speak of, though Acquanetta reprises her role as Cheela the ape come human. This time she speaks. What a mistake that was. Silent, she had mystery. Speaking she had adenoids.

A screen shot of Cheela from the earlier film is included for, the fraternity brothers timed it, five seconds, and that is it. That does not a creature feature make.

Not only is there no creature in this feature, there is also no mad scientist. In the earlier film John Carradine filled this vacuum perfectly. Here we have a kindly doctor who by circumstance finds the ape woman on his rounds. J. Carrol Naish brings a calm and reflective intensity to this role, which in other material would have been compelling, but here, it is undercut by the crude simplicity of the sieved pot boiler in which the role is immersed.

Universal had made a place for itself in cinema-land in the 1930s with horror films. Indeed some pundits credit it with establishing that genre in films with such masterpieces as ‘Frankenstein’ (1931). In this franchise it previously broached the gender line with ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ (1935) where Elsa Lancaster stole that show.

How low could Universal go? Well, that will be seen in the third movie in this Jungle franchise, ‘Jungle Captive’ (1945). Scuba gear maybe required.

IMDb meta-data is this 13 one-hour episodes rated 7.5 from 7501 cinemitizens

Verdict: Excellent and a relief after the sappy hyperbole of ‘Mission to Mars’ (2000), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. But it bogs down, running out of story while the camera goes on and on.

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A docudrama about the first Mars landing in 2033 interspersed with 2016 talking heads describing the technical, scientific, and human problems that have to be surmounted to get there. These details are larded with some elevated rhetoric about the purpose in going to Mars.

Purpose? ‘Because it is there,’ that is the distillation of that rhetoric. We see twice the same clip from Jack’s speech in Houston about it being hard, as a justification for the commitment. (I stood at that podium in 2018.) He and Edmund Hilary have a lot to answer for. On this point there will be more below.

Still it was refreshing to hear the optimism and determination from the enthusiasts like Elon Musk who are trying to make it happen. Happily Richard Branson did not put in an appearance to steal the scene with his look-at-me camera mannerisms. Though NASA is represented among the talkers, one theme is that private enterprise can go where no government is willing to go. That would seem pertinent now since the current NASA Administer-nominee wants to eliminate from its charter ‘the expansion of human knowledge’ because God does not like that.

In later episodes I learned that the early Moon missions were trials for Mars in the minds of the NASA scientists and others. Moon was a stepping stone to Mars. That is much emphasised, and it completely escaped me at the time when the Moon seemed enough. However, though it is passed in silence in this telling, Moon was the strategic goal for the military, whose role in space is omitted. Yet those rockets belonged to the US Air Force. There was certainly much popular speculation that near space or Moon would offer an invulnerable missile platform.

As the talking heads lay out how it would go, we cut to a dramatic sequences where it is acted out. In reality, no vampires, zombies, meteors, cave women, enlarged spiders, hostile natives, or man eating daisies are needed to make a mission to Mars deadly. (These possibilities have all been covered in the Mars filmography on this blog.) There are many things that can go wrong, and inevitably some of them will.

Gravity kills. Elemental that. The first death is a fall. A lung is punctuated by a broken rib. Nothing can be done and….

The fall occurs because a fuse blew upon entering the Martian atmosphere and while Captain was replacing it the planet’s gravity clicked in and he fell. Bang.

Because the fuse was not replaced they land a long way for the base camp that had been prepared by robots. To get there, they will have to walk with the dying captain.

Mars sand dune.jpg

Can they walk 75 kilometres before the oxygen in their backpacks runs out? And before the fraternity get bored?

We have a polyglot crew, and also interspersed are fictional pre-flight interviews with them. The point is I guess to indicate what kind of person signs on for this and perhaps to inspire such persons. To me, these were insipid but perhaps my jaded ear was listening.

One of the sticking points from all the talking heads is a double whammy. Everything done on approaching Mars will be done for the first time. No amount of testing. No simulations. No nothing is a Mars test. Mars tests have to be done on Mars.

Moreover, for everything there is only shot. Miss and that’s it. Either you die or return to Earth. If the window of landing is missed it is back to Earth. If the ship hits the atmosphere at the wrong angle, it burns on descent, or crashes on landing, or misses the site by kilometers, or worse, and spins off into space.

I liked the realism. I liked the honesty that things will go wrong. I liked it that the struggle to walk is plainly a struggle, and so on.

Because it was not a military operation, the chain of command was unclear to me. I said ‘Captain’ above but the term is not used.

Later there is an explanation for the failure to continue with Moon. Again it passed me by at the time. the near failure of Apollo XIII caused the Nixon administration and Congress to think twice. No one wanted the public responsibility of a mortal failure. The compromise result was to concentrate on near space with the shuttles. The irony is that deaths occurred, and the Reagan administration did what others did not have the conviction to do, go on.

However by episode six I found it repetitive and boring. On Mars we see much trudge and toil without sufficient explanation of purpose. Are they doing science? Preparing for colonisation? Waiting for the next catastrophe? Looking for new script pages? There is a lot of marking time, leaving the actors little to do.

The death of the botanist was a missed opportunity to this viewer. It just seemed too pat and almost a photocopy of the death of Captain earlier, walking into the light. What killed him was the ten-week dust storm and that was not brought home. Instead it seemed he just went stir crazy. If so, it was some selection process that yielded him for the job. Others were killed in that incident but only the botanist is mourned.

The 2033+ segments divide between the crew on Mars and head offices in London and Vienna. (No idea why two except to offer different cityscapes.) The latter seems pointless. Much posturing. It does allow one of the players a dual role. BFD. There seems to be the usual back biting and bickering, but it adds nothing to the focus: Mars. Nor is the office politics well realised. Most of these episodes are board meetings where twelve extras sit silently. One images the members of the board are as bored as the viewer.

The 2037 press conference seemed silly. The vultures of the press are seated in an orderly manner, already unrealistic, meters away from the podium. Why? So that when the revelation is announced they can be viewed from above swarming the podium like the amoeba in an earlier microscope image. It looks staged because it is. It seems heavy-handed because it is.

Only a few so-called critics' reviews are attached its entry on the IMDb, and none of these is from a significant media source like the 'New York Times.' Nor are any from the Sy Fyians who cover the fictional accounts of Mars. Finally there are only a half dozen of them, which is a small number for a recent release. Odd. I did find the NYT review which is lukewarm for the kinds of reasons given here.

In addition, the IMDb critics are mostly negative. Some complain that it is neither fish nor fowl. Neither is it a sustained documentary, nor a fiction. Yep that is right but it is also irrelevant since it sets out to dramatise some of the points made in the documentary. This criticism is like saying Impressionist painting is too colourful. That is the point.

Others fault the acting. Huh. I thought the acting was fine. Though the players are all unknown to me, they seemed to fit the roles they had. They were young. They were stupid brave. As I read this criticism it dawned on me that the writers perhaps wanted a Hollywood name. Not me when I recalled the acting I have seen in Mars films from Hollywood names, mugging, soulful pouting, gung-ho nonsense, selfie sticking, and the like. Whereas I concluded the use of unknowns was a good choice to place emphasis on the mission rather than on the personalities, and the pre-conceptions audiences bring to Hollywood names.

I say ‘unknowns’ to admit my ignorance, not to denigrate the players.

But I would say on further viewing that the script gives the players little to do after the first four episodes.

The Jordanian Tourist Board got pipped on this one. The Mars outdoors scenes were filmed in Morocco. Seems appropriate since Moroccan leather binding on books is always red. To judge from the extensive terminal credits most of it was processed in that capital of cinema, Hungary. I noticed in the credits a 'Data Wrangler.' But by episode six there was a Data Wrangler, a First Assistant Data Wrangler, and -- guess! -- a Second Assistant Data Wrangler. It runs to twelve parts in all so what can we expect for this entry at the end?

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 1 minute, rated at 5.7 by 584 cinemitizens.

Captive EWOman card.jpg Another lie from the marketing department, since as explained below the ape could not carry off that woman, for it was herself. Got it? Read on.

Verdict: a masterclass is making something from nothing.

John Carradine, before he became a caricature of himself, is in top form as the scientist who goes on and on, and changes from a charming genius to a mad and bad scientist.

Carradine pop eyed.jpg

He finds a way in the script to transfer the secretions of glands from one animal to another. This transference leads to a transformation. The dog receiving rabbit secretions becomes a rabbit! ‘Would it work for Trumpettes,’ asked the fraternity brothers! ‘Could they be made human?’ Or is that too much even for a scriptwriter to conceive.

Suspend that disbelief and go along for the ride.

In the early stages of these experiments his findings, somehow, aid human patients. He publishes his work in learned journals. This being the first time in the Mad Scientist Genre I have seen where publications figure. He presses outward on the boundaries of knowledge, narrowing his eyes and lowering his voice. Can a nationally competitive grant be far away?

Then by chance through a new patient he goes to an animal circus and sees a very pliable stunt man in an ape suit. The idea hatches.

He will transfer human secretions into this ape, who then become a human woman. Stuntman to human woman, presents no problem for the scriptwriter. The transference drains, i.e., kills the human patient. ‘They have (unknowingly and involuntarily) sacrificed their pitiful lives for the advancement of knowledge,’ Carradine intones, as only he could. It is a small price (for someone else to) pay for his career.

Hmm. I might have believed it if he had said that they were killed to fatten his CV, meet his KPIs, or win a nationally completive NH&MRC grant. That would be credible in the world McKinsey has made.

Other mad scientists who play god usually have a purpose: sometimes they want make slaves of others, to make superhumans who reach the stars, or plumb ocean depths, vote Republican into eternity, or get tenure. Not in this case. He wants to do it because he can. Mad science for mad science's sake. Nothing instrumental involved. Pure research!

Something from nothing? About a third of the short run time is excerpted from an earlier Universal movie called ‘The Big Cage’ (1933) about an animal circus, featuring Clyde Beatty (1903-1965) who was a remarkable lion tamer, animal trainer, and circus impresario. Director Edward Dymytryk cut and pasted these excerpts so well that the seams do not show. In this he was added by great lighting, make-up, and editing. Doc Adams was cast as the animal trainer because he resembled Beatty as he had been in that earlier film. All in all, the film is technically superb and the print I found on You Tube was clean and crisp.

The result is a rattling yarn. Carradine succeeds but finds a stinger at the end. Doc Adams cracks the whip. Evelyn Ankers, Martha Vickers, Fay Helm, and Acquanetta kept the fraternity brothers watching.

Evelyn was married to a personal favourite, Richard Denning, who was away at war when she made this film, hoping the yellow telegram would not come.

Ankers and Dennng.jpg Ankers and Denning together in the 1950s.

Martha Vickers’s single line in the film is ‘Well, I…’ But she lies around comatose in a hospital bed. She was preparing for her role in 'The Big Sleep' (1946). Fay Helm injects some humanity when she tries to stop Carradine. Of Acquanetta the less said, the better, but her make-up and transitions set a new standard for the genre. She speaks not word one. Correct. Completely silent. Considering what she did to her few subsequent roles that was a good choice. It is said that she was difficult with whom to work. At the time and place, for a woman that was often code for not being sexually compliant.

The entrepreneurial Crash Corrigan (1902-1976) was the stuntman in the ape suit. An acceptable ape suit was expensive and time-consuming to make. Genre horror pictures were then by definition quick and cheap, so they had no time and no budget for such matters. Corrigan saw a market niche and made it his own and passed out business cards: ‘Have ape suit, will travel.’ He was in demand for about a decade for horror movies, commercials in cinemas and later on television, openings of stores and malls, extravagant Hollywood parties, USO tours, charity fundraisers, Trumpette conventions, and more.

Crash started out in B-Westerns where he did his own stunts. In time he concentrated on stunt work which he found more interesting and less taxing than remembering and delivering lines. He got the nickname 'Crash' as a college football player for his open field tackling, not for his automobile driving.

He showed entrepreneurial flair again when he bought a ranch in the Simi Valley and rented it out as set for movies, serials, and television shows. He also staged western shows there for tourists. Crash knew how to make cash.

John Carradine developed the habit early of taking any part he could get, because he wanted the money to pour into his Pasadena Shakespeare Company. And pour money into it he did, but in the end it failed, but by then he retained the habit of answering ‘Yes' when a part was offered. See his subsequent career.

Edward Dmytryk (1908-1999) directed such movies as ‘Caine Mutiny’ (1954) and ‘The Left Hand of God’ (1955) both starring Humphrey Bogart. He worked his way up the pecking order, starting with B genre films like this and ‘The Falcon Strikes Back’ (1943) to ‘Cornered’ (1945) and on to ‘Crossfire’ (1947) and ‘Mirage’ (1965), for a total of fifty-six credits.

Born in Canada he was an orphaned juvenile delinquent in San Francisco who was proud of his Ukrainian heritage. He started working as messenger boy for a studio and then projectionist where he learned the technology, film editor to become the lead director for RKO’s A-Picture department.

He was imprisoned by HUAC for refusing to answer questions, being one of the Hollywood Ten used by that execrable body to publicise itself. His name and his father’s origins in Russia, made him an early and easy target, and his defiance made great copy for the vultures of the media and the Committee.

IMDb meta-data: run time 1 hour and 34 minutes, rated a paltry 7.3 by a mere 16,696 cinemitizens.

Verdict: Classic.

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Any circle drawn around the best Sy Fy movies of the 1950s, the decade when the genre was at its peak, includes ‘Them!’ It is a gem in every respect and retains the capacity to startle even jaded recidivist viewers like the fraternity brothers.

Before all that judgemental stuff though, first comes the set up. We start with a Cessna spotter aircraft flying over a desert dotted with Joshua Trees, the pilot in radio communication with two state patrolmen cruising down an empty highway in the high bright sun. The flyer spots movement and circles in on it. It is a child walking determinedly through the bleaching sun.

Them girl-1.jpg Sandy Descher

The patrolmen divert their car into the sand, to catch up and grab this nine-year old in a bathrobe with a broken doll. They have to grab her because she just keeps striding into the distance. She is mute and wide-eyed in shock, and she steals the show. Who is she? Where did she come from? Someone must be looking for her.

But who and where?

As darkness falls the police officers find a vacation trailer, ripped apart, and pieces that match her doll but no people, dead or alive. Further along at a gas station they find another scene of devastation. Picture an end of semester beer bust at Sig House and there it is: a disgusting mess. In each place sugar is much in evidence to we viewers but not remarked on by the plod. They radio all this in and a response is mobilized. One of the troopers, wearing a red undershirt, stays at the gas station to look around while the other drives to the hospital to see the child. Oh, oh.

Earlier Mr Pomfritt had collected her in an ambulance in a great scene. The three adults loading her hear a sound on the desert winds and look back at it, while behind them unseen she rises from the stretcher with a look of silent terror and falls back comatose. Marvellous.

The patrolman who stayed behind meets the fate of all Red Shirts. That's why the fraternity brothers never wear Red Shirts.

They find footprints of a sort and make casts and take photographs. Since the trailer was rented by an FBI agent on leave, that bureau sends in Marshall Dillon to sort things out. He dutifully reports everything up the pipe to DC.

Next thing two myrmecologists show up and the plot thickens. After the ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ Edmund Gwen turned to ants along with his very professional daughter. These two are bug hunters worthy of Starship Trooper badges.

Spoilers follow.

The Trinity nuclear tests ten years ago at Alomogordo have produced some giant mutant ants now roaming the desert in search of...sugar.

Santa confirms this with the shocked child by giving her a sniff of ant juice. She utters the title!

Unforgettable to see her small face contorted in terror saying ‘Them!’ If she had said ‘The Thing!' It would have been an whole other story because, as the fraternity brothers know, Marshall Dillion in a rubber head prosthesis was that Thing in the earlier movie of that title, reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

She is so compelling not even that notorious scene stealer James Whitmore had a chance, he of he mugs, eye brow wiggling, ear pulling, and snorting expertise.

Oddly for the time and place no one wonders if a woman can be a scientist or makes any stupid jokes about her. Just as well because later she is a dab hand with the flamethrower. Mostly the chaps stand back and let her get on with it. Very wise, chaps.

Santa gives lectures and prognosticates, but with Gwen it is almost fun listening to him. The mutant ants are going to take over the earth unless some Rid is applied soon and in a big way. Does Rid work on Trumpettes, asked the fraternity brothers?

The business is so dire that it is top secret and kept that way. Ha, as if some grunt won’t spill the whole story to a jackal of the press for a five spot. Well it is a work of fiction. The media then would exercise its responsibility to scatter confusion, panic, and destruction.

While on the fictitious nature of the film, there is quick and general agreement along the Potomac to act and to follow Santa’s direction. What does someone from the North Pole know about ants in the desert is a question no one asks. Both army and police personnel are serious, sober, sane, and disciplined, so we knew it was fake news. Not a self-serving careerist is in the lens frame.

The bugs head for the sugar capital of Lost Angeles! Bug hunting season opens in the sewers of Tinsel Town. Dr Daughter is ruthless and wants to kill them all! None of that scientific impulse to keep one alive for study. In fact she insists not just that they be killed, but also that when dead they be burned to ashes! The fraternity brother cringed on the sofa.

The police uniforms were a thing of wonder with braid, insignia, badges, stripes, chevrons, epaulets, gaudy enough for this month's African dictator for life.

Uniform.jpg Something like this.

A reformed Mr Pomfritt after he went bad in ‘The Man from Planet X’ (1951), reviewed elsewhere on this blog, rides the ambulance.

It was filmed in the Mojave desert, or a facsimile thereof, with those Joshua Trees. How is it that a film set in the desert Southwest does not include any Latinos or Native Americans remains a good question. But it doesn’t and it has plenty of white-bread company in the genre.

On the other hand Davy Boone (figure it out) and Mr Spock are also present.

Them nimoy.jpg Mr Spock under cover.

The project had started as a big budget, Colour, and 3D picture from Warner Brothers. Uh uh, but Jack Warner always blanched at big budgets and even before the first shot it had been cut back to black and white and a flat 2D.

IMDb meta-data hour and 21 minutes, rated 7.7 by 13,422 cinemitizens

Verdict: Deserves a higher rating. Much.

Grant Williams gradually finds his clothes are getting bigger. Hmmm. Is it the new laundry detergent? Is he losing weight? Is his ego diminishing? He consults Mr Pomfritt (in a very early role) and finds it is none of the above.

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Act I is the shrinking Grant, which was caused by a freak combination of exposure to pesticides and then later to radiation in separate incidents, each an accident. Separately each exposure was harmless but in sequence... While medical science is mobilised, Grant denies this is happening to him. But then medical science fails.

Act II, Grant reacts in anger to his loss of stature. He lashes out at his wife, gamely played by Kansan Randy Stuart. He becomes ensconced in a doll house with ever smaller Ken Doll clothing. There is some bargaining here as for a time his shrinking seems arrested, but only for a time.

Grant becomes a media spectacle as the meat eaters nearly batter down his door to get pictures of this living Ken Doll freak with the sensitivity we have come to expect of the free media. The vultures can never get enough dead meat. That kindles a siege mentality in Grant.

Act III, the cat! The one-time pet cat has to be kept out of the house now, and, [see if you can guess] it sneaks in one day as Randy is leaving for work. Someone has to earn a crust since micro-Grant is no longer payroll material.

In the battle with the cat, Grant is shut into the cellar, and the final act is his struggle to survive in the vast, inhospitable reaches of this savage world of half empty paint cans, off cuts from carpets, cracked tiles, battered suit cases, a rusty lawn mower, a leaking water heater, a gaseous furnace, and the cellar wild life that is larger than he is. He is at first depressed but then wills himself to continue. There are some great moments here as this mini-Tarzan struggles against the odds in this terrifying yet mundane world.

But he continues to shrink and he comes to accept his fate as cosmic unity, or something. The end.

The master narrative is that as Grant changes physically, he also changes emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. The mental changes born of frustration and fear drive a wedge between his only solace, Randy, and himself. He knows he is doing it, but cannot stop himself.

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The ending is downbeat. The wife thinks the cat got him. End of cat is implied. But there is no feline autopsy to be sure, as recommended by the fraternity brothers. She moves out of the house leaving the ever diminishing Grant to his fate in the basement wilderness. It is inhospitable enough to be Mars or New Jersey to mini-Grant.

There are fine setups and shots of the kind that made director Jack Arnold’s name. The performances are exact. The special effects work. There are two sidebars that illustrate the downward spiral that Grant is in. There are no villains to make it black and white.

It is a character study. This happens and the is how people react.

When the Hollywood remake comes, it can star Tom Midget. No special effects will be needed.

In a masochistic effort to watch all the many freely available John Agar movies so that I might have ontological dinner party bragging rights, I tried to watch ‘The Attack of the Puppet People’ (1958) but found the sludge so deep that I became mired, and instead read about it and to discover it was an imitation of ‘The Incredible Shrinking Man,’ which had much better reviews so I had a look and I am glad I did.

I find slipping the word ‘ontological’ gratuitously into a conversation usually stops the quibbles.

The fraternity brothers mainly slept through this one. ‘Too wordy,’ one of them drooled. ‘A house cat does not make a Creature Feature,’ muttered another.

IMDb meta-data is: 1 hour and 54 minutes of Dali time, rated at 5.6 by 64,947 cinemitizens

Verdict: Morons on Mars in a pastiche of previous films.

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Verdict: As always, Roger Ebert nailed it: A hundred million dollar production with a ten cent script. Think what NASA could do with that money. Plus it is double sappy.

It is a Mars rescue mission that ends with comic book CGI. The players try, but well it gets trying.

In 2020, a mere two years from now, all is peace and harmony on Earth (as if) and the World Space Program sends Dan Cheadle with three others to land on Mars, and where they quickly prove they were never Boy or Girl Scouts.

1. All four of them ride around Mars together in their jeep, leaving no one in reserve back at base.
2. They stand motionless when the storm breaks rather than taking cover, or getting in the vehicle and scooting.
3. Motionless, they also stand close enough together for one CGI rock to finish three of them. ‘Spread out,’ those are often words of sergeant wisdom.
4. Moreover, none of them notices the very conspicuous white protrusion on the top left of the hill that then spits dirt at them. Even the fraternity brothers noticed that.

One of the four survives, and by the way, we never find out how or why, though he refers to himself as having been spared, and that implies selection. Now he has to be rescued.

Of course he will be. There is none of the technical, social, or political dimensions to this undertaking that are set out better in ‘The Martian’ (2016). Cheadle’s wife is never informed of either the deaths or his survival. Yet she and many other wives are much in evidence in the opening barbecue derived from ‘Apollo 13’ (1995). Thereafter she and they are forgotten. In the credits they are styled 'NASA wife 1,' 'NASA wife 2,' and so on. The high horse sighed: every character in a Sam Peckinpah movie always had a name. Every character actor in a Frank Capra movie had screen time, else why have them. Not so here. Might as well have been CGIed.

Oh, except for the wife who goes on the mission as half of a married couple. Sure that would be NASA policy. For fun read the acknowledgement of NASA in the terminal credits, and then try to figure out what the convoluted wording means.

The scriptwriter's old friend, the meteor puts in an appearance at the most (in)opportune time. Bang. Equally predictable these days are the product placements that feature on the NASA hardware. Likewise to be expected is the piteous piling up of a tear-jerker back story, about a dead wife, though we find out nothing about her, she is much displayed as eye candy.

The rescue mission is a failure and lands three astronauts with no gear, equipment, or good dialogue. Their situation is desperate from the get-go and they are there to find Don, if he is still alive. Pressure. Pressure. Pressure. So what do they do first? Well, on behalf of the World Space Mission that sent them they plant a USA flag. Not kidding. That is what they do.

On Mars there is evidently plenty of water because all the actors stay shaved and clean. And the weather isn’t bad since the ripped up and open to the elements tent has green growing plants in it in Mars’s atmosphere, enough to feed them all. Green cheese is shipped in from the Moon to stock up the fridge.By the by the temperature on Mars at this moment is -100F, per the NASA Orion web site.

In a screenplay full of inane lines said with the self-importance of Hollywood, the prize goes to Don who buried his fallen comrades. Well, he dug and marked three graves but he only found one body, but ‘it didn’t seem right’ to make only one grave. Huh? Burn those calories. By the way, Don asks not one word of his wife back on the Earth, despite all the sap about the other two wives. OK, if he did, it was so incidental I missed it.

There is great photography and CGI special effects, including a tribute or two to ‘Space Odyssey 2001,’ the mandatory scenes of weightlessness, and an EVA. Although each is drawn out and out and out striving for epic length, when the additional footage adds nothing.

Spoiler ahead. The enigmatic face and the DNA are interesting and arresting, but they come so late and are trivialised into a comic book take. The alien DVD on evolution would make Disney blush, so lame is it. On the bright side, it would get the film banned in Alabama.

In another repetition of a previous film(s), our hero says he didn’t come this far to turn back now. An astronaut has to …. That he was on a one-way ticket was telegraphed for more than 90 minutes. Even the fraternity brothers got that message through the fog that envelops them.

The end.

For those who like mysteries, figure out how the surviving widow got the neck chain off her dead husband, floating in space out of reach, so that she could later give it to our hero.

Like other entries in the current Mars industry, it was filmed in Jordan. No doubt the Jordan Tourist Board remains hard at work in the Mars industry with its red lens filters.

IMDb meta-data is run time of 1 hour and 11 minutes of purgatory, rated far too high at 2.9 by 551 misguided cinemitizens.

Verdict: there is no curse, no swamp, and a creature in a rubber mask only appears in the last five minutes when all hope for diversion had long been abandoned.

Curse Swammy.jpg Sick green seemed the right colour choice.

Three local villains in East Texas hope to trick geologist John Agar into finding undiscovered subsurface oil.  The trio together score 99 are the Stanford-Binet IQ test.

The catatonic Agar will make said discovery by drifting in a flat bottomed boat along the Red River, calling it a swamp. 

Deep within the ersatz swamp there is a wanna be mad scientist, Dr Dope, and his curvy wife, whom he keeps locked in a room so that she does not interfere with his research. This order of priorities baffled the fraternity brothers, as much does.

By the use of a dry ice bath Dope is trying to transmute individuals into a über creatures with the power to overcome maxed credit cards. His test subjects come from the local village.  So far he has failed and he disposes of the bodies of his fails by feeding them to a swimming pool full of alligators. ‘Do alligators like chlorine,’ asked fraternity brothers?

Needing more unwilling specimens, Dope invites the geological exploration party of four to stay overnight in his house. Being lower case dopes, the accept. The dialogue of this soiree is so painfully inept that even the fraternity brothers cringed.

Meanwhile, the local villagers have noticed the decrease in their number and in response play bongo drums. A lot. Then some more. Having got that out of their systems, they dress up in face paint and hang Dr Dope in effigy.  By this heap big medicine they hope to stop his inroads into to their number. Must be anti-vaxxers. That is colourful but....they decide torches would better thanks to the advice of a consultant in D-Movie schlock.  They organise an angry mob of outraged villagers and...[tension does not mount].

Now that the members of the geological party are asleep on the floor of Dope’s one-room mansion, he selects the conniving woman in the party as his next specimen, syringe to the ready.  Dipped into the dry ice bath, she’s dons the rubber mask with ping pong ball eyes. It is an unexpected and unexplained move for him to select the woman of the group. What does that do to the staples of Creature Features? Namely the creature caring off the babe.

When she comes to life, Dope siccs her on the approaching mob.  Sicks, indeed.  Agar, who barely knows her, appeals to her humanity, she who conspired in the earlier murder of an oilman, and must have been planning Agar’s demise.  Had he not read the script? Well, that appeal didn’t work.

The resourceful Agar then tells her she is a monster because of Dr Dope! Good one! She turns on Dope. They struggle and together fall into the alligator pool.  We see again for the fourth, or was if the fifth time, stock footage of feeding time at a zoo.

The production values are a film school fail.  The mansion is just a house. When Dope drugs the woman he carries a pillow which is supposed to be her back through the living room where the three men in the geological party are sleeping on the floor, kicking and tripping over them, but they sleep on. Sure. Tired out after floating all day.

Yet they are later roused by noises from the very sedate mob. Speaking of that mob, what losers!

The mob comes with torches. With torches! Come on! This is Texas! Where are the AK-47s?  

Credit, such as is due, the fact that there are black faces in this production.  They are the VooDooing villagers whose dwindling number provided Dope’s unwilling specimens when out after dark.  His only henchman is also black.

One drooling NRA member of the geological party assaults a young black women who works as a maid in the mansion and she out smarts him.  Good! But not a high bar, outsmarting him. 

This is another entry in the Texas film industry from the ego and bankroll of Larry Buchanan whose literal re-make of ‘Zontar: The Thing from Venus’ (1966) set a new standard for zero. It, too, featured Agar. Who else would do it? It was even worse than the tiresome original. Both Zontar pictures are reviewed elsewhere on this blog. 'Read at your own risk.'

Admission: I watched it because I thought it related to ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ (1954) and his several misadventures in Florida.  Wrong!

Sad to say that this is not the end. There followed: ‘Curse of the Swamp Creature’ (1994) and ‘Curse of the Swamp Creature 2’ (1997). I have not yet had the courage to find out any more about them.

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 18 minutes, rated 5.8 by 2358 mouth-breathers.

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The IMDb summary says the Creature escapes and starts killing! ‘Not so,’ cries Perry Mason. Despite the paltry rating by the fraternity brothers, this is a thoughtful rekindling of the franchise of ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ (1954) and a welcome improvement on the previous sequel, ‘The Revenge of the Creature’ (1955). Both are subjected to rigorous commentary elsewhere on this blog.

This, the final entry for the Creature. starts with two advantages. It does not star John Agar. Jeff Morrow and Rex Reason lead the cast here. In addition, there is a screenplay with some ideas in it that are developed.

The set up is this. Jeff is a wealthy medical doctor with a trophy wife, who provides the bathing beauty scenes and little else. Jeff, somehow, has studied the traces of the Gill Man, as the Creature is now styled, and has leapt to several conclusions. First is that the Gill Man can be surgically altered to breath just like us to live out of water (so he can walk among us). Second, with his extraordinary strength and endurance Gill Man can lead us to the stars! What, go to Hollywood? No, he means it literally, by using Gill Man we can create a superior race who can survive spaceflight and conquer the universe. 'Jeff, call Elon Musk!'

The fraternity brothers wondered about how this procreating was going to work. Always the same with these bottom feeders.

Rex is taken aback by this divine agenda, since he signed on, being himself a medical scientist, to study the Creature in a controlled environment. He means the Creature no ill; unlike Jeff who wants to cut-and-paste him into … Flesh Gordon,

This polarity is one of the continuing themes, the discussion of which bored the fraternity brothers. Another is the deteriorating relationship between Mr and Mrs Jeff. Every time he tells her not to do something, off she goes to do it. Learning nothing from experience, Jeff keeps telling her what not to do. She shoots sharks for fun. She dives too deep to show off. She flounces around in revealing costumes. She drinks. All very 1950s.

The hired hands notice her, and press their attentions on her. She is not interested in them, but Rex, now that is another chin. He however is ever so correct.

Jeff is all soft spoken, but — as always — he looks worried. Could be the Amex bill he has run up in hiring a cabin cruiser the size of the Titanic and sailing it from San Francisco to the Gulf of Mexico and back with a crew of hired hands to ogle Mrs.

These two governing narratives are set forth with brisk economy in the first fifteen minutes. There follows a lot of padding to reach a respectable length.

Off they go a-Creature hunting, five men in a row boat the size of dinner plate. Best time to find the elusive creature in the swamp is at night, right? With plenty of gas for the two-stroke motor and torches to light the way. He finds them first and attacks. In the melée he is set on fire and rendered unconscious. They capture him. The burns reveal a second underlying skin much like ours. A nip and tuck here and there and he can breath air and walk among us.

He is a modest Creature and the hired hands dress him in some size XXXXXXXL pyjamas. This dressing occurs off camera so the Creature retains mystique.

As he recovers consciousness the Creature is unsure and then makes a break for the water. In he goes, only to discover he is now gill-less and drowns. ‘Cut.’ cried the director. ‘If he dies... we have no movie!’ On cue, Rex and his chin dive in with an oxygen line and save the Creature.

Once in Sausalito Jeff pens the Creature in a stockade with an electric fence. The Creature broods for the water seen in the distance. Rex feels sorry for him, and suggests….well, nothing. He doesn't feel that sorry. Mrs flounces around in a huff. Jeff still has stars in his eyes.

Hired Hand again tries his hand on Mrs, who again pushes him away. Jeff yet again observes and though he blames Mrs for drawing attention to herself, he grows enraged with Hired Hand and clonks him to death. Gulp! What to do? Thinks, Jeff, 'I will blame HH’s death on the Creature.' Little Jeff carries the big hunk of Hired Hand to the pen, turns off the juice, and throws the corpse at the Creature’s feet. How the starry dreamer has fallen to the jungle.

The Creature is confused and lashes out at Jeff who falls over his script. Now the Creature pursues Jeff through the mansion. In ransacking the house to find Jeff, the Creature comes across Mrs, who cowers per the director’s orders, and noble Rex and his chin interpose themselves in front of her. The Creature pauses to look at them. Looking…..

Then he turns away. He has no quarrel with them. Rex and his chin saved him, and Mrs can swim up an eyeful. He goes after Jeff. He finds Jeff. End of Jeff. Jeff, his tormentor and captor is his only victim. By the way no ‘City Screams in Terror’ per the lobby card since all of this action takes place in a rich man’s private compound away from prying eyes.

Then, searching for Virginia Woolf, the Creature walks into the sea. The End. There is no fourth entry in the series.

As Jeff’s marriage failed he reverts to the primitive man who clubs his rival to death and then blames the hapless Creature. Get it? He starts out a star gazer and ends a cave man.

By the way, Jeff and Rex met earlier in 'This Island Earth' (1955), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. Jeff had the white hair, and parked his UFO under Rex's chin.

The underwater photography is technically proficient but it is only eye candy in this outing, not integral to the story. Indeed there is a lot of padding in this execution. While this screenplay is preferable to that of 'The Revenge of the Creature,' the scientists make no effort to establish any rapport with the creature or to communicate with him on any level. Not even the word 'Stop.'

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 22 minutes of treacle time, rated 5.6 by 4432 cinemitizens.

Verdict: A major disappointment.

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While ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ (1954) had atmosphere, tension, humour, likeable characters, elegant photography, and — most of all— humanity. This sequel from much the same production crew has few, if any, of those qualities. While it still shows some of touches of director Jack Arnold, they are bleached by the inept screenplay.

Some films can be saved by the actors but not in this case. This was the first of fifty B movie creature features/Sy Fy movies that would largely constitute John Agar’s subsequent career. At this stage he was still trying to be an A picture leading man, and not yet sleepwalking in his trademark catatonic style developed later. He is really trying, and very annoying, and so superficial that the fraternity brothers rooted for the Creature.

Not even a pay-check, a director, a screen-play, and a career motivated the ichthyologist to warm to Agar. No rapport puts it mildly. While required to embrace and kiss him, the viewer can see the icicles.

While dead at the end of the marvellous ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ in the previous year, by the miracle of modern medical screenplay writing the Creature is restored to life in the Black Lagoon. The first fifteen minutes consists of his capture. Nestor Pavia, the only hold over from the original, captains the boat with his usual panache.

While Richards Carlson and Denning could not quell the Creature in the original, Bozos One and Two dynamite the lagoon on the assumption either they will kill Creature and take him back for dissection, or knock him unconscious so they can send him home for torture.

This approach alone indicates the Channel 7Mate intellectual level of what follows. Kaboom!

Once captured Creature is put on display for gawkers at Ocean Harbor in sun-bright Florida. There Agar and Ichthie torture him with food and cattle prods. Yep. Several times. Repeatedly. Their aim is to teach him to stop on the word ‘Stop.’ High level science it is. The fraternity brothers called the SPCA.

Ichthie and Agar exchange frozen lips now and then. The fraternity brothers know those kisses for the brush-off they are.

Creature has enough of their prodding and does some of his own. He kills Bozo One in the melée and escapes with ease since no precautions were taken, per the screenplay.

Though Bozo One was well known to both Agar and Ichthie neither misses a beat at his death. Just as neither gives a thought to Creature’s plight at the end of the cattle prod. (Yes, I know, Ichthie once says ‘she almost feels sorry for him.’ Put the emphasis on ‘almost.’ That means she does not feel sorry for him.)

(The next time cattle prods were on screen they were used by Bull Connor’s police in Birmingham on protestors.)

The opportunities lost were many. One of the strengths of the original was the underwater photography and the swimming of the stuntman, Ricou Browning, who is also in this one. There is some imitation of the original and Arnold’s touch shows in it, but it is not integrated into the insipid story. Moreover, once in Florida's glare the mystery of the Black Lagoon is gone. There is another Arnold-moment when the peeping and stalking Creature is transfixed by the sight of Ichthie in her boudoir. But again it is cut before it sinks in.

In the aquarium there are some nicely framed shots from the water into the viewing area and the reverse that could have used for communion if not communication between the two worlds, but not so. The potential is palpable, but left at as a showy camera shot, not integrated into the story.

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The Wiki word is that despite the commercial success of the original, the studio cut the budget for this reprise to the bone, because of losses on other pictures. The McKinsey managers’ assumption was, as is often the case and often right, the audience would be too stupid to notice. Considering the undeserved high score on the IMDb maybe they were right in the long run.

Whereas in the original the deaths of associates were shocking and disturbing, in this one it is not even clear to this inattentive viewer, ahem, if Agar and Ichthie realise Bozo was torn apart. Instead they go out on a dinner-dance date. Indeed they show no interest in the escaped Creature and feel no responsibility for anything. 'Don’t blame them; they written that way.'

Now the Creature has no trouble spotting Ichthie and puts his moves on her. The de rigueur scene of the Creature Feature lobby card occurs as he carries her off into the night. Where promptly he puts her down. Must be heavier than she looks.

In the end Creature obeys Agar’s command to stop, so that the assembled NRA members can shoot him down. Another triumph for US foreign policy. See something foreign, shoot it.

The end.

Maybe Creature is the only sympathetic character in this soup because he does not have to speak any of the tepid and dreary lines of the screenplay. Silent and brooding with such underwater grace and agility, he embodies a personality none of the dry players can match.

A recurrent theme in Jack Arnold’s movies is the situation of women professionals, career and family. It is here in some dialogue but so poorly executed one suspects Arnold inserted it and the screen writer made no effort to integrate it. Still Ichthie does muse on her choice as a career woman and where will it lead, when most of her gal pals are now married with children. Agar ignores these concerns, per the mores of the time.

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Perhaps the only thing that makes the movie worth watching for anyone who is not a copper-bottomed Sy Fyian is that it is Clint Eastwood’s film debut. He has thirty-seconds as a lab technician in the early going.

Internet Movie Database meta-data is 1 hour and 11 minutes of Dali time, rated 5.3 by 1161 cinemitizens

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Verdict: Pop goes the balloon!

John Agar becomes the helpless victim of….a brain. It was a new experience in his long downward descending film career.

Gor from the Planet Arous is on the interstellar lam from the laws of physics, pursued by agent Vor. Gor is a balloon on a string painted with a human brain. One prop does them both since all Arousians look alike to the fraternity brothers.

Atomic energy testing on Earth attracted Gor who wants to use it to return to Arous and take revenge!

So far it sounds better than it is.

Los Alamos and its cottonwood trees are nearby and so is the crack [gasp] nuclear physicist Agar whose expertise runs to reading voltmeters. He is not employed on the bomb testing project but is yet a nuclear physicist, freelance it seems, just hanging around. The fraternity brothers scoffed since there was not a slide rule was in sight. Strike one. At no time does he intone E = (MC)2 or any other incantation of the high priests of science. Strike two. Nor does he sport a nerdy white pocket protector. Strike three. Yer out!

Gor merges with Agar. Read that again slowly. Gor merges with Agar... who then goes all Lee Strassberg, writhing, sweating, doubling up, twisting, pounding his head against a wall, like a Red Sox fan re-acting to another drubbing by the Yankees. There is one marvellous scene where he stoops over a water cooler and is photographed through the water in the tank in a weird and disturbing image.

ARous water cooler.jpg
What it shows is a big fat head. Nice but not integrated into the film.

Warning, danger ahead! When possessed by Gor, Agar tries to act. His evil laugh is as good as Bart Simpson’s but no better. Passable for a ‘C+.’ He gloats at his enormous power over savage Earthlings, while telling himself that Sally will do nicely. A ‘D’ for gloating. He then dons reflective contact lens and wills destruction. This is definitely an ‘A+.’ Overall as a villain a ‘B-’ average.

Since he is not employed, Agar has plenty of time to roam around and frequently visits his girlfriend Sally who lives with her dad (Thomas Browne Henry, a stalwart of 1950s and 1960s television, who is picture above near the water cooler) with the faithful hound, George. (Who but a scriptwriter would name a dog George?) Of Mom we hear not a word.

When Agar tries to act, Sally and Dad notice a change. In one notable scene Gor-Agar tries to rip her clothes off. The fraternity brothers had pretty terse criticisms of his technique. Needing the pay check for completing the role, Sally perseveres with Agar.

ARous Gor.jpg The balloon plays a dual role, both Gor and Vor.

She and Dad find the cave of the ‘Robot Monster’ (1953), a film reviewed elsewhere on this blog, which also has some clothes tearing in it, where Gor hangs out. There Vor appears with the same voice but in a reassuring tone, like Richard Boone trying to be nice. He clues them in on the plot and reveals Gor’s Achilles Brain heel.

Between bouts of gloating, triggering nuclear explosions, twice blowing Malaysian passenger planes out of the sky, declaring his lust for Sally, Gor-Agar complains of terrible headaches while clutching his stomach. The director skipped anatomy classes in college. There is more which the reader is to be spared.

Vor decides to inhabit George to keep track of Gor-Agar because at times Gor must leave Agar's body to update the IOS and Gor is vulnerable at that time. Vor will pounce on Gor then! This is an intriguing possibility balloon-à-balloon, and maybe some dog stunts to equal to Agar’s gut clutching, but no. George rides around in the car a couple of times and goes to sleep. Another method actor: realism. Pouncing is out.

In the end -- a long time in coming -- Sally gives Agar written instructions with a drawing as explained to her by Vor, and leaves an axe handy for him to use to split the atoms in Gor’s balloon brain. Which he does.

When he recovers himself, i.e., leaden and bored, Agar asks her how she knew where he should strike per the instructions and with what, namely the axe. She tells him about Vor.

He dismisses this explanation as her imagination! She exits to collect the pay cheque.

The end.

Ah the 1950s when chauvinism, sexism, whitebread, and stupidly were the coin of the realm. But wait, has anything changed?

Rumor has it that some screenings were interrupted by the announcement of the Sputnik success.

1 hour and 28 minutes of treacle time, rated a vastly inflated 6.0 by 2246 of the producer's extended family members.

Verdict: Viewer beware. I could not finish this one. Not even Lieutenant Willard’s name in the cast list could keep me at it.

Time Shifters.jpg

The premise is a good one and offers much potential which was not grasped by writer, director, producer, or the cast.

The premise is that in the future backward time travel is possible, and it has become disaster tourism. Those in future travel back in time to take part in disasters, to be rescued in the nick of time by the time travel agent. Sail on the Titanic. Be a Red Sox fan. Land at Omaha Beach. Board the Hindenburg. Vote for the Twit-in-chief. And be home and dry by dinner time, spared all consequences for these and other disasters.

Such time travellers are discovered in this story by a lazy and incompetent journalist with a reptilian sneer who can barely drink instant coffee. Maybe that is why I could not warm to the movie. Where is the comatose John Agar when we need him?

The proposition that Casper the Ghost might have the presence of mind, energy, wit, intelligence, and insight to figure this out in five minutes was just too much for my suspended disbelief.

Those IMDb users who made comments concentrate on the story’s potential, not the execution of the material. Not even the fraternity brothers could warm to this.

Replete with inaccuracies and fabrications yet ponderously and pretentiously presented as though a documentary. ‘History on Film’ I hope will demolish it in due course. Until then I offer my comments.

Because the gullible cinemitizens of IMDb will eat it up and think they now know the history it has to be nailed.

Darkest Hour.jpg

They rate it 7.4 from 94,328 votes and it runs two hours and five minutes. Its documentary approach goes day-by-day in May 1940 as Churchill took office, but it inserts events that occurred later in June in this May narration. It attributes to Clement Attlee, the Labour Leader, a position he never took. It trivialises the ‘V’ sign. It fabricates a Tube ride. It shows in May 1940 an American aircraft only manufactured in 1943. Ditto the automobiles. It garbles Churchill’s several meetings with Paul Reynaud who did want to fight on.

In short, despite the pretension of accuracy implied by the documentary approach, it is as careless with fake facts as the Twit-in-Chief.

It adds nothing to our knowledge of the Fox, Edward Halifax, nor does it explain the transformation of King George. These two figures are very well drawn by the actors, respectively, Stephen Dillane and Ben Mendelshon. Halifax remains a man of mystery. He was everyone’s obvious first choice as PM who stepped back and back. King George surprised Churchill by his conversion to the ‘fight ‘em on the beaches’ attitude by learning together with his wife to shoot a pistol.

Nor does the film credit Churchill’s long acquired mastery of parliamentary forms, rules, and conventions which he used to gain and keep support. The grand strategy was in his speeches; the killer tactics were in meeting schedules, ordering of items on an agenda, orchestrating other speakers, and so on.

Attlee had said repeatedly in public and private that he would continue to serve in War Cabinet regardless of whom the Conservative majority installed as PM. He did not make his service, and hence national unity, conditional on Churchill’s selection. It is unthinkable that he would have done so and he did not.

Though every detail of this time is well documented, the facts are not enough for the film-makers.

Having seen Churchill enacted so many times (Albert Finney, Robert Hardy, Timothy West, Brian Cox, Timothy Spall), it is impossible to see him with a fresh eye. Having said that, Gary Oldman seems to have compiled a host of external mannerism and ticks without any inward unity. The declamations, the cigars, the shuffling steps, the staring eyes, are all there without anything inside rather like an animation from Madame Tussaud's wax work collection. The publicity hype says he studied many films of Churchill. No doubt. He has the walk; he has the talk, but he has no empathy for the man inside.

Disclosure statement. By some combination of button pushing I watched this in a French dubbed version on a trans-oceanic flight. I had not intended to do that but once it started I let it run as my French lesson of the day.

IMDb data: 1 hour and 37 minutes, rated 3.5 by 64 cinemitizens.

Zombie Cats Mars cover.jpg

Just as some suspected for eons, cats are the devil’s familiars. Two high school boys see a UFO at twilight, but say to themselves, despite the evidence of their eyes, that it is but a weather balloon and that explains why weather predictions are so accurate. The irony detector went off.

Of course, they are ridiculed for seeing a UFO, though they did not say that they did. The small town bully gets to work per the script. Down the street is a cat lady with fifty or more felines. When the Martian cat shows up, she takes it in. That was her last mistake.

The Martian has glowing eyes which are soon imparted to its kind. They turn on the cat lady. Who is going to clean that up? This is just the beginning. Down they go like mice before the grim cat reapers.

The police are inept and the narcissistic carrion of the media find the string of murders amusing, but boring after a time. Everyone in the small town is killed, one-by-one, until our protagonist wakes up to find it all a dream for a short story he has to write for homework. The end.

The production values are Ed Wood standard. The players are…sincere. It does not take itself seriously and most is thus forgiven, though not all.

How we know the killer cat came from Mars is unknown. Where the UFO was parked is likewise unknown. Why did they come? Most important of all, what makes them zombies?

IMDB meta-data is runtime 1 hour and 17 minutes, rated 4.8 by 1243 cinemitizens.

7Th Planet card.jpg

Verdict: Stay at home.

In 2001 all problems have been solved on Earth. Pi has been calculated to the end. The drains at Wrigley Field have been cleared. The United Nations (having exterminated the John Birchers [Hooray!]) governs one and all in peace and prosperity with plenty and no conflicts among humanity. At long last we have learned to live together in harmony.

Well, it is fiction.

Note that the initial stock footage of space flight is replete with uniforms of the USA and USAF. No UN blue in sight.

The opening narration continues, the inner planets, including Saturn, have been explored to ensure that they are Trump-free. In order to be sure that the whole Solar System is free of this deadly menace, a doughty crew of five, including the ubiquitous John Agar, sets sail for Uranus, the seventh planet to give it the once over. From here on this is one for the fraternity brothers: inane, puerile, salacious, and other words beyond their vocabulary.

The betting opened on how many of the five would make the return trip. The crew is multi-national with one who goes on about Leprechauns, another who waxes on about Danish windmills, a third who has the wooden heart Elvis sang about, and a vaguely other, along with Agar. All white-bread.

As they approach Uranus, they read from the array of voltmeters on the cardboard flight deck that the ground radiation is Chernobyl, that the ambient temperature is -270 Kelvin (or Fred), that the atmosphere is a noxious brew of Pat Robertson-speak, but they land anyway. Of the crushing gravity, not a word is said. Brave men, these.

Now they take readings again. ‘Huh!’ John Agar can deliver that line like no other, as he sleepwalks toward another pay cheque. It is +72F; it is mild; it is radiation free; it is …(too good to be true but spacemen were not selected for brainpower). Donning coveralls with a UN patch, crash helmets, and grasping caulking guns they go forth with scuba gear on their backs. They are ready for anything. Anything, except what they find!

They find a sylvan glade wherein all their individual wet dreams come to life. Sort of. Beautiful women from the past of each appears to them individually. Hmm.

&th Palnet FB.jpg The fraternity brothers sat up at this point, and stayed up.

After….hmm… a while the spaceboys figure out that these women cannot be real. The fraternity brothers wanted to know…. (how they knew.) Conclusion? An alien intelligence is dredging these images up from their minds and projecting them. This manipulation cannot be tolerated, though two of crew demur, claiming that a good manipulation is just what they need after all that script time in space.

Nonetheless, they set out to find, confront, and destroy this intelligence. US foreign policy Prime Directive number one: seek and destroy.

Bolton.jpg The baleful influence of Neo-Cons extends to Uranus. The white rat is hiding in plain sight.

Meanwhile, between alien-destroying bouts, they cavort with the women. The fraternity brothers object to the word ‘cavort’ since all they do is talk and there is one chaste embrace. ‘Cavorting,’ they cried, ‘is what we major in and this is not it!’ Point conceded.

Evidently the space invaders prevail but one of them gets absorbed, and not in a book.

The Danish captain insists on taking along his dream squeeze as they flee the planet before the requisite KABOOM. Agar does try to tell him she is not real, but…. A man has got to do what his first friend tells him to do. She disappears in the mist, after being rescued. Some gratitude that!

That is one version of the events. Here is the revisionist history now taught in Uranian universities.

Invaders land without permission. They come in battle dress and armed with fearful caulking guns. To make them feel welcome Brain conjures their wettest dreams, which they enjoy to the limits of 1962 film censorship. No harm comes to them.

In response, they set out to destroy Brain. To survive Brain must take defensive action, and it dredges up from each them nightmares to inhibit their destructive actions.

Put that shoe on!

This is a product of Sid Pink and Ib Melchior. That says it all.

It opens and closes with a mournful ballad about the 'Journey to the Seventh Planet.' That alone was worse than the film, albeit shorter.

Though Denmark is much mentioned, it was filmed in Sweden and all the actors, including the Irishman, have Swedish names, apart from Agar, in the credits. Maybe Agar is a Swedish name? No one speaks with a Swedish accent, so maybe it was dubbed. Hard to tell on the print I watched from Daily Motion.

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 19 minutes and rate 3.6 by 732 cinemitizens.

Missile Mooon card.jpg

Verdict: The first astronaut was a Moonie!

It bears an uncanny resemblance to ‘Cat-Women of the Moon’ (1953), reviewed elsewhere on this blog, but there is less dancing and this time no one smokes on the Moon, these being the high points of the film. Yet it does have some interesting features which go undeveloped in the screenplay in favour of the spacers old friend, the meteor shower.

With their own money Dork and Steve have laboriously built the cardboard cut-out of a spaceship in the backyard and are about to blast off for the Moon when, the heavy hand of officialdom falls. 'Private enterprise shall not go the moon,' says a man in an Army Navy Store uniform. The Air Force is here to confiscate your rocket which will fold down nicely into a briefcase.

Steve rolls with this punch but Dork is infuriated and becomes driven to set off on his own. There are close ups of Dork fuming. [Censored.]

The rocket is surrounded by an electric fence, yet two reform school drop outs get inside without breaking a fingernail. See, the cut-off switch for the fence was conveniently located by the gate and it took only a dime to pry it open and kill the juice. A dime is all the sense these two elderly teenagers had together but it was enough. They hide in the rocket. Well, they stand around in the rocket's ballroom and Dork finds them but keeps it a secret in return for their cooperation in his flight to the Moon. ‘Sure, why not. It is a little out of the way but, hey, it’s a free joy ride.’ This is delinquent logic at work.

While Dork and his cronies are dialing dials, unbeknown to them, Steve and Squeeze come on board for reasons known only to the scriptwriter.

The original plan was a crew of two, now there are five on board. Yet somehow the cardboard cutout rocket is up to it and they have lift-off.

In flight Dork snuffs it when the BO of the felons hits him in the enclosed cabin. Well, he hit his head when he slipped in the meteor shower where he went to escape the aforementioned pox. As he dies, he tells Steve that all is programmed and it must be followed exactly. He goes on about ‘my Lido,’ as it pining for Venice. Was he in the wrong movie? Good question.

Cutting to the lunar landing, they discover the two-crew rocketship has spacesuits for four, though the suits do not extend to the back of their necks. They are in for some Moon tan. They encounter some of the slowest moving stuntmen in the geriatric wing of the old actors' home decked out as Moon Rockmen. Squeeze falls down in front of these Rockers and is unable to get up in the Moon’s low gravity so she waits patiently for rescue by Steve. She stave off the Rockers by reciting Zeno's paradox. What other explanation could there be, Erich? Note that the Moonscape had scrub bush on it just like that in Bronson Canyon. What an odd coincidence. They shelter in a cob-webbed cave where they find: spiders, torches, oxygen, beauty queens, and the Lido. But no cat women.

Turns out Dork was a Moonie! His plan was to go to Earth, build a rocket ship and return to the Moon by missile. Neat so far? Then the beauty queens would pile into the rocket and return to Earth to…. Now how Dork got from the Moon to Earth without a rocket in the first place is left to mystery. The BQs have to leave Moon because the oxygen is running out, though where it ever came from is left to mystery. There is mystery in this screenplay.

The idea that the first Earthmen in space is a Moonie, well, that is a twist, and that lust for The Lido is his fuel might add to the fun, but it does not because there is no fun to which to add anything.

Along the way the enlarged spider appears to justify the lobby card. One of the delinquents fries. (See comment above about neck exposure.) Various BQs come to bad ends.

Oh, and we discover that ‘The Lido’ is the maximum BQ.

The Lido.jpg Notice the boss headwear.

She mistakes Steve for Dork, such is her undying love for Dork, because she is blind, because Steve is wearing a medallion Dork gave him with his dying breadth, because the scriptwriter hit the wrong keys. She wants a (re)union with Steve the ersatz Dork, and this riles Squeeze to something more than the mild boredom which has been her contribution to the dramatic arts so far.

‘Cat-Women of the Moon’ has the same IMDb score of 3.6 but has more exposition of the Moonies that strives for plausibility, and fails. Moreover, it had Marie Windsor to add some spunk to proceedings and some old hands in the crew to deliver their lines with conviction, rather than this weary and dreary crew. No doubt the two delinquents were there to capture the Steve McQueen youth market per 'The Blob' (1958). Fail!

Unknown word card.jpg

IMDb metadata is 1 hour and 14 minutes of Dali time, rated 3.9 by 731 cinemitizens.

Verdict: Stay home.

Enrico Fermi frightened a generation of school children with the prediction that nuclear explosions would ignite the atmosphere and incinerate the Earth. This film starts with that assumption.

A team of scientists decides that to survive humanity must burrow into the Earth. Mole-ville here they come. This is a private enterprise, and though it attracts much press coverage, it is underfunded. Most of the ink is derogatory as the Fourth Estate once again meets the standard of irresponsible journalism.

However the hoo-hah attracts a wealthy layabout with a big smile who puts up the money provided he can go along for the ride. While all other members of the crew are doctored scientists, he is a golden brick. Tensions surface but taking him is the only way to proceed. All aboard the Cyclotram (which has since been used to drill subway tunnels in Athens, Istanbul, and London).

Cyclotram.jpg
We see schematics. We see dials. Levers. Switches. Gizmos. Instruments. What is worse is that there are expositions.

We get excerpts from doomsday lectures to thousands who -- contrary to the natural law of the lecture theatre -- seemed awake.

Unkbown lecture.jpg

We get bored stiff. The players are earnest and it is presented with urgency, but none of it is engaging.

The team consists of a small group of fifty year old, near-sighted, round shouldered, shuffling PhDs, and one virile ex-Marine engineer, who is there to fight with the Gold Brick over the attentions of the one female in the crew who is much younger than the other PhDs. She is the nutritionist who has made the dietary pills off which they will live as they bore and bore and bore. 'Boring!' cried the fraternity brothers.

Is the aim to find the underground cavern of Edward Lytton Bulwer’s Vril (‘The Coming Race’ [1871]) where humanity can become Moles. Or is the goal to rescue John Agar from "The Mole People' (1956), reviewed elsewhere on this blog? If the latter, forget it.

They enter the underworld by sailing to Carlsbad Caverns and descending into a dormant volcano. First up then down, down, down. What could go wrong? Ever try sailing to New Mexico?

At least they are safe from the Sy Fy scriptwriters nemesis, the meteor. But things do go wrong. The Gold Brick is annoyingly supercilious and careless. There are speeches about bending nature to human will. 'As if,' said Georg Hegel.

But then….poison gas, volcanic eruptions, dandruff, contaminated water, and annoying remarks bedevil progress.

Some of the doctors croak and the Gold Brick matures. His growth was well done, and of course the lady doctor warms to him now that the ex-Marine is toast. Gold Brick is the only one under fifty left anyway.

They go down, down, down. Much to the disappointment of the marketing department they find not a single enlarged lizard creature to grab the doll for a picture on a lobby card. No stunt men in rubber suits were in the budget. Instead there is an oppressive journey into darkness. In fact, it is much closer to the text of Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ (1864) than the big budget version of it in 1959 with that toothy crooner in it. Not reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

Spoiler ahead.

Moreover, it is resolutely downbeat. Nothing good happens. 'Yawn,' agreed the fraternity brothers. They -- the players not the brothers -- are submerged in an ocean 2500 miles underground! Not good. Doomed. But then the scriptwriter reached for an up-current and it propels the craft to the surface (stock footage of Pismo Beach follows) and they are saved. Delighted to be back where they started from, they throw open the hatch.

What was that about decompression? The End.

All of that and they are back on top where Fermi’s burning atmosphere awaits them. Huh?

The production teams includes veterans of many of Sy Fy films who really should have known better.

The IMDb metadata is 1 hour and 35 minutes run time, rated 4.7 by scant 200 cinemitizens.

Mission Mars card.jpg

Verdict: Not even Carl Kolchak could save this one.

Three American astronauts blast-off for the Red Planet (quite visible of late), but before that about twenty minutes is devoted to their wives and girlfriends telling them each to be careful. Nearly the same dialogue is repeated three times by the women. That astronauts have lives and cares is certainly worth screen time but the repetition makes it irritating rather than engaging. Each of the women give it their best shot. The problem is not the singers but the song.

The flyboys blast-off and the early going has some verisimilitude, though the shots slide between a Jupiter and Atlas rockets in NASA stock footage of Florida launches. The fraternity brothers are up on rockets and spotted this gaffe. Our heroes encounter the usual screenwriting tropes of communication blackouts, meteor showers, and body odour. Darren McGavin and Nick Adams do their best to make it credible.

There is also an amusing moment when McGavin and the third member of the crew, who the fraternity brothers immediately identified as a dispensable Red Shirt, tuck into a meal of pellets and brine, while Adams produces from his kit a salami sandwich and thermos of coffee. They are appalled, aghast, and envious all at once. One of the few nice touches in this turgid celluloid.

Nearing Mars, they pass, floating in the void of space, two dead spacesuited Soviet cosmonauts. Gulp! That gives them pause for thought about a fate that might await them in the screenplay. This encounter ties up an earlier aside about Soviet interest in Mars. So far, so usual.

In the approach for landing they take actions that separate them from the supply canister that was to accompany their landing. ‘We’ll find it later,’ says McGavin. We know what that means. Trouble.

They land and alight with no ceremony or awe. Just a remark to the effect that ‘So this is Mars.’ They spend hours, well so it seemed, pumping up weather balloons for scientific reasons unknown. To find the supply pod they scout around. Yep. While they have on white overalls, their face masks came from a hockey team and do not seal into the overalls.

Soon enough the local flora and fauna objects to their presence: Terra Nullius or not. The Red Shirt in the crew of three is gobbled up by a large golf ball.

Gold ball.jpg This orb looks very much like the enlargement John Carradine used in ‘The Cosmic Man’ (1959), reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

They find a third Soviet cosmonaut frozen in a spacesuit. ‘We can’t leave him here,’ McGavin says. (He gets all the good lines.) Gamely Nick Adams carries the frozen Soviet block of ice back to the ship. The fraternity brothers were pretty sure leaving the Red there was just fine, and how could little Nick carry that big Slav with all his gear to the ship anyway. That attitude just proves why they will never graduate from scriptwriting school.

The bug-eyed saplings and gigantic tin foil wrapped golf ball cripple the ship making departure impossible. Stop there and check the Vulcan logic.

The FF (flora or fauna, the fraternity brothers could not tell which was which and neither could the special effects department) wants the strangers gone. How to do that? Disable the ship so they have to stay. Check. That is scriptwriting school logic, Mr Spock. It is to be seen in countless other Sy FY features like ‘Forbidden Planet’ (1956), reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

The Siberian thaws out and comes to life while Nick goes to tee-off on the golf ball, nine iron in hand. Bad move. That Reynolds Wrap tin foil is club-proof. Gobble. Gobble.

However, while the golf ball is masticating Nick, McGavin sees his chance to blast off and puts the Siberian at a console to twist dials. Dials twisted. Kaboom. They take off in joint American-Soviet effort at escape. For the time that is a concession to the unity of mankind in the face of mean plants.

The end. Well, I stopped watching, ahem, maybe earlier, too.

The story and production come straight from a 1950s B movie, yet it was released in the same year as ‘Space Odyssey 2001.’ It seems all the more dated when one realises that in less than a year the audience would see on the television news a man walking on the Moon.

The early going and the end are marred by an insipid soundtrack that has no connection to either the form or content of the movie. The producer must have had an aspiring musician in the extended family.

It was made in Miami and the supporting actors in the cast were evidently local talent, not the familiars of Hollywood. That does give it a freshness but it is soon lost in the early repetitions.

This same director’s oeuvre includes ‘Santa Claus Conquers the Martians’ (1964), not reviewed on this blog, yet. But only because I have been unable to locate it online.

AKA ‘Star Pilot’ (1966)

IMDb metadata: 1 hour and 29 minutes of Dali time, rated a generous 4.3 by 284 relatives of the producer.

Hudra card.jpg aka 'Star Pilot.'

Verdict: One hour and twenty-nine minutes later and I still do not know what Mission Hydra was.

Rock rats in Sardinia find a hole in the ground. Wow! Then their fancy scientific instruments — watches, telephones, jeeps — misbehave. The solution is more funding! But the Ministry in Rome is not convinced. There follows more incoherent drivel from the Italian Sy Fy factory.

Much going to’ing and fro’ing and it seems the Roman coliseum is in Sardinia.

Using the script as a tool, the professor and the graduate students dig and find a buried spaceship. The aliens missed Arizona and hit Sardinia near the coliseum. Wow! Satnav gone mad!

First contact does not go well. Just as the professor was about to display his CV, thugs appear with gats and demand the secret weapon he has been working on. They declare, by the way, that ‘We are not Chinese [despite appearances]. We are Oriental.’ Salute that!

‘It’s no weapon, you fools,’ replies the professor. ‘It is an alien ship.’ The Orientals are not going to fall for that one, when….

Aliens in black latex appear and blast away. They seize the surviving thugs and the professor’s party, which includes his daughter (who thereafter tries to steal every scene by mugging, posing, waving, flouncing, peering, preening, gasping, gyrating — the whole repertoire of a director's girlfriend's efforts to act). It seems that the aliens took the wrong off ramp when they crashed and now need repairs. Blah, blah, blah. The prof, it turns out, can change a tyre on a spaceship, when not digging in the rock garden.

The aliens, commanded by a woman, take off with the prisoners to complete a mission and continue the repairs, with the promise of returning the prisoners to Earth when Missione Hydra is accomplished, whatever it is. No one cracks wise about how strange it is that a woman is captain alien.

Then there is a segment that seems from another movie, as Earth Command launches a fleet of spaceships in pursuit of the alien craft. We never hear or see this armanda again. Satnav again? Must have diverted into the another movie in a studio next door.

In a similar vein they land on a planet of the apes and some creatures appear to put on the lobby card. There is dialogue in this sequence that makes even less sense than that elsewhere.

On board the imprisoned Orientals make a break, and shoot ‘em follows. The black latex is not bullet proof. The situation gets worse. And worse. The screenplay is even worse. Later the dead rise in response to a late screenplay edit.

More than once members of the crew have to do an EVA without a spacesuit. Yep. They pop out onto the space trampoline in their black latex and wiggle the antenna, scrape the barnacles, paint the prow. Weightless, briefly. Cold, no. Dead, no. Slow motion, yes.

Meanwhile, thanks to Einstein’s theory of relativity, time passes, and the Earth is destroyed in a nuclear war, according to some old newspapers they find on a derelict Bulgarian Marie Celeste spaceship. Bulgarians in space! What next! An idiot in the White House! Again.

They have then no choice but to go on. And on. The fraternity brothers feared the worst. They were right.

Star Pilot bore.jpg It just goes on and on, boring the cast to distraction.

While made earlier, the English-Language dubbing was done after the success of ‘Star Wars’ and it was retitled ‘Star Pilot’ to travel in its wake to bait hapless audiences.

IMDb metadata is 1 hour and 22 minutes, rated 5.1 from 1701 cinemitizens.

T Travelers card.jpg

Verdict: They left home with the AMEX card!

In 1964 three whitebread scientists are reading dials and shouting for more or less power. They cannot seem to make up their minds. Are they wearing the white-coats to keep time dust off their clothes? Meanwhile: Levers are levered. Switches are switched. Dials are dialed. And then …

It is the year 2071!

The Earth is a wasteland! The Republican ascendancy must have had its way. The advance of human knowledge has stopped.

The three scientists and comic relief step through the time portal which promptly collapses behind them stranding the travellers without visas. They are set upon by vestigial Trumpettes, crippled and deformed, i.e., unchanged: slavering, hunched, overweight, waddling… Yikes.

In one notable early scene two of these savage Trumpettes attack the lady scientist, who thinks fast and sprays them with a fire extinguisher and that drives them off. Hooray! She does not scream, faint, go pale, or make coffee, but does some quick lateral thinking and takes decisive action. How rare is that for a woman in a creature feature in 1964? Very. Moreover, at no time does anyone talk about the contradiction of a women being a scientist. Take a bow, scriptwriter!

The illegal immigrant time travelers without visas take refuge in a cave where they find the few remaining Mole Hillaries underground. The Moles confirm the Republican armageddon which sent Evangelicals and most everyone else to their rewards. The few survivors are the Moloch Trumpettes on the surface and Eloi Hillaries underground, thus reversing H.G. Wells.

T Travelers 1.jpg John Hoyt in the powder-blue regalia is a fine actor totally wasted in this role as the visa denier.

The Mole Hillaries plan to relocate to Alpha Centura where a Democratic majority is assured! They are hard at work on a spaceship and welcome additional white-coated scientific help. Meanwhile, they depend on Androids to defend them from the Trumpettes. So far all of this has been pretty snappy.

T Travelrs droids.jpg But now we hear much about the Androids, but when you have seen one droid, you have seen them all.

The story bogs down to an arthritic snail’s pace with expositions of spaceflight, Alpha Centura, 3D printing, and the androids supplemented with comic irritation. Tedious with a capital 'T' and it goes on and on. The fraternity brothers got their Zs in Act II.

These four newcomers irritate some of the Hillaries. Jealously, ambition, KPIs rear their ugly heads. With a little spreadsheet magic one sore-headed Hillary proves she won the election, no, whoops, he proves that the four strangers cannot fit onto the Alpha Centura rocket and will to stay behind and play with the Molochs. Nice, not. Help us build the rocket, yes; ride in it, no. Sounds like a familiar management move. 'You do the work and I take the credit' is a chapter in the McKinsey Managers Manual.

Then in the middle of another exposition, the Trumpette Molochs attack! What a relief! Much running around. Sirens sound. Lights flash. The fraternity brothers gained consciousness.

The intruder is neither a registered Republican nor a Democrat, but a human being! There is an argument about exterminating him. The lady scientist gets all compassionate and saves him. Big deal! We never see or hear of him again. He fell through a typo in the screenplay. 'Did he get on the rocket, or not,' asked the fraternity brothers? Good question.

Though engaged in a race against time to get to Alpha Centura (before it closes), and in a war to the death with the Trumpette Molochs, the Hillaries take time out for sunlamp bathing, arm wrestllng, and trysts in the cavelight. We see semi-clad women lounging around a spa talking about the population explosion that will follow resettlement on New Earth around Alpha Centura. Get it! The fraternity brothers sniggered.

Then the Trumpettes attack in force and in the confusion the time travelers return to 1964 to vote against Barry Goldwater. However once there they find themselves motionless. Comic irritation does his stuff. This paradox is an interesting twist. Back-up: Denied seats on the rocket, they used their iPhones to telephone back to 1964.

However, they cannot reintegrate into 1964 because the IOS updates are inconsistent. What is to become of them? ['Who cares,' asked the fraternity brothers?] But the Eloi have a change of heart and somehow, ex cathedra screenplay, manage to get to 1964 to offer them a place on the rocket after all. A happy ending is thus assured. Who they threw off to make room is left unsaid. Pretty sure that unregistered human being did not make it.

The story is incoherent. Though there are many incidents, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. The denouement is not the result of anything that preceded it. It just happens. Kind of like life.

The writer and director Ib Melchoir other achievement was ‘Reptilicus’ (1961). Enuf said.

IMDb metadata is 1 hour and 13 minutes, 5.8 from 77 cast members' relatives.

Verdict: Spelunkers will be disappointed, as will Martians.

In the far distant future of 1987 humanity has achieved space flight and the first Mars lander is en route with a two-dork crew.

Cave Women cover.jpg

They land on uninhabited Mars to find….inhabitants. But does that matter? A little terra nullius and hey presto, no problem.

Because of the low budget, they find an Earth atmosphere and trudge around in coveralls. One of them wanders off and is…

There are women. ‘These two losers had to go to Mars to get a date,’ hooted the fraternity brothers!

One of them encounters two warring tribes of women, each of which tries to kill him, or enslave him, or otherwise have their wicked ways with him. But no, they decide he is too dangerous to live and if he dies there is no movie. What a conundrum!

Males are weak, cowardly, and enslaved by women. Realistic anyway. 'She' (1935) Who Must be Obeyed took refuge on Mars, it seems. ('She' has been re-made many times but the first is far and away the best.)

Those coveralls drive the Martian caveless women wild! The kiss is unknown to these women and …. [censored]. Knowledge!

It is filmed in black-and-white and offers a tribute to 1950s B Sy Fy movies. It is modest and the actors say all their lines slowly and clearly (because there was no budget for re-takes). In most scenes there is one camera set up and the actors do not move once the focus has been pulled.

Even so it is mildly diverting, but has nothing to do with Mars or with caves. It is a trope in 1950s Sy Fy that there are worlds of women without (real — Republicans don’t count) men, e.g., ‘Cat-Women of The Moon’ (1953), 'Fire Maidens from Outer Space’ (1956), ‘World Without End’ (1956, or ‘Queen Of Outer Space’ (1958) to name but the a few of the fraternity brothers' favourites.

IMDb metadata is runtime 1 hour and 47 minutes of Dali time, rated 3.7 by 1231 cinemitizens. Released its native Italy on 19 August 1960.

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Verdict: Beau, beast, and Beauty with radium.

Jilted by her impossibly handsome boyfriend, a woman driver goes off a cliff and is disfigured. While she is disconsolate the loss of Beau and beauty, Igora offers her the chance to regain the latter at the hands of an Emeritus Prof Mad Scientist. Igora is his loyal assistant. Her brother Igor is otherwise engaged.

Beauty undergoes the treatment which is experimental and at some point the dialogue refers to radium and Derma 28 (Dermas 1 to 27 were losers). After far too long, it works. The horse-faced beauty no longer has a chocolate sundae melted onto the left side of her face. She can ditch the Veronica Lake peek-a-boo look.

Mirror.jpg Belle pining for Beau.

But the affliction recurs, and the only solution is for the Mad Scientist….to murder young women to get their…gland bags. Prof is besotted by Beauty and he throttles even the loyal Igora for her…glands. The gland injections seem to only last a scene, and he is out there murdering ever more young women who conveniently stand around in secluded spots waiting for his attacks.

His cereal, serial, or is that surreal, killing is eased because he turns himself into a wereprof to do it. (If only.) Since there is no plot explanation for this capacity, the fraternity brothers concluded that a visiting Lon Chaney left a wolf suit behind. Following so far?

When he returns to the lab he transforms wereprof back into menacing Mad Scientist by stepping into a man-sized clear bell jar which fills with dry ice fog and out comes one lightly smoked mad scientist. So much for Clark Kent.

At times it seems his lust for Beauty turns him into Lon Chaney without the pathos, and other times it takes a shot of radium (under a full moon). But he has done for her what no other man has or can do. He has recovered her looks, killed for her, and turned himself into a monster to so. It is trifecta! He has also scuttled his career as a serious actor by playing this role.

He goes on murdering. Beauty is restive and pines for her impossibly handsome boyfriend and keeps Mad Scientist at bay. After an hour she notices Igora is no longer around. Not too wealthy with the smarts is this one.

As the body count rises, plod finally stirs and, of course, seeks advice from Mad Scientist. Handsome tags along with Plod though why he jilted her in the first place is never revealed nor what has kindled his interest in any of this. Beauty could run to Handsome, says the Mad Scientist, but then the treatments would stop and the chocolate sundae would return and Handsome would then again reject her anyway. Is this a Faustian bargain or what? Or is it an impossible mish-mash of exploitation films. Decide!

In the end, Handsome slugs it out with Mad Scientist and wins, and it turns out the last involuntary gland transplant cured her, and she no longer worries about the victims who sustained her so she can live happily ever after. A moral tale for our times.

George Zucco was made for just roles but he usually had better material. Admittedly this mad and bad emeritus professor is pretty creepy, the more so when he is trying to be suave and considerate.

The Italian title translates as ‘Seddok, the heir of Satan.’ OK, but no one called Seddok is listed in the credits. The English dubbing and dialogue were overlaid on the Italian original for the Yankee market and the title changed to capitalise on the topical interest in all things atomic. Hence the extraneous references to radium in the dubbed dialogue. Any relationship of the original Italian title to the story has been lost in translation.

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 9 minutes of run time, rated 6.9 by 7686 cinemitizens.

Verdict: Generally credited as the first zombie film. Certainly credited with cementing Bela Lugosi’e eyebrows into cinema history.

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Beau and Belle have a shipboard romance on the way to, of all places, Haiti. Also interested in Belle is the travelling Planter who offers them the hospitality of his stage-set mansion for their nuptials, all the while trying to woo Belle away from Beau.

Indeed even as a surrogate father leading her down the aisle to Beau at the altar, he is whispering endearments, blandishments, and offers into her ear with the subtlety of the Twit in Chief. Fearing his charms to be insufficient, he had earlier taken the precaution of visiting Bela who agrees to render her a zombie if only Planter will prick her figure with a needle he supplies.

Bela eyes.jpg Those eyes!

Rejected, Planter presents her with a rose, disguising the needle as thorn. Ouch. She dies on the altar. She is buried and resurrected for his use later. The veil is drawn.

However, she is a dead soul, a role this actor was born to play.

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The look is as creepy as a Republican congressman from Alabama.

Frustrated Planter wants Bela to return her to normal, even if it means losing her to Beau, who is drowning his sorrows. Too late. Bela likes the Newtown dead soul look and wants her for himself.

Planter and Beau join forces to subdue Bela (‘As if,’ snickered the fraternity brothers) and by the miracle of scriptwriting they do. Planter croaks. Belle snaps out of it. Beau gets what he wants. The End.

There is much zombie lore. One early graphic scene in Bela’s sugar mill staffed by the zombies is a vision of labour that McKinsey managers call ideal. It is a powerful image worthy of Dante. Sorry to say I could not find any still photographs on the web that show it well. But the whole film is on You Tube. Go for it!

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 17 minutes of run time and rated 4.8 by 2400 cinemitizens.

It is a creature feature with some differences that surprised the fraternity brothers. See the list below.

Mole People card.jpg As misleading as lobby cards usually are. At no time does a Mole Person carry around the Marked Woman. Read on for explanations.

A party of archaeologists search for a temple of Ishtar in Sir Edmund Hillary’s stock footage of the Himalayas. The research grant that funded the trip did not include a GPS so they missed Babylon. Five in number they include the required local guide, the required Red Shirt, the required ethnic stereotype, the superfluous Beaver’s dad Ward, and a catatonic John Agar, doing what he does best, sleep walking to payday.

They come upon just such a temple as we saw in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Come to think of it, if in Berlin, why not in the Himalayas? During the ascent the local guide falls out of the picture and collects his check.

Next the Red Shirt carelessly falls through a crack in an earthquake. Agar, Ethnic Stereotype, and Ward descend to retrieve the Red Shirt's Actors Equity card, and another quake seals them in. Doomed!

Mindful of his own career trajectory, Agar concludes that the only way to go it down. Down they go. Nestor Paiva is the ethnic in tow, a talented actor who is completely wasted in this role as the cowardly lion. We know he soon will join Guide and Red Shirt at the pay window.

The encounter the stunt men in rubber suits — the Mole People (because Superman had copyrighted ‘Mole Men’ in 1951, this lot are ‘People.’) These encounters are very effective as the MPs rise up out of the sand piled on the sound studio floor. This was an inexpensive and effective method of staging.

They are rescued from the MPs by Babblers in funny hats from 3000 B.C. who have been living underground since then. Driven there by real estate prices up top. For these albinos theirs is the whole and only world. The scriptwriters betrays knowledge, often a firing offence in Hollywood, by having King Albino use sixty as a base number.

An effort is made to explain how they have survived. Mushrooms, which as any Hippie will say, have a lot to offer, goats, and fish. Minerals shine for light.

Behind King Albino is the High Priest who babbles a lot of nonsense that brought to mind sermons from the era, about how God loves only them, provides only for them, must be prayed to, and so on. Agar remains inert. He's good at that.

The Babblers are suspicious of the surviving two, Agar and Ward. Nestor got Moled. But, well, maybe it is Ishtar’s will. Scripts work in mysterious ways.

Babblers live an orderly and clean life, but…. Yet, in short running time our heroes learn that the society exists on the slave labour of the black Mole People who are frequently beaten to death faire encourager les autres mining mushrooms. Moreover, the Babble-on population never exceeds 150. Never, because there are only so many mushrooms.

When there are more than 150, then the excess individuals are sacrificed to Ishatar.

Pause.

B movies were often accorded more latitude that A pictures, and that is apparent already in this one with its deprecation of religion, with the enslavement of blacks by the very white and cruel albinos.

We also get to see the sacrifice. Three young women calmly line up and pass through a door. Later guards remove three gruesomely charred corpses. It is the charred corpses that would never be seen in an A film. Young women dropping their robes as they serenely go to the oven, and that certainly got the attention of the fraternity brothers, is nothing new, but the crispy critters were. Is it another indictment of religious superstition?

These three had to go and they were chosen because they were marked! Yes they had some skin pigmentation. So those sacrificed were those of colour, Aryan though they seem, not so compared to the Babblers with their white pancake make-up.

By now Agar has his hand on a marked woman and she strokes his…ego.

Agar and Ward stop some cotton field overseers from beating three black Mole People to death, and free the beaten Moles. As the three freed MPs leave one returns and stares at Agar. This is communication of a sort.

Later when the Babblers decide there are not enough mushrooms for dinner they decide to toast Agar and Ward.

Agar and Ward prone.jpg Agar at his best. Ward patiently waiting.

Then, thanks to the miracle of scriptwriting, the Mole People erupt out of the ground in revolt. Fisticuffs ensue. Marked Woman fails the test of opening the door by removing the bar, preferring to pound on it per the director’s instructions.

End of Babblers. The Mole People return to watching reruns of ‘Superman versus the Mole Men’ (1951), each time hoping it will turn out differently.

The oven behind the doors is sunlight through a fissure. This sunlight crisps albinos to a charred, barbecue black. Ward, Agar, and Marked Woman climb up the fissure to safety. But there is a surprise in the end, one that makes no sense. Spoiler! Another quake occurs and Marked Woman dies, leaving Agar without a date for his next binge.

The End.

Points of note include:

1.The scientists in Sy Fy are archeologists with neither magnets nor electricity
2. Established religion is superstition at best and deadly at worst.
3. Political power is short-sighted and self-serving.
4. A flashlight is essential to a spelunker and an exception to (1) above.
5. The whitest of whites are albinos and they enslave blacks.
6. They are also cruel to blacks.
7. They enjoy (5) and (6) above.
8. Mushrooms are best in beef stroganoff.
9. Human sacrifice requires disrobing to save on dry cleaning.
10. Sunlight without sufficient SPF produces crispy critters, turning albinos into black cinders.
11. Is it smart to sacrifice young women? The fraternity brothers cried, ‘No!’
12. This is not the only world.
13. The screen play by László Görög has some posers in it but the direction is petrified.
14. Despite the lobby card, the Mole People are the victims of the monstrous albinos.

These items help to overcome the nausea caused by the first five minutes in which Professor Frank C. Baxter (1896-1982), English, University of Southern California, lectures stunned viewers on speculations of underground worlds, without mentioning Pat Boone. Baxter was a television personality of the era meeting KPIs, Key Pontificating Irritants. He was public intellectual before that execrable concept was devised to licence ranters.

For the numerate, a few numbers from the fraternity brothers who were taking notes. There were 31 deaths (humans, Moles, and Babblers), while Prof Baxter made 38 hand gestures in five minutes. Of the 150 Babblers, twice sixty and a half, only 34 were seen at any one time. Only 18 Mole People were seen at once, and they bore 88 lashes.

IMDb meta-data: 1 hour and 12 minutes, 5.2 from 509 discerning cinemitizens.

After five years of porridge George Zucco is out for revenge! Shiver those timbers. While he was slammed up, someone went to Fog Island and killed Karma, George’s wife! That made for bad karma for him.

Fog Ilsand card.jpg

Since release he has holed up in a mansion with his step-daughter on Title Island to avoid a media feeding frenzy. To find the culprit(s) who framed him for embezzlement, he writes to them in a perfect Copperplate handwriting inviting them to visit him for a reunion. Who can resist Copperplate?

Otranto Island here they come! Meanwhile, George in a boiler suit does some home renovations for his forthcoming guests. He assumes their greed will bring them.

Greed? Here is where it gets foggy. George was innocent and framed by one or all of the invited associates, but each comes thinking to lay hands on the loot he allegedly but did not steal. See? ‘No,’ cried the fraternity brothers. 'Did Georg Hegel write this,' they asked? 'Is it dialectic?' Be that as it may, it gets no clearer.

In addition to the four associates, there is also a skulking butler, an accountant who rows to the island on his own to cooperate with George, and a beau for the step-daughter. The butler and the accountant know that George did not steal the dosh. See?

The four associates are: the turbaned head of a Psychic Research Centre, Lionel Atwill who is always a superb villain, Jerome Cowan who usually plays light, and Veda Ann Borg another treat. After the gang assembles for dinner, the men wearing tuxedos they packed for Otranto Island, George presents them each with a party favour, a key to one, a miniature skull to another, a baseball card, a pencil…. That got the fraternity brothers thinking, briefly.

This mansion, by the way, has all mod cons, a dudgeon, peep holes, secret passages, a moat, an oubliette, suits of armour, an organ, a sly butler as mentioned above, false doors, copies of ‘Crime and Punishment,’ dark corners, and a séance!

The guests do a lot of snooping around the place, and spying on each other. Among the ladies there is a very brief implication of lesbianism during a discussion of cleansing cream. The butler is the first to go and no one seems to notice.

About half way through, George’s contract ran out. Lionel is quick with a knife. Exit George. He fell at Lionel’s feet dead. Lionel, accustomed to such deaths from many previous films, does not bat an eye. Evidently he was the major culprit in the framing of George and the murder of Karma. If so, he should know there is no gelt to be had. So why is the dork there?

Though earlier Veda wanted to leave regardless of money, the script requires her to become mercenary, which she does with enthusiasm. Likewise the accountant, who knew George did not do it, joins the gang to find the ill gotten gains, which he knows do not exist. What a loser!

Somehow or other the party favours figure in the plot, but how, that is one of life’s mysteries. Veda seems the most normal, while Turban Woman’s fabricated pronouncements come true! Remember those home renovations. Even after his own death George has his revenge, leaving the daughter and beau to start afresh. The end.

This was one of Atwill’s last credits. Zucco, as always, dominates the camera.

Zucco Zucco.gif George Zucco

Cowan is better at light. The scripts is disjointed. Lionel asks the Psychic to perform a séance and as the others are seated, he walks away; unnoticed it seems, for some more snooping. Much of the film is so murky the sets could have been empty and probably were in this production from the Picture Releasing Corporation which was several strata below the bottom end of Poverty Row studios. In the gloom this viewer was often not sure who was whom and it was probably best that way.

As audiences saw this film news of the death toll on Iwo Jima would have begun to spread via seven thousand dreaded yellow 'Regret to Inform you' telegrams. Worse was to come at Okinawa.

Internet Movie Data base meta-date is run time 1 hour and 53 minutes, rated 8.0 by 55,708 cinemitizens.

Audrey finds herself the target of three thugs and Cary comes to her rescue. Stanley Donen, a master of musicals, out Hitchcocked Hitchcock in this confection. It is absolutely marvellous and eye candy from the opening credits.

Charade card.jpg

There is zing between Audrey and the twenty-six years older Cary. The villains are downright villainous and the diplomat is so oily that frequent hand washing is required.

The three thugs think she has the moolah for which her unloved husband was killed. There are rifts among them but no doubting their individual and collective willingness to do whatever it takes to get the money. In the brew is Cary, seemingly a bystander, but then it turns out he is has been involved all along. He has convinced the trio he is with them, while convincing Audrey he is not. Sometimes when all parties are in the same room. Is this man teflon or what.

All that romance is nice but where is the green stuff? Then the number of villains is reduced. Whoa! Who did that? Is there another party in this party? The fraternity brothers broke into a sweat at this point. Indeed, no one ever raises the obvious questions, who killed hubby? Well, the underused police inspector did but no one else seems to care.

The plot unfolds, and in so doing makes use of everything, including young Jean-Louis and that dental appointment. The pace is effortless. The direction crisp. The delivery of the lines is perfect enough to please any author. And the lines, including Audrey’s last, are gems.

I enjoyed seeing the American Express office in Paris where once I, too, along with Tyrone Power, collected mail. Niggles, I had a few. I bristled at the bland statement that the OSS was G2, Army Intelligence. No so. Nor was I at all sure that slipping 250,000 American dollars into 1944 France made any sense. Nor did the ease of infiltrating the US Embassy in Paris fit the Cold War milieu. The snapshots of the trio in uniform shows them in post war uniforms and haircuts. Hmm.

Hard though it is to believe, it did not win any Oscars. George Kennedy as the crazed Herman deserved one, along with the director. ‘Tom Jones’ and ‘Hud’ dominated the major awards that year. Granted ‘Hud’ had memorable dramatic performances from two veterans, Patricia Neal and Melvyn Douglas. But 'Tom Jones' came and went without a trace. Fun while it lasted but it did not last.

It has to be said that Funny Face carries the film, proven when one reviews the still photographs on the IMDb. She does comedy, romance, drama, determination, fear, alarm, conviction, love, all with elegance and grace. Her star eclipsed Cary's in many a scene, so said the fraternity brothers.

Try this. Imagine a remake today with one of Hollywood’s drug addled egomaniac midgets in the lead, wearing a torn tee-shirt with a drippy nose. Audrey could be a self-centred talentless person famous for being famous on the way in and out of rehab with white spots on her cheeks. The writer will be a case of arrested development. This combination seems a sure recipe for success. All it needs is a lot of CGI and a soundtrack of train wrecks.

Instead of dirty money the quest can be….a vaccine to cure stupidity in climate deniers. No, that would not sell. Then the quest can be for… a lot of money to pay for making a trashy remake.

I hesitated to write it up, thinking there was nothing left to say, but the idea of remake and a check of Oscar winners for the year overcame that doubt. Moreover a look at some of the user reviews on IMDb brought up some truly ridiculous post-modern interpretations, which are beyond mockery, but there was the reek of PhD theses among them. A masochistic reader may wish to have a look.

IMDb meta-data: run time, 1 hour and 7 minutes; rated 5.4 from 1,610 cinemitizens, and released 14 May 1941.

Handsome, Sidekick, and Comic Relief make a forced landing on a Caribbean island en route to Panama from the Bahamas. Thump and bump and the three emerge in the studio conservatory. Comic Relief gets to work, on whom more later.

The trio find a mansion in a jungle clearing and unbidden enter. Whoops! There they encounter the Mad Scientist who has taken a lot of Prozac for the occasion and speaks slowly with eerily correct grammar and a strudel accent. That grammar alerts viewers that MS is not all he seems. It is going to take more than a few hints to alert Handsome. ‘Well MS seems weird,’ admitted the fraternity brothers, ‘what more could he be?’

Check the release date, lads!

King Zomibies card.jpgThe lobby card is wrong on every count. The ritual is from a Masonic Lodge. There is no torture and no human sacrifice.

Prior to crashing the trio picked up a radio message in German. Though the word ‘German’ never passes their lips for reasons to be explained below. After apologising for the intrusion, Sidekick politely asks to use the radio to call for help. MS denies possession of a radio. Hmmm.

His wife joins them for dinner. She has the vacant eyes and slack jaw of a Republican Senator. She speaks not a word, which MS confides is just her way.

By now even the fraternity brothers would have been suspicious, but not these two. We will leave Comic Relief for later. They blithely get into their jammies, which they must have brought along from the plane, and hit the sack. The two of them are in a double bed! Banned in Alabama!

They snooze through much coming and going elsewhere in the mansion as MS gets about his KPIs. He has in the handy dudgeon a US Navy Admiral whom he is torturing for details of the defences of the Panama Canal! Meanwhile upstairs Handsome is getting his beauty sleep.

All the while Comic Relief, played by that one-man band Mantan Moreland with 130 credits on the IMDb, enlivens proceedings with his black racial stereotype, excitable, ignorant, and incoherent. He has learned the word ‘zombie’ below stairs where he was relegated, and he has seen these hollow-eyed slack jawed GOPers with his own eyes. His several reports of these doings below stairs to Handsome and Sidekick are waved off as delirium induced by his skin colour.

The irony, perhaps unintended, in the very watery script is that Comic Relief is factually correct long before the whitebreads realise what is happening. He noses around, asks questions, checks things, and reports to his superiors who dismiss him. If he is dumb what about Handsome and Sidekick? Beyond dumb.

Handsome rises to the occasion when the MS’s comely niece is introduced. Sotto voce she tries to tell Handsome things are crook; he seems not to hear as he studies her form. Subtle. She is trying to free her aunt, the Mrs MS, from the hypnotism she is under. ‘Hypnotism’ is too big a word for Handsome so he goes to the library. Meanwhile, Comic Relief is trying to explain zombies to him. Whew! Handsome was not cut out for graduate school.

‘What is a zombie,’ he asks. It is a good question. The fraternity brothers thought a zombie was dead risen, like Lazarus. But here as in ‘Revolt of the Zombies’ (1936), reviewed elsewhere on this blog, they are hapless folk hypnotised to lose their wills and become the slack-jawed instruments of another like a Republican.

Finally Handsome realises something beside the niece’s form requires his attention. When Comic Relief and Sidekick go missing he stirs.

He stumbles into action, discovers and frees the admiral, which actor gives the only genuine performance in the movie in a brief scene. Comic Relief and Sidekick reappear to help out, as does Niece.

The grammatically correct Mad Scientist was using VooDoo magic to transfer the mind of the admiral with its secrets to his wife, whose mind an earlier effort had blanked. That is the price of scientific progress. Next up was Niece. MS speaks with a Hollywood German accent and claims to been an Austrian refugee. Of course, Handsome buys that.

The VooDoo magic was aided by a face mask that the MS says is an Irish Druid mask. Smooth talker.

At no time is the word ‘German’ used. Why not? Because at the time other films that did were sometimes boycotted by German-Americans before Germany declared war on the United States on 8 December 1941. One instance had earlier bankrupted the Poverty Row studio that put it out. Still less was there a reference to Nazis. But the German on the radio is there to be heard and MS speaks some German to a black untermenschen. But instead of Germany there is a reference to a ‘European power.’ They speak German in Liechtenstein, right?

Sidekick had been clobbered, stashed, and hypnotised but it seems his will is stronger than the black untermenschen and it wears off. Yet when he attacks MS, the bad doctor pulls a gat and shoots him three times at close range. (It is the sort of thing that the fraternity brothers count to earn NRA demerit badges.) He survives without a visible scratch and Handsome says a few days in the hospital will fix him up.

Huh?

Does being partly hypnotised make the subject bullet proof? It did in this screen play. All the whitebreads leave with Comic Relief. No idea what happens to the remaining zombies and MS’s many black servants, retainers, and co-conspirators.

While picking nits, how did the admiral get there? It is said he was lured by a radio beacon. How does that work. Was Circe on the radio?

That it rates 5.4 must be because the Undead are voting for it.

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 4 minutes, rated 4.7 by 1013 raters.

The brother of a kindly and diffident small town physician dies and at his funeral are many grim faces. While no one comes forward to stick pins in the body to make sure it is dead, per Herman (George Kennedy) in ‘Charade’ (1963), the relief at the brother’s death is expressed by one rather distraught woman who flings open the church door and delivers a rant that briefly livens up proceedings.

MV5BZmZmNTRiZGQtYjcyMS00YzM4LWFkYzEtNjJhZjAxZDY2NDM1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDMxMjQwMw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,669,1000_AL_.jpg

It is a nice touch to interrupt this conventional and somber scene with a vicious denouncement delivered by a mousey-looking woman.

She proclaims the deceased to be Satan’s spawn. ‘Must have parked in her drive way,’ mused the fraternity brothers, remembering the times those words had been directed at them.

The deceased is the identical twin brother of George Zucco, and George plays a double role. No, there is no flashback, because dead Brother is much in evidence. See title, though note it should be singular, Dead Man Walks, Talks, Nips, Sips, and More.

No sooner is Brother buried, despite the woman’s suggestion that he be burned, than Igor digs him up and opens him up so that Brother can join the Undead. Pedants note: The Undead also include zombies and that is what I was expecting. But no, here we have a vampire, but a second rate one since he has no cape, and -- more importantly-- he is not the singular Bela Lugosi.

The Undead are those who do not return the many books they have checked out from the library and have learned how to become a vampire by correspondence school. Brother graduated at the top of his class. Risen, this Evil Lazarus preys on the locals, well on George’s niece, sipping her blood every night to sustain himself. Though later an excited crowd accuses him of more, there is no indication in film he did anything more than dine at home on his niece.

This incestuous necking makes her intended mad, though why he is so far away at the sipping times is a mystery. He takes out his bile on innocent George. Denouncing woman offers helpful hints from ‘Women's Weekly’ on how to cope with a vampire uncle in the family. After several bouts of sibling rivalry, George accepts the idea that Brother is Undead.

Igor is the weak link in this exercise, as he rumbles around the coffin on a wheel barrow at all hours. Obviously he is a Villain School drop out.

In the end George has to go down mano-à-mano with his evil twin Brother in the flames. Cain and Abel all over again, once more, anew. The end.

Zucco (1886–1960) played suave villains or mad scientists in many B pictures, including Professor James Moriarty. He has 98 credits on the IMDb and half would fall on the shady side of the moral street. But he always made an impression with his presence.

Here is a change of pace and yet not. In one part he is an innocent who slowly comes to realise the truth about his brother, though how he missed it in the first place is open to question, and also the evil brother. He managed to distinguish the two characters in appearance, voice, manner, and gait. Accomplished was this stager who was born in England but started acting in provincial Canada. Close observers will note he lacks two fingers on his right hand, a war wound.

IMDb meta-data is run time of 1 hour and 18 minutes and rated 6.6 from 792 cinemitizens.

This is film noir at its best, simple, direct, dramatic, and basic. Erich von Stroheim is the title character who has vaudeville shooting act (sponsored by the NRA) where he hits everything but Dan Duryea. It has the requisite very femme very fatale in Mary Beth Hughes (seen in some Charlie Chan movies).

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Femme decides to shed Dan and his many empty bottles, and seduces the Frog with the gun. Erich is no pushover since in an unstated backstory a woman ruined his life by taking his monocle. But over he goes, heels over head. Picture that. Dan has been unreliable for some time and Erich gives him notice with a .38 caliber bullet in the act!

Since Dan was stiff with drink, no charges follow. Frog promises all to Femme and she takes it. Scram. It takes Frog some years to figure out he has taken to the cleaners and dumped. He freed her from husband Dan and she freed him from all his dosh. Off she went.

Thereafter Frog dedicates himself to tracking her down for….revenge! He does and he does. The wages of sin are paid in full per the Code.

At one point Femme has four men on the string, and they not playing yo-yo. Whereas A pictures in 1945 were subject to much restraint both external and internal, B pictures like this one were allowed more license regarding sex. B pictures were often screened after the A picture to a dwindling audience.

Moreover, there is some eroticism with the guns in both the action and the dialogue. Why did I think of Charlton Heston stroking that rifle at the NRA convention? That scene is available on You Tube for those who wish to lose any respect they might yet have for Chest Heston.

Regrettably most of this film is told in flashback, and in this case that takes the air out of the drama. No doubt considerations of timing and cost dictated that approach. It means Frog delivers some of his best lines while dying on the floor.* The gossip mill says the Frog resisted the flashback approach to no avail. He always wanted linear stories and that is another reason to like him.

The director was Anthony Mann at the beginning of an illustrious career and he certainly shows his talents for pace, timing, mood, energy, angle, light and dark. Some of the double shots are startlingly even to this jaded viewer. He elevated a common story on a skimpy budget to something more for over an hour despite the draining flashback.

When trawling through You Tube offerings for Sy Fy I came across a thumbnail for this and recognised Erich von Stroheim. He is always must see, so I did. His transformation from Prussian autocrat to love sick puppy is forced by the run time but he carries it off.

Chapeux to Mary Beth Hughes who delivers lines with double and triple meanings with no apparent effort. She does not miss a beat as she turns from one man to another with a lie. How it is that she did not make the A list of stars is a mystery in itself. Fox Studios failed to renew her contract in 1943 and she found her way to Poverty Row with Republic Pictures. In time, she quit and worked as receptionist in a doctor’s office where she said she met a better class of people than in Hollywood. Perhaps she was a #metoo in her day.

DD also gives a fine performance, combining as only he could vulgarity and vulnerability in one line.

*Yes, I thought of William Holden face down in the pool, too. Why not when Billy Wilder’s older brother was credited as producer for this film as W. Lee Wilder. Of course Erich is there with William in that picture, too. It is perhaps thanks to Mann that this Lee Wilder production is miles better than most of the others he turned out, like 'The Snow Creature' (1954) reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

IMDb meta-data 1 hour and 32 minutes of Dali time, rated 3.9 from 4657 time wasters.

A cheap and cheerful exploitation of Star Wars from the heartland of such ersatz imitations, Cinecittà in Rome. This film is often cited at the spoor that released scores of Italian Sy Fy simulacra. It is also often proclaimed as the worst of the derivative spawn it spewed.

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First the setup, then the tear-down.

Lord Bad’s lines are ‘Kill. Kill. Kill them.’ He knows what he wants and how to communicate it. His aim is to displace Plummy and rule the Ford Galaxy. Lemmy Caution would then not be able to visit Alphaville.

The only things standing between Lord Bad and success are the bikinis of Stella Starr! The fraternity brothers cheered!

Bond Girl struts around as Stella in a fur bikini on the ice planet, a metallic one at a rock concert, a feathery one with the Amazons, and more, sometimes less. David Hasselhoff’s bouffant displaces Marjoe Gortner near the bikini. The fate of the Samsung Galaxy depends on Bond Girl, Bouffant, and a boy with a woman’s name. Only the scriptwriter could save them.

Gortner had been a child evangelist who turned and tried his hand at this. He needed no make up to look alien. In a pinch Gortner has laser eyes so he can do his own cataract surgery. Handy. Nothing is ever forgotten or done only once at Cinecittà and the same gag is used at the end of ‘Escape from Galaxy 3’ (1981), reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

The effects are coloured paper and so are the characters. The dialogue is speech balloons from comic books. Recall Lord Bad’s dialogue as quoted above more or less in its entirety. There is neither science nor fiction though there is energy and zest. Altogether it looks like a failed animated Marvel Comics pilot, it lacks the pathos characteristic of Marvel heroes.

Looking disconsolate, Christopher Plummer, as Lord Good Guy, aka Plummy, after hiring Dr Who as a consultant, stops time. Indeed watching this treacle feels like time has stopped. Gossip is that Plummer signed for three days but finished in one to get it done and get out. He had to rush back to London to throttle his agent.

Then there is the Texas robot who keeps Bond Girl warm on an ice planet by holding her….hand. 

Lord Bad Guy sports a Princess Leia hairstyle when shouting his monosyllables.  With that hair bun it is hard to take him seriously. 

Bad Hair stella.png See.

Disclosure Statement. About half way through I left it running and took the dog out for a turn in the park for thirty minutes. Did I miss anything?

Be warned! It has been released under a variety of titles to lure audiences to the miasma.

IMDb meta-data 1 Hour and 32 minutes of Dali Time, rated 4.7 by 243 relatives of the producer.

In psychedelic 1969 Chicago the world has been taken over by The Monitors who are silent men in long black over coats, black turtle neck sweaters, and black bowler hats who speak slowly and politely. Only if necessary do they spray sleeping gas to quell a disturbance.

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With the advent of the Monitors peace and prosperity reign for one and all around the world. No more storm clouds over Lake Michigan. No more poverty, racism, corruption, war, disease, or reruns on television. In fact the only television broadcasting is testimonials to the benevolent rule of the Monitors.

In this Eden emerge NRA reactionaries who pine for the good old days when murder and mayhem were a constitutional right. They make SNL efforts to undermine the pacific order of the Monitors who in turn infiltrate secret agents into their ranks. These skits would have been rejected for SNL. Then lust or is it love rears up. This surge briefly aroused the fraternity brothers from their habitual lethargy, but not for long.

There is satire here but it is laid on like a load of bricks. Why would anyone revolt against perfection? So asked the Hall Monitor in Chief, and the hero has no answer. I wondered if the Chief Monitor was related to the Honcho Monitor in 'The Island Earth' (1955), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. He has the hair for it.

There are hip Sixties fashions piled high. There are a great many cameos by one and all from ChiTown from Xavier Cugat, Ed Begley, Sherry Jackson, Alan Arkin, to Everett Dirksen. But no Ernie Banks, Gale Sayers, Harold Washington, or Bob Boozer. Indeed this Chicago is all whitebread as are the Monitors.

Also absent are a story, plot, or purpose. The level varies from Sy Fy to slapstick and back. Then it tries for comedy with the finesse of the Three Stooges. Mugging does not comedy make.

Disjointed is the word for it.

The acting is mostly ham from Corporal Randolph Agarn, though the leads Vina and Dean's older brother try. They act like they are in a different movie, and they would certainly want to be. The sets are bare but the cinematography in, around, under, and above Chicago is delightful.

Though the Monitors are all knowing and all powerful they cannot push open a door and retreat when assailed with rotten fruit. Sure. We never learn anything about them. Where did they come from. How did they take over? What is their purpose? Where did they park the flying saucer? Where did they get those hats? What did they do with Fox News? Did it hurt?

IMDb meta-data 1 hour and 31 minutes rated 6.5 at from 2846 cinemitizens.

The majesty of the roof of the world in Tibet provides the background to this tale. Peter Cushing is the very British scientist scouting high altitude plants and Sergeant O'Rourke is the bluff American showman. They join forces to search for the Title Character is this Creature Feature with many a difference.

AB Snow card.jpg

The crass showman explains his desire to profit from the increasing curiosity of people about the world which can now be satisfied by radio, television, and movies. His interest is commercial but he sees a larger meaning in it. Like Benjamin Franklin, he wants to do well by doing good. Cushing’s interest is a personal obsession since he once saw the footprint of a gigantic Title Character. While he is a Sensitive Victorian Age Chap in manner with pipe, tea, and scarf, his interest is personal, not scientific.

Though muted, the collision course is set. Cushing wants to take pictures, open a dialogue, exchange email addresses, and become Facebook friends with the Title Character. Sarge wants to cage one and take it back for show and tell. Maybe run it as a Republican for the Senate from Wyoming. As tensions rise, the worst comes out in each of them.

Sarge gets more huckster and Cushing gets more sanctimonious. They compete vigorously in stereotyping.

Is the Abomie an offshoot of human evolution? Is Abomie an alien hiding out in the mountains, waiting for Zontar? Is Abomie the successor to humanity so that after we all kill each other and leave the Earth will Abomie and company come down out of the mountains to claim the world? Is Abomie id?

There are many nice touches. The telepathy of the Lama and the Abomie added to the spookiness, as did the dark interior of the lamasery. Then there is the whistling and whispering wind in the mountains.

Then one dark and windy night in the high peaks, they shoot and kill an NBA player, eleven feet tall with the shoe and ego size to prove it.

Yeti big.jpg Big.

But dead. Well a dead NB-Abomie might still be worth something, both of scientific and commercial value. Time to pack up and go home.

Ah huh.

Turns out Abomie has family and friends and they want … to give his body an Himalayan burial, cash-in his Opal card, take revenge on the murderer, keep their secret by killing the whole group, or watch 7Mate.

It is 1957 and everyone smokes, even on Mount Everest they stop for a fag.

Cushing and co.jpg Before the body count starts.

Between smokes the party of five is reduced, to four, to three…. The guide runs away. Two of the dead have no marks on them, yet they are dead. One of them commits suicide, more or less, and the other dies of fright after reading the script to the end. Two little Indians remain on the India side of the mountains.

To bait a trap Sarge had convinced one of the party to be a scapegoat. And arms him with a rifle loaded with blanks. Nice guy. His excuse was to avoid killing another creature. Not out of concern for the creature but to have a live example to exhibit. Nice guy. Now he has a dead scapegoat.

Yet later Sarge tries to expiate his guilt and finds himself trapped in an avalanche of his own making. As he turns to face it, perspiring, exhausted, gaunt, his fatalism is complete. But that pales next to Cushing’s final confrontation.

Yes, there is no Yeti.

In a display of spunk rare for a 1950s damsel, Cushing’s scientist wife whom he left back in the lamasery making tea and cataloguing the specimens, sets out to find him, fearing the worst. By force of will she drags along his assistant and she finds him. Atta girl! Whew!

There is intelligence and wit in the screenplay that rises above the stereotype of the Creature Feature genre and the subsequent reputation of Hammer Films. Let be said that the reputation is largely undeserved, but there it is.

The comparison has to be ‘The Snow Creature’ (1954), reviewed elsewhere on this blog, which stems from the same premise, scientist and showman in search of the Yeti in the Himalayas, and the two films differ thereafter in every respect. In ‘The Abominable Man’ the natives are accorded respect and even deference, as it is their country. While the showman is crass he can explain and justify his approach and he shows remorse later. The party consists of mixed characters and not disposable cardboard. And Abomie is granted a spirituality denied to the lab specimen in the telephone booth.

The ice and snow came from a second unit working in the Pyrenees, and it is marvellous. No CGI there but guys slogging through snow.

Nigel Kneale wrote the story and then the screenplay, and it is directed by Val Guest who mastered mystery, pace, locale, tension, drama, who dared leave much to the imagination of the viewer. This started as a story called ‘The Creature’ for the BBC two years earlier. This combination of Kneale and Guest produced quality time and again.

Sergeant O’Rourke did several B picture in England like ‘The Strange World of Planet X’ (1958), reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

I found it on Daily Motion and the print I watch was jerky but easy enough to watch and hear.

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 22 minutes of Dali time 3.7 from 538 cinemitizens

Having just inherited the vast Stanton fortune, Scott Brady descends on the Stanton Institute for Time Research to get his watch repaired. Brandishing KPIs he demands results!  The lab coats there cannot even change the battery in his Rolex! Useless! If they cannot do better he will divert the funding to Weapons of Crap Destruction and start with Hollywood!  

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Whoa! Under that gun the Senior Scientist skips pages in the Time Traveller's Manual and throws all the switches. 'More power,' Igor, the ever present assistant, cries and more power he gets from somewhere.  
They get comfy and tune in the same television I had in grad school with endless horizontal rolling and showing nothing but very old, very tired reruns on the only channel it can receive. They watch about 30 minutes of the film excerpts from public domain stock footage of rubber dinosaurs, fake cowboys, playful cavemen, decent Republicans, forbearing Christians, and other forgotten pre-Fox News relics glimpsed briefly when the horizontal roll pauses. ‘Comfy,’ well there is only one chair. Guess who occupies it? Yes, Scott Bully.

Time Lab YV.jpg The time lab where they watch television. Note the sunken floor.

The other notable accoutrement of the lab is an elevator that descends two steps to the sunken floor of the lab. Brady makes ostentatious use of it when he comes to crack the eggheads. Later, as below, when he is running for his life, he skips the elevator and uses the steps. Makes sense, but why is it there in the first place. We’ll never know.

Well Brady is impressed that the time travel lab seems to travel in time, but where is the dollar in the past?  Let’s try the future. Hmmmm, but it is his dime so Senior and Igor with the requisite female on screaming duty comply.  They go looking for Yvette Mimieux and the Eloi in the future. The fraternity brothers cheered.

Whooska, and they flit through time to…. some time. There they find a spaceship and Blue Poles, yes, Slavs standing on plinths. See, it’s like this. Bully Brady, Senior Scientist, Igor, and Screamer are standing in their sparsely furnished time lab blaming each other for forgetting to order Indian takeaway before launching into the future, when the men in blue… No, wait, that is the blue men kick in the door and take them away at finger point. Thereafter the blue men, showing their superiority, climb on top of the plinths to lecture them. Well, it makes as much sense as some of the training seminars I have had.

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Then in another empty room they encounter the rest of the Blue Poles who recite gibberish from the script about being in the middle of a war.

Here was Bully Brady’s chance at some technology transfer for his weapons industry. But does he take it? No, he is too busying plastering his remaining hair to his forehead to make a deal, grab a phaser, steal a super secret blue print pinned to the notice board, slip a plinth in his pocket, or anything.

Seeing how useless these travellers are, the Blue Poles send them back to the Time Shed amid a hail of sound effects. Once there levers are levered and switches switched, though what the power source would be out there is unknown to them and to us. They go whirring back to 1967 hairstyles.

But wait, Bully Brady annihilates himself. That was a nice touch, but completely incomprehensible. In short, he played chicken with himself and lost. That was one ka-boom we all cheered.

This film is proof that things can always get worse.  After a run B films rated below 5.0 comes this entry. The director, writer, producer David Hewitt came to this movie after his remarkable ‘Monsters Crash the Pajama Party’ (1965) in his own search for the bottom of the barrel. This latter film has proven illusive on the inter-web but the fraternity brothers continue the search during their conscious hours.

Hewitt’s efforts are ably assisted by Scott Brady who exudes bad will with a thuggish air few could equal. He is perfectly loathsome but waiting a long time to see him get his comeuppance was boring. The direction seems to have consisted mostly of Brady turning his head to the left, and then… to the right. Wow! That’s entertainment, not. Was he rolling his brain into the socket, watching a tennis match, feeling water in the inner ear, or doing as he was directed? Decide now! 

For most of the cast this is the single entry on their IMDb vitae.  The fraternity brothers had no trouble predicting that.

The production values are well below Dr Who. Indeed a Dalek or two would have livened up the otherwise dead script. Moreover, the 1967 Tardis was a luxury craft compared to this Time Shed.

IMDb metadata: run time per episode in 26 minutes, rated 8.1 by a paltry 122 cinemitizens.

A one-year television series in thirty-eight episodes from the United States depicting space flight pioneering with respectful attention paid to the science and technology. Willy Ley would have approved. Maybe he did. It stars everyman William Lundigan.

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And he alone is the constant through the episodes. No other player is listed for more than eight outings. That may partly explain its failure, not enough characters to develop audience identifications, together with the lack of dramatics from calm, cool, collected, and sometimes nearly catatonic Bill. The tone is realistic and the presentation emphasises the difficulties. Space flight is hard enough without zombies, meteors, or John Carradine.

The drama emerges from the divergences among the crew, and occasionally from mechanical elements. Some of the crew are determined to complete the mission even at high risk, and others are more cautious. Everything is being done for the first time, and some of the equipment fails. Think Apollo 13. Think low-bid contractors.

The series was made with what appears to be the unstinting cooperation of the USAF, as noted in the terminal screen acknowledgements. These Saturn rockets are military without a doubt.

In 1958 President Dwight Eisenhower created NASA to explore space. There must be quite a story there of Ike wresting some of the missiles from the generals. But who mistrusts generals more than a one-time general, and who better to convince Congress likewise than that same general.

No doubt this creation was part of a policy to encourage the Soviets not to use space for military purposes. But of course there must have been some serious cooperation between NASA and USAF that continues today. Those rockets grow on money trees in the defence budget green house. No doubt there have been occasions when the USAF made a bid to take over from NASA, too. These bureaucratic fights would be fascinating studies in themselves.

This series might have appealed to the Air Force as publicity for its sole-agent claims to space. Though the references to an enemy ‘them’ are few. Indeed in one episode the safe return of Bill himself is only possible with the cooperation of a Russian tracking station. No doubt when the script writers get bored they will throw in some sabotage, and that friend of the jaded writer, the meteor, but not in the early going.

Even so it is notable that each of three episodes seen so far end in failure. The Moon orbit is aborted and the whole crew returns safely. The Moon landing is compromised and one crewman dies on the Moon, and the rest have to leave before completing the mission. Ditto the third, another injury truncates the it. The program, a cynic might say, was creating a climate of low expectations for space exploration.

Man down 2.jpg Man down!

The key is so low that the first steps on the Moon are nothing much. The door opens, down the ladder they go and start standing around waiting for the director to cue them. No dramatic pause before the step onto the surface. No finely calibrated remark. No excitement.

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No speeches and no flag. Neil Armstrong got no tips from this scene for his step into eternity.

While there is a revolving door of characters the sets are of great verisimilitude for the day, thanks no doubt to the Air Force. The acting is fine, the more so considering how quickly each episode was made. Maybe not in one-take, but close to it. The worried wives, look very worried. The anxious generals on the ground look anxious. The stressed flyboys look stressed. By the way, the ubiquitous Australian Michael Pate appears in one episode.

The one mistake is in the portrayal of the representatives of the media of the day as sober, sensible, and civil, but then maybe they were back in those days. Certainly today no self-disrespecting ABC journalist would fail to badger the worried wives with questions about death, children about absent fathers, generals about incompetence, and so on. Why let the dust settle when stirring it up goes on the resumé.

Like the acting and realism, the special effects with models and travelling matte are far superior to many a B-movie reviewed on this blog. Free-fall in the cabin is fun to watch. In space there is no flame from the rockets. The EVA astronauts are floating in the ether.

The Mind Palace has no entry for this program from the time. It was programmed against ‘The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson’ and ‘The Price is Right,’ so I guess our boob tube was on the Nelsons in 1959-1960.

IMDb metadata is this: 1 hour and 32 minutes of treacle, rated 3.2 by 277 cinemitizens who confessed to seeing it.

First there was ‘Starcrash.’ and then when it seemed Italian Sy Fy films could not get worse, the same production crew that made it came out with ‘Escape from Galaxy 3,’ from which there is no escape. The production liberally plagiarised the special effects, vista shots, and costumes from the earlier film, and this story, such as it is, starts where ‘Starcrash’ (mercifully) ended.

Escape 3a card.jpg

What is the set up? Princess Lolo and King Dad are in for trouble when Liberace shows up dressed for the Newtown Mardi Gras right down to sparkle in his beard.

Liberace.jpg Looks like he fell off a float.

He has cosmic mega candelabras and blasts them. He did not come in peace. He came in sparkle. Since he is styled ‘King of the Night,’ the fraternity brothers wondered if he was searching for the Queen of Night from Mozart with her very, very high Cs. Should be able to hear her anywhere in the galaxy when she hits it.

Yes, this is yet another Italian Star Wars exploitation. It goes to the bottom of a long list.

Lolo with Seia, her bodyguard, flee. Liberace pursues. They flee some more. Liberace pursues some more. When he gets close they fire their puny candlesticks and he replies with his cosmic mega candelabras that destroy whole planets that get in the line of fire. This takes forty-five minutes or five on Very Fast Forward, best friend of the obsessive film reviewer.

Desperate for an espresso, Lolo and Seia land on Earth, 20,000 years ago to tank up. Yep. the fraternity brothers recognised the Italian peninsula for what it is, a phallic symbol. So do the travellers. Once there they learn from the birds and bees. This couple of losers did not know what those bits were for back home. Now Seia takes his duties as Lolo’s body guard to new…. No wonder Liberace thought it was time to exterminate them. There follows about forty-five or five minutes of frolicking. Old Liberace has been forgotten. Oh, sure.

Until he arrives with his mega cosmic candelabra and starts blasting Earth, then the script remembers him. The natives blame Lolo and Seia for making God mad at them, and so they should. A soccer riot follows and Liberace grabs Lolo and Seia, though why he wanted these two stick figures is not clear. They face off, and — whoa! — Seia burns Liberace to a crispy critter with his laser eyes. ‘Laser eyes?’ Yep. Saved those for the end.

Lolo and Seia decide to stay on Earth and start Italy.

The end.

In a word: terrible.

The Italian title makes it sound far better than it is, namely, ‘Giochi erotici nella terza galassia,' which according to Siri translates as ‘Erotic games from the third galaxy.’ There is no science and the fiction is incoherent, bland, and predictable (except for those laser eyes, which he must have borrowed from Superman and augmented them somehow).

It was also released in English-speaking markets as ‘Starcrash II’ to warn off movie goers. It worked. Other Italian imitations of ‘Star Wars’ include the aforementioned and difficult to forget ‘Star Crash’ (1978), ’Star Odyssey’ (1979), ’War of the Planets’ (1977),' ‘The Humanoid’ (1979), and others I have successfully forgotten.

IMDb metadata is 1 hour a 25 minutes, rated 7.0 by 2773 cinemitizens.

When Quatermass’s moon project is starved of funds, he goes to Whitehall to bludgeon bureaucrats into stumping up the dosh. This method has always worked before so off he goes. Meanwhile, his crew watch the gentle ascent of a flock of meteors.

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Strangely in London no one this time is moved by Quatermass’s bluster and bullying. Quatermass draws the only conclusion possible, eh Erich. Yep, the aliens are at it. That, by the way, would explain a lot about Whitehall decision-making over the years.

After shouting at his subordinates for a while, Prof Q pays attention to the meteors, and now having nothing better to do, he scouts the location where they fell. Well, no, he cannot do that because it is fenced off in the manner of a German death camp. Moreover, the perimeter is patrolled by some very silent, icy, and heavily armed guards in get-up that is un-English.

Q plaform view.jpg A conveniently located viewing platform offers perspective to the Prof.

These guards spirit away the hapless assistant who drove Quatermass to the locale, and as Quatermass goes all Alpha Male on them, one steps forward and hits him with the butt of a gun. Down went Prof Q to the cheers of the fraternity brothers. ‘About time someone told him where to get off for assigning all that homework over Easter,’ they cried! Aside: all profs look alike to the fraternity brothers.

The meteors are eggs that hatch out a gas that infects humans, turning them into slaves. The word ‘zombies' is used once, but oddly not the word 'Republicans.' The slaves built in a day or two the great complex Quatermass espied before his lights went out. When he recovers he rushes about, partly to find his assistant who has the keys to the WC, and to divert funding from this mystery project back to his own KPIs.

More doors are slammed in his face. Ah ha! It is a vast conspiracy. Yep the ‘Invaders’ (1967) have been at it a decade before Roy Thinnes came along, and most positions of authority are occupied by Republicans aka aliens! Look at those little fingers! Proof positive!

There is a fabulous scene where a delegation is being shown around the facility and a parliamentarian wonders off and is slimmed! Slimmed! There are many striking touches like this in the film. But consider what does it take to slime a politico.

Sid James appears as a sotten journalist who telephones in the story from the local pub, only to be mowed down by the aforementioned security guards. Witnessing this murder, shakes up the locals and to calm down they watch ‘Frankenstein’ (1931) and get an idea. They gather with torches, pitchforks, straw hats, darts, and other accoutrements of rural life to march on the mystery site.

Mayhem ensues around a Shell Oil refinery. Quatermass just happens to arrive to boss everyone around. Meanwhile, his deputy, Bryan Forbes, launches the rocket and somehow this disconcerts the alien protoplasm. Forbes went behind the camera to direct later in his career.

Protoplasm march.gif The protoplasm which looks like that of the earlier 'Quatermass Experiment.' He needs an autoclave in his laboratory to clean up and prevent such growths.

At no time does Q try to negotiate with the amoebas. A big BOOM follows. Catastrophe averted, yes, but Quartermass strides off to prepare for the next one.

The Quatermass Franchise grew from Nigel Kneale’s typewriter first as serials on the BBC and then films. He was a very fine writer, some of whose other works are reviewed elsewhere on this blog. This script was filmed as a television series but it did not survive the BBC policy of taping over past productions. The director was Val Guest, who once again offers a masterclass in pace.

This outing presages much to follow in its paranoia, the mark of Cain on the humans who have succumbed to the aliens, the James Bond shoot out in the refinery, but also draws on the established tropes with those meteors. The obvious compareson is ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (1956) which stole much of this film's thunder in the North American market.

Scuttlebutt on the interweb street says Kneale and Guest argued about the character of Prof Q. Kneale wanted an avuncular English eccentric, but Guest wanted energy and tension in the part, and the producer wanted to sell the finished movie to the American market, so he wanted an American in the lead. Some of the more inane remarks, and that is a competitive field, on the IMDb blame Brian Donlevy, who played Quatermass, for the characterization, but it is obvious to anyone but a retard that the director did it. I guess the blunt, belligerent, brash, bossy, bullying, boorish, and bellicose Professor Quatermass was their idea of an American after having studied Dwight Eisenhower.

The IMDb metadata is 1 hour and 10 minutes of Dali time, rated 2.5 by 1099 cinemitizens.

In the middle of El Muerte desert in Old Mexico Uncle Fester is conducting experiments to recreate Gale Sondergaard! ‘No chance,’ said the fraternity brothers, ‘she was one-off.’ Fester is splicing genes from an unlimited supply of spiders and an unlimited supply of Hollywood wanna-be starlets. The result was Tandra Quinn aka Tarantella! There were many others such women with Fester but only she had a name in the cast list. The others are termed, with admirable imagination, ‘Lost Woman.’ About ten of them. They were not even distinguished by a number like Lost Woman 1. The fraternity brothers hoped to find them when the lights came on.

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Two bumps upset Fester’s apple cart laboratory. First he awarded a nationally competitive research grant to a scientist to join his lab. Fine. When this aged Post Doc shows up, turns out, he doesn’t like this kind of gene splicing. What a sissy! He even recoils from the fifty-pound spider Fester keeps as a pet, an early experiment that did not work out quite right.

Second, an airplane crash lands on the mesa and brings onto the Rock of Otranto a mixed group of passengers and crew. They blunder around. Smoke cigarettes. Blame each other for the crash. Decry Republicans. And notice, slowly, that their number is being diminished.

Fester has sent his little men after the intruders. ‘Little men?’ Yes, a by product of splicing the spider women is the production of shrunken dwarfs as their paramours and ….. [Here the veil is drawn.]

The film was a boon for Hollywood’s dwarf population some of whom got a day’s work out of it. Likewise for the wanna-be starlets. Neither dwarf nor starlet had any lines. These human spiders, as Fester likes to call them, communicate by telepathy. Ergo, the actor’s minimum wage did not have to be paid.

This set-up has at least as much potential as ‘The Wild Women of Wongo,’ reviewed elsewhere on this blog, but the execution undermines any prospects it might have had. Though admittedly it is better than that film but then so is a blank screen.

It is told as a flashback within a flashback and the characters are undifferentiated so that the audience — me — was never quite sure who was whom, apart from Fester. The oil man who finds the couple wandering in the El Muete desert and the airplane pilot were identical twins on camera, but in the credits different guys. Oh.

Though the second scientist escapes from Fester’s Mesa later he just happens to the on the airplane that crashes on to the mesa. How easy is the scriptwriter's life with such coincidences.

Equally coincidental Fester's oriental servant is one of one of the passengers on that plane, though he is not a dwarf. How he got from the laboratory in one scene to sitting on the airplane in the next is down to the magic of the scriptwriter's typewriter.

Within minutes of leaving the wrecked plane the just married bride among the passengers leaves her husband and goes into the bushes with the pilot for a anatomy lesson. She wants him to understand her. He does.

That second scientist, when he fled put miles between himself and the mesa, yet by coincidence he found Tarantella in the bar he walked into for a drink. After he shot her dead, she got up and left. Spider women never die! He then boarded the airplane to....the Mesa of Lost Time.

Yet later they all die in a fire started by our hero, whoever that was.

Throughout the mish-mash are interspersed for no discernible reason close-ups of Fester, perhaps he is using You Telepathy Tube, but who knows. There are also a number of equally pointless close up of the wanna-be’s larded into the proceedings. The fraternity brothers will explain those transactions to anyone who writes in and asks nicely. The dwarfs don’t get many close-ups.

There is an intrusive musical score that sets teeth on edge. It consists of three chords on a guitar repeated without purpose or end, punctuated now and then by a vase falling on a piano keyboard. Half-way through the fraternity brothers formed a lynch mob and set out to find the composer.

The direction is haphazard, if existent. The production values came fo Filene's Basement. Fester is too low key to laugh at. Most of the cast are described on the IMDb with this phrase, ‘little remembered.’ Yep. For most of them this film was the apex of their career.

This movie is another example, among many, of the overlap of the genres science fiction and horror. There is ostensibly science in Fester's lab explained with dialogue, but the results are horrible. Well not so horrible as to require expensive make up and costly special effects. Though, admittedly, the finger nails take seeing.

Internet Movie Data base metadata: 1 hour and 15 minutes in Dali time, rated 2.8 from 819 cinemitizens.

The International Space Organisation represented by silent film star Francis X. Bushman (born in 1883) proclaims ‘the greatest day in human history' with the launch of the ISO ship and crew for the Moon! ‘All nations have contributed’ to this ‘Earth shattering event,’ he says. FXB has other Sy Fy from this era on his CV.

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The twelve are diverse, including two women, who are not demeaned or deprecated, as is so common Sy Fy of this era and ilk. They go about their business without sneering by any of the men, or — what is always worse — efforts at comic relief at their expense.

The security is tight. Each crew member has to say his or her name! Wow! That would stop the fraternity brothers most days of the week, without a peek at the driver’s license.

We have a Frenchie, a Germanian, a Brit, a Jap, a Swede, a something else, a Nigerian, an other, and a Pole resident in Israel, and a Russkie. This Russkie is played by someone born in Russia, namely the Saint cum Falcon, showing the wear and tear of the bottle. The leader of the pack is Yankee Doodle.

Smooth sailing does not last long. Members of this handpicked crew soon fall to bickering among themselves, per the script, and then they have to duck meteors, the scriptwriter's friends. Whew! Still they make it to the Moon, where their number quickly diminishes. I seem to recall one of them falls down a hole. Gone. Two others wander off. Gone. Another gets clonked by a blunt meteor. The crew is getting less international by the minute.

Then from the ship’s computer comes a string of meaningless characters, which Yankee Doodle immediately recognises as Moonshine. Ooops, just kidding. He says they look Oriental and since one Oriental looks like another he orders the Jap to translate. Being a smart fortune cookie she quickly learns this Moonie lingo and translates. The message is: ‘Scram! But leave the cats.’

Cats? Yes, they brought two cats for scientific reasons which are too delicate to reveal on a family blog. (They also brought a cocker-spaniel to sniff their luggage.) Evidently the ‘Cat-Women of the Moon’ (1953) wanted company. (This gem is reviewed elsewhere on this blog.)

We never see or hear the Moonies, hiding as they are deep underground to save on the production budget. As if! Maybe this is a trick to ruin the mission by one of the crew, shouts the hysterical genius. He is slapped down with his own slide-rule. But it turns out, in a twist, that the Frenchie is trying to scuttle the mission because he is one of ‘them,’ though the Russkie is not. Those who figure this out get a giant No-Prize. The geriatric Russkie is no match for the geriatric Frenchie, and Yankee Doodle has to whack him.

They lam off the Moon only to find the Earth a snowball. Yes, the Moonies want to watch ‘Ice Age’ (2002), not reviewed anywhere on this blog. What will Twelve Minus do? Of courses, blow it up! Huh?

They resolve to build an atomic bomb, fly over a handy volcano, drop the bomb down the spout, and the explosion will restart the carburettor, or something. This is a risky mission so the two who are to do it are bitter enemies, who have a reconciliation just before they ride the bomb down, like Slim Pickens. (You either get it, or you don’t.) Two more gone to dust.

That fixes that. Twelve went away and seven came back. I lost count, as did the director.

The end.

This a work of fiction without the science. The absence of anything remotely resembling scientific knowledge is complete. The ship exhaust flames in the void of space. The cats breathe on the airless Moon’s surface. The gravity is one-sixth so that of Earth, some characters trudge along as though under the sea. When the explosion in the volcano occurs we get shots of solar flares. Though they are always putting on and taking off crash helmets, there is no glass in the front of the faces because it is unnecessary thanks to hocus pocus. The list goes on. Since the film presents itself as a near documentary account such errors are laughable.

But even more amusing than these mistakes is the apologies for them in some of the User Reviews on the IMDb. Usually I skip these comments because so many of them are egotistical drivel, but since few of the critics linked to the IMDb, and none of the ones I have learned to respect, comment on this sludge I scanned the User Reviews. It was a refresher course in why I do not do this. Several scored it as 10 because of the gripping story. Oh hum. A couple of others praised its scientific acumen. No doubt a climate change denier. ‘Stop!’ I cried, and I did — stop.

Then there is the stage craft. In space we see the black pole on which the spaceship is stuck as it passes in front of the star matte. In the first shot of the Moonscape there is someone walking in front the light casting a shadow on the distant cliff face. Boom mikes occasionally intrude at the top of the screen. The actors sometimes speak so slowly it is clear they are repeating lines just recited to them.

It is also a creature feature that spares the expense of having a creature. We never see the Moonies, though the fraternity brothers suspected the Cat-Women were the culprits.

All in all though it is a crowded field, it is a contender for the worst of Sy Fy.

IMDb metadata: 1 hour and 5 minutes, but it seemed longer, rated 3.2 by 1241 cinemitizens.

The set-up is complicated for such a short pot-boiler, but here it is. During the Great War a French Army is being overrun by Huns, when….a regiment of Colonial Troops from Cambodia appears and proves impervious to German steel and lead. France is saved! A dead soldier cannot be again killed, and these are zombies, the animated dead.

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They were raised from the dead for just such an emergency by a Cambodian priest who parades around the winter trenches in a loincloth.

In a show of gratitude the priest is murdered because such zombies could mean ‘the extinction of the white race,’ cries one general to another.

While Woodrow Wilson was re-drawing maps at Versailles, these generals convene an international meeting for the purpose of eradicating the zombie threat to 'the white race.' Managers are keen to do this since it is a waste of ammunition trying to kill the dead. The plan is for an International Expedition disguised as archeologists to find the heart of Zombiedom at Ankgor Wat and kaboom it. A few back projections from a real expeditions suffices to set the scene.

Indiana Jones was too young to get a visa so instead they have assembled Dean Jagger with hair, Frail, and Beau among others. The latter two are as one whenever possible and a few times when it seemed impossible, according to the expert opinion of the fraternity brothers. Yet Dean professes his love for Frail, who is kind to him, always a bad sign, kindness like that. He does not take it well.

By now Dean, since he cannot be one with Frail, has been swotting the books and has discovered the secret incantation that saps everyone of their will — McKinsey Speak! The mumbo-jumbo of Key Performance Indicators, 360 degree reviews, deliverables, and the living dead are conjured, as can be seen in any meeting room nearby.

There in front of the back projection Dean has his way! The fraternity brothers took copious notes.

But Frail still does not love him! There is no money back guarantee with McKinsey-Speak so Dean falls for the oldest trick in Eve’s book. He renounces his mystic powers so that Frail will love him for what he is: A dope.

Even as the pompous Dean does on about what a noble thing he is doing, relinquishing his supernatural powers, all for Frail, those Cambodian zombies in the back projection revolt against his will-sapping tyranny. End of Dean, hair and all.

The end.

Good thing Woodrow was busy with the crayons, because if he had got wind of any of this plan, he would have banged on about applying the Fourteen Points to zombies. (Woody never knew when to quit.)

However, the scriptwriter would have done well to borrow a map from Woody since this scenario starts in a battle along 'the Franco-Austrian frontier.’ Huh! No such place. The Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Great War was a vast conglomeration in central and southern Europe a long way from France.

The border between science fiction and horror is permeable and one genre informs and influences the other. Thus it happens that horror movies like the one at hand turn up in searches for Sy Fy. Seeing it on a list one night, I chose it because the length suited the nocturnal schedule. I watched a very poor print on You Tube, though subsequent investigations found a better one at the Internet Archive.

The commentariat has a lot to say about this film, despite its well-deserved obscurity. It attracts attention because by some measures it is the second zombie film to come from the Dream Factory. The first was ‘White Zombie’ (1932), reviewed elsewhere on this blog, which was a commercial and critical success. No wonder: it starred Bela Lugosi. ‘Revolt of the Zombies’ came from the same production crew in the effort to recapture the magic and the money, and recycles some scenes from the earlier film, but lacks the verve, plot, and -- most of all -- Lugosi. These two films gestated a plethora of subsequent zombie movies and in time the concept of the zombie evolved to meet the needs of scriptwriters.

‘The concept of the zombie’ is something, along with much else, to which the fraternity brothers have heretofore given no thought. That time is over.

A zombie is a corpse raised from the dead and animated but without human qualities, like greed, emotion, hate, stupidity, and the other loveable features of our kind. They are directed by the mind of another, like robots. Indeed the word ‘robots’ is used in ‘Revolt of the Zombies’ about the Cambodian zombies in the trenches. That is per the ‘Oxford English Dictionary,’ which finds the word 'zombie' used in English in 1819 by a traveller returned from Brazil who observed Voodoo rituals.

Wikipedia assures the gentle reader that zombies play no part in 'the formal practice of Voodoo.' ‘The formal practice of Voodoo,’ that wording set the fraternity brothers to wondering about the informal practices. Or is Voodoo just about dolls and pins? (Is this the place to confess my own flirtation with a doll and pins?)

It is absolutely obvious that the Cambodians whom Dean enthrals are alive, and have not yet ever been dead, ergo proclaims the commentariat they are NOT zombies. Tricky. They have no wills and are mentally enslaved, but they have yet to be dead so how can they be undead. This circle goes around and around.

Zombies living dead.jpg 'The living dead march again' screams this lobby card yet the movie belies it. Moral? Never trust a lobby card.

In the spate of zombie films that followed, especially in the 1940s when horror films diverted audiences from the real horror of the Great War II, the zombie mutated to become a flesh eater. Nor was it any longer necessary to die first before dining on the flesh of others. Zombieism became virus passed by touch or bite, taking a tip from Dracula, a nip. In the Cold War, the soulless Zombie got red.

For further details see….‘I Walked with a Zombie’ (1943), ‘Revenge of the Zombies' (1943), ‘Zombies on Broadway’ (1945), ‘Valley of the Zombies’ (1946), ‘King of the Zombies’ (1953), ‘Voodoo Island’ (1957), ‘Zombies of Mora Tau' (1957), ‘The Dead Live’ (1961), ‘Voodoo Swamp’ (1961), 'The Plague of the Zombies' (1966), ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978), ‘Zombie Flesh Eaters’ (1979), and more. Oh, and the personal favourite of the fraternity brothers, ‘Cockneys versus Zombies’ (2002). No doubt there a PhD dissertation or two charing the mutation of the concept of the zombie and its influence on.....

IMDb runtime 1 hour and 36 minutes, rated 6.8 by 1184 masochists.

It opens ever so slowly with a moon landing, then cuts to one space-suited astronaut dragging another across the surface of the moon, only to abandon the dragged body and ascend in the LEM. Meanwhile, bug-eyed as always, Klaus Kinski is shouting into a microphone at what looks like mission control. Who would put Klaus in charge of anything! Keep that man away from the matches!

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Then we turn to Alice, a translator in Rome, who goes off the rails. She misses days at work without herself noticing it. She finds things in her apartment of which she has no memory. She has lost an earring somewhere, somehow. All of these things she mentions to her friends who tell her to get some rest.

Because she found a postcard from Garma without a message on it in her apartment, she heads there, a remote and obscure location we are given to understand. When she arrives it is all but deserted in this resort for it is out of season. There she meets Beau, annoying Brat, and Lila. It seems she has been here before but everyone there knows her as Nicole. She also finds the missing earring. Thus the audience is sure she has been there before, even if she still is not.

Alice remains positive she has never set foot in the place, yet when Nicole’s clothes are presented to her they are a perfect fit. And so.

Brat tells her Nicole was on the run. Beau hangs around. Alice has recurrent images from that moonwalk and abandonment. She buys a second pair of large, and — no surprise — lethal scissors. The only reason she buys them is to have them handy later, it would seem.

It is a nice set up and then it is repeated for the next hour or so. Oh hum. It put the fraternity brothers in mind of ‘L’année denier à Marienbad’ (1961) though less glamorous. The repetition is eased by some very dreamy photography of Garma, about which more later, and an elegiac musical score.

Florinda Bolkan as Alice or Nicole carries the weight well enough but she has little to do but look perplexed. But she does not materialise from the screen like Delphine Seyrig.

It was released in one of its edited versions on DVD as 'Primal Impulse' in an effort to attract an audience by arousing expectations irrelevant to the film. Another triumph from a marketing department.

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Completely misleading though the title is.

Spoiler.

After investing an hour and a half of watching and trying to fathom Alice’s predicament the end is a royal cop-out. After so much brain taxing the fraternity brothers were exhausted and then upset to arrive no where. Do not bother to look for meaning because there is none. The closing title card says Alice is a psycho to be confined to an asylum in Switzerland. End.

Guess where she left the scissors. No not in the Brat. But Beau is no more.

The visuals are striking, including the last scene on the pebble beach, but pointless.

Remote and obscure Garma was Kemer on the south coast of Turkey, hence the mosques and Arabic script on buildings. The sequences in Rome were filmed in the EUR district which is as unRoman as possible with glass, pre-fabricated cement and steel office blocks, and a grid of streets rather like La Défense in Paris. Everywhere the Romans went they laid out orderly cities with wide streets in rectilinear alignments. But not in the rabbit-warren that Roman itself remains.

The film has not been well served by time and tide. It failed to get many theatrical releases. Its production is unclear. One source says it was filmed in English and then dubbed into Italian. Then in an effort to get a theatrical release in the Anglo markets the Italian version was dubbed into English. Likewise, it was re-edited. None of these efforts bore fruit. It more or less disappeared for a generation.

Then some enthusiasts came upon it and have since gathered different versions and spliced them together, and one such example is what I watched on You Tube. It is indeed confused. The English dubbing is occasionally dropped and we have a scene in Italian, at other times there are Greek subtitles with English dubbing, and on still other occasions French dubbing with English subtitles. Variation also applies to the title cards, some in Italian and some in English. I compared two of the several versions available on You Tube and confirmed the observation that scenes have been edited out of some versions.

The critics linked to the IMDb site agree that these changes do not alter the substance, which is ethereal, insubstantial, and vapid.

‘Giallo’ is the Italian word for mystery stories like this, but knowing that did not help.

It came up in You Tube searches for Sy Fy because the references to the Moon, and at the outset it looked like a Moon mission was the key.

In the end it seems these early and recurrent images of the Moon mission came from a movie young Alice saw as a child, which frightened her, because one living astronaut was abandoned on the Moon, so that she ran from the cinema without seeing the end. Ergo, neither do we see the end. We never do find out what Kinski was up to but then he never knew either.

It was intriguing to watch with the eye and ear candy, and a change from elderly male actors slugging it out with CGIs. which is too much Sy Fy these days.

IMDb: 1 hour and 32 minutes of Dali time, rated 3.7 by 280 relatives of the actors.

A photographer and a model are in the English countryside doing a fashion shoot. Much snapping in a sunny lea occurs, then for a change of mood they enter a darkling glade, and after a few minutes there is off-camera heavy breathing. No, wait that was the fraternity brothers on the sofa.

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Well, yes there is heavy breathing on the soundtrack, and we get a distant fisheye view, the first of many, of the twosome. They then feel creepy and scoot.

Back in his home dark room, the photographer develops the pictures and sees….! (Well, maybe it was David Hemmings from ‘Blow-up’ [1966] because it starts the same way). I was never quite sure what we were supposed to see in the photographs since they were out of focus as was most of the film, but latter it is declared that there were ETs on the snap. Ok, those with the script should know.

The snapper has a haircut like an unclipped Puli or maybe two Beatles’ wigs one atop the other. With that hair he cannot be too bright, and to prove the point in the dead of night he returns to the glade. Guess what happens to him!

Yep, the ETs get him, though not without a fight in which a local farmer and his dog are casualties. Thereafter the body count increases. Puli is on board the saucer and the twig-thin and short ETs in grey, polyester, and knit onesies with opaque blue visors set about him. These rompers are stompers!

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Boy, can he bug his eye out! Boy he had reason to do so! See the size of that probe! Yikes!

Efforts to find a picture of the ET onesies failed. The conspiracy of silence applies even to that!

Puli had left a message for Eye Candy of his idiotic plan for a nocturnal visit to the glade and she turns, as one does, to the nearest blood sucker from the media, who sets about making matters worse.

Thereafter it is a race to see who can destroy the evidence of the ETs first, the ETs themselves with their fisheye views and heavy breathing, or the conflicting forces of order: police, detectives, military, secret service, and the men in black. Yes there three men in black and without the moral compass of a pug they go crazy. The forces of order want to suppress the ET news to avert panic and have been doing so for two generations. Well done, chaps. They spend a lot of time arguing among themselves about KPIs.

The ETs may have their own agenda but there is no communication with them. We are left to fear the worst, McKinsey managers! They just breathe and gander while themselves knocking off bystanders. The body count rises as both sides seek the pictures and then the negatives.

Spoiler alert!

It does have a twist in the tail. When Blood Sucker has the facts, the men in black, not wanting to be outdone on the KPI of bodycount, kill him and his two or three, I lost count, abettors along with Eye Candy in a hail of sound effects!

The end.

Moral? Do not cross men in black without a pug.

The closing title assures us that this story is based on fact. How so since most of the principals are dead is anyone’s guess? Did the the men in black kill-and-tell?

It is an Italian production set in England with German and American actors as well as Italians. While the number plates are English and there is Land Rover much in evidence neither this vehicle nor any of the others are left-hand drive. The American is dubbed with a Scots accent, sometimes. The German speaks German and is dubbed with a mumble.

Italians have been trying to pretend they do not have an ET problem by projecting such tales on to England, but Silvio has been a dead give-away.

From the IMDb: 1 hour and 12 minutes of Dali time, rated 2.1 by 912 cinemitizens.

Verdict: woeful.

In sum and in short, on the tropical island of Wongo, a tribe consisting of ugly men and of beautiful women discover that the nearby island of Goona is inhabited by a tribe of ugly women and handsome men. This discovery is made when one of Goonaese men paddles a canoe over the tepid Gulf of Mexico to warn the Wongoese that the bad Roman ape men without a GPS could not find Sabine, and will now raid Wongo in order to capture mates.

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They combine….forces to fend off the even uglier ape men, well, there were two men in ape suits. The combining leads to attentions and tensions between and among the Wongoese and Goonaese. The result is like with like. That is a guess because the action is, ....wait, what action? The movement is, whoa, what movement? What dialogue? What direction? Yes, what direction? The pace is not leaden only because there is no pace at all. It seems to be the only credit of the IMDb for each member of the cast and crew in the Florida production. It seems they learned from this experience.

The 2.1 from 10 is a result of masochists rating it 4.0+ on the it-is-so-bad-it-is-good criterion. Still it a rare film that starts with a voice over from Mother Nature reminiscing about Father Time, and mentioning Aristotle. Florida is nice to look at as long as one does not feel the humidity, the dew-point, and the insects, particularly, the aptly named ‘no-see’ums.’

The ugliness is achieved by paste-on eyebrows, wax in the cheeks, and bad posture. The handsomeness and beauty is achieved by a filtered lens. Once again we have the magic of the silver screen.

The men on Wongo have blue hair, making the fraternity brothers think Superman might have been among them.

Among the things it is not, it is not Sy Fy, but it turned up - and with that title it was irresistible— when researching ‘Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women’ (1968) which led to ‘Women of the Prehistoric Planet’ (1966) which led to this. The previous two titles are Sy Fy, but this is not.

This just in!

There is a musical called, sit down, 'Wild Women of Planet Wongo.’ ‘Book the tickets now,’ cried the fraternity brothers! It has been reviewed in the ‘New York Times,’ so it must be real.

The fraternity brothers’ favourite a sub-genre of films is ‘Women without Men’ until some come along. The likes of which includes ‘Mesa of the Lost Women’ (1953), ’Prison Women’ (1955), ‘Swamp Women’ (1956), ‘Jungle Women’ (1959), and more.

IMDb: 1 hour and 24 minutes, 4.7 from 790 cinemitizens.

Pirates who steal a valuable space ship from a dock find on board a nine year-old boy who hid there when the raid started.

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As required by the manual of 'Star Wars' knock-offs, the pirates are a mixed lot, one in a rubber mask, one a lady stick figure, one a cowboy without the hat, one New Age sensitive, and blah. Six in all, well, five because one is killed in the raid. One less pay cheque.

His death is one of the better scenes because it shows, unlike so many CGI shoot ‘em-ups the agony and the pain and the loss. However that mood is soon broken by endless games of Tron that follow.

Ben Casey is the leader of the pirates and at fifty-five he moves like he is older, though not wiser, or he would not be here. It is as painful to watch him as an action hero as it was to watch a sixty-five year old Dan Dureya do so in ‘The Bamboo Saucer’ (1968), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. The creaks were nearly audible in both cases.

To pacify him the Brat Ben promises to return him home. This promise leads to the death of everyone on his crew, Ben included. That is the spoiler. The corporation from which the pirates stole the ship sends its thugs after the raiders. Because a reward is offered for the boy, entrepreneurial bounty hunters gather. Bigger villains would like the stolen cargo and so on and on.

There is no rapport among the pirates. They act like people waiting on a bus stop. The vacant boy remains vacant. The villains are cardboard, well, rubber masked in most cases while others are CGI robots, and look it. The CGI in space is, well, as boring as CGI always is. The stunts when our heroes roll around to avoid invisible lasers, look like a geriatric exercise class. Yes, that is right, by the way, there are no light beams for the lasers.

The fraternity brothers liked the late scene where Brat dresses Ben's fatal wound with a glue gun. That is the Ben Casey touch! Let's see the twelve year old 'Good Doctor' do that!

Wikipedia has it that Ben’s celluloid career took a hit because of his addiction to Dame Fortune. He was a gambler, and it consumed him. Didn’t he read the Fyodor Dostoyevsky story ‘The Gambler’ or meet Pete Rose?

Run time is 1 hour and 30 minutes of Dali time, rated 2.3 by 850 cinemitizens.

Verdict: guilty of a waste of celluloid.

When this title came up in research on another film, the fraternity brothers demanded it go to the top of the Watch Later List, and so it did. Their anticipation was raised by this tagline on one poster for the film: ‘It's the battle of the sexes as savage planet women attack female space invaders!’

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Slowly the hiss of deflation followed. There are no women to be seen on the pre-historic planet, despite several publicity advertisements featuring women clad in fur bikinis. Yes this was the Year of Raquel in ‘One Million Years BC’ (1966). Despite this let down there are some points of interest in this yarn. The redoubtable Wendell Corey has the lead and the ever present John Agar is the loyal and bored lieutenant.

They are leading a flotilla of three starships heading home after a long mission. The ships travel at ‘near optic speed’ but even so the ‘time dilation’ is considerable. Huh? Check with Einstein. While the explanation, given twice for the dunderheads at the drive-in, is that time is relative between speeding spaceships and rotating planets. While the crew will have aged 18 months on the mission, the folks at home will have aged 18 years. That is keeping it simple for the dunderheads reading this.

That explanation makes little sense but give credit where it is due. It is the only time in the Sy Fy thus far reviewed that time relativity has been mentioned. A C+ for trying.

On the note of trying, there is Comic Relief from which we get no relief. One of the crew makes crass jokes every ten minutes. The fraternity brothers had hoped the boiling mud would get him, but no such luck. Then the giant snake. Nope. Then the leaping spider. Not.

The Red Shirts again get it though; but it is unusual that in this film they have names, Owens and Harris. Another victim is Angel from ‘The Rockford Files.’

No less unusual, there are many women in the crew and none of the men make deprecating remarks about having them on board. 'Can a woman really be a scientist, explorer, map reader, navigator, switchboard operator, or make tea?' None of that. However, the women are treated as sex objects, yes, but their abilities are not questioned.

The tension among the crew is race, not gender. Yes, race. Some of the crew are Centaurians, apparently distant offspring of ancient Roman centurions, and they look Asian. Well, the Romans in Syria may have done what we are supposed to do in Rome. Some of the whitebread crew mutter about the barbaric Centaurians. The only specimen of this race we see on the ship freely wanders without about any evident duties overhearing these remarks and biting her knuckle in a barbaric way.

Then the third and last ship in the formation veers off course, and Admiral Corey goes into command mode. By the miracle of cross-cuts we see that some of Centaurians on the third ship have mutinied, though why and to what end it is impossible to judge or to care. Their rebellion caused the driver to blink and the ship hit a magnetic field and down, down, down it went to the planet Solaris. Stanislav Lem’s novel of that name was published in 1961. Did someone sneak a peak at it?

Corey decides to go after it. Note, the admiral slurs his words sometimes and the pea brains who comment on these things suppose he was drunk on set. Well, it would not the first time an admiral was sloshed, but in this case Corey’s biography on Wikipedia indicates his speech was effected by a stroke, and he died a couple of years later. He kept working up to the end because there is no pension plan for supporting actors and he needed the money.

John Agar has no such excuse for mumbling through his lines on the way to the pay cheque and the elixirs it would buy.

The rescuers land and discover many planet years have passed (but only a few spaceship months, see time dilation above). The alienated Centaurian, let’s call her Eve, on the crew takes off on her own to sulk, while a search party looking for the downed ship finds many perils and the Red Shirts pay the price, along with Angel. Regrettably, Comic Relief survived.

The editing is so badly done it is quite impossible to figure out what the search party is doing apart from tripping over props, as its number dwindles. Are they searching for the downed ship? For survivors from the downed ship? For descendants of the survivors? For inhabitants? For a McDonalds? For a better script? No luck.

Eve succeeds where the search party failed. She finds someone, whom we shall call Adam. He looks Asian, too. They get on well together. Ahem. He is a sensitive prehistoric planet guy who has kept his deceased parents from the mutiny ship frozen in clear ice blocks in his cave. Eve does not find this odd.

They continue to get on well together, while the search party number further dwindles. Then Adam and Eve are attacked by the barbarians who live on the planet, and slo-mo replay by the fraternity brothers found that they were all men. Not a bikini in sight. Much confused editing follows. This attack lasts about thirty seconds. No doubt timed for minimum payment to the two attacking extras.

The theme within the adventure thus far was race and racism, Class. Again unusual for the genre at the time, though 1966 was in the midst of the U.S. Civil Rights movement, and the year ‘Star Trek' appeared with his ecumenical approach to race and nation.

Now pay attention because a spoiler is coming, and it will not be repeated but, yes, St Peter has it on the final examination.

The admiral gives up on finding Eve and the ship takes off leaving her behind with Adam. Got it so far? You got it.

Corey drones in the ship’s log that this blue planet shall be entered into the galactic charts as 'Earth,' and the camera pans over a globe with the Florida peninsula dangling. Did Erich like that or what! Adam and Eve were aliens. Why he chose to call it 'Earth' and not 'Blue' or Yuck' is not stated.

Which was the worse crime to Alabama audiences, the fraternity brothers wondered? That Adam and Eve were aliens or that they were Asians. That was an entertaining thought.

The IMDb metadata is: 1 hour and 18 minutes of Dali time, rated 2.7 by 1054 who admit knowledge of it.

Verdict: only for the very determined viewer.

Cosmonauts landing on Venus encounter dangerous creatures and almost meet some sexy Venusian women who like to sun-bathe in rocks in 1970s hip-hugging skin-tight pants and seashell brassieres. Sounds better than it is.

Viy Oerehistoric card.jpg

How could this be? ‘Why didn’t NASA get there first,’ demanded the fraternity brothers? Good question. The answer is that it is a Roger Corman production. That fact explains the inexplicable.

Corman bought the USA rights to Soviet films because they were cheap and the Sy Fy ones had good space flight effects. He then industriously dubbed them, edited them, cut-and-pasted them, added new sequences, omitted footage and from one Soviet film he got two and sometimes three D-pictures. D is for the Drive-In market. In the course of these exercises he hired impoverished Film School students like Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Bogdanovich to do the work for the experience, not the money.

In this case the original was ‘Planet of Storms’ (1962) or ‘Planeta Bur’ in the original Commie, reviewed elsewhere on this blog. In it a multi-national crew sets down in a forbidding Jurassic Park with a giant robot and stumble around from one perilous situation to another.

Being members of the NRA, they tote six-guns and blast much of the local flora and fauna. They speculate that there may have once been a civilisation on this planet, but now long gone, though the wind, which somehow they hear through their fishbowl helmets and inside their cute little hover craft, sometimes sounds like a woman’s voice. If so, it is no woman the fraternity brothers want to meet.

This was Corman’s cue to add about twenty minutes of footage, interspersed throughout the film, of ‘Bay Watch’ inhabitants who slowly become aware of the invaders and think bad thoughts about them. The leader of this rocky beach party is Mamie van Doren who dons a chef’s hat when she is really mad. There are seven or eight women as described above who stare vacantly at the camera while they communicate via the telepathy of voiceover. There is no sound technician needed, and the women cannot act but they can stare vacantly.

Likewise much of the early going for the cosmonauts is voiced over to set the scene. Dubbing is more expensive than a voiceover.

Among the casualties of the cosmonauts shot-em up is a rubber bird that the women worship.

God is dead.jpg God is dead.

This causes them to put a hex on the invaders and a big storm blows up as a result. Mamie puts on the hat and the storm gets worse for the Cosmo readers, while for the women it remains California.

Chefs hat.jpg

The Soviets just barely make their escape, leaving behind the big robot who had forgotten the laws of robotics and tried to save itself at the expense of its human companions. Bad Bot!

The cosmos and the prehistoric women never share a frame together.

The women find the remains of the robot which was disabled by the lava flow of an IOS update gone wrong and gather to worship it. On the Left Coast they will worship anything, Jerry Brown, Zinfandel, alfalfa, and a selfish scrap heap that once was a robot.

This film seems to have been the high point of MvD’s career, topping even ‘The Navy versus the Night Monsters’ (1966).

No doubt it was great fun pulling all this together, but not so to watch it. However, in reading about it, I discovered a whole cache of films about Prehistoric Women! The fraternity brothers have insisted this genre be explored in the coming weeks. At the top of the list is ‘Women of the Prehistoric Planet’ (1966) because it features the man who never said no to a bottle or a part, John Agar. aka Mr Shirley Temple.

IMDB data: 1 hour and 38 minutes, rated 5.5 by 31,661 pre-pubescent boys,

After many months on Mars, the crew of the Irish Space Commission are packing up for a rendezvous in nineteen hours to return to Earth. The digits on the clock flip. (Clocks don’t tick anymore.)

Last Days card.jpg

Wait! Irish in space? Well the production was partly funded by the Irish National Lottery and directed by an expatriate Irishman who will never return to Eire. Plus the logo on the gear is ISC. Nothing gets past the fraternity brothers.

The set-up in Act I is good. There is a large and mixed team that represented the variety of Ireland, though no one mentioned James Joyce. Having been on Mars for six months, they are tired, care-worn, testy, and eager for the return flight. The gear and procedures have verisimilitude. Jordan once again doubles for Mars as it did in ‘The Martian (2015) and 'Mission to Mars' (2000), both reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

But…., yes, there is a big ‘But’ coming. The production team evidently thought getting to Mars, landing on Mars, surviving on Mars, doing science on Mars, leaving Mars, making it back to Earth, that all of this is boring. So instead of teasing out the drama implicit in the list above the film swerves to a creature feature. Oh hum. This is Act II.

Turns out in the last hours, one of the crew out spelunking, finds life, a microbe, which infects him and goes on to infect others, turning them into Zombies! Sometimes they remain in their space suits and sometimes not as they wander the Jordanian desert. These Zombies want company, and get it by infecting others. Is this a case of the selfish gene?

Becoming aware of the microbe, the leader the mission gives all kinds of orders that no one obeys. It reminded this writer of trying to get the fraternity brothers ready for Monday. Pointless.

Needless to say this ineffectual leader is one of the first to turn, first dead, then animate again! That is the nature of the zombie, despite the liberties taken by many scriptwriters.

With all the yawning, I lost count of the crew, but say Ten Little Indians. They all succumb but one who makes the rendezvous in Act III. Is he a carrier? That would surely explain the Living Dead Trumpettes.

Did the Irish Film Board recover any money on the Irish Lottery investment? The money was spent in England, in Jordan and in the USA. The fraternity brothers did not hear any Irish accents in the crew above chewing popcorn and slurping sodas.

IMDb 1 hour and 35 minutes, rated 6.1 by a paltry 179 ra(n)ters.

Jack and Jill are about to get married on a fine spring day somewhere in Europe. Jack buys flowers for Jill as he hurries to the get himself to the church on time. In the street a one-note newsboy shouts, repeatedly, ‘War declared!’ Jack only has ears for church bells and ignores this declaration, while others in the street react in alarm, amusement, and denial.

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The release title was ‘Rat’ which is ‘War’ is Serbo-Croatian, the language in which the film was made in Zagreb of the Tito’s Legoland Yugoslavia.

Mistaking him for Kevin, everyone asks Jack what will happen. His parents must have been Pollyanna and Dr Pangloss because he is exhaustingly optimistic about everything. For him an empty coffee cup is an opportunity to do without coffee, and not a life threatening disaster. Figure that out! Everything is fine. Everything will work out for the best. All is good. All is ad nauseam. He is the kind who would grin through a 360 degree review, because he enjoyed it!

While Jack and Jill are at the altar the bombs start falling. He keeps smiling. As they leave the church with you-know-what-in-mind he is press-ganged into the army. Next thing you know he has changed costume and is parading around in a uniform with a firearm. More bombing occurs, but Jack is sure wiser heads will prevail. As if.

While in a bomb shelter he suggests people proclaim their desire for peace. They do. He is then a traitorous ringleader in a rebellion, apprehended, and sentenced to be shot. He keeps smiling, while inviting the firing squad and the sentencing officer around for dinner when all this is straightened out. Which it will be very soon!

But then it gets brighter than a thousand suns. Afterwards while crawling around in the rubble, Jack meets the Prime Minister who assures him that war was the will of the people per the 'White Book,' on which more later. The shock wave blew off most of Jill’s clothes and that briefly piqued the interest of the fraternity brothers. As the radiation washes around them, Jack and Jill retire to their new apartment - a ruin - and he sets about making coffee. She does a swan die. Will Jack wake up to reality now? Fade to black.

The end.

Well, it is an anti-war film of sorts, with special reference to atom bombs, coming out of the precariously non-aligned patchwork that was the workers paradise of Yugoslavia. Given the post-Tito blood bath of that part of the world, I wondered if a contemporary audience in Belgrade would have perceived the origins and ethnicity of each of the players. Is that why Jill is played by a Pole? To confound that ethnic typing and residual animosity there in paradise? Or to gain it box office in Warsaw?

There is a cast of thousands, and it looks like the army cooperated, given all the marching men, weapons on parade, and fly overs. In the time and the place that cooperation would make it an official government film in all but name. It was bought, edited, and dubbed for the US drive-in market as background to anatomy lessons.

The cast and crew were among the best in Belgrade but this is not their best work. Most of the failure goes to Cesare Zavattini, the script writer who settles for simple-minded nostrums and witless Chaplineque situations, though that may have been what the producers wanted. Hard to believe the same typewriter produced 'Shoeshine' (1946) and 'The Bicycle Thief' (1948).

The 'White Book' the grovelling prime minister carried, seemed to be a report on public opinion regularly prepared for him. Gallup was not involved. A short search on Dr Google produced no enlightenment on the subject. But the combination of ‘White Book’ and Yugoslavia produces many hits, false positives.

The comparison has got to be ‘La Jetėe’ (1962), reviewed elsewhere on this blog, which is far more imaginative, creative, enticing, and enigmatic. It gets across more in its running time of twenty minutes than this feature length film does in ninety minutes.

IMDb 1 hour and 40 minutes, rated by 527 cinemitizens at 4.8/10.

In the year 2015 the first mission to Mars consists of Canadians! Well, they know cold weather and there is plenty of it on Mars, despite the sunbathing of ‘Robinson Crusoe on Mars’ (1964), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. The Canucks are employees of a corporation. Shades of the Alien franchise.

Escape Card.jpg

With neither a creature, sex, nor a Hollywood name, its 4.8 is the result. It moves slowly and there is good deal of the science and engineering of spaceflight. The Laws of Physics are so hard and implacable that no creature is needed to complicate things. These Laws kill without hesitation or mercy. They are like a McKinsey manager managing.

We have five crew, two women and three men, one a Russian. We are guided along the way by a television news announcer. Everything is played up to satisfy the corporate sponsor who has invested frequently told billions of loonies in the enterprise.

They make it to Mars and land. Together the co-commanders (one for flight and the other for ground). a man and woman, take the first steps on to Mars. This was a nice touch. The exaggerated television account was a gentle satire that escaped the reviewers consulted.

Then the Band of Five are struck by a pile of clichés, namely meteors, which do not burn away in the thin Martian atmosphere, and pelt the landing craft - a shuttle mock up. Oh oh, even as all the onboard systems fail one by one, the crew gamely sends back to Earth upbeat video messages to satisfy the KPIs in their contracts which require them to remain plucky unto death.

Yes, it is starting to sound like ‘The Martian’ (2015) but there is much less scientific detail here and much more about the tensions among the crew in this dire situation. Ergo it is a character study of this crowd on the planet Otranto, and how they — individually and collectively — react to the dread they face.

It is all very Canadian. Low key does not quite describe it. Catatonic is closer. No one goes all Hollywood ballistic. Nor, thank the stars, is there any comic relief. A comparison might be ‘Operation Ganymed’ (1977), reviewed elsewhere on this blog, but this latter film has more mystery and drama. It, too, is about science, not CGIs. But the fraternity brothers liked the name of the mission, Sagan, and that it was not explained. Either one gets it, or one doesn't. It is not often they respond to such subtlety but they did this time.

There is spelunking and in a cave is to be found a biochemical reaction that bespeaks water. Sure enough there is a drip. No! Wait, that is the director. 'The Europa Report' (2013) compares on this point. It is reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

All problems are solved when one of them dies. Without him, they have food and fuel to ascend and return which they do. It seemed all too easy after the built-up of the hopeless situation. Likewise, there was talk earlier of contamination which disappears in Act III.

It was filmed in Winnipeg, of all places, but they know cold there, too.

IMDb information 1 hour and 24 minutes, rated 4.8/10 from 272 cinemitizens.

Norwegians in space!

Well, why not. All that oil revenue had to be spent on something. Why not space flights in 2054. Although the fraternity brothers recommend better footwear for inter-planetary travel than the Nikes one of Wegians was wearing.

Rising Moon card.jpg

Thanks to the discovery of an alien Tesseran ship years ago inter-planetary and inter-stellar flight is common. The key discovery was….a scriptwriter!

Fox News got the first ship and its life support keeps,,,, [Use imagination here.]

Now the Wegians have come across a second Tesseran ship it seems. Fox News dispatches one of trained killers to eliminate the Norse and get the ship. So far, so News Corp.

But the killer is Pentan, a female cyborg, who turns. That is turns with a capital ’T.’ She strikes several blows for the sisterhood, as inane screenwriters get the chop. There is quite a backlist of hacks for her to thump. Oh, that was wishful thinking on my part.

In between murdering her fellow employees come to fetch her back, she says she is sorry. Not very. This is one Cubicle Cutie to avoid at all costs.

She hires Han Duo to fly her around because he sports aviator glasses and chews gum. Must be a hot shot like the midget from ‘Top Gun.’ Off they go. A smart girlfriend is a good thing but a killer….? That takes getting used to for HD. Though she is fully functional.

Hitch! Once she turns. an editor from News Corp switches on the in-built destruction system in her head which will relieve all pain in seventy-two hours. She and HD head to Dr Nooniun Sing (or is that Sung) to fix this up and find him but they forgot to ask him to turn off the bomb. Ooops. Tick! Tick! Somewhere along the way this death-threat vanishes from the story or maybe my attention first vanished.

In between punching out villains, Pentan muses on her back story — boring — and ruminates on life, liberty, and stadium coffee. Did I mention boring? Far too often we hear the death knell of interest, 'As you know....' We didn't and don't want to ...know.

Although, we do learn that Cyborgs like a change of clothes and a shower. We also learn that handsome scientists on lonely, desolate moons keep on hand changes of clothes for passing lady Cyborgs, and are careful not to refer to her as a replicant for fear of IP and the descent of the trial lawyers. But does a Cyborg sweat? The Terminator never needed a shower and look at his body-count. Did Philip K. Dick cover that?

The showdown is a boring Tron game. All her missiles hit targets and the villains miss every time. Send them back to Villain School!

All trip and no arrival because Tesseran space ship just sits there.

This is an independent production, so the fraternity brothers cut it slack. But the direction is lethargic with many pointless close ups of actors who are silent. Is this deep thought? Is this waiting for the director’s cue? Is this waiting for the one camera to move? Most of the acting is leaden to match the pace.

Twenty years later the director re-cut, re-edited, and added many CGIs to the film and turned up the soundtrack for a second release aimed the brain-dead pre-pubescent audience at a theatre nearby. The You Tube version that I watched seems to be the original. The fraternity brothers liked the kick-boxing female.

Reptile suit.jpg

They also liked the reptilian regalia of the henchmen, as pictured above, though they were so slow…. must have been, under all that gear, emeritii henchmen.

There was no explanation of the title, and the re-release had two different ones, which likewise made no sense, namely ‘Star Quest,’ 'Black Moon Rising,' and ‘Outer World.’ Go figure.

IMDb 1hour and 43 minutes, rated 4.9 by 2032 raters.

A spin on the post-apocalyptic genre. ‘Having exhausted the Earth’s resources Nature took its revenge in a cleansing wind, the Slipstream,’ says an opening voice over. Social order has decayed to tribal groups who can only live along the Slipstream, away from its effect the air, earth and water are poison. It is a nice kick-off.

Slip[ card.jpg

Two self-described law officers — though what law exists in this world of detached tribes is an open question — apprehend a pin-stripe suited and passive Ray. He is quickly taken from them by a bounty hunter called Bill. Thereafter, it become a road movie as Ray and Bill bond in their misadventures among the tribes they pass through along the Slipstream. At first the destination is to turn in Ray somewhere, but later the goal is to get away from the two pursuing officers.

These two officers are a near albino Luke Skywalker and a pencil thin woman; they leave a trail of dead bodies behind them.

Ray and Bill encounter Robbie Coltrane in a hot tub, Murray Abraham in at a Viennese soiree, Turkish peasants, and others in a pastiche that has neither rhyme nor reason and most of the guest stars are cameos with no character or purpose. The unstated premise is that in a post-apocalyptic world like-minded people would seek each other out and set up their own communities. Think of Robert Nozick’s ‘Anarchy, State and Utopia’ (1978), that missing Oxford comma a constant irritant. Our two murderous officers represent the Night Mare, er, Night Watchman state Nozick posited. Though how like-minded people could find each other in a post-apocalyptic world is left to the imagination.

As the fraternity brothers fidgeted, the plot thickened because the passive Ray feels no pain, has inhuman knowledge, and wears a necktie, all sure signs he is weird.

Peck ed.jpg

Ray finally has to tell the thick Bill that he -- Ray -- is an android. A nice twist.

Thereafter, Ray discovers the pleasures of the flesh, finds he is fully functional, and falls asleep for the first time. Bill releases Ray just as the two albinos kick-in the door. There is a pointless and incompressible shoot out. (Who would have guessed that?) More flying and crashing, and finally the End.

In sum, a good kick-off and a nice plot twist, but, well, there isn’t much of a plot to twist. The enigmatic Ray, played by the revered Bob Peck, remains a cipher thanks to the inane screenplay. Ditto all the others. The peoples and places they pass through are a vapid travelogue through a poor imagination.

There is compensation is some very nice aerial photography, part of it over Cappadocia in Turkey where we went hot air ballooning in 2015. Bob Peck, of course, commands attention even if the material does not.

From IMDb 1 hour and 29 minutes, rated 4.2 by 328.

RAAF officer Wagga Wagga Jones is assigned a secret and mysterious flight by Nemesis, an old rival, in August 1945. WW Jones has foresight, because even as he takes the assignment, he knows the war is about to end. This fact is something that no one else knew at the time, when feverish and enormous preparations were being made for a million-man invasion of the Japanese homeland with the expectation of a terrible price. Nemesis makes threatening noises and WW laughs them off. The fraternity brothers groaned with boredom already.

Sky P card.jpg

The cargo for this flight include an American general in an anachronistic uniform, a C of E vicar, and a couple of grunts, oh, and big wooden box with a very large label that says Do Not Open. (Wanna guess what happens?) Off they go in a Dakota (Douglas C-47) but no sooner do they set about bickering among themselves than they run into a CGI storm that throws everything about and they end up the water where the Red Shirts die. It seems one of now deceased grunts opened the box to find a light for his smoke. This individual was the product of free public education and carefully selected for this super duper top most secret mission, he evidently could not read the label.

Thereafter it descends into a delirium of images floating by, Easter Island Heads, Bermuda shorts, Stonehenge parking lots, an IBM selectric, Old Faithful, and Old Yeller, too. There is no rhyme or reason to it, but one thing is clear…..! Erich did it! Yes, 'what other explanation could there be, but aliens?' Well, could be the scriptwriter was chemically enhanced at the keyboard!

There is no whip, but there is a large pistol, a leather jacket that WW seems to wear even under his scuba driving gear, which he carries in the map pocket of his Lands End chinos. The sets are barren. Three is a crowd. The uniforms are inaccurate. WW’s mystique is sadly lacking. The haircuts are not military. There is a mixture of Indiana Jones and Mad Max in a pastiche of scenes that seldom connect one to another from Ayers Rock (unseen) to a cave on Easter Island (in a Melbourne sound studio).

There is a love interest who screams and faints in the 1950s manner. In frustration she assaulted the scriptwriter and quit the business. Whoa. Just made that up. But she should have. She did quit.

At forty-one WW remains a lieutenant. At forty-one he is greying at the temples. At forty-one he is creaking at the joints on some of the moves he makes. But at forty-one he is John Hargreaves whom the camera always loved and does so here. It is pretty clear he is in on the joke and makes sure any unfortunates who paid to see this blur get it, too. Bill Hunter injects some gravitas. Sky Pilot Max Phipps tries way too hard.

Why it is called ‘Sky Pirates’ is anyone’s guess. There is plenty of sky, but no Johnny Depp to be seen.

The only Sy Fy element is the reference to aliens, but since it came up in a search for Sy Fy, I had to watch it to be sure. The IMDb give its genre as Sci-fi as well as Adventure.

IMDb 1 hour and 5 minutes, 3.9/10 from 395 addicts.

Novelty value there is. This is a Swedish-American co-production, a rarity of the time. Moreover, it is set in the far north, Lappland, and features Sami in their costume. The ‘Seventh Seal’ also gets a look in. For the denouement read on.

Terror.jpg A Yankee lobby card.

Lappland card.jpg A Swedish lobby card.

Prof is at a conference in Sweden and his niece, an Olympic athlete, is training up north, when a meteor strikes Sami country. Prof just loves meteors and takes no convincing to go look at the object that may have come ’from another world.’ It is a nice line and delivered with conviction by Robert Burton, instantly recognised from countless 1950s and 1960s television programs where he invariably played authority figures: judges, senators, colonels, deans, and even professors.

Barbara Wilson is the athletic niece who starts off confident, poised, smart, determined, and no nonsense, which fits the Olympic achievements, and she can skate and ski. After her character is established it is thereafter destroyed by endless demands to scream and faint, four times that were counted by the fraternity brothers between trips to the beer fridge.

What is all the screaming about?

Prof joins with a Swedish love interest for his niece and some police officers to go investigate. Many shots of the white blankness of snow fields and of Lapplanders in their curly-toed shoes and frilly hats, each designed to deal with the snow. While the testimony of the Lapps is treated seriously by the Swedish authorities, pretty boy is dismissive.

What testimony?

They say that the meteor glided in at a low angle for kilometres and then skidded for a distance on a nice soft snow bank. Gasp! It sounds like a controlled descent. Sure enough, Prof confirms it. Meteor just hit. Wallop! No gradual descent. Pretty Boy shrugs. This gesture turns out to be his dramatic range but he speaks English.

Just where the Lapps said, the Prof's party finds the object and it is no meteor. It is the same ship that featured in ‘It Came from Outer Space’ (1955). Only part of it is visible in the snow bank. Much musing follows. Meanwhile, Hairy turns up. Hairy is big and hairy. BIG. He wanders around leaving enormous footprints which the investigators finally notice. Gulp. More musing.

The party divides. Some will stay on site. Others will go for help. Many will wait off camera.

Hairy grabs Niece who goes through her repertoire of screaming and fainting. It is King Kong all over again once more and anew. Hairy has found love and when she screams ‘No!’ he knows it is a come-on, and means try harder. He stashes her in a ice cave, and wanders around some more smashing balsa wood miniatures that someone spent hours making. Such are the frustration of interspecies love. Naughty, Hairy! But he is meeting his Yeti KPIs, that is Ka-blooie Performance Indicators.

Then his managers show up, and this is the best part of film. Three sketal skin heads in hoodies with bleached faces silently surround Niece, who…. [yep, screams and faints]. They do look like Death who played chess with the Knight in the ‘Seventh Seal’ (1957).

Spooks.jpg The Hoodies.

They an silent and stare at her. She screams and faints. Again. When she recovers, they point at an enormous footprint, and she screams and faints. Again. (Is it any wonder Barbara Wilson quit acting after this outing?)

They leave. Who knows why and where? Not the scriptwriter for sure.

Hairy returns and scoops her up as required in creature features. By this time the Samis are mobilised with torches. Remembers that scene from ‘Frankenstein' (1931). Like that, except it is bright daylight on blinding show. They corner Hairy on a cliff edge over an abyss. Hairy thinks, ‘What would my hirsute brother King Kong do in a situation like this?’ To think he puts down Niece on a nice bed of snow.

While he is thinking the Lapps fling so many torches at him that all that hair he has catches on fire and on the ensuing excitement he falls over the edge into the abyss.

Pretty Boy then scoops up Niece and Prof muses over what just happened. So did I. ‘Dunno’ was the unanimous conclusion of the fraternity brothers.

Were the skin heads keepers of Hairy? Did Hairy escape and were they looking for him? If so, such inept aliens should have stayed home if they could not spot a thirty foot pile of black costume hair against the white backdrop. Or was Hairy a local and the skin heads wanted to Yeti-nap him for a zoo back on home world? But there was nothing earlier to indicate the neighbourhood had a Yeti problem. Were the skin heads surrogates for Commies, all quiet and insidious. Was Hairy a metaphor for….the Welfare State, Volvo hegemony, IKEA tyranny? Pick one! Pick two!

Apart from its resonances with other films of the ilk, it is distinguished by the exotic locale, long before SBS brought Norseland to the a television near everyone. All that snow. All those Swedish accents, and some Swedish spoken. (A film with even one untranslated sentence in a foreign language was often regarded as a box office killer in Hollywood.) The Swedes wear Swedish clothing. It looks like it was filmed there but the backstories on the web are not decisive.

There were two subsequent re-editings for the USA drive-in market. One is by Jerry Warren and the other by the unstoppable Roger Corman and released as ‘Invasion of the Animal People’ in 1959 with an opening voice over from John Carradine, who never said no to a gig.

Animal.jpg The Corman lobby card.

In these two versions nothing is left to the imagination. The Beast has come for women. He is looking for fraternity brothers with whom to party and needs a date.

Web critics disparage both versions. The IMDb does not distinguish among these derivatives. The You Tube version I found looks like the original.

IMDb data: 1 hour and 23 minutes, rated 6.7 by 5824.

‘The End of Days is nigh!’ The Earth is doomed! Repent ye GOP voters!

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Yes, astronomers have once again spotted a heavenly body intent on smashing the Earth, styled ‘Bellus’ and its attendant satellite ‘Zyra.’ Travelling thousands of kilometres a second, they will pass close to Earth in a few months and the passages will wreak havoc on Earth. The oceans will rise in giant tsunamis. The mountains will crack open to spew lava. The plains will continue to vote Republican. Much stock footage will be shown.

Or so claims the Lone Voice, while all his colleagues fatten their CVs by debunking his claims. Nonetheless Lone Voice pressed on and his conviction and data convince some backers to fund his fantastic scheme. Larry Keating of ‘Mr Ed’ played Lone Voice with great integrity and authority.

The plan is to build a rocket ship and hop onto Bellus as it passes. One of his financiers is a hard case, played by the ever reliable John Hoyt who gives the best performance in the ensemble. A team of six hundred specialists is recruited to build the ship and from those ranks, forty will be chosen at the last minute to make the flight. At every point the risks and uncertainties are emphasised. It is all rather Calvinist. Work as if chosen, but nothing can insure it. Most will have laboured in vain.

To equip the ship with knowledge a team of women sit at 1951 photocopiers rendering a reference library into microfilm. That was a nice touch. Though I did not notice Plato’s ‘Republic’ being included. Now where will they be packing the 1951 microfilm reader?

Everyone on Earth will die, that being the only way to kill the GOP virus.

Those that take flight may perish in the flight, die in a crash on Bellus, default on their AMEX payments, or find Bellus uninhabitable. Note, while passing by it will destroy Earth, but Bellus is unaffected in scriptwriter’s logic. The number forty was decided by bodyweight ever so finely calculated, though at the end Lone Voice added Barbara Rush’s boyfriend, a waif, and the waif’s pet dog. But to make way for them he stayed behind with the troublesome financier to face certain death. Is this noble of what. Babs, by the way, went on to ‘It Came from Outer Space’ in 1955 to cement her Sy Fy credentials.

The fatalism is out of time for 1951, when most Sy Fy movies overcame all odds.

There are conflicts among the rocketeers who are widely mocked by the ever responsible media, until the Earth moves under their feet. Then they mob the rocket site and have to be fended off. Good thing there was an arsenal included in the research grant. The testy financier had predicted this reaction and prepared for it while dreamy scientists had not.

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For reasons known only to rocket science the passengers wear a uniform of brown sweat suits and fly economy class without overhead storage bins for roll-aboards.

When the crunch comes, despite all efforts to avoid conflict, conflict occurs and the launch is compromised, but the ending is upbeat. While the Earth is split in an apocalypse, Bellus is green fields and blue skies (in pictures that look like they were ripped from a kindergarten classroom wall, as what must have been a late addition to the production, so out of keeping they are with the forgoing standard).

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They made it and humanity can start its cycle of destruction anew! Whew!

There is much location shooting and an altogether big budget, mostly spent on the effects and not on big name actors.

The opening scene is an observatory in a remote South African location, and there are several subsequent references to other spaceship projects in other countries, but there is no technology transfer or cooperation among them. That seems realistic. There are never KPIs for cooperation.

The draw of the final forty seems to have been random, so it might yield forty tech heads who have never seen a vegetable or daylight. Neither does the six hundred nor the forty include any brown, red, yellow, or black faces. All whitebread, though, credit where it is due, many are women. For a New Eden science declares women are necessary. Amen, sighed the fraternity brothers.

Another Sy Fy offering from producer George Pal, known as the Happy Hungarian for his sunny disposition. He has many Sy Fy credits, some excellent, like ‘Destination Moon’ (1950) and the execrable ‘Conquest of Space’ (1957). Both are reviewed elsewhere on this blog. He tried to get the science right within the limits of the genre, the budget, and the capacities of the cast and crew.

IMDb metadata is runtime 1 hour and 18 minutes, rated at 5.8/10 by 1392 raters.

An asteroid approaches Earth and science is mobilised!  With flashing slide rules and pocket protectors, the equations lead the nerd brigade to only one conclusion. Blast it!  (‘Haven’t we seen this before,’ whined the fraternity brothers?  Patience, please.) But this asteroid uses the Delta Manoeuvre to elude the rocket's red glare!  Oh, oh!  It seems intelligence is at work! Then the asteroid harmlessly slides into the Pacific Ocean off Baja California. Whew! 

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While it was passing over the desert south west (where the aliens get a special discounted rate) an orb split off and seizes the mind of the director of the nearest top secret defence laboratory.  Sure. This new zombie had previously led a crew to Mars in ‘Rocketship X-M’ (1950), reviewed elsewhere on this blog.  In that picture he was supposed to land on the Moon but missed it and hit Mars.  Grounded!  Once zombied he engages in silent communion, ever so cheap to film, with....Kronos! Kronos? Kronos.

While his soul is being devoured, his three top minions go to Mexico to observe the asteroid in the ocean. They observe each other, too.  All is quiet on the asteroid front, so they get on with mutual observing, until...  yes, right on cue a dome appears in the waters, and, no, it is not another water park, but a Kronos factory that emits Kronos 1.0.

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People have noticed that Dr Zombie is not his usual self and that Sy Fyian extra-ordinarie Morris Ankrum fails to collect on his bill!

Pause.

Kronos is a big TinkerToy.  The trio borrow a handy Mexican helicopter for a closer look and land on the contraption just as it seems to stir, after a long-distance communion with Dr Zombie.  They scoot and Kronos sets off, stomping through stock footage from a variety of locales, none of them Mexican. There is no further attempt to share Kronos’s pain.

Kronos sucks down electricity as it goes.  It follows the grid to Lost Angeles! 

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In so doing it by-passes the much closer San Diego, because more stock footage of Lost Angeles is available.

The slide rules flash again, the giant main frame computer from ‘Desk Set’ (1957) flashes lights and what other conclusion could there be! Blow it up.  More stock footage of boy toys.  The attack of the boy toys does not slow Kronos.  If only there had been a wall to keep out the Greasers! Kronos would have then stayed down Mexico way, supping on wattamales and voltstadas.

Somehow Jeff Morrow (after his frontal lobotomy addition in ‘This Island Earth’ [1955] [reviewed elsewhere on this blog] which by the way turned his hair white) figures it out.  The Kronosians must have depleted all the non-re-newable energy sources on Krono and have come to Earth to stock-up.  He also figures how to stop Kronos with wind farms and solar panels. 

Remember ‘Clockwork Orange’ (by the way a giant Jackson No-Prize to the first person to explain why ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is called ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and not yellow or cerise)?  Jeff did, and he gluts Kronos on so much juice not even Mylanta can help.  

The female lead, who does not even have to scream, finally gets her big line to ask if more Kroni are coming. Jeff said all deadpan, ‘Dunno, but if they are we’ll be ready!’ The end.

Sorry, Jeff, but there was no vote of confidence from the fraternity brothers for that encomium. What we saw was comprehensively unready. The super top secret defence lab was penetrated by a truck driver with a wrench. The biggest scientist was zombied with a couple of flash lights. Mexico was drained of juice in a few hours. Lost Angeles had to be nuked. This is ready?

It is on the cusp between Sy Fy and creature feature. Kronos is not much of a creature, no drool, no fangs, no GOP ugly look, no Twit in Chief leer, no grabbing tentacles, and 'it does not carry off a woman, as is mandatory in a Real Creature Feature,' declaimed the fraternity brothers. Nor are the electricity effects up to Dr Frankenstein standards. More like a bulb going out in the frat house than an eye-popper.

On the other hand, the acting is uniformly good. Jeff looks interested in the science de gook, and the Zombie’s inner turmoil is apparent, and Morris Ankrum is also pitch perfect, as always. The director keeps it moving. But the stock footage is not well chosen, nor well integrated. The miniatures for Kronos are nothing special, even for the times.

Interpretions of the symbolism can keep the fraternity brothers happy for hours. Is Kronos, the accumulator of energy, a metaphor for the unbridled consumerism of the era? For the insidious effects of Communism? For creeping managerialism that leaves empty KPI husks behind? For the spectre of technological growth represented in this film by a computer system called SUSIE that adds nothing to the proceedings? Or is a Trojan TinkerToy? Is Odysseus inside?


Computer hackers get control of Siri and Alexa!

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 22 minutes, rated at 5.5/10 by 822 raters.

The third and last of producer Ivan Tors loose sequence of stories about the fictional Office of Scientific Investigations, represented here by Richard Egan, who is summoned to shoot trouble.

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Deep in the desert southwest, where else, in an underground laboratory, designed to withstand an atomic blast or one speech by the Twit in Chief, that nation’s best scientists labour to bring forth the first space station, before ‘They do.’ Yep, 1954, with the Korean War still Red and raw.

The Yankees have entrusted this super-duper top most secret facility to a one legged Brit by the name of Herbert Marshall, with his owlish eye glasses. Immigrants even in those days took American jobs!

‘What’s the trouble?’ The scientists are being murdered! Two were frozen, one after another, in the cryogenics lab. A radioactive pot plant crisps another. The whirly gig takes out two more. The body count rises in the Laboratory of Otranto, while Egan tours the several levels of the bunker. Is he bad luck or what?

The whole establishment is run by an IOS Home computer called NOVAC, which has two robot minions, Gog and Magog. Why names from the Book of Ezekiel are used is anyone’s guess. There is no explanation in the film.

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These robots are precursors of Daleks with their waving arms and tank treads. They are as useful as Siri and Alexa. They can open doors, hand over screwdrivers, and strangle Mr Pomfrit. In addition, the lab has solar energy in use, and a sound laboratory full of deadly tuning forks. Yes, it is a lavish and inventive production.

The body count rises. Turns out NOVAC has been hacked by ‘Them’ and is itself destroying the Nobelists by using Siri and Alexa before they can give long, boring, pointless speeches, forgetting to mention the underlings who did all the work. Egan figures this out about an hour after the fraternity brothers did, and sets about thwarting it. How?

He calls in the USAF to shoot down an airplane that is always overhead. See, what I said about slow. The evil virus code is being transmitted from that aircraft. Stock footage of Saber jets taking off and in mid-air transformed into Thunderbirds. Kaboom! So much for that TWA flight.

Before that crescendo, Egan has to fight both Siri Gog and Alexa Magog mano à mano, well, with a flame thrower. Just the sort of thing to keep around super-duper top most secret deep underground laboratory working on space flight. In fact, they have two of the contraptions that have always killed more operators than enemies.

But wait, the plot thickens. How could good old American code be hacked? In the world of defence contracting it turns out Heidi built the robots in the Swiss Alps, and it must have been there that ‘they’ infected them with a virus which the bots in turn imparted to NOVAC. Moral? Build your own robots. That is a new twist on Cold War paranoia, blame the Swiss neutrals. Boycott Lindt!

In the interest of science there is some concern about radiation. Everyone wears a badge that reacts to it as a warning of exposure. When the killer pot plant is approached, the technician wears a hazard suit and uses some long kitchen tongs, dropping the killer ingot into a lead lined box. Good. Trouble is Egan, his girl Friday, and several gawkers peer over the hazard suit’s shoulder to watch the proceedings from two feet away.

Later they recover from a little radiation by lying down with aspirin.

Much of the first thirty minutes is an exposition of the different parts of the facility and an introduction to the scientists who occupy them, leading the viewer to suspect that the culprit is among them. Indeed, Egan says that at one point. That was a nice bit of indirection.

The scientists are all just west of mad and most have highly suspicious accents. Each has the ego of brain surgeon and the personality of a CPA at tax time. They have accomplished such astounding things as burning balsa wood models. No wonder they think so highly of themselves. Although, come to think of it, that is more than some egomaniacs of my acquaintance have done.

IMDb metadata: 1 hour and 23 minutes, rated 5.2/10 from 2356 opinionators.

Rocket M1 is en route, that is Mars One. It left Earth more than two months ago and nothing has been heard from it since it was scheduled to land on M A R S! Then it appears in the sky, Earthbound. Putting new batteries in the remote control, ground control lands it by pushing a lot of buttons. The procedures of the operation are shown in some detail, including concern for radiation.

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Turns out things did not go well on Mars. There were four crew members, but in return only two remain alive, and one of those has been slimed. Wow! The details emerge in flash back from Irish Iris, who is traumatised by the screenplay. Who can blame her. She is a many PhDed biologist who is consigned to screaming.

The original crew also included Jock, who is the working class comic annoyance, Doc who smokes his pipe thoughtfully, and male lead, Gerald Mohr, who made a career in B-movie land out of a vague resemblance to Bogie. And Iris(h) makes four.

Angry crew.jpg The crew on Mars.

The players are all experienced and able. The direction is adequate, apart from the comic annoyance. Whenever he appeared the fraternity brothers cried, ‘Cut!’

They land on a very red Mars.
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This is 1959 and there are Reds under the beds as it is. Why go looking for more? There is no answer as to the purpose of the expedition.

What they find is a red jungle. Donning overalls with scuba masks, they venture out into the red filter and find... a jungle. Iris collects samples galore, and one of them tries to collect her. While Gerald has a six-gun — that he loaded before cleaning in the NRA-approved method! — and a sound bazooka, that is so cheap it does not make a sound. It wilts the plant. (By this time the space suits made for ‘Destination Moon’ [1950] must have been worn out from use in so many other films.)

Earlier they had to spray a bat-rat-spider (who knows). They espy the spires of a city in the distance across a lake. Yep, a lake wherein dwells an ugly Republican Senator who devours Jock. A word of thanks came from the fraternity brothers.

Now they rush back to the ship. It seems stuck but they struggle for lift-off, much as I did this morning, and while so doing, a voice comes over the speaker, a pleasing baritone, that tells them to scat. ‘No destructive Earthling immigrants are wanted on Mars’ gardening and exterminating. ‘Stay on Earth and kill each other,’ says the voice.

In the whirl, Gerald got slimed and retires to his cot. Doc and Irish throw a lot of switches and blast off, without following the checklist of procedures, with the result that Doc is crushed, pipe in hand. Iris did buckle up and survives but is rendered unconscious. Gerald has a green arm. Is he an incipient Green-voting bore in the making?

All of this is told in a flashback that is far from flashy.

Once back on Earth, Iris figures out what’s wrong with his arm and kisses it better. The end.

Huh? Can Reds on Mars exclude freedom-loving Yankees from Mars? No way! Is Mars a metaphor for Eastern Europe behind the Red Curtin. Time for Radio Free Mars to go on the inter-planetary airwaves. Drop gardening manuals and blue blockers to open the eyes of the downtrodden. The blue blockers will cut the red mist. Some gardening will make the lush Martian jungles Yankee-friendly. This is the Martian Plan.

We never see the Martians, just their pot plants and house pets, and the distant spires painted on a matte. But who are they to say ‘Yankee go home, and stay there!’

The word is that it was done in ten days, using a new filter that sometimes makes Mars and the space suited crew look like cartoons. This look was unintended but there was neither time nor budget to do anything but go with it. Likewise the creature models were not quite what the director expected but he had no choice but to use them.

Speaking of the director, it seems that he and scriptwriter have since duked it out in conventions and screenings for thirty years over which one was genius responsible for the film. Really. Say no more.

IMDb metadata is 1 hour and 13 minutes of Dali run time, rated at a generous 2.7/10 by 944 raters.

A group of people sit in bar and talk. That sums it up. About three-quarters of the film is stock footage from World War II of shells exploding, soldiers soldiering, airplanes flying, bombs falling, destroyed buildings, and on and on.

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The sitters are in a New York City sports bar and they watch the progress of nuclear war on television. The ‘enemy’ lands paratroopers in Alaska, and pictures of Germans landing in Crete are shown. That mix up is typical. There are references to jet planes when propeller planes are shown. Washington state and Washington DC are run together. The script is so sloppy that the Illinois Congressman in the bar is later posthumously elevated into a Senator.

The enemy is never named but we know who it is.

There follows bombings here, there, and everywhere. Sometimes they are called atomic bombs and sometimes not. More paratroopers paratroop against back projections of Capitol Hill. Is no where safe? Yankee Stadium?

In addition to the sitters we see four Americans in ill fitting, mixed uniforms sitting around a table telling each other the bad news in excruciating dialogue so bad that -- believe it or not -- McKinsey-speak would be better.

Occasionally we see six or eight others in drab uniforms and thigh boots shouting at each other in a variety of enemy accents, Latino, Slavic, Brooklyn, German, Armenian, Italian, Texan.

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They go on about liberating the masses in a people’s government. The creeps! Wait until 1985 when cute little Chuck Norris gets ahold of them! He’ll kick 'em right in the knee, if he can reach it.

The barflies earlier bemoaned the heavy hand of government, of crushing taxes, of waste in defence spending, of watered drinks, of paper work, while the bartender boasted of ducking the last war, cocktail shaker in hand. Consequently, the US of A does not have the army, the weapons, or the will power to repel the Enemy!

When the going gets tough, however, the barflies become Minute Men and Women. The men rush to factories to produce tanks, to the ranch to produce food, to the library to pay overdue book fines, to the blood bank to give blood, to the blood bank to take blood….but it is too little and it is too late. The Enemy prevails across the nation. Leaving little to the imagination, there is also a rape. According to the fraternity brothers, whose expertise on such matters is complete, it was no worse than a NCAA football team on the loose.

Seattle, Omaha, San Francisco, Minneapolis, New York City are all levelled. There being no limit to the dastardly enemy’s evil, he blew up the Boulder Dam. The Enemy is frequently referred to as ‘he.’

Then…the sleepers awake from this nightmare. It seems Mr Ohman, Omen (Get it?), put them all in a trance with his restful Irish brogue combined with their many post-lunch martinis. Long before RoboCop, this is Dan O’Herlihy who describes himself as a forecaster, and this is his forecast.

Dan the Man.jpg The enigmatic Mr Omen.

He is marvellous in his smug superciliousness with an air of detached mystery. His purpose is for these barflies to see the errors of their ways. They do. As he departs (without leaving a tip) they are changing their ways. The only woman in the bar changes beaus.

Yet 2.7 seems too high and the Finn gives it 1/10 only because he does not give 0s. It is nearly unwatchable. My pants were safe, contrary to Hedda Hopper's prediction on the lobby card reproduced above.

In earlier scenes of the nightmare we saw lines of people at the New York City Airport trying to fly home, as one would during a nuclear war, and the two ticket agents were Lois Lanes from the Superman franchise, Noel Neill (in the 1948 film serial and later the television series with George Reeves) and Phyllis Coates (in ‘Superman and the Molemen’ of 1951).

William Schallert also puts in a brief and late appearance as a news reader. He’ll always be Mr Pomfrit to me and Dobie.

The surprising thing is that such a turkey was made by an experienced and talented cast and crew. One singular indicator of the incompetence on view is this: Twice the US President is shown on television calling for calm. Each time he is seen from the rear! We never see his face. Just a 3/4 profile from his rear left side. At first I thought this was somehow important later I realised it must have been a mistake and with no budget for re-takes it was used as is. The speaker was Joseph Granby, uncredited, but very reassuring.

The set-up has promise: are they really watching World War III on television? In addition to the RoboCop chief and the Lois Lanes, there is also Gerald Mohr and Peggy Castle, each with a long list of creditable performances in other movies. Likewise the director and producer have solid credentials. The writer had a Hugo nomination for one of his other screenplays. Yet taken together….. well, don't.

It does demonstrate the paranoia of the time, but not very well compared to many other films.

While hardly Sy Fy, the obsessive Finn (Scifist) includes it in his list and so I had a look.


IMDb metadata: 1 hour and 46 minutes rated 4.9/10 from 5730 raters.

A big budget disaster movie from the era of big budget disaster movies. The clichés are all there: the solitary Chicken Little, the fetching femme, the stalwart buddy, the doubting Thomases, the extras to become victims, the special effects of falling bricks and rising waters. But it does have some twists that set it slightly apart.

The set up is this: A large object is on a collision course with Earth! Only James Bond, once again, can save the world. With half-hearted grousing he is summoned for reasons that never become clear since he does nothing thereafter but snipe at others. President Henry Fonda mouths lines. Trevor Howard has a few moments to impart some purpose.

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The twist is that to destroy the Really Big Space Rock will take the combined effort of the USA and the USSR. Much mutual suspicion is exercised, but in the end the Soviets agree and trust the mission, controlling fourteen USSR nuclear warheads to one scientist and a translator, whom they send to New York City. Sure. That is the way the Kremlin worked in 1979. The Russians are coming.

Russians.jpgThe scientist is the redoubtable Brian Keith who does it well, and his translator is a very drawn Natalie Wood, who adds grace to anything.

The USAF in the person of Martin Landau opposes everything with childish temper tantrums. Salute that! Don't blame Marty because he is written that way.

Together the Russkies and the Yankees blast the rock but shards still strike Earth giving us some nice disaster scenes. Yuk. Bond saves everyone.

By the time this one was made the disaster tire had no tread left on it. All the tropes are there but everyone from the scriptwriter to the extras seems bored by it. Karl Malden puts the most into his part, and Keith seems to enjoy the language barrier, but Bond and the ethereal Wood seem to be waiting for it to end. So did I.

Richard Crenna in ‘A Fire in the Sky’ (1978), reviewed elsewhere on this blog, did the same part as Sean Connery in this film, and Crenna did it better - more energy, more intelligence, more conviction, and he had material that had some science and some compassion in it. This film seems to rest entirely on the big names in the cast, and they in turn go through the motions as quickly as possible.

The rockets in space was a neat idea and well presented for the toy model special effects used.

This block buster was delayed in production in the effort to improve it. Failed. The 'New York Times' reviewer, Jane Maslin, nailed it: slow, sludge, half-baked, boring. Those were her kindest remarks.

IMDb metadata: 180 minutes @ 6.6/10 from 333 raters

The scientists agree a meteor is headed for Phoenix!  Whoops!  The scientists do not agree!  Is it a meteor or comet? Will it hit Earth or pass by? If it hits where? If it passes by, then how close? How big is it anyway? There is disagreement among the boffins on each and every point.

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In a roomful of PhDs all the KPI career incentives reward disagreement, even at the end of the world. The bickering, logic chopping, semantics emerge to mask the egotism, opportunism, and careerism. Seminar normal.

The local political decision makers decide the financial disruption of an alert is too great. This decision is partly based on the belief a panic would ensue with loss of life, destruction of property, and worse, the arrival of Fox News. They are also sure that there they do not have the infrastructure of shelters or trained personnel to do anything constructive. No one wants to pay taxes for comet shelters.

Journalists, of course, know better and strive to tell all without regard to consequences! Situation normal. They tell all and panic ensues with the loss of life which in journalism logic is vindication.

In Arizona the gubernatorial response remains guarded and equivocal. After all only one scientist is doing Chicken Little. Why is he right and everyone else wrong? Because the script says so, that’s why! 

Meanwhile, the USAF applies the usual foreign policy response: blow it up. But the rocket misses. Whoops! So much for that.

The script includes a lot of science, including a distinction between a comet, asteroid, and a meteor. Despite the summaries and reviews on the net, in fact, the political decision making is shown to be careful and sensible. At first the Air Force general is reluctant to go the expense of a missile launch on the say-so of one scientist, but in the end there is a pre-emptive rocket fired and it is a miss, a near miss, but a miss. But the screenplay also includes far too many sidebars that blur the focus. Merlin Olsen is a treat but out of place. Ditto the thwarted young lovers.

Andrew Duggan imparts dignity to the proceedings as President. Governor Dukes lays out the complexity of the social consequences. But Richard Crenna carries the film with integrity and conviction.  Particularly striking was his effort to frighten the child as a way of showing the parents what the reality of the situation was likely to be. That was surprising and effective, and done with conviction. He learned a lot from ‘Our Miss Brooks.’  

The direction is leaden but perhaps that is because the material was stretched to 180 minutes! Had it been halved the pace would have been better.

The 1970s fashions are much in evidence, aviator glasses, wide neckties, hirsute faces with flared trousers, altogether enough to put off any time traveller.

The original plan was to air it on television after the theatrical release of the big budget ‘Meteor’ (1979) to ride its publicity coat tails. (Its IMDb score is 4.9.) But with the big budget went big egos and that production languished and in fact ‘A Fire in the Sky’ went to air first. Best laid plans and all that.

IMDb metadata: run time 1 hour and 50 minutes rated at 6.6/10 from 5206 raters.

A tale of survival on the Red Planet told in a semi-documentary fashion.

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Mars Gravity Probe 1 from the United States Air Force orbits Mars gathering data for subsequent surface missions: lights blink, levers click, wheels turn. The MGP1 has a crew of two and half. Half? There is Batman, Survivor, and … Monkey, part mascot and part scientific subject, but mostly comic relief. Ah huh.

Round and round they go in a low Mars orbit, until the script writer’s old friend, a meteor arrives to spoil the ride. They have to put the pedal to the metal to get out of the way. The budget cutters made sure the fuel was adequate with no reserve, so the MGP1 is now out of gas in a decaying orbit. Time to leave. They eject. Nice effects.

Batman cacks it on impact, but the monkey survives. Survivor also survives and the next forty-five minutes documents his determined efforts to find shelter, air, and water, which he does with the help of Scouting manual and the monkey. He records it all on his enormous iPhone for Watney in ‘The Martian’ (2015), reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

Mars is colourful and has all the survival-conveniences an astronaut could want. It reminded the fraternity brothers a lot of Arizona. It is also empty. Survivor hallucinates now and again. But he puts his training to good use. Blah, blah, blah.

Then company comes. Remember crossed telephone lines in rainy weather courtesy of Telecom? This movie gets crossed with ‘War of the Worlds’ (1953) and its Martian spaceships appear zipping and zapping. Well, it is their planet, after all.

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Someone should have yelled ‘Cut!’ and sent them to the right studio. But no, they are part of this story, too, working overtime.

It all seemed random to me, but Survivor concludes they are ‘interplanetary spaceships’ (psst, we know better, they are Martians) mining ores from Mars using slave labour with wardrobe by Pharaoh.

Survivor lies low but an escaped slave tumbles into his arms. They flee and in time bond, helping and saving each other from the perils of the pursuit of the mining zipper zappers, stumbling around the set, and enduring the monkey’s scene stealing. Survivor is left no choice by the screenplay and he calls this man Friday.

The miners search for Friday with more zipping and zapping repeated ad nauseam. The two of them make it to the polar ice cap for some reason. Maybe the miners are afraid of the cold. Shirtless Survivor finds it cold. Geez. The clock ticks. How will it end? ‘Soon!’ cried the fraternity brothers. A rescue mission from Houston arrives to collect them. What will become of Gypo? Where are the zipper zappers? How will the rescuers land and take off? These are some of the known unknowns to ask Donald Rumsfeld about the next time I see him on a crosswalk in DC.

Daniel DeFoe’s novel ‘Robinson Crusoe’ (1719) had themes of colonialism, racism, humanism, equality, fraternity, and more. Living with the noble savage Friday, DeFoe’s Crusoe comes to re-evaluate the norms and conventions of his society, and in so doing he himself changed. All of these themes are washed out of this rendering, leaving a documentary of Hollywood survival. Survivor spends a lot of time shirtless, sunbathing on Mars, Friday looks like he left a pyramid building site, and those cut-outs from ‘War of the Worlds’ do not fit.

Sunbathing.jpg Taking the air on Mars.

Survivor was Paul Mantee, an anonymous toiler in Telly-wood, cast precisely because he was unknown, and he stayed that way. This was his only starring role, and without a woman in sight, but, well, the monkey is called Mona. (Sniggering was heard from the fraternity brothers.) A cast of three and half is it. Batman has only two scenes, but the second, the dream sequences is very well done, with the blank face and dead eyes he anticipated his Batman.

In short, it lacks just about everything a feature film of the 1960s had to have, yet it runs for nearly two hours when the norm was 90 minutes for everything but a blockbuster with a giant cast of well known stars. I saw it on release, I seem to remember, but it left no impression. (Maybe it was date night.) Nor does it now.

IMDb metadata: 1 Hour and 47 minutes. 8.1/10 @ 312,875 Opinionators

How could such a tired, clichėd, and disjointed movie be made of this event? That it ranks highly as shown above only indicates the audience. I put off watching it knowing I would find the historical inaccuracies a pain. Right again.

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Why do the inaccuracies matter anyway? Isn’t it just a movie? Afraid not.

I have heard far too many people refer to movies for historical facts. None of the half a dozen reviews I read after watching it made any reference to historical reality. Yet many viewers, most viewers will take it just that way.

In short, both John Mills in ‘Dunkirk’ (1958) and Jean Paul Belmondo in ‘Week-end à Zuydcoote’ (1964) had better material and played it better.

What’s to like? It makes a short list.

It just starts. Bang. No information card. No voiceover. That makes it a fast and clean start. Good, let the ride begin.

The cinematography steals the show, especially in aerial scenes, and I am sucker for that. The best I have seen since ‘The Dark Blue World’ (2001) and before that ‘Piece of Cake’ (1988).

Some of the acting is up to the ‘Mrs Miniver’ (1942) standard, notably on the small boat, but most isn’t.

There is a high blood pressure soundtrack which too often competes with the screen. A mute button was needed for that. If the visceral reality is the point, then let’s hear that as the men did.

I also like that it is feature length and not an epic of endurance for the viewer!

What’s not to like is a longer list.

Overall we get nothing about the human side of it, the decision-making, Belgian, English, French, or German. Without that, it becomes a disaster movie where an uncontrollable force of nature erupts and a mix of individuals try to survive. It could have been played without a word of dialogue and that might have improved it.

This impression grows because we never see a German until a few shadows in the last scene. The unseen enemy becomes a malevolent storm, not other fallible human beings.

Likewise most of the characters are nameless ciphers. Though, curiously, some of the nameless are named in the credits. Confusing or confused? Pick one!

By default the movie also makes the evacuation seem disorganised but in fact the staff work to organise and plan was extensive and that is largely why it was as successful as it was. I have mentioned this is another post on this blog. The essential point is that it was ten, that is, 10 x, more successful than early estimates, most importantly including those made by the Germans.

Here are a few IS, that is, Irritating Specifics.

At the beginning, the five Brits amble down the street; they are too clean. They dawdle. There is no urgency. After at least five weeks in the field they are clean. Ah huh. They might have 2018 fashionably long hair after weeks in the field but they would also be unshaven and dirty with torn and soiled uniforms. This impression is not mitigated by a few close ups of dirty hands. Nor would they amble at this juncture. They dawdle for no other reason than to have the idyl broken by gun fire. Very staged and it is obvious.

The town of Dunkirk is shown tidy in the film when in fact it was rubble by the time the BEF got there. 'BEF?' That is, the British Expeditionary Force, as it was called.

Dunkirk city 1.jpg The reality.

Dunkirk was held to anchor the flank and it was devastated, a ruin, not a ghost town as presented here. This is an important point because the French did fight hard in the North, particularly around nearby Lille which was also flattened. The defence of Lille delayed the German advance in the North making the evacuation possible.

The mountain of sandbags is impressive and pointless. Who had the time to build it? And why bother? Manned by only three poilus, who are not even going to slow up a German patrol. Nor is it likely they would know about the evacuation. Master plans from London are seldom passed onto to isolated French riflemen like the uncredited Daniel Auteil. Moreover, more than 100,000 French were evacuated, some in French ships usually omitted from English telling of this story, though some of the ships we see in this film with British flags are French. Confusing, non?

Branagh does a lot of posing and takes off his hat for no other reason than the look. Who he is and what he is doing, apart from posing, is left to guesswork.

Why does the loaded hospital ship stay on the pier long after it is declared full? By the way it clearly was not full.

SHup not full.jpg This ship is full, not.

Ship full.jpg This ship is full.

Indeed the crowd in this film was often sparse. Except for a few scenes there were not many extras. The whole cast might has well have been CGIs given how little humanity is allowed to them.

While on matters nautical the destroyers do not seem to have anti-aircraft Bofors guns but the I-class ships did and they were the ones there.

The men who take refuge on the beached Dutch trawler make a sitting target for a Stuka bomb attack. Surely they would have known that. Nor do they take the simple precaution of posting a sentry. Why someone getting off would plug the holes in the hull is anyone’s guess. Yes, I know stress does bend the mind, but it does not enlist sympathy.

The choreographed cheering looks just like that. The news does not travel down the line but erupts all at once, clearly on cue. Moreover, most men on the beach were hiding in the dunes out of sight to avoid being targets for air attack until ships were available so they would not have seen much.

Nor did Branah have to wait for the French as the Irishman says in closing, because after the first day Churchill, unseen in this telling, ordered first come first served and about 100,000 French and Belgians were lifted to continue the war.

The aerial choreography was grand but full of inaccuracies. The Messerschmidts did not have yellow nose cones to make them easy to identify. The Spitefire carried ammunition for one 20-second burst, or divisions thereof. To hit anything they had to close to one hundred yards or less so that the target filled the target ring. This Spitefire has nearly forty minutes of ammunition. Moreover, after all the early fuss about fuel, the last one has a bottomless tank. Nor does the Spitefire have the endless glide path shown. With the engine, weapons, and pilot in the front, it was front heavy.

Yes, the Tommies on the beach did decry the lack of air cover but surely they would not have said ‘airforce,’ but RAF. Was it a marketing decision to script it as ‘air force’ in case some viewers did not know what RAF is? The RAF did want to preserve assets for the next round until Churchill overrode it. The limitation was distance and also guessing when the Luftwaffe would be there to attack.

The Luftwaffe did not have to go out in the Channel to engage the RAF. Why do so? The RAF attacks were limited by range and were as unpredicable as the German ones, while the beaches and waters were full of big targets.

Unlikely Heinkels were much used there but applied elsewhere to the main German drive, contrary to the myth, was miles away toward Paris with many stationery targets like railway yards, bridges, etc. For Heinkels to hit a moving ship with a bomb is a script writer's dream.

The Channel is too shallow for U Boats and Dunkirk was a resort town because of the shallow waters which kept the destroyers out to sea but made loading small boats easy. Shallow water made submarines easy to spot from the air.

Of course, a Heinkel might have been there, ditto a U Boat. The point is the film is pastiche of incidents with no coherent story line. Looks like someone did a lot of reading and picked out of context a diversity of incidents for their cinematographic potential and then strung them together, not to convey what happened but to hop from one tableau to another and back. The result is a series of incoherent images without rhyme or reason. There is neither plot nor character. And as noted a couple of times above, the direction is stiff.

Yet no doubt some viewers will conclude that they know the history now.

It is heartening to see that some user reviews on IMDB are negative, despite the average rating. Unlike the professional critics who carefully avoid ruffling any feathers. I pine for a Pauline Kael destruction of this nonsense.

IMDb metadata is 28 minutes of run time @ 8.2 from 23,848 raters.

Jette cover.jpg

A Sy Fy short that often appears on lists of great movies, and I can see why. It is arresting and mysterious.

It is after an atomic World War III and some think they have won but most died. Survivors have dug into the Earth.

Paris is a burned cinder but deep down in the Châtelet metro station in the first arrondisemen where six lines pass are survivors. A lot of them. They have prisoners on whom they perform experiments.

One prisoner is selected and he prepares himself to meet a terrible fate with a mad and cruel scientist only to find a placid doctor who explains that they are trying to time travel either to the past to avert the catastrophe or to the future to get help. Some who have tried to travel through time have been driven nuts, others just died, not being strong enough for the emotional wrench and the mental effort.

The major prop is an eye mask with some wires inserted in it and a hypodermic. The rest is imagination!

The Man without a name submits and dreams or travels. No one is sure which it is. He, too, is unsure. The doctor is unsure. The viewer is unsure. the fraternity brothers dozed.

In the course of his backward travels he meets a woman to whom he tells his story and she listens, calm, attentive, interested. He keeps going back to her, though we learn nothing about her.

He also makes one forward trip and meets in a cloud of mist four individuals from the future with two franc coins stuck to their foreheads. They reject him but later relent and offer him personal sanctuary but they cannot help the others.

However by then he prefers the past with She who does not have a name.

In a dreamy sequence he goes to her at Orly aeroport on the observation deck, the pier, la jetėe of the title, and he is murdered by someone from the Châtelet metro station who is there with the other prop, the scary goggles optometrist use to calibrate lenses corrections.

Goggles.jpg

He realises, as he dies, that he has seen this death, his own death, before. Huh. All very post-modern.

He dies. No one can escape fate is the moral, it seems.

There is an intermittent voiceover narrative that is laconic and cryptic. And all the film is still photographs, many striking ones of Paris in the spring and the gothic underground refuge evoking German expressionism. But all is done with a light hand.

At times in the silence, and there is a lot of that, there is a nearly inaudible whispering in German. Don’t know what to make of that. An echo from the past.

Mostly the palette is dark in that underground redoubt with many shadows in the black and white photography.

I have seen at least one repetition of that scene on la jetėe at Orly in a krimi with Alain Delon or Lino Ventura. Can’t pin it down. Orly was shiny, new, modern, and futuristic in 1962. Later it became shopworn and dilapitated, as when I made a pilgrim to it in 1980.

Marker was a photographer among other things and borrowed a video camera for one very short scene of a few minutes. Like others at the time nuclear war seemed inevitable to him.

He did other conventional documentary films, and what he called photoessays.

While he was a traveller to make the documentaries and friends with cinemaistas like Alain Renais, he shunned all publicity. No interviews.

Chris Marker.jpg Chris Marker

Few photographs of himself. No official explanations of his work. Lived to 92.

IMDb metadata: 2 hours and 24 minutes of life @ 8/10 from 597,255 zits

Martian DVD.jpg

The most boring job at NASA in 2055? Monitoring the visual feeds from its Mars satellites. But someone does it and detects activity on Mars!

Backup a little for the set up. Ares I is NASA’s first crewed mission to land on Mars with four men and two women. They are at work on the Red Planet collecting samples. The combination of camera filters and sands with the desert in Jordan is well done in creating a Mars.

As they work, on cue a large and powerful sandstorm strikes before they can all get inside the ship. In the ensuing maelstrom, one of the crew, Watney, is struck by a flying rock and carried away into the murky darkness. Meanwhile, the rocket is so buffeted that it is in danger of tilting too far to the looney right for takeoff. It’s a do-or-die situation.

Commander, as she is called, pushed the button for blastoff, after suitable lip chewing. It is clear they could never find him in the storm and that the computer predictions of a catastrophic tilt are accurate. Willpower does not overcome the laws of physics, as it too often does in Hollywoodlandia. It is five against one to complete the mission.

Off they go on the six month return flight to Earth. What can go wrong?

Watney did not die. Through a combination of circumstances he survived the impact of the rock and the storm but he is now ‘Marooned’ (1969) on Maris. (Remember that one?)

Mars Jordan.jpg Red Mars

He becomes a ‘Robinson Crusoe on Mars’ (1964), remember that one, by first cleaning up his wounds and then setting about surviving with all the gear Ares I left behind.

Watney determines he will do science to survive. He uses his knowledge and sets about learning more as he goes. First air and water, then food. Then energy for the rovers and the Rube Goldberg mechanisms he engineers to meet his needs. It is not easy. Things go wrong. Mistakes are made, but he persists. Science is the way. Right down to burning a wooden cross left behind by a crewmate to make a fire. Banned in Alabama and Iran for that.

Homework.jpg He survives by homework, not prayer.

The storm destroyed communication so he cannot call home. Ares continues toward Earth. Watney does not know and does not ever seem to think the Mars satellites might spot him or his traces. He could have spelled SOS with the solar panels and saved us all a lot of time. On time see below. But his traces are spotted.

They watch his tracks as he manoeuvres solar panels and batteries. A lot of this. Too much.

NASA has thrown a lot of taxpayers money at Mars and left machines there from previous unmanned landings. Watney scavenges parts and material from the junk yard, including some communication devices.

Back at the ranch in Houston, Rubber Chin has to decide whether to tell the world Watney is alive and whether to tell the crew of Ares, some of whom are still chewing their lips. The decisions are complicated: nice scenes of hysterical journalists looking for a kill in a press conferences, and the political reactions related to funding some kind of rescue mission which may arrive too late anyway.

The two most interesting parts of that are the deux ex machina involvement of the Chinese space program in the planning and Richard Sharpe’s mutiny in leaking a hairbrained plan to the crew of Ares. By the rules of Hollywood, the hairbrained plan is the path of redemption which they must take.

Even more hairbrained schemes come into play to recover Watney. Glad wrap to the rescue. In ‘The Doomesday Machine’ (reviewed on this blog) it was aluminium foil.

Loved the emphasis on science and on teamwork and brainwork pace ‘Apollo 13’ (1995) to find solutions to one problem at a time. There are no histrionics. No he-man stuff and no resort to prayer to solve problems. Banned in another seven states and Syria.

Watney is well realised but not so Rubber Chin who has neither depth nor gravitas. Maybe I say that because in his efforts to look serious he reminds all too much of Al Gore whom I could never take seriously.

It is an ensemble piece and apart from these two, the screen time is distributed among the members of the group, many of whom are super nerds, as indicated by their ragged attire and evident poor personal hygiene. Keep those tired tropes coming!

Space flight, take off, link ups are marvellously presented, the gear has verisimilitude. No one smokes on Mars, unlike the 1950s visits to Mars by B-movie landers.

Again in contrast to that era, no big deal is made out of that the fact hat there are women on the crew or that the Commander is a woman. Even in the 1980s this was a theme screen writers had to use as a substitute for creativity.

Also mercifully absent were any magnified spiders much to the disappointment of the fraternity brothers.

R Scott.jpg Director Ridley Scott is the master of the medium.

It is an epic. — for the audience— to endure at two and half hours, and it could certainly have been cut to feature length. We don’t need to see everything when much of it is repeated in the video logs Watney makes and the ever present mini cams. Much of the footage seems to be there because we have it, not because the story needs it for the audience.

IMDb metadata: 1 Hour and 32 minutes. 7.8/10 from 68,694 discerning viewers.

‘Gort! Klaatu barada nikto.’ Repeat after me...... (and we pimpled youth did in case we ever ran into a Gort. We were ready!)

Earth still title.jpg

This was THE 1950s Sy Fy movie made with an A movie budget. Yet there was no creature in sight. But a very composed and dignified individual, Klaatu who made the mistake of trying to be rational in D.C. and got drilled for his trouble, twice over.

For the benighted, unenlightened ones, and included in this group all those who have seen the remake, the set up is this. One fine spring day a flying saucer finds a parking place on the Mall.

Saucer mall.jpg

It is a sleek craft and there it is. Rush Limbaugh denies it exists. The Army tries to blow it up. Republicans vote to cut its appropriation. The media goes into a frenzy. Democrats try to mate with it, and the gawkers turn out in force to see blood. The circus is always in town in D.C. Scientists write papers on it to fatten the cvs. (Not the CVS drug stores.) Two days of tension follow until the alien emerges to proclaim peaceful intentions.

Klaatu speaks.jpg

Obviously a Commie plot, so he is shot. Bang, problem solved, proclaims Rush.

Gort turns on his evil eye and atomises quite a few Red Shirts but then lapses inactive during an IOS update while Klaatu is carted off to a hospital.

Gort.jpg

When the alien comes around he is polite, correct, and rational. As such, no D.C. insider can understand him. ‘No, world leaders cannot be assembled to hear his message!’ Is the reply. ‘You are in our hands now,’ is the implication.

As if.

Klaatu commits an interstellar misdemeanour by stealing some perfectly fitting clothes and leaves the hospital. As usual the guards in this movie are always half-wits, relatives of the fraternity brothers.

Klaatu rents a room at Patrica Neal’s boarding house where he befriends her son Bob who becomes, unconsciously, his guide to the ways of humans. Cf. Carradine learning chess in ‘The Cosmic Man’ (1959). Seeing this refined, kindly stranger in the house, irritates Hugh Marlowe, Pat’s squeeze, she being a war widow. Hugh goes all passive-aggressive.

After a moving visit to the Lincoln Memorial, where Klaatu is impressed by the words of Abraham, Klaatu with Bob go to see Sam Einstein whom Klaatu helps with his arithmetic, and then reveals himself. He then arranges via Gort a selective but worldwide power blackout for thirty minutes starting at twelve noon Eastern Standard Time, just when he and Pat are alone in an elevator. He spills the beans to her, too. Now that he has started blurting it seems he cannot stop. The blackout was general but not complete in that aircraft in flight, hospitals, machinery supporting life continued to operate. We can hope it cut Rush off in mid diatribe.

Klaatu calls himself Carpenter. Get it? Smooth sailing to date, but Klaatu came out without his Amex card and he has to borrow bus fare from Bob in return for a pocketful of diamonds! Next thing you know, Hugh has sicced the army, police, navy, Rush Limbaugh, Girl Scouts, infielders, and the carrion of the media onto him. By the way, how did he pay the first weeks rent on the room in advance if he is busted?

Lock Martin wrapped in tin foil stands around, that is, Gort to the gormless.

The staging is simple and elegant almost documentary. Klaatu uses the flashlight on his iPhone one night to communicate with Gort. The interior of the ship is spare and yet intricate to the eye. Movement sensors turn light on and off, it seems. Mostly Klaatu listens and talks very politely, and correctly. With such good grammar and syntax, he must be an alien!

After Hugh has blown Klaatu’s cover, Klaatu and Pat scat, and in the ensuing chase the Rush posse kills Klaatu. Dead. So much for an alien taking a parking place on the Mall! That is a capital offence in the Capitol!

With his dying breath Klaatu sends Pat to Gort with that message. With the grit born of Kentucky coal country she does so, whereupon, as required by the film’s publicity department, Gort sweeps her up into his arms and carries her off to the spaceship, a helpless doll being carried by a creature was necessary for the advertising to communicate with the moronic members of the audience. That always works for the fraternity brothers. Gort then departs and recovers Klaatu’s body from the morgue by dissolving a wall and returns with it to the spaceship. There were only two guards, the third stooge, being absent, and Gort dissolved them, too.

We all know that left to her own devices Pat would not have gone all helpless and hurled herself onto a pile of folding chairs.

Neal.jpg Neal's face upon meeting the Twit in Chief.

That was the doing of the writer and director. On her own she would gulped and got on with it without the histrionics.

Earlier Gort had incapacitated guards while two of them lounged with their backs to him, never alert, but now that Klaatu is dead, Gort is more extreme without Klaatu’s restraining hand, one infers.

While a stunned Pat watches, Gort lays Klaatu into an MRI which klatters and whistles him back to life. Resurrected. Get it.

Now robed in his shiny spaceman’s suit, Klaatu emerges from the ship with Pat, who scurries away, and Gort the Impacable. Note, the fraternity brothers cannot take a spaceman seriously unless in shiny pants. Klaatu’s turns to the assembled scientists Sam had gathered and some itchy fingered army types. Klaatu’s Address is this.

Blow yourselves up, if you wish. But the combination of rockets and atomic bombs makes Earth a threat to other planets. The League of Other Planets, LoOP, employs many Gorts to prevent such intrusions. Gort is merciless and all powerful. Cross him and he destroys the planet. Get it? No excuses. No extension. No sorry. No mercy.

Even pithier than Lincoln.

Off he goes: whooshka!

That message ignited ranks of successor films to explain why advanced aliens would bother with Terra.

Michael Rennie was cast precisely because he was unknown to Yankee audiences, so he would not trigger any residual expectations in viewers. He is austere and yet warm with the boy and so much more mysterious than the excitable and predictable Hugh. Though Hugh earned his Space Cadet stars in ‘The Earth versus the Flying Saucers’ (1956). Pat is a one-woman congregation who learns the lessons of peace and forebearance, or else, from the carpenter’s messenger, Get it?

Billy Gray is crucial to the presentation of character, but his part is not kid stuff. The is no ‘Tobor the Great’ with childish antics.

While the Army is portrayed as alert, organised, determined, and prepared, except for the sentries at the saucer who were careless, unbelievably stupid, and itchy fingered. The guards around the saucer are inattenive, how else could a giant in tin foil sneak up on them. The first response of the Army is to shoot. When the guards are alert it is to shoot. Slack in that only two grunts are left on guard, no more, and no officer to make decisions or with some phone numbers to duck responsibility.

Press hysteria in newspaper, radio, news reels, and television is there but in a minor key.

While Klaatu, as with every other alien visitor, wants to talk to the whole world, the Yankees will not hear of it. The conclave of scientists Sam gathers is international by the stereotypes of dress and appearance.

Rob Wise.jpg Robert Wise

The director, Robert Wise made splendid films in many genres. His next Sy Fy was two decades later, ‘The Andromeda Strain’ (1971) and the first ‘Star Trek’ movie in 1979.

Pat reprised some of her role in a less dramatic account in ‘Stranger from Venus,’ reviewed elsewhere on this blog. To be enlightened find it.

The producer and director wanted to make a film about peace and cooperation during the Korean War and the evils of HUAC, a pre-Twit curse. To that end they rejected Spencer Tracy for the lead, thinking he would conjure up fatherly figures from his many other roles. They hired a brilliant musician for the score who cemented the theremin into Sy Fy. They risked offending Alabama with the temporary resurrection of Klaatu but put in a meaningless and distracting reference to ‘the almighty spirit’ to comfort the Alabamans who fear, rightly, that no one loves them. The producer insisted on employing the blacklisted Sam Einstein and not just for his electric hair. It would seven years before another producer would dare to employ him, such was the baleful influence of the junior Senator from Wisconsin whose name never crosses my keyboard. It took the decision and influence of the studio head, Daryl Zanuck to make all of the happen, and the risks for him were great but he ploughed ahead.

A second unit went to D.C. and filmed the Washington scenes, the actors worked in Hollywood and the editor brought them altogether in a seamless whole.

While it was stimulated by a Sy Fy story, the screenplay departs from and improves it immeasurably. It offers a more complex story with a larger cast of characters and a more fleshed out Klaatu. In this case the screenplay is superior to the story from which it is derived.

While channel surfing on a trip this popped up,and so I watched. Vaguely I had been putting it off until later, partly because it is not on You Tube and partly because I remember it very well,from previous viewings.

Disclosure statement. The reviewer has not seen ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ (2006) and has no wish to do so, because it will give priority to CGI over the simple story and will replace the detached calm of the original with a fevered attempt at action. So I assume. No doubt the time will come when curiosity will take me to it, but especially not immediately after seeing the original for fear of spoiling it with an unpleasant after taste.

IMDB metadata: 3 hours in six thirty-minute episodes, scored at 8.2 by 640 scorers. The plus sign (+) indicates it was shown in December 1958 and January 1959 on successive Friday nights.

Q and Pit title card.jpg

Workers report finding human remains on a building site and a team of archeologists begin excavating the bones. Felix Leiter is a palaeontologist who leads the team and he needs publicity to delay the construction so that the remains can be carefully and fully removed in his own sweet time.

Meanwhile, Professor Quatermass is resisting attempts by the army to take over his missile experiments, but he is losing the ever so polite battle at the committee table.

Leiter calls a press conference and in the whirl runs into his old friend Prof Q. They compare troubles over brandy. The skulls are humanoid but not human. Are they the missing link, or that of the Twit in Chief?

Then the diggers come upon object, an object big enough and with the evident shape of a bomb, perhaps an unexploded bomb left over from the Little Blitz of V Rockets in1944. Down tools! In comes the UXB squad to do some more careful digging. Leiter fumes at being barred from his dig while the developer denounces the whole thing as a costly delay. By the end of the second episode anyone but a fool could see it is not a bomb, but Colonel Cardboard who has taken charge continues to insist, per the script, that it is German bomb. Unable to get his buddy James Bond, Leiter has called in Prof Q for moral support and together they do….research. This is not Indiana Jones country. This is thinking! Not punching.

They carbon date the remains and objects they find and they go to the library and archives to research the vicinity, Hob’s Lane. What do they find?

That the bones and skulls, though sort of humanoid, are five million years old. That makes them an odd fit for the chain of evolution as it was understood at the time outside Alabama, and for what it is worth, unlikely to be German. Not a single swastika was found. Moreover, they find that Hob’s Lane has a time-honoured reputation as a spooky place, with ghost stories going back to the Fourteenth Century and as recent as 1927 when the house adjacent to the building site was abandoned as unliveable because of…..'things.' That got the attention of the fraternity brothers. ‘Things!’ They like things.

Meanwhile the Colonel has unearthed an object about the size and shape of a flying miniature submarine. There is much ill will between Colonel and Prof Q about what it is. They discover that it is not metal, as they know it. Nothing can penetrate it. Not an acetylene torch, not a diamond drill, not a split infinitive, not even the Twit in Chief’s ego. Colonel Cardboard’s solution is the soldier’s old friend, TNT. Prof Q goes all quivery and talks him out of it.

Finally, they find an open door on the other side of the gradually unearthed object and enter an empty vessel. The interior looks like a culvert, but the forward bulkhead is sealed off. Again they try to penetrate it with their penetrators. Then one after another a soldier and a safe cracker go spare while belabouring the bulkhead. Others will follow. Colonel is at a loss but cannot admit it. He puts it all down to a diet lacking moral fibre. Prof Q is turning his thoughts skyward. Leiter is counting his Loonies.

Q ship.jpg The unexploded bomb of Colonel Cardboard's dreams.

The bulkhead has pentagrams on it. Whoa! Is it time for the occult? Then, seemingly of its own accord, the bulkhead opens. Inside they find……gargoyles!

The ship was clearly divided into two parts, a large compartment for passengers — those humanoids — and the sealed bulkhead wherein were found three deceased gargoyles on loan from Quasimodo. Huh? Moreover after careful examination the craft itself has no mechanisms. One officer, not Colonel Cardboard, speculates that the ship itself must be a mechanism of some kind. What a brew!

Quatermass does what scientists do best, speculate. He fumbles slowly to this conclusion. The gargoyles came from Mars five million years ago before life was extinguished on Mars. What were they doing? They were scooping up some of our simian ancestors, taking them to Mars where the Martians altered the simians by some means (surgical or biological), and then returned them to Earth. This find was but one of many such missions to alter the population of Earth.The other missions were successful but this one was not. Why they went to this trouble is not clear. This Martian intervention explains the missing link in human evolution. God does indeed work in mysterious ways because Martian insects made us human beings. Does that writer have a sense of humour or what?

This program of genetic engineering by the gargoyles was observed through the millennia five million years ago, and they were remembered in images of devils, satan, and other creatures that were the reality on which the gargoyles were modelled. First superstition and then religion arose against the reality of Martian insects.

Q and Martian.jpg Prof with his favourite Martian.

Meanwhile, Colonel Cardboard continues to yell about a German trick. Here the scriptwriter lets us down. Cardboard is so superficial it is impossible to take him seriously. But then the media begins to do what it does best, spread misinformation, panic, and hysteria. To hose it down, the Minister prefers the Colonel’s interpretation, and he makes sure he does not see for himself to keep his ability to deny reality in tact. That seems all to realistic.

Things go from stupid to disastrous when the minister decides, Colonel Cardboard being right, to hold a press conference on site and lay the whole story to rest as hoax. The energy of the crowd and the generators to power cameras, microphones, egos feeds the ship, which itself is some residual spectre, and things go flying.

Turns our Prof Q was right all along. It ends with his subsequent testimony laying out the story we have just seen.

It could not be made today. Bugs made humans. No God necessary.

There is much exposition across the episodes and each begins with a recapitulation of the story so far. It was re-made as ‘Five Million Years to Earth’ (1967). At feature length of 90 minutes this version compressed much with a faster pace.

It came from the fertile keyboard of Nigel Kneale, who has many noteworthy credits to his name, including the Quatermass franchise, ‘The Stone Tapes,’ and ‘The Year of the Sex Olympics.’


 

IMDB 1 Hour and 22 minutes @ 6.8/10 from 4295

On a mild autumn evening a young couple doing anatomical research in the long grass are disturbed by a rocket screaming overhead. It rattles the crockery and sets off the dog at a nearby farm. The eternal British Army Scotsman Gordon Jackson takes up arms to deal with the disturbance, but well none of his previous cinematic experiences has prepared him for rockets and it is his last scene above stairs. No, he doesn’t get zapped but calls in Professor Quatermass. Gordon went on to his next gig.

QXperiment.jpg

The QX was to send a three-man rocket into orbit and return it to Earth. While his rocket kit was home made, he has Lionel Jeffries from the Ministry ineffectually dogging his steps as he orders about everyone around with contradictory demands. Prof Q certainly likes being the boss!

After much dallying they pop the door and find one spaceman much the worse for wear. Where are the other two? Mysterious, indeed. Speculations follow.

Meanwhile, the Survivor, who gives a devastating performance, is rushed to a hospital for returned spacemen and guarded by a dolt. The spaceman's wife decides a private hospital would be better but Prof Q wants to study the Survivor by bellowing at the nurses. Wife decides to spirit him away. This does not go well.

Now he is on the loose, wandering and wondering around. Some very nice scenes of his encounters. There is an inner struggle and the man is losing to the protoplasm. Oops, that is a spoiler!

As his humanity recedes, the protoplasm’s appetite increases. There goes the zoo. Gulp. At this point my imagination turned D.C. How long are zoo animals there safe from the GOP protoplasm?

The rest is a police procedural to track him, which has become an it, down. They do so in Westminster Cathdral. Well a mock up of it since they film company was denied access to the real thing. There they turn to the mad scientist’s old friend, electricity, to fry it. Success! Fried protoplasm is on the menu.

The intrusion into Westminister is cleverly done to juxtapose a bland high arts program on the building with this thriller. The former represents most BBC television at the time, fussy, erudite, recondite, arcane, dusty, in contrast to the whiz bang of Quatermass and his happy band of alien hunters.

Everyone is exhausted! Aghast! Relieved! Many sighs are heard. Wife is not consulted about any of this. Meanwhile, Professor Quatermass has learned his lesson and strides off to build a new protoplasm-proof rocket.

It seems this first rocket while in space passed through matter that entered the ship by magic and absorbed the crew. That is where the missing two went. Since this was a new cuisine, Proto proceeded slowly,and was only starting on the third when the ship under remote control from the ground crashed interrupting the anatomy lesson.

This story had aired in the BBC in 1953 in six parts to a great reception. That emboldened the entrepreneurs who would become Hammer Films to hire the author, Nigel Kneale, to re-write the story into a continuous film script, Kneale went on to write more Quatermass, so much it is hard to keep it straight. He also wrote one of the best things I have sever seen on the box, namely ‘The Stone Tapes’ (1972).

This film has the look of a quota quickie because the Yankee action man Brian Donleavy plays Prof Q, and does so with evident relish. Quota quickies are explained elsewhere on this blog. The essence is that they were cranked out to meet local content requirements but often had an American actor for marketing there. Most were as quickly forgotten, but not this one. It triggered more Quatermass films and encouraged Hammer Films down the genre path of Horror.

In 1955 an X-rating meant adults only, and Hammer accepted that readily by incorporating it in the title as was the case with some other films like ‘The Man from Planet X’ reviewed elsewhere on this blog. What children were then denied they can get today on video games.

IMDb metadata: 1 hour and 18 minutes, 6.6/10 @ 320 opinions

Funded from the tip jar at the tea room, the sets are bare, the effects ordinary, but the scene is well set and there is enough mystery to hold interest. Strangely, John Carradine is not in it.

%22Unearthly_Stranger%22.jpg

It opens with a wide- and wild-eyed man in fear running down a dark and empty street. He looks back as if he is pursued. In a close up, John Neville is bathed in sweat. A paranoid atmosphere is established with a minimum of fuss. Neville ascends a circular staircase, working up more sweat, bursts into an office and starts a reel-to-reel tape recorder to tell the story in flashback.

Neville is a scientist in the Space Research Centre somewhere in Britain (where the streets are devoid of cars).

We learn in the flashback that he has just been promoted to the top job and that he has also just got married after a whirlwind romance in Switzerland. Is the conjunction of these two events a happy coincidence? Or has the script writer set it up? Guess!

The Space Research Centre consists of a receptionist, a large map of the moon on the wall, two offices, a chrome dome Philip Stone (who has been in everything), and Neville. His predecessor, whom we see ever so briefly, blew a brain gasket and died. Young, vigorous, and cheerful, yet he keeled over and the autopsy showed blood vessels shredded in his grey matter. Ouch.

Enter the rotund security officer,
Mother.jpg
Mother (as he was later to be in ‘The Avengers’), who tells Chrome Dome that a number of astro-scientists have blown brain gaskets in England, USA, and the USSR, though this latter report is suspect. Is looking at a large map of the moon the cause? What other explanation could there be, Erich?

Well, the fraternity brothers took a look at the wife. Ah ha! Turns out other brain-blown scientists also had new wives. Oh, ‘nocturnal over exertions may be the cause,' they cried. Rotund does not even consider this obvious line of peeping.

Neville, eyes turned to the heavens, speculates that 'they' (hint) up there may not want us to get there.

However, attention now swings to Wife. It seems Neville knows nothing about her, ahem, apart from that, and it also seems, as he gradually realises, she took all the initiatives that led to the marriage. What he just assumed was his magnetism can be interpreted otherwise.

At times he seems to have suspicions of her, and at other times he is quick to defend her from Rotund’s insinuations. Neville is clearly in thrall to her. The fraternity brothers terminology is not suitable for a family blog like this.

But even the smitten Neville admits she has quirks. She sleeps with her eyes wide open all night. (Androids do this in other films.)
Asleep.jpg
Okay. She has no pulse. Okay. (The fraternity brothers immediately spotted that as a trait of Venusians, per ‘Stranger from Venus’ [1954], reviewed elsewhere on this blog.) Moreover, she grabs a red hot casserole from the oven bare-handed with no ill effects. Later, the tears she cries burn her skin. What does all this add up to? See title above.

Aware of these oddities, Neville manages not to add them up. Nor does he connect the dots to his earlier speculations about what ‘they’ up there might not want. Thrall, indeed.

Wife gets misty at the sight of children. Hence the tears. Then when Neville cracks the formula for something crucial, who knows what, more tears come, because…. It is time to blow another brain gasket.

Spoiler.

She is indeed one of ‘they’ on a mission to stop the Space Research Centre from meeting its KPIs. In cinema-land few, if any other, aliens are women. What we get here is an alien who is conflicted, who has compassion, who has maternal instincts, as well as asbestos hands. This is a rarity in the Sy Fy genre. While some come in peace and do good works, no other alien to date falls in love and finds life on Earth good enough to stay. Wife does not want to hurt Neville, and she would like to have children.

Okay, okay. This is a pre-Liberated Woman who just wants to be a wife, homemaker, and mother, but in the context it is a volte-face. Of course, the fraternity brothers had a lot of questions, which are best omitted, about alien women.

When she wimps out of blowing up Neville’s brains, the receptionist steps in. Turns out for the last twelve years she has been erasing the blackboard every night, so that the scientists have had to start the formula over each day. This trick is called a Penelope among the Sisterhood. None of the big brain scientists have noticed this, not even the chrome dome boss.

However Chrome has figured how to overcome an alien. He grabs a sock from the laundry basket and the odour drives her to jump out of the window. Phew! Whew! Like Wife, she just vanishes. There today, gone today.

But there are plenty more aliens in the sea, since the last shot is of a group of women having a look. Gulp! Are they more of the Lunar Sisterhood? We’ll never know until the sequel.

No one smokes. Now that is odd in a piece from this period. No pipe fiddling. No cigars, No cigarettes.

Some reviewers call this an alien invasion film, but not so. there are aliens on Earth as agents of influence, but there is no invasion, nor a threat of one as long as the blackboard is kept clean over night. Brains are then safe.

The Cold War is there in the distrust of the Russkies, but the aliens are not a metaphor for them, or are they?

IMDB meta data: run time 1 and 45 minutes; scored at 7.3/10 by a paltry 124 voters.

‘Coming sooner than you think,’ is the opening title card.  About time, cried the fraternity brothers!

Made fifty years ago, this film is an anticipation of reality television, even before ‘Death Watch’ (1980).

Sex O card.jpg

The set up? The televised trials for a place at the next world Sex Olympiad are underway in a television studio. Watched from a control room by the bored producers, clad in paisley pajamas, who are dedicated to keeping the viewers apathetic in a society where

‘it is better to watch than to do.’  

They watch and so do we.  The vicarious sex on the telly is to sate the libidos of the audience so that there is less reproduction.  (Pornography has never done that for the fraternity brothers.)  There are other sex program catering to the artistic. Another program is aimed at reducing the appetite for food through custard pie throwing. Very Three Stooges. There is a joke about this in the credits with a long list of consultants on pie throwing, including Bernard from ‘Yes, Minister.’

Paisley PJs.jpg Those jammies.

In general the purpose of television is to quell the emotions, drives, and impulses of people because they cause conflict.  The goal is a quiescent society. like Canberra on Saturday night.  

This situation has gone on so long that the current generation we see no longer seems to know the larger context or purpose or the historical evolution of the industry and the society it serves. It just is this way.

Everyone speaks a clipped functional language.  The television producers are High-Drive people.  The audience they cater to consists of Low-Drive people, the vast majority.  That translates readily to the world of Channel 7Mate where the producers cater to an audience they despise and make millions doing it. No one goes broke underestimating the tastes of that demographic where urine drinking is a competitive sport.

Finding the balance in this television game is tricky.  Nat with eyebrows that often speak for themselves is pressured from above by the Controller, a standard BBC term, to improve his programs and threatened from below by a underling who wants his job. Situation normal in an organisation but mercifully this depiction is pre-KPI so there is no cloudy and vague McKinsey-speak further to confuse matters in the name of clarity.

Two disruptions occur.  First an artist arrives in the studio and he wants to upset people with horrifying pictures.  Think of Evard Munck’s ‘The Scream’ or the Twit in Chief smiling.  Ugh! These people are indeed horrified by the art.  The studio High-Drives are so cocooned they have never seen an unpleasant sight. The artist tries to disrupt a broadcast to show one of his pictures and becomes one himself when he falls to his death! 

Eyebrows, however, finds the pictures fascinating, albeit unsuitable for broadcast. He is, perhaps, not quite as superficial as he seems, then into his life comes a personal crisis when a child by his first wife is tested as Low-Drive, which will reflect badly on him.  He has no interest in Ex or Child except as they show in his file. He is a very model of a modern McKinsey manager avant le mot and only thinks of his KPIs. 

The idea emerges of isolating a couple on a deserted island amid cameras so that viewers can watch them cope. Eyebrows and Ex volunteer with Child. These three missed Scouting and know nothing. They do not know what fire is let alone how to start and maintain one or to pull a vegetable out of the ground on the windswept rain-soaked island in Holland Park to which they are consigned.

They have copious instructions from Wikipedia on an iPhone which are frequently consulted. Eyebrows had an iWatch in the studio bit he did not take it to The Island where he went low tech.

The program is called ‘Living Life.’  The audience finds it amusing and it is a hit. The audience by the way is represented by a focus group of twelve garbed in pink sweatshirts and pants. These are the Low-Drives of Channel 7Mate.

Without the professor from Gilligan’s Island, Eyebrows and Ex are hopeless.  They have been spoon fed so long that they only know the shape of the spoon. Child falls, breaks an arm, and slowly dies of an untreated infection.

Focus group.jpg

The sweatpantsers find that hilarious. Ratings soar. (See, like ‘Death Watch.’)

The inevitable comparisons are the E.M. Forester story ‘When the Machine Stops’ and George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.’  Though as to the latter, there is no hint here that there is a regime oppressing people per Orwell but rather a commercial enterprise giving the Pink Sweatpants Nation what it wants, when it wants it, and how it wants it. Is not that broadcast populism, or democracy? Responding to what the people want is one definition of democracy. 

This is another gem from the fecund typewriter of Nigel Kneale. The players include Reginald Perrin and the estimable, but here very young, Brian Cox. I found it on the Internet Archive. 

It was filmed in colour but only a black and white archival print remains. The expensive colour film was reused though why the BBC did it in costly colour at a time when there very few colour televisions to see it on is anyone’s guess.

Inspired by this viewing, I will look for ‘Death Watch.’

IMDb meta-data, 1 hour and 27 minutes, rated 5.1/10 from 60 voters.

A road movie in space as the lonely space trucker Bruce with 20,000 tons of Iowa hog fat picks up an escape pod passenger.  Not quite a hitchhiker but close to it.

Trucker card.jpg

They get to know each other and then they encounter The Dark Object and they struggle to survive.  They bond. Bruce is in the Channel 7Mate demographic.

Moral, space travel is boring.  Subtext, watching boring space travel is boring.  

Trucker action.jpg

Very. 

This is a no budget exercise written, produced, directed by one of the actors. See. It was posted to You Tube by the maker by way of a release.

I managed to watch it to the end but then, strangely, forgot about it until now quite a time later. 

Not to be confused with ‘Space Truckers’ (1996), which on the IMDb ranks at 5.2 or a mere 0.1 higher despite its much bigger budget and some fine actors, e.g., Dennis Hopper, Charles Dance, and more.

IMDB metadata: 1 hour and 37 minutes @ 3.9 from 479 friends of the producer.

Half Sy Fy and half an ersatz James Bond thriller from Italy.

Stardust card.jpg 'Staggering?' No more like numbing.

The first Earth flight lands on the Moon, and its four-man crew sets out to do some science, collect samples, survey, map, and gawk at Terra. (They do not light up.) But they are not alone!

There is another ship, a round June bug with external retracting landing gear. The fraternity brothers thought it was cute, more so later when it gave birth.

stardust_ship.png The June bug on the Moon.

After a standoff, two of the Terrans meet the aliens who are as insecure as Ivy League graduates who have to tell everyone immediately and repeatedly that they are Ivy League graduates, and boast again and again about their superiority to the Earthlings. Superior, maybe, but tactful not. The chief proclaimer is a chump-cha Twiggy in a platinum wig. In addition there is a wise old owl, and robot who seems nicer than Twiggy and smarter looking than the wise owl. Pretty sure that wig was used again later in ‘Sette uomini d'oro nello spazio’ or ‘Star Odyssey’ (1979) without Twiggy underneath.

'Superior,' did she say, time after time, and yet they can’t change a tire on the spaceship, which is why it is stuck on the Moon waiting for some road service retards from Earth to wander by. How superior is that! The Terrans volunteer to change the tire, while Twiggy repeats the scriptwriters mantra. Owl gets all faintly and the Terra doctor notices he has leukaemia. Tire changing will do that.

Twiggy and the Earthmen join....forces to treat the disease in the owl. Because they are so superior the aliens have neither a doctor nor medicine. Did she say superior? Well maybe it is a superior form of leuekmia, which the fraternity brothers thought mainly afflicted the young. Mr Owl is no spring owl.

Best treatment for leukaemia on Earth is to be had in Mombassa. Mom bosa? In Kenya. Sure.

The big June bug ejects a mini June bug and an away mission to land in east Africa. Twiggy brings along one of the really big-button remoters for geriatrics just in case. Superior technology, not! It gets put to good use.

The wise old owl goes on about the union of the two peoples of Earth and owls. The fraternity brother responded to that idea with enthusiasm.

There we switch to James Bond, complete with a villain sporting mirror-shined loafers and stroking a hairy pet. Blofeld slumming. Another wanna-be villain.

It’s like this. The Superior Beings with a flat spaceship tire and leukimea have a stash of diamonds. Blofeld knows this because one of the four Earthmen contacted him to rat it out. (Disclosure statement, I fast-forwarded past this revelation, so that is my interpretation based on what happens next.) Blofeld also knows that they are going to the clinic so he plants his killer nurses there with Uzis up their... It’s a trap!

Earlier the army had wasted screen time trying to blow up the ship, the robot, and the director’s chair. Something. Anything.

Later there is confrontation and shoot out on the Moon. The traitor gets it. Blofield gets it. Twiggy gets it.

To union or not.jpg Union at last. The end.

Never seen anything quite like it. It is a genre mongrel, part drive-in Sy FY and part low-budget James Bond. There are other mongrels in the Sy FY kennel, usually noir thrillers like ‘The Atomic Man’ or ‘The Amazing Transparent Man’ and others that blend with musicals, krimis, ghost stories, and .....

The levitation effects were fun. The robot unmasking was neat. The June bugs large and small were cute. It must have used everyone in Kenya as an extra.

But, really, 3.9 seems high.

IMDb Metadata 1 hour and 20 minutes of Dali Time, rated 3.0/10 by 670 time wasters.

‘It Conquered the World’ (1956) was Zontar’s first effort at Terra domination. But Zontar had a sibling and here it is. Sexing Venusians is beyond even the fraternity brothers, so we will leave it at ‘It.’

The Dallas production company copied ‘It Conquered the World’ nearly line by line and scene by scene, except at the coda. It is not a continuation of the previous story but a tired and trite repetition of it. The plagiarism is so literal that it even includes the same 1950s ethnic accents for some of the most minor characters. However, the decor, fashions, hair are all of the 1960s.

Zontar Venus.jpg

John Agar, about whom more below, saves the world once again, single-handedly as he prefers. This is done after his wife and his friend try to kill him. Macho Man that he is, he kills his wife, but bonds with his friend. Is this man-love?

The acting is uniformly wooden. Agar is the exception; he is robotic: stiff and mechanical.

Copied yes, but the homily at the end differs. Most Sy Fy films have some kind of coda. At the end of ‘It Conquered the World’ Peter Graves told audiences that humanity would prevail because humans have feelings, emotions, compassion,…. [ad nauseam]. In this outing, Agar’s text does not celebrate all that girly New Testament stuff, but declares humanity will endure because we think, reason, do science, and such. Hooray! Banned in anti-Vaxxer states across the nation.

That pulled me up short. While ‘It Conquered the World’ is a better movie, this is a better message.

‘It Conquered the World’ is a better movie at 4.9 on the IMDB opinionmeter, though in the basement, because it has much more energy, vitality, momentum, and tension than this leaden exercise.

Once again John Agar’s (1921–2002) feet do not touch career bottom. He kept it up for nearly another forty years! For a man who was second to John Wayne in ‘Fort Apache’ (1948), ’She Wore a Yellow Ribbon’ (1949), and ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’ (1949) this is a long way down. After marrying America’s sweetheart, Shirley Temple, he found a greater love in the bottom of innumerable bottles of alcohol, so the story goes, and that love ended his marriage and put dent in his career.

The titles indicate the substance of this selection of his oeuvre.
‘Revenge of the Creature’ (1955)
‘Tarantula’ (1956)
‘The Mole People’ (1956)
‘Daughter of Dr Jekyll’ (1957)
‘The Brain from Planet Arous’ (1957)
‘Attack fo the Puppet People’ (1958)
‘Journey to the Seventh Planet’ (1962)
‘Women of the Prehistoric Planet’ (1966)
‘Curse of the Swamp Creature’ (1966)

In most of them he played an authority figure, a scientist or an army officer, something he never was.

That career came as a result of his marriage. After he married Temple, her studio hired him, put him through acting school, and cast him in his first film, ‘Fort Apache.’ When she divorced him friends like John Wayne tried to help him with work but the shambles continued. Despite it all he kept acting, in his way, when not in jail for drunk driving, assault, harassment, stalking, petty theft, and such, yet he has a long list of roles on the IMDb, the last released in 2005 after his death. He is another Hollywood high diver. Started out on top and plunged to the bottom in no time at all.

According to the cinema oracle, IMDb, there is a Zontar Television series. Tempting….

IMDB metadata 1 hour and 7 minutes @ 5.0/10 from 1246 time wasters.

‘The aliens are coming! The alien Russians are coming!’

II poster.jpg The lobby card misleads. As usual. There are no zapping flying saucers.

The Cold War is very cold and John Carradine, with his cadaverous appearance and other worldly voice, leads the spooks once again.

He was a nuclear scientist who adds sugar to his radium and blows himself up. Sad. His dear friend and colleague ruminates on the morality of atomic weapons in the aftermath with his comely daughter and Igor. B o r i n g.

To liven things up comes the Zombie Carradine, looking even more cadaverous and spooky than ever with the pancake makeup. No, he does want a cup of coffee. He is there to lay down the law. His dead body has been put to work.

This Lazarus is speaking for the otherwise Invisible Invaders (the I-Squares) who live on the Moon, and have done so for squillions of years (without paying a cent of rent). Not even the really big telescope at Mount Palomar that Bruce Bennett used when Carradine was the 'Cosmic Man' (reviewed elsewhere on this blog) could see them or their works. They are INVISIBLE. (That is music to the film’s producer because it means no special effects budget is required.)

Indeed the main effect is shuffling foot prints so we know the Zombie alien is coming. It seems the Zombies are invisible, too, well, some of the time but not always. Consistency is not a Zombie virtue.

The budget cutters have been at work on the Moon, and to economise the I-Squares are using the Earth's dead as Zombies. We are told often in a radio voiceover that there are hordes of them rampaging around killing the living to convert them into Zombies to meet their KPIs, Killing Performance Indicators. Yet we only see six of them, all men in suits with neckties and all of them 1950s whitebread. We see them about six times. It looks like two takes, repeated and repeated, one coming down a slope and one on the flat, all in Bronson Canyon. The property values never recovered from this exercise.

Why do the I-Squares want to depopulate the Earth? Are they anticipating the Solar contamination of Paris Hilton? The fraternity brothers have no idea. Situation normal.

Carradine is not there to negotiate, just to threaten. He tells his ruminating old buddy to call on world leaders to surrender and be quick about it, which his buddy does by going to D.C. to pass the word where he is laughed out of court. The carrion the press join the fun with spinning newspaper headlines. Situation normal.

Though the threat is global we only see the Yankee response. Not just whitebread, but only Yankee whitebread.

‘No more Mr Nice Guy,’ declares an disembodied Carradine (whose body has now gone onto to another gig), and the I-Squares begin inflicting disasters on the world. First, they take ‘I Love Lucy’ off the air and riots follow. Then they cause the New York Yankees to lose the pennant. Can it get any worse?

Yes, Richard Nixon gives speeches. Aaargh! Enough. There is stock footage of fires, floods, and famines that result from Nixonionisms.

Now D.C. responds by throwing all the resources of the mighty Federal government into the problem. These resources are: one ruminating, aged scientist, his assistant Igor, his daughter who bites her knuckles, and John Agar, proving there is no bottom to touch in his career descent. There is also one jeep and a panel van, and one, only one, radiation suit. That’s it. The Boy Scouts were always better prepared for Armageddon than that.

Fiir agains II.jpg Life on Earth depends on these people!

This is the Arsenal of Humanity? Blame the budget cutters! Fortunately, they have an in with the script writer. Plus now that Carradine has gone, the Zombies are not only stiff-legged, they are stiff-brained. There is no ethereal voice to scare everyone.

Despite the absence of Whit Bissell from the lab, the aged scientist hits on the killer weapons for the undead dead Zombies whose bodies are inhabited by the spectral I-Squares.

Taking a page from Bissell’s lab manual in ‘Target Earth’ (1954) (reviewed elsewhere on this blog), the aged ruminator prepares a sound ray. (Hey, that is what it is.) It focuses Beach Boys songs onto the Zombies and the ‘Good Vibrations’ are too much for them. They are driven from the cadavers and die. Die, alien, die! The fraternity brothers liked that.

Igor chickens out but recovers. From this episode we know he has no chance with the knuckle-biter. Agar sleepwalks through most of it, and his stunt double in the radiation suit does the heavy lifting. But there is no doubt he got the girl.

While the I-Squares are Reds in invisible disguise, they are so geriatric with all the foot dragging that, well, they would fall over their own feet. If left to roam around they would eventually do themselves in.

The sets are empty. The film editing leaves in much that should have omitted, like the firing range targets in some of the explosion footage. Most of the, er ahem, story is told through radio voiceovers. Always a sign there is no sound technician getting paid. The direction is static, usually a sign of one-take. No one moves once the focus is set, so that it does not need to be pulled again. The screenplay is…. (what is the right word…) absent.

John Carradine must have been working off some gigantic karmic debt in doing all these one and two day gigs in Z grade films. This would have been half a day for an old trouper like him.

John Agar, well, what more can be said. He is another Hollywood high diver. Once a second lead to John Wayne, he fell to these catatonic depths. He is leaden here, no doubt responding to the director’s orders. I have described his descent in another post.

The director is that speed merchant Edward L. Cahn who could turn these things out in five days or less, much loved by producers for getting it in the can. He could do fifteen of these a year, but no one can watch that many in a year, and retain sanity. I could not find a picture of him on the inter-web.

That the IMDbasers give it a 5.0 average irritates, since the better ‘The Cosmic Man’ (1959) is 4.7 where Carradine brings an interplanetary Marshall Plan.

Metadata from IMDB: 1 hour and 12 minutes, 4.5/10 from 302 opinionators

A shadowy figure offers world peace and an interplanetary Marshall Plan, while curing a polio-stricken youngster, and in return is then gunned down by men in uniform. Ah, the 1950s when the worlds were so much simpler.

cosmic_man_poster_02.jpg This lobby card wins first prize for irrelevance to the movie it purports to summarise. There is no spectral green figure in a cape, and the insert in the upper right refers to a ten second blur.

While it repeats the tropes from many of its Sy Fy genre stablemates there are elements that appeal to viewers over the mental age of the fraternity brothers. (Think of them as part of Channel 7MATE demographic for whom ‘Top Gear’ is high culture.)

Before the twists, the set up. An orb is found suspended in mid-air in Bronson Canyon, a favourite Hollywood locale where Randolph Scott dealt with many a villain.

Orb.jpg
It looks like a large golf ball without the dimples.

‘Can’t have that,’ declares Smokey, the park ranger. It might fall on someone. Unbeknownst to millions of visitors to Bronson Canyon there are many secret atomic military bases in the vicinity, and Smokey calls in the police and they call in the uniforms. A Commie plot is suspected in all but word. No one thinks to call Sam Snead, the golf ball expert of the day.

Someone also calls in Herbert Brix, a scientist from Mount Palomar, who is shown driving out of the parking lot of this famous installation, not once but twice, in exactly the same film footage. There are no interiors of the big telescope there.

Thereafter the colonel on the scene and the scientist spar over what to do. The colonel wants to contain, capture, control, crush, cut, and do other manly things to the sphere, which continues harmlessly to hover.

Brix wants to think, to look, to inspect, to test, to speculate, and to do science, perhaps even communicate with the owner of the golf ball.

Brix doing science.jpg Brix more science.jpg Brix sciecne sicncei.png Brix doing science.

‘Thinking! Who has got time for that,’ bellows the colonel! ‘It is a threat!’ (The fraternity brothers have always had their suspicions of golf balls because they always seem to be guided by unseen forces.) But the colonel’s efforts, adumbrated above, are ineffective, so reluctantly he listens to Brix.

Brix surmises from no evidence apart from the script that the golf orb came in peace and is a vehicle and that its passenger has disembarked through the forward, invisible door. The colonel telephones the general, who is too lazy to come and see for himself, for ever more soldiers to find this infiltrator. A cordon bleu is thrown about Bronson Canyon much to the annoyance of Charles who lives there.

The soldiers and more scientists converge on the spot and put up in an inn whose widowed proprietor has a crippled son of, say, ten or eleven. Dad was canceled in the Korean War a few short years earlier and the widow took the payout and bought the inn where she can attend to her boy. It is out of season but now she has a full house. Cha-ching goes the cash register.

Meanwhile, a peeping Tom seems to be about, causing much consternation among the citizenry who pressure the police, who pressure the mayor, who pressures the army which pressures the scientists. Much pressure to Do Something.

With all the coming and going at the inn another fellow shows up, rugged up in an overcoat, a floppy hat, and wearing coke bottle glasses.

Carradine.jpg What else could he be but a scientist in that regalia.

He speaks in the voice of John Carradine. Shiver. He speaks ever so slowly and formally that we know right away he is not of this vernacular. The widowed proprietor mistakes him for another scientist and gives him a room in the back where he can rest. We know he is golfball orb lagged from his travels.

Brix tries to reason with the colonel, and the colonel listens and even rebuts part of Brix’s argument. Nice. Reason.

Enough! Carradine’s two-day contract means he has to hurry up and spill the cosmic beans. When the whole group is gathered in the inn, JC dowses the lights and reveals himself as the Comic Man, the first of the cosmonauts. Yes he uses that last term, which latter became identified with the Soviet space program so he must be a Commie. He warns against nuclear weapons and war, and offers the help of the Cosmonauts in development that will lead to world peace.

He does not exactly reveal his very own self since he is invisible, being from another universe, dimension, bad dream, or something. Or maybe he is the prodigy of the Invisible Man and Invisible Woman as reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

To Brix this message fits with the low key way the Cosmic JC has been going about things. First Contact is always tricky in Sy FY. First the alien has been trying to scout the place, steal some of clothing, and drink some coke to get those glasses.

To the colonel it is Yalta all over again, once more. This peace will be slavery. Better dead than contented! That seems to be his motto.

Meanwhile, JC has taken a liking for the crippled boy who teaches him to play chess. Nice.

Having seen enough, JC prepares to depart. In so doing he takes along the boy! Alien-napped! A hostage! The worst possible interpretations flow fast and furious. The colonel is ready to nuke the place! Better to destroy the boy than lose the boy.

JC puts aside the boy and as he alone approaches the golf ball orb he is blasted by the United State Army! Makes a Twit proud to see one harmless old man chopped down.

In a nice touch, the switch is not thrown by the colonel, but by another scientist called in by the colonel because Brix is such a sissy. This scientist does it, he says, because he want to detain JC. Ah huh. Intentions aside. JC is cooked. He disappears into the dust, and blink, the golf ball orb is gone.

The boy, on his feet, walks to his mother because he is now cured of his disability.

Whew.

It was not clear to this jaundiced viewer if the colonel got the message about the boy, or if he cared.

Nor is it clear what the other cosmonauts will do now that JC is dust. But no one in the script seems worried about that.

Meanwhile, the slow but sure Brix has insinuated himself with widow. The colonel can tell the general he will not have to move.

It is easy to see this tale as social criticism applied to the trigger fingers of all those uniforms. That was risky in those days of Cold War uniform worship.

It is also refreshing in the Sy Fy genre to see a scientist who is not mad and who is not completely ineffectual. The colonel, having seen many other Sy Fy movies supposes Brix is ineffectual because he does not understand what Brix is doing. In fact, his science is what provokes JC into revealing himself and it is mainly to him that JC speaks. This annoys the bristling colonel no end. He and his men try to shoot JC in the dark after hearing this Yalta message.

Generally in Sy Fy, there is no science at all, a mad scientist who started all the trouble, or a bunch of clipboard-carrying do nothing scientists. Brix is none of these.

His brief conversations withe colonel make sense.

One critic speculates the John Carradine must have been working off an enormous karmic debt by taking every part in every bad movie he was offered. He certainly did.

The critics linked to the IMDb page deride the film for its poor special effects. It is after all a magnified gold ball and some claim to see the dimples. The shadowy shots of the invisible Carradine are mostly murk. As a creature feature, it lacks a creature, despite the lobby card above. Moreover, there is little ka-boom to keep the retards happy.

However, its biggest sin on the keyboards of these critics is that it repeats the message of Klaatu from ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still.’ Peace on earth, good will, and harmony for all. ‘Boring,' cry these critics. ‘Been done,’ they say.

What clots!

There are no original stories. It is how the tale is told that makes it interesting, and this low-key telling with some respect for science and scientists is out of the ordinary. The romantic element does not get in the way of the major plot, whereas in many films that would have been the cause of tension between Brix and the colonel. While the widow does a scream or two, she is mostly window dressing. The tension is about what to do and nothing else. The paraplegic boy is integral to the plot but not a tear-jerker.

That is, the elements are in balance and the focus is always on the main plot. Aristotle would approve.

It is noteworthy how little science there is in many Sy Fy films. The aliens appear and the cast blasts them. Sometimes a lab coated scientist, inevitably Whit Bissell, fine tunes the blaster and bang, that is it. In many, there is no science at all. They are played as mysteries, or thrillers. Period. ‘It Came from Outer Space’ (1953), a personal favourite, has no science in it, after Carlson puts aside his telescope in the first two minutes.

Herbert Brix, ever heard of him? He was an Olympic athlete whose physique led him to play Tarzan in a film serial when John Weissmuller beat him out for the feature film role. Brix liked the life but, unlike many, realised his limitations. He quit and took acting lessons for some time, and then changed his name to leave behind his he-man persona and became Bruce Bennett, and returned to become an accomplished supporting actor. This outing would have been one of his few romantic leads.

He has a easy manner, a slow smile, a reassuring baritone, and fills this bill well. He supported Bogart in ‘Sahara’ (1943), ‘Dark Passage’ (1947), and ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ (1948). He quit a second time and went into real estate in California and did well. He is described on Wikipedia as a recluse who did not attend fan conventions, do interviews, reply to would-be biographers, and such as many retired actors do. He stayed married for sixty-seven years and died at one hundred.

1 hour 19 minutes: 7.0/10 from 20,081

It is a creature feature; it might even THE creature feature, but is it Sy Fy? Janne Wasse includes it on his Scifist because there is much pseudo-science in it about geomorphology, geology, geography, geostuff, topography, evolution, riverine systems, and the like. It is not the usual astronomy and space flight but it is science but there is not a mad scientist in sight.

Creature_from_the_Black_Lagoon_poster.jpg

The title passed into the vernacular two generations ago, understood by people who have never seen the movie and do not want to do so, and it spawned two sequels in an era when such follow-ups were rarer than is today a good film from Big Hollywood. More than 20,000 ratings puts it in the inner circle for such films on the IMDb. The two sequels were ‘Revenge of the Creature’ (1955) and ‘The Creature Walks among Us’ (1956) to be watched only for those who pursue the complete set, say the experts. Note that the sequels each had a distinctive title without a number on the evident assumption that audiences could figure it out. Not so today when numbers guide the prepubescent ticket buyer: Rocky 19, CGI Crap 13.

Here is the set-up. A strange fossilised skeleton is found in the upper reaches of the Amazon River. So strange is it that the Americans on sabbatical leave nearby become interested. These Americans are Richards Carlson and Denning and Julie Adams. Denning is the dean of a research institute, and he is totally preoccupied with funding, whereas Carlson is a rock-chopper, and Julie is the theorist whose work is praised more than once as vital, though we neither see nor hear any of it. To gold plate the Sy Fy credentials they take Whit Bissell, ever a fifth wheel in such capers.

Antonio is the local man who hires the boat and crew. Nestor is the captain and he is ready when the chips fall. Equipped they return to the site of the discovery to find two of Antonio’s men slashed to death, as though a crazed Canberra budget-cutter had got them. Oh, oh.

Well it is a jungle and such things, if distressing, are to be expected so they continue and set a guard. Much sweating in the Jeff Bezos sun follows with no result. Then after seminar gobbledegook, they decide to go further up river into….the Black Lagoon. Nestor. having peeked at the script, is not so sure this is a good idea but the money wins the argument.

With scuba gear there is much arresting underwater photography. However, the highpoint, which every viewer remembers, is the parallel water ballet between the lissom Julie Adams on the surface with a backstroke and….the Creature in depths below mimicking her turns, evolutions, and strokes. These are hormones falling in love with a vision come to his dark, remote world.

Watr ballet.jpg

We know, by the way, that he slashed the peons earlier but we do not know why, and we never find out.

As Julie disports to wash off the hot day's toil, she treads water upright to call to a Richard, and the Creature reaches for her foot.

Tickle.jpg

It is delicate, almost shy approach. It tickles her toes and with a start, off she goes.

Julie and Carlson are a couple, very much so, but it is explicit from the near the beginning that they are not married. That was a risqué thing to say in a 1954 movie but there it is. They spend much time…together, when Denning thinks they should be earning his crust. There are words, low key but serious, about KMIs, Key Money Indicators.

Then a guard gets slashed and footprints are found from the Lagoon to the camp. The footprints are of a gigantic….creature!

Denning wants to capture it, seeing headlines and patrons throwing money at the institute. Carlson wants to take pictures of it (with largest iPhone ever seen) and come back with specialists to study this merman, a link to our primordial past, as heralded in the opening voiceover. (Not on the Fundamentalist list of top movies this one since it has much to say about evolution from the seas.) Julie wants to communicate with it but how…? An SMS? Antonio wants to get back for soccer game because Pelé is playing. Nestor wants to get paid. Whit Bissell patiently waits for a cue as supporting actors must.

Then, suddenly, it does not matter what they want. The Creature kills another peon, then after hiring a beaver as a consultant, damns the entrance to the Lagoon. They will have to fight their way out. They do. Denning is fish food, after saving Carlson, who saves Adams from a fate worse than a GOP majority.

The fraternity brothers counted: three missiles from the underwater spearguns stick in the Creature, he was shot three more times by a rifle from a distance, scorched with flaming kerosene, and blasted innumerable times up close by pistols, and still he went on. With skin this thick, he should be the dean.

For its time and setting, it is notable than all the peons had names, and the one who is wounded remains with the crew in the care of Julie, who as a theoretician can give him sips of water which no one else could do. When some of them are killed there is stunned silence and grief on the part of the principals that such nice and helpful chaps got wasted. By contrast in ‘The Snow Creature’ (1954), reviewed elsewhere on this blog, none of Japanese-speaking Nepalese peons have names and their deaths are merely inconvenient, not an occasion for regret and remorse.

Although she is assigned the screaming duties, Julie does pitch in during one crisis with more vigour than 1950s damsels were usually allowed. She had a subsequent long and distinguished acting career, but she is only ever remembered for this role, as she ruefully acknowledged in later life.

Though the discussions are abbreviated, it is also noteworthy that the Creature here is accorded some respect, again unlike ‘The Snow Creature’ (1954) which is treated as a big, huge, lab rat. Divided though they are in intentions, at the outset neither Richard means it any harm, but both want to prove its existence, one for further study and the other to reap publicity that will fund more B movies. Alternatives to bam-bam are aired and debated. Not so in most creature features of the era, where bam-bam is the first and last option as per the Snow Creature.

The Richards are B Sy Fy aristocrats, each with an impressive pedigree.

Two Richards.jpg Spot the Richards.

Carlson is so ordinary that he is everyman, slightly withdrawn, thoughtful, and not an action man, but when action is required, well someone has to suck it up and get it done, and he does.

Denning’s character has a little edge here, which differs from his usual Mr Libra roles. The two of them spend most of their time in their underwear, ah, swimsuits, and it is evident to those with a sympathetic eye that there is gut-sucking going on.

Denning had been on the way up in A films before World War II, but when he returned from three years in the Army he had been surpassed by newer up-and-comers. He could not get any work.

With his GI loan, he and his wife bought a van in which to live and caught and sold lobsters off Long Beach to make a living, while he went to one audition after another, landing a few very small roles. Enough to give him hope of more to come but not enough to eat. One cheque a year is not enough. Evelyn Ankers, a scream queen from B movies, his wife, more or less gave up and concentrated on the lobsters.

By 1948 he had proven himself again: photogenic, compliant, always prepared, responsive to direction, affable, stable, reliable, and helpful if an another hand was needed on the set to do something. He went where the work was for him, to B pictures and made his career there.

The Hollywood Star System of the era had many laws and one the chasm between A and B pictures. The B pictures were made by B picture units and players. A young B picture director, writer, or actor, might rise to A-land and an A actor could slide into B never to return, but there was no free movement back and forth between the two worlds. All tickets were one-way. There was a similar wall between the A-land and television, whereas there was no such block for the B world, which is why as television grew it was populated with those from the B picture world in front of and behind the camera.

As Denning got back into the casting calls, Ankers gave up the lobsters to grace the silver screen once again.

The director was Jack Arnold. His name in the credits is almost always a guarantee of a brisk pace, artistic set-ups, quality camera work, good special effects, and care in establishing the context so that the action makes sense.

None of the actors ever saw the Black Lagoon that viewers see. They did their work in California getting wet in a water tank outside the studio. The Lagoon footage, including the ballet with the Creature and Julie’s body double was shot in Florida.

One critic at the time called it King Kong underwater. The Creature is the last of his kind and he discovers an impossible love that drives him to destroy those who get in his way, and finally to his own destruction. Well, something like that.

It was made in 3-D when that was the fad du jour. Creature features were made in 3-D for a few years, but it died because (1) it was expensive to shoot, about twice ordinary cost, (2) it was then expensive and difficult to project, and (3) only a few effects worked in 3-D.

Reasons (1) and (3) might not have been decisive, but (2) was. To project a 3-D movie in the Rivoli on Second Street in 1954 required two projectors (not one) and Dale McCulloch had to synchronise them to the single individual frame. One frame out of sync and the film became a blur to the audience, four of five out of step was an LSD trip. Moreover the film reels were so large even a modest feature like this had to have an intermission so that the second reels could be loaded and synchronised. The big studio sent technicians around the country to train projectionists, like Dale at the Rivoli, on projecting because it seemed that was the wave the future. Then it waved goodbye.

Metadata from IMDb: 1 hour and 29 minutes, 7.7/10 from 37,942 opinionators.

In a flying saucer Earthmen travel by hyperdrive to far Altair sometime after AD 2200. Vroom. Yes, Regina’s own Frank Drebin leads Bart Maverick, Warren Stevens, Comic Relief, and Richard Anderson on a voyage to discover… Anne Francis. That’s the way the fraternity brothers saw it.

Drebin had already had an 'Appointment on Mars' ('Tales from Tomorrow' [1951]) and he is the honcho.

Lee Tremayne (uncredited) tells us in an opening voiceover that ‘men and women in rocket ships’ were now colonising the stars. But no women are to be seen on the United Planets Cruiser C 57D, nor any dark faces or slanted eyes. The sizeable crew is all whitebread.

Still in 1956 merely to mention women on rockets ships was progressive.

Robbie the Robot, voiced by Marvin Miller (uncredited) of ‘The Millionaire,’ is only upstaged by Francis’s micro skirts. He never carries her around per the lobby card.

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Robbie is much too reserved and she is too demur for that. But still when you have never seen a man, maybe a robot is fully functional.

It is ‘The Tempest’ with phasers, lasers, a robot, and an Id. The staging is elaborate and it was budgeted as an A-picture in Cinemascope colour. Mr Miniver is there as Prospero, a man in black, and he makes a good fist of some bad lines. When Robbie and Francis are not filling the eyes, the long vanished Krell dominate proceedings with their Leggo sets. But when Id appears, well, that’s it.

Drebin and company are come to check on an earlier expedition which stopped reporting a year ago. As they approach planet Altair the usual dire warning ‘Do Not Land’ comes on face-time. As usual they ignore it and land. So far, so usual. The inside of the flying saucer is elaborately done compared to the office roller chairs and sun loungers in most Sy Fy of the day.

On Altair they find that only Miniver survived from the earlier expedition. His Miranda, Francis, was born on Altair, and he quickly assures Drebin, known as a stickler for law and order, that he has the marriage licence (and birth certificate?), paying homage to 1950s conventions: Francis was not born out of wedlock. Miniver made Robbie and Robbie made everything else, including the Frank Lloyd Wright desert home in primary colours they inhabit. That is one busy Robbie.

Miniver and Robbie.jpg Mr Miniver and Robbie.

All the others from Expedition One were killed by some dark, unseen force. Only Miniver was spared, perhaps, thanks to his Dunkirk service. It is hard to believe. The Stranger from Venus would not buy it.

Francis has a tame tiger which later tries to attack her in the company of Drebin who keep showing her his interest. This is a harbinger of what is to come.

By some mystery the ship is damaged. Then two crewmen are murdered! Yikes! The flour is in the gravy now. Lumps and recriminations follow. Drebin shows more interest in Francis.

There is a marvellous scene where an invisible creature attacks the saucermen's encampment. The pyrotechnics are startling. After the invisible creature, made visible in outline as it tries to cross a force field (the spaceman’s friend, along with Tums), kills two more red shirts, Bart Maverick, for reasons known only to the scriptwriter, rushes forward to meet it mano à mano and becomes, briefly, a roman candle. RIP Bart.

Now Miniver admits Robbie did not do it, that is, build everything in the sprawling ranch style home. The Krell and their wondrous machinery are revealed and displayed. Wow and wow! Many arresting visuals as Miniver does a show-and-tell. Key is the brain booster, which he has used to become an Egghead rivalling Kevin. He impressed Drebin with his knowledge of vexillology. vacuumology, ventriloquism, or something. No one ever explains Robbie's origins. Is he Krell, or not?

Books.jpg Brain booster. Get it?

Every time Drebin shows his interest to Francis, something bad happens. (No, not that.) Stevens as the doctor figures it out. Sigmund Freud has been there and Prospero-Miniver, thanks to the brain booster, unconsciously projects the energy of his thoughts into actions to get the remoter. Evidently, he eliminated all the original party this way, too, probably so that he could watch what he wanted to watch and at full volume. Accidents happened, repeatedly.

Doc tries the brain booster without reading the manual. Bad idea. RIP Doc. Francis and Drebin plan to move to New Jersey. (Bad idea.) Miniver struggles and finally, taking a page from the playbook of James T. Kirk, Drebin talks Miniver to death by citing Ziggy in the original Incomprehensible. ‘Ugh,’ cried the fraternity brothers.

The survivors, accompanied by Miranda and Robbie, take off. Altair goes boom. Must have been New Year’s Eve. No one else will ever again be tempted to rival Kevin as a big brain by using the Krell device.

Homebound.jpg 'Home, Robbie,' they cried.

The end.

It always ranks near the top of lists of the best Sy Fy, the more so when CGIs cartoons are omitted. More than 30,000 ratings on the IMDb is something for a 1956 movie in this genre. It has a strong but surprising story line, some great visuals, an elaborate background, a slow build-up, and agreeable characters. The comic relief is mercifully brief.

It starts with a twist, putting Drebin in a flying saucer (rather than the aliens) and stays a little off-center of the genre conventions thereafter. Quibbles follow.

If Miniver wanted them to leave, why did he damage the ship, making it necessary for the ship to stay? Maybe he should have visited the big brain booster for a top-up on cause-and-effect.

But then why did id kill all the original survivors of the first mission? Was it really a fight to the death over the television remoter? That seemed likely to the fraternity brothers.

Yet many of the critics linked to the IMDb have some churlish and childish things to say. One derides it because the King Gee uniforms worn by the crew are not shiny. Yep crucial that. Another wants more creature and less feature. Back to the kindergarten with that 7MATE viewer. Another says Shakespeare was not much. [Gasp.] Others tell erring readers which sofa on which they sat to watch it. Crucial that. Others wanted more action and less thinking. Look in a mirror for that.

At the time of its release the pompous ‘New York Times’ reviewer Bosley Crowther waxed enthusiastic about it. Now that is odd. His reviews of Sy Fy were usually condescending, disdainful, and snide, altogether like some professors talking to undergraduates.

Ever after Drebin went to Police Academy to earn a living back in New Jersey, and Miranda set up as a PI in ‘Honey West.’ Miniver went to the Senate to ‘Advise and Consent’ and a reborn Bart went all ‘Maverick.’ None of the B Sy Fy regulars are in the cast.

Nor are any of the crew Sy Fyians. The screen writer, director, and producer were generalists with no Sy Fy visas in the CV. The soundtrack of tones is noteworthy, though where was the theremin?

Metadata from the IMDb: 1 hour and 15 minutes, 5.4/10 from 294 viewers.

Patricia Neal, driving along a country lane, is blinded by an unexpected light and jerks the steering wheel. The automobile goes off the road and smashes into an inconveniently located oak tree. Wallop! Afterwards a copper examining the wreckage says no one could have survived that crash.

Stranger screen.jpg

Yet later that afternoon Patricia walks into the pub with a few bumps and bruises. Earlier we saw feet approaching the smashed car with Pat sprawled across the steering wheel. When that copper arrived she is nowhere to be found and neither are those feet. 'Where is Pat,' asked the fraternity brothers?

Those are no ordinary feet.

They belong to a man who appears in the village and things gradually happen. He is a stranger, and he later tells the local that he is from Venice.

At the pub we have the local doctor, a stiff-legged publican, a barmaid, Mr Smarm who is Pat’s squeeze, and, shortly, two police officers from the site of the car wreck. Into this gathering walks the Stranger.

He is dead calm, two degrees below laconic. He sits. Yes, he would like a drink. Offered choices he chooses by pointing to a glass. Beer comes. Here is the first clue he is an alien. He says he does not like that (warm beer), Suspicious are aroused.

The doctor tries to chat him up. This stranger has no small talk. That is not all he does not have. ‘What’s your name?’ asks the quack. ‘I have no name.’ Oh, oh.

That is not all he does not have. The quack tries to take his pulse. No pulse.

Mr Smarm tells the cops to arrest the Stranger to find out who he really is and find where he has hidden his pulse. They discover they cannot touch him, try though they might. But he agrees to let them take his fingerprints. He has prints but not human. Well, of course not, he says, ‘I am from Venus.’ Oh, Venus! By now they believe him.

At times he can read minds, but at other times with no explanation he cannot. Blame the script writer or a low battery.

He has no money. Now that is serious in a pub. Who is going to pay for that undrunk beer! The Stranger suggests he work for his keep in the garden. He likes the garden and spends much time among the flowers while the others discuss their reactions to him. This quiet flora-loving stranger appeals to Pat. After Gort he is a change.

Smarm sees his career stock rising if he capitalise on this Venusian, but he does not seem to be jealous of Pat’s affections. Fool that he is! He can use this Stranger to become famous or something. He calls in heavy weights from the capital. The terms ‘London’ or ‘Whitehall’ are not used.

The Stranger says he wants to meet world leaders to explain his purpose once he recovers from flying saucer lag. Nuclear testing will alter the Earth’s orbit and such a change would have an impact on Venus as well as Venice. In return for putting aside nuclear weapons, Venus will help Earth develop other technologies (like solar and wind). A major delegation awaits in the mother ship once the Stranger has arranged a meeting.

The Heavy Weights say no world meeting can be arranged so quickly in the circumstances. Secretly they plot to lure the mothership into a trap so they can seize its technology. (Aside, technology transfer does not work that way. Give a caveman an iPhone and he will use it to spilt rocks. I have tried this with the fraternity brothers and confirmed this result.)

Wait! The Stranger has an iPhone that lights up when he communicates with the mother ship. When he loses it, he becomes animated for the first time.

It is slow without special effects. The Stranger does not have a shiny suit or any of the other paraphernalia of Sy Fy aliens. There are a lot of extras as soldiers surrounding the area and fencing it off. Many rustics are shown listening to radio reports. Much equipment is seen to be deployed and it does not look like stock footage. It hardly seems a cheap production as many critics claim. It does seem a story that does not need a lot of artifice.

The process by which the Stranger reveals his origins and convinces the others is compelling. The reactions of the members of the group in the pub are interesting, too. The scientists, the doctor and later a figure from the Ministry, believe the data about fingerprints and pulse. After a nocturnal visit from the Stranger, the publican regains full use of his stiff leg. He then is convinced. Others are slower to admit it.

The barmaid prays for guidance and then accepts him at face value as a gentle soul from God's creation. No doubt acceptance would see it banned in Alabama where only the sins of football players and Twits are forgiven.

The setting is deliberately ambiguous and this subtlety has been lost on most critics. The radio announcer has a mid-Atlantic accent, Neal carries coal-country Kentucky in speech, the publican is very British, others are muted. Moreover, when the coppers come from the road accident they wear gaudy uniforms and carrying sidearms. These are not 1954 Bobbies. When the Heavy Weights arrive the offical car sports at tricolour flag, not the Onion Jack.

While a journalist is present, he waits for government permission from the Ministry of the Interior to publish. The village looks British to be sure, but there has never been a Ministry of Interior in the United Kingdom. What self-disrespecting Brit journalist ever waited for permission to publish? D-Notice be damned!

The setting is contemporary to 1954 but it is not quite England and certainly not the USA. Orthogonal rotation gives us a variant reality making the setting more general. This is not England, this is anywhere. Most of the critics seem to think these aspects are a result of the small budget, whereas I think they were contrived to add to the uncertainty, the mystery, and the strangeness. It works.

Some of the cockamamie interpretations by critics may stem from the origins of the film. Yes it is resonant of ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ (1951) though it stands on its own.

Yes, Patricia Neal plays a similar role in this outing as she did in ‘The Day Earth Stood Still’ though she has much less to do here. Whew! No Gort. She had moved to England with Roald Dahl and the gossip is that they bought a house and to pay for re-decorating and furnishing it, she went back to work. But of course the film world in Great Britain had a pecking order and she was not in it.

His Lordship Desmond Leslie, a specimen who defines the English eccentric, was a UFO devotee, and he set up a shelf company to produce this film Neal wanted work and he had just the thing for her.

Helmut Dantine plays the Stranger with an Austrian accent (though in one scene he switches through French, German, Spanish, and Russian to prove what an alien he is).

Gelmut.jpg

He had been imprisoned by the Gestapo for anti-Nazi activities after the Anschluss and it took a really big bribe to spring him; then he fled to England. He made a film career there in 1940s playing Naziis. Never a lead but always there in a dozen films in 1942 alone where on celluloid the Brits were clobbering the Nasties. Post war he moved to California in the hope of more and varied work in the bigger pool there but he never quite made it as an actor, and realising that he went into directing and later producing.

The film did not get a theatrical release in the United States, perhaps because Twentieth Century-Fox protected its investment in ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ or because there was no theremin music. It has been presented under other titles, e.g., ‘Immediate Disaster’ and ‘The Venusian’ on late night television.

Not easy to find and perhaps that explains the few IMDb comments and votes. I watched the version at the Internet Archive which seemed to be complete. There are edited versions about the gossip says.


This Soviet classic (‘Planet of Storms’) has been an undercover agent of influence in plain sight for years in the West as ‘Voyage to the Pre-Historic Planet’ (1965) and 'Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet of Women’ (1968). The fraternity brothers have wall posters for the latter film. These latter two films were cut and pasted for English-speaking audiences. Sherlock Holmes put in an appearance in the former and Mamie van Doren in the latter. Wall poster, indeed.

Planet storms card.jpg

Having feasted on these two simulacra, it was time for the subtitled original.

In 1962 the Soviet Union was winning the space race and to promote that achievement rubles flowed into science fiction movies like this one. When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon, the ruble spigot was turned off.

Here is the set up. Three space ships are approaching Venus. While they are all crewed by Russians, there is someone who say ‘OK’ a lot and his name is Allan Kern. There is no military symbolism or insignia to be seen.

Maybe the effort is a combined international effort. The film opens abruptly and no explanation is given, though there are many references to the Earth rather than Russia.

Each ship has a crew of three. Wallop! Two ships remains. What else? A meteor clobbers one ship. The carefully contrived plan of landing is obliterated with it. Earth instructs the two remaining ships to wait two months while another space ship is launched and joins them.

Two months eating airline food and using that plumbing. No thanks! They come up with a new plan and Earth control rolls with it. (Sherlock did this part in one of the Cormanites.)

The he-men decide to leave one ship in orbit and to land with the other in two stages. First a surface lander will drop down to scout a spot with good duty free shopping, and then the second ship will land there. ‘OK,’ say Allan Kern.

The third member of one crew is a woman and she is left in orbit to communicate with Earth. Unlike the Yankee Sy Fy of the time there are no sexist remarks about a woman doing a man’s job, though she is the squeeze of the captain of her threesome, their relationship is chaste. So far so good. She is left in orbit not because she is a frail and flighty woman, but because she knows to turn on the radio as communications officer. Push the big red button. Ah huh. Nice try. That did not fool the fraternity brothers for one minute. She is left behind because she is frail and flighty woman.

While the men are resolute, she dithers later and in one light moment she floats around the cabin. None those resolute newish Soviet men would do that. Even so this subtlety is way beyond Hollywood at the time.

On Venus they find a lot of Godzilla’s cousins and fend them off, sometimes with revolvers. It is an inhospitable place, boiling mud, flowing lava, clinging plants, rubber dinosaurs, a lot like Wyoming. Kern has a big robot called ‘John’ who is snooty. Unless addressed politely by name, he ignores instructions. Think Siri, who does not react well to some of the things the fraternity brothers say to her. Robo John also serves as a mobile computer. Try putting him in a pocket.

Robo John is useful but in the end it fails the Laws of Robotics. Bad robot!

Unlike so many British and Americans on other planets, these Soviets do show scientific interest in it, collect samples, discuss findings — when not hacking and shooting the fauna — and speculate about intelligent life. So many of the Anglo-Brit planeteers are bored, indifferent, napping, smoking, and lining up for the return trip without a backward glance.

The Soviet equipment was not made by the lower bidder, because it works, and they return to space, and presumably to Earth. But we get no triumphal return (unless I hit the off button, too soon).

They have a hovercraft that is also a submersible, though it is not quite up to James Bond-standard.

Hovercraft.jpg

Even so the under water sequences are well done, As is the episode of weightlessness mentioned above. These effects would have been quite fascinating at the time. They still are considering there is not a CGI in sight.

As they leave the planet the ending is spooky, but it is not connected to the preceding story, and seems an afterthought, as though inviting Roget Corman to do what he did with it, and get two more movies out of it.


Meta data from IMDB: 1 hour and 17 minutes 6.7/10 from 2263

Hard Rock come to San Angelo in a big way. The bigger they are, the harder they fall; the more they fall, the more of them there are. Figure that out.

Mono Monster card.jpg

Monoliths, yes; monsters, no. This is a creature feature without a creature. Just the sort of thing that confuses the fraternity brothers.

These monoliths missed Stonehenge and Carnac and hit the desert Southwest as so much Sy Fy did in the 1950s. A r-e-a-l-l-y big meteor hits the desert. Boom!!!!!

No one notices. Richard and Babs from ‘It Came from Outer Space’ (1953), reviewed elsewhere on this blog, usually spot meteors but they must have at their anatomy lessons.

A park ranger finds a rock chip on the road. It looks different. Odd. He takes it back to the office. Too bad.

This first act is very classy. the ranger stops the car to take a look. He uses a rock to chock the wheel of his vehicle on the slope without a thought. Then when it is time to go, he kicks it away and notices its peculiarity. He tosses into the car for subsequent examination.

Back in town he takes his kit and the rock into the office, which has been closed all day in the hot sun and he opens up the door transom and the back window for the air. This is all so brisk and natural that it hardly seems a prelude. But every one of his actions has unforeseen consequences.

Spoilers below.

Later he kips on a cot in a side room and, as it does in the desert, it rains hard and water blows in from the back window onto Rocky lying on the work bench.

Next morning his offsider, the affable Grant, comes back from a road trip and finds the back room a shambles and his buddy….. standing in for Lot’s wife — petrified.

Bad. Inexplicable. Much Geordie speak about rocks, which did not remind me at all of the Geology lab I did as an undergraduate. Nothing would. Gone.

Conclusion? Rocky did it! Others fall victim to Rocky and his friends. Worse.

Edie’s prize pupil goes all ‘Them!’ and is rushed to LA and an iron lung kept on standby for Sy Fy movie use. More Geordie speak about carbon, silica, and pancetta. Who knows?

Rain on the rocks makes them grow into monoliths. Nice skyline shots of monoliths against the desert sky painted on a travelling matte. Tourist attraction in the making, but then….crash they fall over and fragment. Each fragment grows into a monolith in the rain and then falls over. Thus do they at once proliferate and move. They are mindless and destructive. Reminds me of some people I know.

A call to Mr Pomfritt, doing a summer job at the weather bureau, says more rain is coming. Yikes!

Mons coming.jpg Here they come!

No effort is made to negotiate on either side. Grant with the help of a visiting professor (for once good for something) and the local newspaper proprietor figure it out. As much as Rocky likes water, Rocky does not like salt water. Okey-dokey! Now what? The Gulf of Mexico is too far away. The Pacific Ocean is in use. But, but, but the Morris Dam is just around the corner. Sprinkle all the salt shakers in town into the reservoir and then blow it up!

Everyone agrees this is a good idea. The fraternity brothers always like a big bang.

By this time higher authorities have been alerted and are arguing about whose KPIs cover the situation. Consultants are showing each other Power Point presentations about paper, scissors, and rock. Lawyers are amassing billed hours without uttering a word. Pollsters are drawing samples to interrogate. The Twit in Chief is playing golf. This is crisis management at its best.

The rocks keep coming, falling on people, animals, farms, but missing Republicans.

Without waiting for approval, Grant blows up the dam. Much congratulating follows. Edie falls into his arms. ‘Aw. shucks.’ mutters Grant. The End. Off camera the police arrest Grant for blowing up public property and turn him over to Homeland Security and their r-e-a-l-l-y big waterboard.

It is crisp and direct. The staging of the rocks is striking on a wide screen. The actors are solid, including some ever reliables, like Lee Tremayne and Trevor Bardette. Phil Harvey as the first victim is utterly convincing as an ordinary Joe doing his job. Edie Hart is luminous long before Peter Gunn came along.

Director Jack Arnold is credited as a writer here and his sure hand shows. Those who do not know Jack, should. Paul Frees supplies the narration and Troy Donahue makes a brief appearance.

IMDB metadata: 1 hour 26 ,minutes 5.6/10 from 199.

Despite the lobby card and the newspaper advertisements, much to the disappointment of the fraternity brothers, there was no monster. There is a lady, and about her more at the end.

Lady Monster.jpg

The ubiquitous Curt Siodmak published ‘Donovan’s Brain’ in 1942 and it spawned this movie, and two others. Siodmak went to this well again in ‘Hauser’s Memory’ (1968) which in turn generated two derivative films.

In distant Arizona a castle in the desert is inhabited by the requisite mad scientist, in this case, the singular Erich von Stroheim. Igor assists. Upstairs is a live-in niece who is the lady of the title, and a grim and taciturn house keeper. The cast of Otranto is complete.

A small aircraft crashes nearby and the local plod sends for the mad scientist since he is the nearest doctor. The pilot died on impact but his passenger is barely alive. This is Donovan, a shady millionaire.

Ah ha!

Erich has been trying to keep alive brains from monkeys, rabbits, rats, and Republicans in jars. The laboratory is full of backlit jars of milk with objects within. Igor and the niece pitch in as required. The housekeeper looks on in disapproval.

Donovan dies and Erich gets his Egyptian nose pickers out and extracts his brain. ‘Hand me another Mason jar,’ he cries! Niece hesitates but Igor obliges.

The brain lives! (Donovan was not a Republican if he had a living brain.)

Next Erich dials up the brain for a chat. Much EKG tape comes from the adding machine. Strange sounds are heard. The lights dim. Igor sits up with the jar as if with a sick child.

He and Donovan’s brain commune. Igor is putty to Donovan’s indomitable will. He manipulates Igor who assumes his personality, strong, bitter, commanding, mean. Yes, this manager is managing. Shenanigans follow.

Donovan's widow sheds not a tear but seeks the ill gotten gains. Her oily shyster lawyer ably assists. In the middle it becomes a film noir as Donovan reborn in Igor sets about his plan, the niece tries to break Igor away from Donovan, while Erich encourages the brain-bond, and the housekeeper dusts.

There is a conclusion in laboratory. Where else? Much sugar glass is broken. The housekeeper gives notice with a revolver. The niece tips over the Mason jar, and dinner is on the way.

This product from Republic Pictures is a classy B movie with superb lighting and deft camera work. When Donovan possesses Igor he is lit from below. The lab seems sometime large and other times small to fit the mood, thanks to the lighting and camera work. The pace is snappy with the exposition kept to a minimum. Most of all there is Erich von Stroheim, mad and bad and unique.

A number of early John Wayne vehicles bore the Republic badge. If not an A studio it was B+ in the Hollywood pecking order of the day, until about April 1944 when ‘The Lady and the Monster’ was released. There is quite a backstory.

The President of Republic pictures had seen the niece skate in Europe and brought her to Amerika where he would make her into a movie star. She changed her name from Hruba which no one could pronounce, except Roman Hruska, to Ralston. She had no acting interest, training, experience, or ability. It shows here in this her first wooden role. She spoke little English and recited most of her lines phonetically. Because it was a vehicle for her, the President threw much more money into this picture than the usual B feature. A lot more. He did the same in the next four or five films she made until Republic Pictures was near bankruptcy and a management coup turned him out. The notoriety she gained from this scandal briefly extended her career but it soon ended.

Erich von Stroheim’s career was a roller coaster. In 1936 he stole the show in 'La Grand Illusion' and in 1950 he almost did it again in ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ In between he played mad scientists, shoving George Zucco aside. No easy feat that. He started years earlier as a director and acted, at first, only to generate income for his projects, and to put schnapps on the table.

Richard Arlen who usually played light weights turns in a superb performance in the transformation from skirt chasing Igor to deadly Donovan.

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.


IMDB meta data: 1 hour and 15 minutes; rated 4.9/10 from 735 citizens.

A late entry in the British quota quickie market, this creature feature has the magnified insects so readily available to film producers at so little cost. Sometimes called 'Cosmic Monsters' with typical British understatement.

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Before enlistment Sergeant O’Rourke of ‘F Troop’ is working at laboratory in rural England with a mad scientist who is doing experiments with magnets. Iron filings are flying everywhere. Masses of electricity are used to provide snap and crackle. One lab assistant gets zapped to show how dangerous this work has become as ever more juice is applied.

The juice is so great it knocks out the electricity supply to the telly in the local pub showing a darts competition. A rural riot follows, i.e., much grumbling about them doings.

The lab coat of the zapped assistant is filled by a new recruit, a woman! Much consternation! No one else qualified is available, or wants to go to Midsomer. Alright, but Sergeant O’Rourke will have to supervise her closely. Does he ever!

The lights keep going out during his supervisions. Can two fit into a lab coat, says the smooth talker? Ah huh. The fraternity brothers were making notes of this technique for their own use.

Tucker.jpg Sergeant O'Rourke bespectacled and lab coated on the far right.

Three things follow. First a disfigured character in the woods rapes women, but since it is 1958 the word cannot be used. Second, magnified bugs are also spotted in the woods. (Moral? Stay out of the woods!) Three, Klaatu’s shy little brother is also in those crowded woods, where he shaves his whiskers to fit in with the locals.

Little Brother helps the plod nab the rapist and this puts him in solid with the pub crowd. To serve as a credential for Bro seems the only purpose of the disfigured rapist. British subtlety at its best.

Now accepted Bro then tells Sergeant O’Rouke and the new assistant that the steroid bugs are feeding on the magnetism of the mad scientist’s experiments. Worse, these experiments are tapping the Earth’s core (where James Mason and Pat Boone are at this very moment) and will throw it off its axis with the disastrous result of flared trousers. Talk about a big deal, this is a BIG DEAL.

This is a lot to swallow with warm beer. To prove his points Bro also lets them know, he is from Davana (’Not of this Earth; [1957] reviewed elsewhere on this blog). This pair will believe anything. They nod. After all his clothes fit, he bathes, and does not drink warm beer ergo he can hardly be British.

The mad scientist is not going to scrap his life’s KPIs on the say so of a clean-shaven alien. ‘Show me the flying saucer,’ he cries! He shoots people who get in his way as he throws more levers and switches. Snap and crackle! Sergeant O’Rourke uses his hand-to-hand stunt work to pull the plug.

Klaatu’s bro gets in his saucer and leaves. After watching him take off everyone denies seeing the saucer.

He may be from Planet X, who knows. We find out nothing about Planet X, strange or not.
The title is misleading but that is common in this realm. ‘The Man from Planet X’ would be a more apt title, but that was taken in 1951.

The film is compact and stays pretty much on point. The acting is accomplished. Even Sergeant O’Rourke does a passable job of wearing a white coat to keep the electricity stains off his suit. The alien is enigmatic and low key and that compels interest, though he also seems much like ‘The Stranger from Venus’ (1954), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. Very much. Exactly very much.

Such B movie Sy Fy features, with or without creatures, in the States are usually set in cities, where stock footage of crowds can be used to punctuate points, or on military installations in the desert southwest where the Marriott alien hotels are located. Nearly all of them have a Cold War patina. There are ominous references to ‘them.’ Under most beds, there among the dust bunnies, are the Reds.

In contrast, the quota quickie Brit entries are often rural, where it was far cheaper to set up the lone camera and do middle distance shots, and the Cold War metaphors are attenuated, or even absent. That is the case with this title. Government officials are involved, but they try to stop the project when it keeps going over budget, and Dad’s Army gets involved, too, but to go bug hunting. The military applications of the really big magnets are mentioned in the abstract with no reference to 'them,' the enemy, nor are there any pinkos lurking around. No Steven Geray to add the seasoning of an Eastern European accent after his failure to grab ‘Tobor the Great’ (1954), reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

These quickies often were produced in association with American companies and so an American element was often included so that they could be marketed in the USA, too. ‘The Man from Planet X’ (1951) has a Chicago journalist in the Scots gloaming, the ‘Four Sided Triangle’ (1953) has a damsel come home from Yankee-land to stir up hormones, ‘The Atomic Man’ (1955) had two American journalist slumming in rural England, and so on. Each of these films is reviewed elsewhere on this blog. In this entry we get no backstory to explain Sergeant O’Rourke. For that omission much thanks, since backstories are so trite and trivial.

IMDB metadata: 1 hour and 17 minutes at 5.9/10 from 817

The Cold War was never hotter than in 1953 with the see-saw Korean War piling up a body count of GIs. Was this but prelude to World War III? A lot of pundits at the time said so every day. Some wanted it to happen, believe it or not. This was the atmosphere in which audiences first saw this movie.

Magnetic Monster card 2.jpg The lobby card implies a creature, one that came alive.

Richard Carlson, ever reliable in B movieland, is sent to investigate strange occurrences at a local store. Voiceovers by Carlson with date and time noted, give it a documentary tone throughout.

Everything in the store is magnetised. Clocks and watches stop. Washing machine doors open and close. Loose change flies up to and adheres on the ceiling. Carlson stokes his chin and decides to go upstairs.

But wait! He and his bespectacled offsider, King Donovan, don radiation suits to do so because the click-click of the Geiger counter is excited. This is noteworthy.

Haz Mat suits.jpg

The official line of the Atomic Energy Commission at the time was that radiation was a nuisance. Wash your hands, wear a coat, take an aspirin, and there will be no problem. For an example of this treatment of radiation see ‘The Atomic Man’ (1955), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. In 1953 fears of radiation were denounced by red blooded idiots as Commie fake news to weaken popular support for the development of Made in the USA nukes. There were those who denied the lethal but unseen effects of radiation.

Carlson finds upstairs that an emeritus professor, never to be trusted those types, has created a new element that combines nuclear radiation and magnetism! They also find Igor, dead. Both the element and the prof are gone, though the lingering aftereffects of the element remain virulent. Kind of like after a Twit in Chief speech, a deadly miasma remains.

The police, army, and girl scouts are called into the crisis, says the Carlson in a documentary voiceover. All are shown to be responsive and responsible. Ha! Well it is a work of fiction, so there are no petty bureaucrats obstructing things, no police officer dedicated to coffee drinking, and no soldiers hiding in the motor pool for a smoke. No girl scouts short a cookie or two.

They follow the invisible spoor of the prof’s radiation with Geiger counters aclicking to reassure the public. Big Brain that he is, prof has packed the deadly element in his tattered briefcase with his lunch and taken plane to Washington on the DC to prove to the world that he is no useless emeritus, but a genius. The element disables the airplane and it also kills him. Two dead. More follow.

Again radiation suits proliferate and great care is manifested in taking possession of the deadly element, so unlike most 1950s presentations of uranium, let’s call it that to keep it simple. No one rips off the hazard suit mask for close-ups, as we saw in ‘Arrival’ (2016).

Carlson and company peer through a microfilm reader at lights projected on the wall through the bottom of a Coca-Cola bottle in cutting edge science. The element which is here christened Carlsonium absorbs energy in great gulps and doubles in size every twelve hours. The fraternity brothers are a lot like that: Ingest everything and grow ever larger, but they are peaceable. Not so Carlsonium which sucks and sucks. It sucks!

The bigger it gets, the more it sucks in energy. Not even AAA batteries are safe from it. Lead-lined rooms cannot contain it. More deaths occur.

After thirty minutes of this, Carlson, who must have had a dog, decides to see just how much energy it can eat. He will pump so much energy into it that the resultant indigestion will kill it. Is this a plan or what?

Fortunately he knows just the place to stage this food-orgy (fraternity brothers, that is, 'food orgy’), Nova Scotia. For generations people have wondered what Nova Scotia was good for and now they know! How quickly people forget, because the Nova Scotia Tourist Commission no longer mentions this event among its claims to fame.

Thanks to some quick typewriting in the screen play, they devise a way to transport the Carlsonium to Nova Scotia. Once there everyone dresses for a 1930s German expressionist film in broad brimmed fedoras and ankle length, tent overcoats. There they find yet another scientist pursing the KPIs of his life in a vast machine that can zap 600,000 watts of electricity at a time. Think of all those light bulbs.

MM machine.jpg Nova Scotia, Light, and Power

He welcome Carlson as a fellow scientist only to recoil at the plan to blow up the ever enlarging Carlsonium along with his gargantuan machine. Americans only go to Canada when they want something, he thought to himself, but this is too much.

This machine is served by a horde of workers dressed in ‘Metropolis' (1926) fashions. At one point Carlson puts on a flat soft cap to fit in and then takes it off.

This is the only discord in the film. Fisticuffs result. Guess who prevails. Ka-boom. End.

This third act is mostly cut from an earlier German film, 'Gold' (1934). and inserted into this story line. Knowing that to be the case, one can easily see it, though for a naive viewer it might slip by with the pace of the story, which is lively. Robin Bales, always quick to slice and dice a film, when he reviewed this one made no mention of this insertion.

The director and writer was Curt Siodmak.

Hasuer memory.jpg

This was the first of producer Ivan Tors’s three films featuring the labours of the Office of Scientific Investigations whose agents, like Carlson in this instance, were styled A-Men, the ‘A’ being for Atomic.

The titular reference to a 'Magnetic Monster’ puts in the phylum of creature features, but, in fact, there is no creature to this feature. Just a lump of coal. It is inert. Even less energetic than the fungus of ‘Space Master X-7’ (1958), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. The story of this latter film is similar in the pursuit of a carrier of a dangerous element. Though the film at hand has more lively direction, makes some effort at science, and has a more engaging lead than ‘Space Master X-7.’

IMDB metadata: 1 hour and 33 minutes of Dali time at 4.3/10 from 2197 time wasters.

Based on an early novel by Stanislav Lem, this is a Polish-East German production made at the height of the Cold War.

lem_ogimage.jpg Stanislav Lem, the prolific Polish Sy Fy writer. Do not blame him for this mish-mash.

The original screenplay was, sources say, larded with anti-American pronouncements absent from the novel, and as a result Lem quickly disassociated himself from the project.

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The title above translates as ‘The Silent Star’ but it has been released in several versions, each with a different title. On You Tube it goes by ‘First Spaceship on Venus.’ The edited versions are dubbed and the dubbing is also done in a way to fit the intended audience.

The You Tube version was bought, edited, and dubbed for an American audience at the bottom of a double bill or for the insatiable and indiscriminate drive-in audience. The import of the changes are many.

Set in far distant 1985, an international space program led by the Soviet Union is about to launch the first mission to Mars. The magnificent eight are multi-national, a black African, a Japanese, a Chinese, an Indian, an East German, an Italian red, and a Tom Cruise, and the Russian who is the leader. World peace prevails apart from the petulant ructions of Tom Cruise.

In the many cut and dubbed versions the identities of the Russian and American are reversed, and in France the East German becomes French, in Italy….

In the American version the Russian who has become an American by the magic of dubbing arrives at the assembly point in a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21. Sure they put telephone books on the seat so that Tom Cruise could see.

Assembled, the team mutters platitudes, and just below eye-level Tom Cruise struts.

Meanwhile, in far Eastern Siberia scientists have dug up something from the site of the Tunguska meteor impact of 1908. It is never clearly shown on screen but it is referred to as a wire. This wire has been fabricated, made of elements not of this Earth, and is a recording device. There is an incomprehensible signal on it. Many squiggles are shown on the Moog synthesiser. Meanwhile, the astronomers have gotten their imaginations to work and concluded from the angle of impact that the meteor came from Venus. Sure, after Tom got out of the MIG the astronomers stood on the telephone books and there was Venus. Morning star and all that.

In response to this evidence of an intelligent communication from Venus, the mission is changed from Mars to Venus. Out come the slide rules to chart a new course. Done!

Off they go. There are no tensions among the crew, though one of the crew tries to re-kindle a romance with the Japanese, who in the original has many things to say about the Hiroshima bomb dropped by those horrible Americans. These remarks are omitted in the American version. Oddly enough she does not discuss the Japanese Occupation of China or Korea.

At no time in this 1959 production does one of the men marvel at a woman who is a scientist as unnatural, odd, or against nature. Nor does any of them try to hit on these two women. It is unique in the annals of 1950s Sy Fy to lack sexism. Just the kind of perversion to be expected from the Russkies. They also take along a small robot tank that rolls around doing nothing much.

They land on a murky, dank, dark, gaseous Venus that must have been impressive on the wide screen in 1959 when the original version was released. This Venus is altogether other worldly.

No one is home.

Donning their credible spacesuits, they wander around using up fuel and oxygen until they stumble on to some feral USB sticks in the shape of small Northern Territory blowflies. They find a giant golf ball into which they plug the USB flies and set about learning Venusian, which is similar to Venetian so the Italian in the crew quickly masters it.

The ‘Ah ha’ moment arrives. The signal on the wire in the tundra was targeting data for a Big Bertha energy weapon on Venus. The aim was to blast Earth. Why? Because it is there.

Ever the peril with low bid contractors, Big Energy Bertha failed and the backfire depopulated Venus in one big bang, that no Earth astronomer noticed. What were they doing to miss this? We’ll never know.

There are some striking images of humanoid figures burned onto walls like some in Hiroshima from that atomic blast. This sight unhinges the Japanese woman. The design, art work, and travelling mattes were very well done on Venus.

The Venusians died to the last before they could safely eject all the peripherals from the big, old iMac golf ball. All the nosing around by the crew has awakened the equipment which starts an ominous IOS update and by some blink of the eye we are are transported to Yellowstone National Park, home of boiling mud, some coloured but most black. This sludge is enveloping everything. Not good.

They skedaddle but in the confusion the noble American (Russian) sacrifices himself to save others. Can any one picture that midget ego doing that? No? Moving on. Two others also get killed. The remaining change the D batteries and return home. They declare the mission a success. Sure. Why not.

They have learned that blowing yourself up is bad. Very bad. Don’t do it. No. Lesson learned. Moral: blow up others, not yourself.

VEnus 2.jpg The Cosmostrator later did duty on Liberace’s piano.

Pedantic note. Venus is a planet, not a star. It does not twinkle, as twinkle, twinkle little star. It is silent in that, since everyone is dead, no return phone calls.

IMDB facts: 1 hour and 5 minutes of treacle time, rated at 3.9/10 from 219 opinionators

What happens? The Caine Mutiny in miniature. It is 2015 and the tyrannical captain of a space ship provokes a mutiny. He may have been right at the start but once the trouble starts, it spirals.

MVSpaceflight cover5BZTZlYjQ2MzAtODAyNy00MWNlLTk2ZGMtYTFhMDVhYTY1NTQ5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQ2MjQyNDc@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_.jpg
Let’s back up to beginning.

In this telling instead of waiting for the aliens to come and tell us what a mess we have made of things, the Earthlings figure it out for themselves. To add authority to this dictum, it is delivered as a prologue by a uniformed figure. It looked like a Coast Guard coat, but who knows. We need a military figure, it seems, to tell us things, and he does.

The mission is a combined effort of the USA, UK, and Canada. Strines missed out again.

The response to the unspecified catastrophes is to colonise space where further catastrophes will, no doubt, ensue. Thus Spaceflight Inter-Stellar One is on its a way to an unnamed new world to plant a colony with its crew, about which more in a moment. Fortunately, unlike most other space ships launched from Earth in Sy Fy movies this one does not encounter any meteors. Whew!

The crew consists of four married couples and the journey will take years. If a number of years was mentioned my ears blinked. We pick up the travellers at the end of their first year in space when things seem to be going fine. Happy smiles all around. ‘That won’t last,’ predicted the fraternity brothers from the back row.

In addition to these eight there is a cyborg with a human head in a fishbowl on top of a washing machine (to keep him clean). He is an interesting addition to the crew but adds nothing to the story, since he does not get around much. There are also three children, one each for three of the couples. but none for the captain and his prime mate. Indeed, this seems to be a sore point, since colonies need colonists. The fraternity brothers wondered if weightlessness might have…. They were skeptical about the gobbledegook about artificial gravity.

That the captain is twenty years older than his mate and an ugly brute might figure in the equation, too.

The final crew members are four spares, who are in a cryogenic suspension, perhaps a hangover cure. Occasionally the doctor opens the freezer to have a look at them.

The children are entertained after their school lessons with a holographic clown. A nice element but again not integrated into the story.

Scene set, now is the time to thicken the plot. The doctor has a wife and she gets woozy. Next thing you know he diagnoses her and finds a life-threatening disease of some sort. More gobbledegook follows. He demands that the captain turn back so she can be treated before it is too late.

‘Turn back? No way.’

This crew was screened in every way for this mission including health, genetics, toe nails, personality, etc. This is most elite of A-Teams, remember that. Yet they each wear a label of their assignment, engineer, botany, doctor, educator, mutineer, in case they forget. This after a year.

If her genes lack moral fiber and get sick, better she should die in space before reaching the new world, That is the captain’s line, as he refuses either to turn back or to consult Earth command on his iPhone. (That her child is on board is not brought into the story in any way.)

Much angst is developed and expended. Sometime in all this confusion the doctor’s wife, who does not want to go back anyway since it would queer the new world for her child, commits suicide by watching this film. Grim.

The doctor, now enraged, seizes the captain with the help of some others, but at least one couple remains loyal to the captain. Now he has command but the doctor cannot turn around and go back and he cannot keep El Capitan in the brig forever. ‘Smooth move, not,’ shouted the fraternity brothers.

Most of the crew are deliriously happy at the change because now they can remove their assignment designations from their shirts. Rip! Off they go. Was that what the mutiny was about? Trivial but apparently true.

The captain breaks free and regains control with threats, imprecations, Key Performance Indicators, and managementese. Mutiny, eh! That means the death penalty. He laments that it is impossible to build a scaffold or arm a firing squad. This is a sensitive New Age captain.

Ah, being a leader, he has an idea. Shove the mutinous doctor out the airlock. Oh, but wait, he is the doctor. No bother. Before we murder him, he can defrost the spare doctor to take his place, if we ask nice. Asking nice is not in the captain’s playbook. ‘Do it!’ is in his playbook.

Defrosting in haste is never a good idea, as cooks know, and the second doctor bursts out of his freezer like Boris Karloff, all stiff-legged, maybe he got arthritis in there, with tubes and sensors trailing off him. He blunders into the captain, and since this thawed doctor came out without his Hippocratic Oath, he whacks him but good. End of captain. ‘Why didn’t someone do that an hour ago,’ asked the fraternity brothers? Good question.

This thawed doctor, though strong enough to kill the captain with one blow, is smacked and dies. Body count: three.

The doctor pairs off with the captain’s widow. Spaceflight IC-1 continues with no further communication with Earth. Thank goodness.

There may have been an epilogue from Uniform Man but the remoter cut him off.

There is nothing stellar about spaceship Otranto. Space outside is a moor, a swamp, a blizzard, a creature from the IRS, a void to cut off the players. The players seem to be trying but the script gives them nothing. The doctor emotes. Some others look bored. (Ahem.) The captain seems constipated most of the time. He repeats three or four times that he has absolute authority in case we missed it the first three or four times. Remember someone got paid for writing this script.

The cyborg, the children, the holograph are all interesting but do not move the plot. Likewise at some point when the captain is berating his wife for weaknesses he reveals he is a member of R.U.L.E. Wow! What’s that? Dunno and we never find out what it has to do with anything, though the fraternity brothers taxed both very little grey cells speculating on what the acronym stood for. None of their suggestions is edifying enough to repeat here.

What is the trick to watching five Sy Fy films in one night? Simple. Do some time travelling with the remoter to select another, and another, etc. I confess to watching none of them from beginning to end, and that was a judgement.

They came to a screen near me in this order.

(1) ’Teenagers from Outer Space’ (1959) 1 hour and 26 catatonic minutes, 3.6 on the IMDB scale from 2637 tweenagers.

Teens space.jpg Acne attack!

I started with this deadly earnest movie in restful black and white. To sum it up, alien boy meets Earth girl and decides not to eradicate all life on her planet. But then he has to decide what to do with the giant lobsters he brought along to devour all life on her planet. The fraternity brothers shouted, ‘Built a barbecue and get cooking!’

While the boy is very boyish, this Jocasta looks forty. Certain lack of verisimilitude there. This viewer lasted for about twenty minutes punctuated with fast forwards, and then the urge to flip over-powered him.

(2) ’It Came from Somewhere Else’ (1988) 1 hour and 29 minutes of Dali time. An astounding 5.7 on the IMDB scale from 100 casters. The producer must have an extended family.

Somewhere else.jpg

Since ‘It Came from Outer Space’ (1953) is one the hallmarks of the Fifties surge in Sy Fy, I hoped this would be a tribute in some way. Best part was….. [being elsewhere].

It never made it. This viewer lasted ten minutes or so. In the words of one critic: ‘illogical, dopey, stupid, sloppy, strange and incredibly amateurish.’ Too kind, perhaps, but enuf said.

(3) ’Plan 10 from Outer Space’ (1995), 1 hour and 20 minutes at 5.9 on the IMDB scale from 218 ratings.

Plan 10.jpg

The title is a reference to Ed Wood, Junior’s infamous ‘Plan Nine from Outer Space’ (1959) and it opens with a copywrite infringing excerpt from that schlock, which, all things considered, proved to be more interesting than the student revue that followed. Get it? Ed Wood did it better.

(4) ‘Through the Thorns to the Stars’ (1981) 2 hours and 29 minutes of Dali time. Rated 5.1 from 932 on the IMDB scale. The original title was ‘Cherez ternii k zvyozdam,’ a Russian proverb I am told.

The version I saw had subtitles and I missed quite a bit, what with doing the New York Times crossword and going out to walk the dog for half an hour in the middle. Yet I did not feel like I had missed anything I wanted to see.

The special effects of spaceflight are very good: weightlessness, movement between space craft, the starry void, and the planet Dessa. The story has two threads. One is the strange humanoid creature found on a derelict space ship. She is weird. Looks like someone from an Eastern European death camp of the 1980s with eyes so big I began to suspect some sort of prosthesis. She is enigmatic and perhaps amnesiac.

thorns droid.jpg

For a good hour everyone wondered if she was human or android. The fraternity brothers offered to give her a physical examination, but to date that offer was not accepted.

She traces back to Dessa, a planet completely despoiled by the pollution of the evil industrialists, read capitalist, to the extent that Russians are called in to help clean it up, now that they have paved over Lake Baikal. On Dessa, because all resources have been depleted, the industrialists sell citizens bottled air, while making plans to take rocket to a brave new world to exploit. Just to make things clear for dim wits like the fraternity brothers, the chief industrialist is played by a dwarf.

When I returned from my outing with Majic, the credits were rolling. The end.

Why did I think of Mikhail Kutuzov. Do little and wait was his motto.

(5) ’The Tower' (1993) 2 hours of eternity. Over-rated at 4.6 form 467 on the IMDB. N.B. there are several films of this title.

Tower.jpg

A smart building turns on Paul Reiser and tries to kill him. The fraternity brothers rooted for the building. Paul is immature, slovenly, rude, ungrateful, disorganised, and so a hero who can outwit a door.

Toward the end of this long night of investigation, I began to think of mashing all five of these films together into one.

The Russians land on the Tower where they are seized by It Came From Elsewhere and made to watch Plan 10, repeatedly, in the company of Teenagers from Outer Space and their zits.

IMDB facts: 1 hour and 20 minutes, rated 5.9/10 from 1417 raters.

A band of four orbit Mars and head for home but the Aussie on the controls is on the wrong side of the road and they fly into the future by more than five hundred years. That is high octane.

They land on a future Earth and set about recreating the society they left behind. They encounter the giant rubber spiders that the fraternity brothers lost.

World without End poster.jpg There are no scenes in the movie like that portrayed here. Yes, another misleading lobby card.

After some trudging through Bronson Canyon they find the Mole people who are hospitable, and whose society is harmonious, self-sufficient, stable, and dying out for a lack of manly vigor. Note the bronzed Aussie above who cannot keep his shirt on. By the way, he liked time travel so much he did again a year later in ‘The Time Machine.’ Once they get the travel itch, it itches.

The only salvation for the Moles is sunshine. See, very Strine. The leader of the pack is Hugh Marlowe of the pleasing baritone who urges the Moles to go topside and live in the sun. Vitamin D will overcome their endemic anaemia, says Dr Hugh. Stories about skin cancer are Commie disinformation plot to sap the vitality of the Moles.

But topside real estate is owned by mutants because this is a post-apocalyptic society after an atomic war that ‘no one wanted and no one could stop’ intones the Mole historian. There are many more mutants than Moles though the Moles have two eyes and this allows them to have better dress sense with their cloth helmets fitting like a cloche on the men.

Mole hats.jpg Note the headgear.

Mole damsels parade about in 1970’s mini-skirts designed by Alberto Vargas, always ahead of the times.

Al Vargas.jpg Al Vargas.

At the end Hugh has convinced the Moles to go out and fight the Mutants. Ah, war, glorious war. Among the last scenes is one of the pack instructing the now healthy young conscripts on locking and loading. Even the senior Moles, once top side, shed their headwear for sunburn.

In the Cold War context the Moles stand in for those Americans who pretend a normal life is possible and do not sweep under the bed every night for Commies and those soft Europeans who just want to live in peace after two world wars. Bah! What sissies!

In addition to their dress sense the Moles favour hard primary colours that show up best in Cinemascope. The top Mole is a kindly Ray Walston without the antenna, but there are others who mislike these strangers and plot against them. As usual, a scriptwriter is the cause of the strife and it is blamed on a woman.

One of the servants who cleans up after the men was born top side and she seems fetchingly normal, but nothing comes of this realisation. When a bazooka can be made, though how remains a mystery since the Moles have no metal, who needs words. Blast them! They blast them, and the survivors live for a while after, as humanity starts long term preparation for another Armageddon.

It may seem ironic today but none of that was intended at the time.

One oddity is that early on when the crew fails to respond to signals from Earth, we see the wife of one of them waiting with two children. She is worried and distressed. In the same room the press briefing comes to a close. And the journalists respect her privacy and let her leave the room unmolested. Fiction, indeed. Polite, considerate, tactful journos. In this respect the scriptwriter gets full marks for creative imagination.


It weighs in at 1 hour and 17 minutes of Dali time with a score of 5.2/10 from 476 of the demographic.

The schizophrenia in the production is indicated in the lobby card reproduced below.

Tobot card.jpg The usual misleading lobby card.

Is it a creature feature. the creature being the robot, or is a kiddie feature? The lobby card draws the creature fans, but the film is more for ages 7-12, making it perfect for the fraternity brothers. It features a precocious and tiresome boy know-it-all. At no time does the robot scoop up a babe. ‘Our client is innocent!’ declared the fraternity brothers from the sofa. There is far more brat than babe in slow moving ooze.

Mr Handsome is Charles Drake, one time sheriff of Sand Rock Arizona where 'It Came from Outer Space' in 1953. He must have moved on and gone to grad school in the intervening year to become a scientist in this gig.

It has a thick Cold War patina because 'the enemy' is out to get Tobor. The party chiefs have ruled and they must be obeyed or else, exile to New Jersey!

‘Tobor’ is, yes, bright eyes, ‘Robot’ spelled backwards. Toby is a bot but the gossip on the street-web is that someone made a stencil to spell R o b o t for a title card but sprayed it wrong way around and there was no budget, not even in those expansive Ike years, to do it again and so Tobor was christened. There is an explanation of the name in the film, nor of the sobriquet ‘the Great’ except that Robot is mighty big.

The Prof and Sheriff Drake want Tobor to ride rocket into space rather than human monkeys because of the dangers, and the unfunded pension plans. Hmm, that makes sense. Two problems that no one notices: Tobor is a giant at 9 feet tall and weighs as much as a four sumo wrestlers. He will not fit into a rocket capsule! He barely fits into Rhode Island.

Tobor with cast.jpg Tobor the Big

In addition, the Prof has endowed Tobor with emotions be inserting a sponge in his brain box. Hmm, just the thing for space flight, a moody, home-sick, lonely scrap heap.

Just to ensure things go wrong, the Prof has also called a press conference proudly to demonstrate his bot. He might have done this to embarrass the rocket men into using Toby and not more pilots but then he asks the journalists to keep Toby secret. Sure. Tell the press all and then say, pretty please, do not use it. They broadcast all details immediately to make the job of THE ENEMY easier.

The brat plays with Toby, while the adults are Einstein-napping, and nearly destroys the house. The adults declare the brat to be a genius. Hands up all parents who would react that way. ….. Thought so.

The Enemy is led by Istvan Gyergyay better known, if known at all, as Steven Geray. Like Drake, Geray did much duty in B Land with that accent he made a perfect Commie in more than one feature, with or without a creature. He was born in the Ukraine to Magyar parents when the Hapsburgs held sway

Mr Pomfritt is there, as a journalist, before he went into teaching Dobie, who blabs all. He is a B Sy Fy stalwart. But he went straight after his malfeasance in ‘The Man from Planet X’ (1951).

Running time 1 hour and 19 minutes of Dali time, rated at 4.0/10 from 31,671 time wasters.

Conceived, written, directed, produced, and loved by Ed Wood, Jr. Because it is excruciatingly bad, it has attracted a following as witnessed by the extraordinary number of votes on the IMDb. This for a movie without a theatrical release.

Plan 9 card.jpg DVD cover.

Leaving that reputation aside for the moment, here is the set-up. The aliens have tried eight times to communicate with Earthlings. Each attempt has failed. Even when contact is established Earthings simply deny the reality of flying saucers and aliens despite the evidence in front of their eyes. Hmm. That has a contemporary ring. Climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, Tony Abbotts, unite!

Using non-Aristotelean logic, the aliens give up on living humans and decide to raise the dead (using John 11:38-44 as a manual) and work with them! Work with them? Yes, to destroy the Earth! Egads, why? Because Earthlings are violent, destructive, hostile, and aggressive.

The aliens declare that the Earthlings will not be satisfied with blowing each other up but as technology develops they will start blowing up other worlds. Does that sound like GOP foreign policy? I could not possibly say. That aliens have come to stop Earthlings from destroying the Earth, the solar system, the galaxy, or the universe is a theme in Sy Fy. Wonder why?

Since Earthlings will not negotiate, it is time for the final solution: Plan 9. Vampires provide the creatures for this feature in the dark and misty graveyard where much of the film is set. Though some scenes switch, inexplicably, between day and night and back. Is this post-modernism at work, refusing to privilege continuity!

The flying saucer makes little effort to conceal itself relying for concealment on the delusions that explain the Republican Party today.

Alein wardrobe.jpg First they iron the shirts and then shine them.

These technologically superior aliens in shiny sateen rigs are defeated by a couple of muscle men who are violent, destructive, hostile, and aggressive, in other words, typical Earthlings. That’ll show ‘em to call us names!

But it ends on a note of caution that they, the aliens, will be back and we have to be ready for them. What does that mean, ready? When they say Earthlings know nothing but violence, just blast them. That works. We’re already NRA-ready!

The production is amateurish. The cardboard walls shake when someone touches them. The flying saucer is sometimes called a cigar (and later it is lit) but it is always shown as what it was, a spinning top. The acting is painful to watch as the players struggle to remember their lines and deliver then slowly with no inflection. The sets are empty, e.g., the cockpit of the passenger aircraft shown twice is two folding chairs, confirming some perceptions of American Airlines.

There are voiceovers that are mawkish and confusing. It is introduced and concluded by a reincarnation of Charles Fort, the favourite author of the fraternity brothers.

Of the cast only Gregory Walcott seems to have had a film career, mostly in television, especially westerns when they were the fashion.

Walcott.jpg Gregory Walcott

Perhaps his North Carolina accent made producers think he was from the west. West, south, there is no difference when viewed from Hollywood.

The gossip on the web is that Ed Wood started this project as a biography of Bela Lugosi, who figures in about two minutes of the film, and then Lugosi died. Had he seen the rushes? Nothing stopped Ed Wood. He hired his wife’s doctor to stand-in for Lugosi hiding behind the cloak held to his face.

Cape.jpg Is there a doctor in the cape? Yes.

That the good doctor was a foot taller than Lugosi with a different colour of hair was ignored. For all of this and more see ‘Ed Wood’ (1994), a biopic

It runs 1 hour and 32 minutes of Dali time, scored 4.4/10 from 212 friends and relatives of the producer on the IMDB.

Outpost Zeta is a crucial toehold in a vital part of the galaxy. OK. The original garrison went off the air. A rescue mission went in, and it, too, went silent. Then a second. Still nothing. Gulp! Whatever is going on at Zeta, it is not good.

Zeta poster.jpg DVD cover.

A third rescue team of volunteers is assembled, who then dutifully make last wills and testaments. That is a sobering beginning to this low budget creature feature. They are five in number or is it six. They are slain one by one. No wonder, to defend themselves from the unknown and unseen menace they have caulking guns! Still less do they wear any body armour or space suits. The tip jar did not run to such accoutrements but the local hardware store had caulking guns on special.

When arriving at Zeta, they find a space buoy with a message from one of the benighted rescue teams warning them off. Needless to say, this warning is disregarded and they land.

Mercifully we get no backstory for these volunteers. One pales to think what this screen writer would have done with that. Mawkish, adolescent, trite, these are the words the come to mind. Yet none of them strikes this viewer as the volunteering type, pursed lips or not. They are too young to be fatalistic. They are so unlined and unwrinkled, do they have the experience and cool heads to survive where others have, evidently, not.

The squeamish medical doctor is a woman and there is not one demeaning, derogatory, or sexist remark from the Sensitive New Age Soon-to-be-Dead Men. There is also a woman scientist who squawks about the hindrance of security. Yes, one would belittle security after eighteen mysterious deaths. Sure. She is the first to go, and ‘Good riddance!’ shouted the fraternity brothers.

The team does show interest in this strange and alien world. This fact is worth noting because in many B Sy Fy entries the explorers of new worlds show no interest in the new world. These six do. There are a couple of other things to like mentioned below.

The acting is pursed lips, furrowed brows, open-mouthed stares, and many blank looks. The directing is leaden. The production values are homemade. We get a few creature’s eye view that lets the air out of the mystery too early. There is also much heavy breathing. Much.

But the surface of Zeta is eerie and forbidding with an orange filter on the lens and I got to like their red jumps suits and visored white crash helmets. I liked the landscape because it did look strange, unlike so many of these Z movies where the alien world is the producer’s backyard, and looks it. I liked the visored helmets because they were used, not opened for close-ups. It put distance between the viewer and the players with some verisimilitude. Contrast this latter point to ‘Arrival’ (2016) where the safety mask is removed almost immediately for close-ups thereafter. Such is the ego of actors.

Zeta lansaacpe.jpg The fashion on Zeta

Moreover, I liked the creature, some moving hot rocks. Why like murderous hot rocks? Because they are the descendants, surely, of the Horta from ‘The Devil in the Dark’ of Star Trek the Original Series in series one in 1967.

Deveil Dark.jpg

This film, however, lacks the mystery and the compassion of the Star Trek episode. It is played strictly as a hot-rock-creature feature, not an existential rumination on sentience, consciousness, communication, and compassion.

No surprise to see that none of those associated with this film have substantial CVs on the IMDb.

One hour and 9 minutes of running time, scored 5.5/10 from 842 votes.

More a creature feature than Sy Fy, but from a story and screenplay by that Sy Fy journeyman Curt Siodmak and starring the future governor of Hawaii, Richard Denning(er). The director was Edward Cahn.

Atomic Brain.jpg

It has a grim opening with a figure walking, dead-eyed, down a darkened, tree-bowered residential street.

A brain.jpg

Nice. It gets off to a good start.

A gangster is murdered, then the DA, each time the murderer leaves behind finger prints galore. In case plod misses them, they glow in the dark! The police swing into action, aided by the Governor. Wait! The finger prints trace back in each case to a dead man!

Yes, there is mad scientist with plenty of Bunsen burners at work, implanting electrodes into the brains of recently dead men. Being a sexist he does not body snatch dead woman and give them equal employment opportunity as criminal zombies. He powers the electrodes with radium, hence the word ‘atomic’ in the title, but the creatures are multiple not singular. Since the scientist speaks with a German accent, IMDB reviewers assume he is a Nazi, but there is nothing in the film to support that interpretation apart from the accent. In fact, the actor is Gregory Gaye who was born in Russia and he faked the accent.

His research into brains, electrodes, radium, and espresso has been funded by Frank, a notorious villain who is out to wreak vengeance on criminal business rivals and lawmen. He is as merciless as Ming. In fact, the mad scientists wants to quit but… well, research grant KPIs are KPIs

We do not get to see the body snatching but do get a look at the lead-lined laboratory, lit by Bunsen burners, Bad Frank and Mad Scientist have to crawl through some (unexplained) plastic wrap. It was an unusual effect, but there no point to it, i.e., unless in 1955 plastic shields radium. They crawl through it once and we see it four times. In case we missed it the first three times.

Atom brain team.jpg Inventory of the dead.

Denning goes around thinking, rather than kicking in doors, and is pleasant and polite, so different from current Hollywood Hop-Heads who yell, stomp, and sulk. He enjoys a normal home life with homemaker wife.

Denning glass.jpg Denning thinking.

She is the Donna Reed stereotype of the time and place but perhaps it is more honest than those Sy Fy films of the period that include a lady scientist and then thereafter belittle her and limit her actions to serving coffee and treat her as an object fo the men to fight over.

There is also pathos when one of the avuncular police officers is murdered, and who yet in death helps to undo Big Bad Frank.

Speaking of the stereotypes of the time and place. The army and police are presented as responsive, competent, diligent, dutiful… Well, it is a work of fiction. Where are the lazy coffee drinkers, the petty martinets who will not move without a written presidential order, the oh-hummers who are bored by the end of the world, the corporate underminers? No, the forces of order are not always presented in that way in creature features of the time. In 'Not of This Earth' (1957) the local police are lazy, incompetent, heedless, and unresponsive. That seemed more likely to this jaded viewer.

Many zombie movies, and this is the sub-class for this one, made during the Cold War were thinly disguised references to communism. It is easy to see how that can work. Yet in this case I did not get that impression. There is no greater purpose in the film than a few twists and turns to entertain an audience.

Cahn turned out B features ten or more a year with titles like ‘It! Terror from Beyond Space’ (1958), ‘Zombies of Mora Tau' (1957). ‘The She-Creature’ (1956), ‘Voodoo Woman’ (1957), ‘Dragstrip Girl’ (1957), ‘Invasion of the Saucer Men’ (1957), ‘Cures of the Faceless Man’ (1958), ‘Invisible Invaders’ (1959), and more. What a CV.

The facts from IMDB: 1 hour 15 minutes, 5.7/10 from 814.

The Russians are coming! But some citizens have slept through it. What an advertisement for Serta.

Backup. This is one of those Empty City/Earth movies. Where have all the (other) people gone? A few scattered individuals emerge to find…silence, more silence, and each other.

Target EArth.jpg

First they have to accept the situation: They are alone. Next they have to decide what happened? Where is everyone else? Third, what shall we do?

Tensions arise at every step.

One of the tropes is leadership. Will a leader emerge from this random assortment of individuals? If so, will there be rebellion. This premiss provides rich pickings for a screen writer.

It all goes pretty much according to formula, but if formulaic it is nonetheless creative. The opening scenes of the quiet cityscape at street level are arresting. The inserts of stock footage reinforces the abandoned look of this large city. (Chicago in the original story, but filmed in Lost Angeles. On that more later.) The beginning is very eerie and promises much.

The camera cuts to a Kathleen Crowley gradually awakening. There is no sound. None. She does not moan or groan. There is no street noise, yet it is hot, there is sheen of sweat on her, and the window is open to a slight breeze on the curtains. Silence. She fumbles around and gets dressed. We hear snaps, clicks, and snicks as she dresses, opens, and closes drawers and doors but nothing else. On the way out of the apartment building she knocks on a couple of doors to no reply. She meets no one but she seems inwardly preoccupied, as though late for a 360-degree review with a McKinsey-speaker. We notice the empty silence but she does not, quite. She hurries along the empty street and gradually realises this is not right. She comes across a dead woman lying on the street. ‘Gasp’ is the first sound. Definitely not right!

This silent opening was daring indeed, and given the attention-span deprived audiences today, no film maker would dare do it now. Everyone would reach for the iPhones in boredom to check-in on Facebook. Yet it offers mystery, tension, eerieness, the more so because the audience realises the silence before Crowley does.

Now she hurries on, we know not where, and the silence remains, until…. she turns a corner and runs into Richard Denning. Say his name with respect because he did not survive ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon.’ Later Denning was the 5-O governor of Hawaii with an office in Iolani Palace. Some CV, gobbled up by the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but making a come back as governor, and in that palace.

She is fearful and Gov slaps here around to tell her he will not hurt her! This is 1950s man-logic. Smack! See, I won’t hurt you! Smack! (Remember Denning did not write it that way and enjoyed a reputation as a gentleman professional.) After she has been beaten into submission, they club together and head for mid-town on the assumption there will information, if not people, there. Along the way they establish that the telephones are out, and no one has a iPhone. There is no electricity for radios.

Then in silence they hear sounds and trace them to a bar where a couple are carousing, devil may care. Virginia Grey and Richard Reeves are the players both instantly recognised from countless supporting roles, but here getting a lot of camera time. She has chiseled cheek bones and he is a man-mountain. Now the team is four and clearly Governor Richard is in charge. Off they go, and find automobiles have been purposely disabled. By this time Gov has concluded that there have been an evacuation.

Having just got in from Detroit, travelling eighteen hours, he slept through it. Crowly was comatose from an OD of sleeping pills. Grey and Reeves were sleeping off an alcoholic stupor before starting the next one.

It must be W A R. Yet there is no rain of bombs or missiles, just empty streets. They find another corpse.

Then there appears another citizen, frazzled, clothing askew, like he just came from a frat party, who says he has run away from the invaders on the North (Korea) Side of town, where there is indeed destruction. He is hysterical, a duty usually consigned to a woman. Nice change.

While the characterisations have been changed from the original story the narrative so far is consistent with it.

Now it diverges. For while the five gabble, a shadow falls on a building. A giant shadow. They take cover. The shadow wobbles. Is this the Amazing Colossal Man on the loose again! or The Fifty Woman who got rid of Abbot and Costello (I wish). Mr Hysterical runs amok into the street and the Shadow, a tin man, zaps him with a Gort eye-ray. Poof! That is some hysteria cure! Oh oh.

They hide in a hotel on the assumption ‘they’ will not search all the rooms just yet, because this is an advance patrol moving in from the North. Bloody Canadians! The weather has finally driven them south, and this big thing, must be an armoured polar bear. What other explanation could there be, Erich? Although how this giant will enter and search a hotel is a question best left unasked.

The deviation from the story is showing the Big Tin Man. In the story the invaders are unseen. Given how clumsy and awkward Tin is, that might have been better. Tin is slightly more agile than Chani from ‘The Devil Girl from Mars’ who tripped over his own size twenty-two shoes. This robot is stunt man Jack Calvert who make robots a speciality. This outing must have been early on that career path before he perfected a technique.

Robot.jpg Enter Tin Tin

The second deviation is that about now we get cross cuts to a military operations room with lots of extras in mismatched uniforms from an Army Navy Store. They know nothing except that something has happened. Well that confirms the street cred. Solution? Bomb it!

Much stock footage of war planes taking off, retracting landing gear, assembling in formation, flying off in great numbers. They fly over the city observed by our team, and then they are blasted out of the sky in a sun burst. Not very well done but we got the idea. Kaboom! No more airplanes. That eye-ray is a killer.

The colonel at HQ is flummoxed. 'Bomb' was the only play in his playbook. By the way would a chicken colonel be in charge of bombing Chicago, Lost Angeles maybe, but ChiTown? As per usual there is no indication that there has been any effort to communicate or negotiate with the invaders, say, by offering them Mexico, Russ Limbaugh, or Paris Hilton.

Despite radar, telephones, underlings, fruit salad, and pips, the colonel knows nothing about the invaders. On the street, we know they are tin men. Well there is only one Tin Man, but that is enough with that eye death-ray. (In high school there was a rumour that Mrs Picks who taught Latin had a death-ray called the ablative case. No one every dared test the myth. Or if they did, poof, there was no report.)

The happy campers four do not offer the screen writer enough tension so he added a psychopathic killer to the mix. He has a gun, of course, and is addled. He is also a relative of the moneybags who invested in this celluloid, and so he is a must. His inexplicable behaviour leads to the final confrontation with Tin, and it is a good thing they found can opener in time.

The invaders are technologically superior because they got there, though Canada is not that far away, are brought low by merciless Yankee ingenuity, whereby they play Bing Cosby singing ‘White Christmas’ repeatedly and this cracks the robots eye, and the cyclopes go down, down, down. Who would not? Hard as it is to believe, bombing is not enough. By the way, the ever reliable Whit Bissell came up with sound effect. Well done, Whit.

The survivors begin stockpiling more Der Bingle records because THEY will be back. These inhuman invaders were Russians in tin cans, right? Only team work and w(h)it can defeat them. Oh, and Der Bingle.

Denning Carlson.jpg Richards Denning and Carlson hunt the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Denning did an MBA and went into business which he found a bore and he dabbled in amateur theatrics where he was encouraged to enter a radio contest, which he did and won. The sponsor of the contest gave him a screen test but rejected him because he looked too much like an actor already under contract. But by now Denning wanted to escape spreadsheets and pitched himself to Paramount and was born his B-movie career, for despite his good looks, easy manner, and professionalism he never ascended the heights, but he always had work and retired early to Maui, showing his good sense.

He was lured out of retirement for 5-O on condition that (1) he never had to leave Hawaii and (2) that he would not be required for every episode. That was agreed. (The rumour is that when Jack 'Look at that Hair' Lord quit 5-O he chose to stay on Maui, too. In our visits to Maul we have been unable to confirm this story. The search goes on.) Knowing Denning's commitment to Hawaii caused his star to rise further in my cosmology.

The cynics think that the advertising department demanded that the Tin one be inserted into the movie to appeal to the creature feature market. Tin certainly does not add to the action, since he is largely immobile. Nor is the death ray all that exciting. More like a blurred screen that a mighty, crackling zap. Maybe he needed lessons from Gort.

The empty city is in fact Lost Angeles. This tip jar budget did not run to securing a police license with accompanying fee to film on the city streets, so it was done on the QT with a skeleton crew in a van going here and there in the very early morning. The film was then edited to remove any environmental sound and cut out passers-by. It is well done and the more intriguing for knowing how it was done.

1 hour and 43 minutes, 5.6/10 from 274 ballots.

A throwback from the 1950s. Word on the internet street is that it was made in 1966 and shelved. That part is easy to see why. Yet it could not have been made during the coldest part of the Cold War for reasons made clear below.

Bamboo poster.jpg

Here’s the deal. Eric the Fly Boy reports seeing a cobalt blue flying saucer during an X-plane test flight. Oh oh. That gets him grounded as a nutcase. We saw it, too, and know Eric is solid.

He becomes obsessed with vindication. Then he gets called to D.C. where he meets Dan who considers Eric an expert on flying saucers. DC Dan is a big wheel and telephones with demands hither and thither to throw his weight around. Fly Boy Eric is impressed and signs on.

Signs on to what? Well he did forget to ask, but DC Dan tells him anyway. There is a flying saucer sitting in Red China and we are going to get it before Mao realises it is there and gets his chopsticks on the iPhone within. Mao doesn’t know? No, it is in a remote part of China. We are later shown this with matte paintings of the Alabama Hills outside LA. Mountains equals remote. Got it.

Plus the saucer landed itself in a dilapidated, roofless Catholic Church, whether apse or naive is not specified. Since godless Commies do not go near churches the local authorities have not noticed it. The local peasants saw it land and saw two human figures emerge but keel over, die, and decay into dust. (Too long without coffee! What other explanation could there be, Erich?) The locals have passed the intel onto DC Dan because the peasants are oppressed by the regime and are plugged into the USA spy network even out there in the mountainous sticks. Got it.

DC Dan was 65 in 1968 and it is painful to watch him bail out of an airplane over remote China in the night, carry an empty back pack, and climb over papier-mâché boulders. When the action starts he moves like molasses. Sorry, Dan, but it is true.

DC Dan, Eric Fly Boy, and two tubby technicians are this A-Team. No sooner are they wandering about the Chinese Alabama Hills then they run into a Russian A-Team. There is much bluster and many threats but the script is clear, both teams are on the same mission, and neither wants to cross chopsticks with the Chinese. Anyway the Chinese are busy oppressing peasants. Got it.

This is the part that could not have been done in 1958. The American and Russians join forces to find the saucer, to fathom the saucer, and to evade the Chinese. No doubt each side will break the alliance when it is ready to do so. It sounds better than it played.

Another feature that would not have been done in 1958 is that DC Dan and the Big Russian are pretty much alike and DC Dan acknowledges this. The Enemy of Freedom and the Defender of Freedom are both bastards. Huh? No wonder it had no market for its message.

Lois Nettleton is a scientist with the Russians, and she gives Fly Boy a lecture on the equality of women in the workers’ paradise before the Big Russian slaps her down for not putting enough sugar in his tea.

DC Dan and his Russian alter ego are consumed by the mission, so Lois and Fly Boy pair off in the bushes. The other scientists reminiscence about pi derivations.

They elude routine Chinese army patrols. Due to budget cuts these conscripts have no eye glasses and don’t see much.

The Russo-Americo team finds the saucer. First problem is to get in. Much scratching and pounding. Meanwhile one of the scientist gets out his portable electric razor to tidy up, as you do on your first secret mission behind enemy lines, and ‘Voila!’ The saucer opens up to the gentle buzz. Being clean shaven got him into the saucer, if nothing else. Once in they have to fathom the gizmo.

Fly Boy grabs levers while the scientists deploy the slide rules they carried on the parachute drop.

The Chinese arrive in force and a shot-out results, but the near sighted Chinese cannot hit anything. DC Dan and the Big Russian stand back-to-back and blast about a hundred extras until the pile of Chinese bodies falls on them. Squash.

The time for slide rules ends. Fly Boy grabs another lever and off they go. Whoosh. They wobble around the Solar System for a while, until they encounter the de rigueur meteor, allowing Lois to scream. The fraternity brothers hoped it would end there, leaving us to wonder about the in-flight service, frequent saucer points, and toilet facilitates for humans. But no, there is a pompous coda.

Fly Boy and Lois clinch to affirm Americo-Russo friendship. They get control of the saucer and go back to Earth to land in Geneva of the Swiss where they will give the saucer to the world, which will lead to world peace. Why? Because those Saucerites will be back and we have to be united. Why? Maybe they came in peace looking for Klaatu. Are the Chinese invited?

The production is soap opera quality with many pauses as each actor reacts to a remark. The scenes related to the test flight are film school. Ditto Fly Boy’s sulking around afterward. The acting may not improve but there are fewer close-ups to remind the viewer later.

Video quality was excellent. After some Sy Fy movies seen lately, the saucer effects were neat.

This was DC Dan’s last film and he died before it was (finally) released. This Cornell graduate went into advertising and that brought him into contact with actors and on a bet he auditioned and got a part in a theatrical production. That was fun, and he did another. When a Broadway play he was in was to be filmed, he got the film part and went West, where he stayed. There seem to be hundreds of credits on the IMDb and he did everything. Some romantic leads in the 1940s, supporting actor, and sometimes villains in film and television, westerns, noirs, dramas, and even comedy.


First, the undercard ‘Space Master X-7’ (1958), running 1 hour and 11 minutes, rated at 5.3 from 298 preferences.

Space Master cover.jpg A lobby card that misleads audiences. Typical.

The Sy Fy aspects are few and quickly pass from the story. A rocket called, modestly, Space Master X-7’ returns its cargo of samples (from parts unspecified to my memory), which when spread around kill people. Morale. Do not spread space samples around. Ever wonder what that Moon rock in the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. is up to?

The sample becomes an enveloping and mortal fungus with the personality of a GOP senator. It destroys all without a backward glance. See, the comparison is apt. This fungus might have been a metaphor for Communism in a 1958 pix, made during the Cold War, but I did not detect any such innuendo. No, the sledge hammer script went at it literally, a fungus is a mushroom beyond the plate.

At a top security base in the remote desert Southwest a scientist, about whom more later, examines the sample, after much stock footage of rockets, parachutes, tin cans, and security blankets, uh, boxes. But people keep interrupting him, so he takes the sample home to work uninterrupted on it there.

Top security, right.

While poking the sample at home he has an argument with his ex-wife come a-calling. She goes away in anger and he keeps poking. Whoops. The fungus has had enough of that and it is goodbye scientist. Gulp. In truth, and very risqué for 1958, though the she and he had a child, they were, in fact, not man and wife. Gasp! In the morēs of the time that transgression allows a fate to befall the poking scientist.

By this time the slow-witted security officer at the base, played by Bill Williams, with his usual concussed look, comes to the house and seeing the fungus has had its way burns the house down. To avert a panic he puts about the story that the scientist died in the fire, and that they are looking for the woman seen there. In turn she thinks they suspect her of the fatal arson and takes evasive action. Bill wants to find her to stop the spread of the fungus but she knows nothing of this fungus, having not entered the home lab. This part is believable: she outwits the FBI, the USAF, and the police for an hour.

Per B-movie conventions they track down this interplanetary Typhoid Mary and that is that. The origins of the fungus, how to avoid it in the future, and such details are ignored.

Hardly Sy Fy.

There are only two interesting things about this overrated dross. Two of players are immediately recognisable. One is the scientist who is played by Paul Frees and many viewers, young or old, would twitch. He was a voice actor who did that work for two or more generations, much of it in animated movies until 1987 with ‘The Wind in the Willow.’ He also does the announcements at the train station in this picture, after the scientist is dead. He calls the timetable from the incinerator.

Frees.jpg Frees in lab coat.

However, I remember that voice well from ‘The Milllionaire’ (1955-1960) where each week the heard but unseen John Beresford Tipton voiced by Frees handed over the dosh.

His Sy Fy credits as a voice actor are many and include ‘When Worlds Collide’ (1951), ‘The Thing’ (1951), ’War of the Worlds’ (1953), ‘Space Attack’ (1955), ‘Earth versus the Flying Saucers’ (1956), ‘The Twenty-Seventh Day’ (1957), ‘The Mysterians’ (1957), and ‘The Time Machine’ (1960). Like other voice actors his name seldom appeared in the credits but he always had work, unlike many credited actors.

The other notable player is Shemp Howard of The Three Execrables playing a straight part as a cab driver. Seeing him, the fraternity brothers waited eagerly for the pie in the face and were disappointed.

Now for the main event. the very superior ‘This Island Earth' (1955), running 1 hour and 26 minutes with a 5.9/10 from 7413 opinionators on the IMDB.

Island earth card.jpg

It stars Rex Reason’s chin as the Earth’s greatest scientist and test pilot. While flying his X-Plane it conks out, ever the peril with the low-bidder products, and a green aura surrounds the aircraft as it gently descends to Earth.

Rex and chin.jpg Chin and airplane.

While Rex is used to the unusual in his charmed life this experience does give him brief pause. But only that. He goes to his top secret laboratory where strangers come and go at will. Next thing you know boxes and boxes of equipment arrive unordered, and with Allen Key in hand Rex and his obsequious assistant start putting together the Ikea television it becomes.

Once complete Siri turns herself on (down, fraternity brothers!). and there is Jeff Morrow with the strangest haircut congratulating Rex’s chin on winning the Nigerian Research Grant Lottery, first prize is an all-expenses paid trip to a secret locale where there is another laboratory. Who could rest that? Not that chin.

Morrow 1.jpg Check it out, and there are more like that at home!

Spoiler coming.

Jeff and that white bouffant are from MetaLuna, well that is what it sounded like to me, which is losing a war because it is running low on nuclear energy. Being vastly superior beings they have sent Jeff via a nicely realised flying saucer to gather up scientists from all over the galaxy, though none of these other gatherees do we see, to synthesise nuclear energy on MetaLuna. Yeah, sure. Just add radium.

Jeff provided the green aura that saved Rex and his chin.

Among the scientist Jeff has gathered in his castle in the desert hideaway is Faith Dominguez. 'Nice going, Jeff,' shouted the fraternity brothers. While last year she and Rex did some skinny dipping when at a conference in Vermont (are there conferences in those woods?) she feigns not to recognise that chin. Since that is impossible he knows something is amiss but keeps it to himself.

The Professor from Gilligan’s Island is there, perhaps this explains how he got tenure on the islet, and with Faith he tells Rex that Jeff is not to be believed or trusted. Disbelief and distrust are now the order of the day.

While Jeff is Mr Congeniality, he has a mini-me with the same hair who is a white lab rat. Jeff reports to The Hall Monitor on an OLED Smart television and stalls for time while the scientists work, but the mini-me later tells The Hall Monitor that Jeff has gone native, watches baseball games, eyes off Faith, plays Monopoly, listens to Mozart, and has generally gone native and it not to be believed or trusted. Disbelief and distrust are now the order of the day.

This is the toxic atmosphere typical of most organisations, so Rex gets on with caring for his chin. When he cannot find a razor, he decides to escape with Faith and since the Professor seems an ever-present third wheel, him, too. Meanwhile, The Hall Monitor overrules Jeff and demands that he pack his scientists on the flying saucer and return home where they will keep working in a slave laboratory. Mini-me pursues Rex and company with lightening bolts. Zap! The Professor sacrifices himself for the man with the better chin, and a passerby is also zapped to show what lousy aim mini-me has. No wonder these superior beings are losing the war with gunners like that.

When Rex and Faith are flying away in a conveniently parked Piper Cub, they are John Deere tractor-beamed on board the flying saucer and whoosh…..

Jeff tells his sad tale as above. More whoosh.

Security may be a joke to the USAF but TSA full body scans are necessary to land on MetaLuna.

Bidy scans.jpg

On MetaLuna the war is lost and Jeff defies high command and steals the saucer, evidently the only one left, to take Rex and Faith back to Earth. He does; he dies. They descend in the Piper Cub. Chin and Faith cuddle up in the Piper Cub, which hardly seems possible, with no further thought to the Meta-heads.

Meanwhile, the fatally wounded Jeff nobly crashes his saucer into the sea to be found later in other Sy Fy films.

The saucer effects are good, and the flight over the battle scared MetaLuna is effective, as is the shattered underground fortress, though the insect peons are there only for the creature feature advertising. Faith screams on cue. The pace is good. The sets are well designed and there are plenty of extras with that hair. It has the look of a A-picture. While Faith has Sy Fy credentials, the Chin does not, while Jeff has at least one other on his cv.

The gossip is that the original script played Jeff as a villain but the actor Jeff Morrow, who was well-known as opinionated, argued with the director, writer, producer, and busboy to make Jeff more human and rounded. He won and he was. This Jeff is a decent alien driven to extremes by circumstances beyond his control. He has indeed gone native, and was probably watching 'I Love Lucy' instead of beating the scientists into success with a slide-rule.

OK, but that does not explain the hair. Still less does it explain the fact that every other Meta-head we see on MetaLuna has the same hair under a clear plastic football helmet, except the Hall Monitor whose exalted status, apparently, frees his locks. Efforts to find a picture on Google Images failed. Suppressed!

The Hall Monitor has some pretty unkind remarks to make about Earth and Earthlings. He is a graduate of Kim Jong-un School of Intergalactic Diplomacy.

Faith Dominguez is there to scream and scream she does. She is not even permitted a lab coat! What a travesty of science.

Nor did I figure out any meaning from the title, on this the Nth viewing. I did not get any Cold War vibe from it.

IMDB rates if 5.1/10 from 441 casters. It runs 1 hour and 6 minutes.

Sputnik went beep-beep in October 1957 and overnight space flight became main stream, no longer for kids in 'Space Patrol,' 'Rocky Rocket', or 'Flash Gordon.' Independent film producer Roger Corman rushed to turn out the first post-Sputnik film in a deal with Allied Artists. This is the result.

war sateliites poster.jpg A Faux News poster. No one wears a spacesuit brandishing an NRA in the movie.

Here’s the set-up, a united Earth through the United Nations is launching satellites. While some delegates in the sparsely attended UN sessions are skeptical that the satellites will work, they are nonetheless party to the effort. The Cold War is only obliquely present when one character refers to ‘them’ who would like to see ‘us’ fail. It makes no sense in the context of UN but echoes the Cold War context.

Hey, the skeptics have a point. As the pix opens nine satellites — one after another — have already been launched and each has blown up as it reached the Mendoza line.

Note on terminology. Corman always does things his own way and he calls the space vehicles satellites, and he should know, but they look like small space stations, each with a crew of ten, and move through the void like chubby spaceships with porcupine antenna. Maybe the production was named and the design of the craft came later. In a Corman production there would be no money to re-do anything already done, like publicity material. And this was a rush job to get on the con trail of Sputnik and maybe that is the explanation. Sputnik was a satellite so this has to be a satellite no matter what it looked like or did.

Nine exploding satellites means ninety dead volunteers. The head of the mission is Pol van Ponder not even attending the requiems for his dead. (The fraternity brothers amused themselves with that name, especially later when he hit on the required woman in the crew.) Ponder ponders the situation and decides to press on, but wait…..

Meanwhile some teenagers doing an extra-credit anatomy lesson in a secluded parked car are disturbed by a bright light from the night sky. Wow! That brings things to a head. Then there is a flash and crash. Wacko! They find a small rocket that has just burned through the atmosphere but they pick it up and have a look. On it is an inscription in Latin. Latin! Latin?

Is this a premature July 4th Roman Candle? Is it a message from the Pope to these two teenagers to button up and go home!

After consulting Mr. Pomfritt off screen, the teens turn the rocket over to someone who passes it on to the UN scientists at the satellite project. An ancient Roman translates the message.

‘This is a warning! Do not attempt any more space flights. Your corrupt world will NOT be permitted to infest the Universe!’

Gulp! Corrupt? Did they foresee in 1958 the Twit in Chief of 2017?

Ah, but there is a twist here. Pol van Ponder rushes to the UN meeting where a response to the Latin message is being slowly composed in the ablative case. But, then there is that bright light in the night sky again. It goes all disco as a strobe light and blinds, let’s call him Van, Van who crashes his car which by Hollywood convention bursts into flames. No more Van. (Picky viewers note that we never quite know where we are, there are California plates on Van’s car, but the UN is in New York City, and the missile launches of the time were from Florida.)

Without Van there is no satellite program. End of story. Whoops, almost, but then at the Council Room, half empty as usual, Van appears, in tact. Not a tear in his tweeds. Amazing! Relief is general.

Spoiler alert. Stop here to save the best for a viewing.

The Latin-writing aliens have somehow both burned Van’s body to the ashes found in the incinerated car and fabricated an exact replica Van who now acts as Van with his memories and the same dour personality. There’s more.

As we quickly learn this New Van has a split personality.

Van splits.jpg Van splits!

He can be two places at once! Imagine the advantages of that for KPIs. The scene where he splits into New Vans 1 and 2 is neat. It seems it is not something he can or need do a lot but he can do it when necessary.

The New Van is dedicated to scuppering the satellite program from within. What with Latin homework, the UN is about to give up anyway. Who wants to decline Latin conjugations. New Van sits back and waits for the inevitable defeat, but his pint-sized underling Dick goes to the meeting and makes a speech worthy of the Twit in Chief. Full of words. Good. Ones.

‘The very reason we have to go into space is to prove we can!’

With that great logic and his duck-tail haircut he wins over the delegates, who, as they think of their actors’ guild minimum paycheques, applaud his words. Listening on the radio, New Van is cranky about this turn of events and furrows his frontal lobes. Never good when an alien does that.

A tenth satellite is prepared and New Van volunteers to captain the crew, risking his own life. Remember the ninety space corpses already compiled. His plan is to botch the mission. He could do that by convening a 360 degree review or a SWOT analysis, but instead of McKinsey-Speak he prefers a more direct approach, a wrench in the reactor.

Now the title satellites are complicated affairs, as we now learn. Three rockets are launched, each with two stages. By the way, the ground control operator who shepherds them into the void is none other than Roger Corman. Once the three rockets rendezvous by the magic of wire and glue, they emit little dishes that join up to form the satellite, space station, ship. Too bad NASA did not go this route.

Picky viewers will note the same set is used both to the launch rockets and the satellite. Pedants will add that the previous nine satellites mean twenty-seven rockets have gone to the space junkyard orbiting the Earth. What was that about a polluting infestation anyway?

Now we have the satellite and New Van starts sabotaging it, but the crew keeps getting in the way. Moreover, tiny Dick spotted New Van, just before taking off, splitting in two. No one believes a haircut like that.

Dickie.jpg

New Van continues putting sugar in the reactor. Another crewman also suspects New Van but he and Dick never do compare alien-spotting notes. Let’s call this other crewman Jerry, who confronts New Van.

Jerry.jpg Jerry made his eyes pop off the screen, but it did not scare Van.

End of Jerry. He goes out the Memory Hole into space. More in the junkyard.

Then the doctor, prodded by Dick, examines New Van. Oh oh.

Van Heart.jpg

New Van quickly gives himself a heart beat for the examination. That satisfies the doctor briefly but later he, too, confronts New Van and with a flick of the wrist, he, too, goes down the Memory Hole to the void. What is the body count now? Ninety-two.

New Van blames the deaths on Dick, who then runs up and down the same empty corridor for ten minutes. Exercising while in spaces essential.

Meanwhile, New Van with a heart now hits on Wasp Woman, much to her surprise for she has only had eyes, many of them are needed, for little Dick. (She played Wasp Woman in another Corman extravaganza though in fact the insects were bees, but no one told her before her business card was printed.) Now with a heart New Van has become a weak-willed and lustful human. He divides himself again, and — for a brief moment, as the fraternity brothers tensed — it looked like New Van 1 was going to clobber New Van 2 for being such a cream puff.

But no, he splits so one of him can molest Wasp Woman, while the others stuffs Dick down the Memory Hole. Ah, but Dick brought along his cap gun and threaten New Van 2 (NV2 hereinafter) who laughs. ‘Your weapon cannot hurt me!’ (He had not read the script, it seems.) Now that NV2 has a heart, he is vulnerable. Bang! Bang! NV2 crumples at Dick’s size-five shoes, and in another empty room NV1 clutching for Wasp Woman also crumples. Whew! Code violation averted.

Quickly Dickie takes command, inserting new solar batteries in the satellite which then bursts through the Mendoza Line where the other nine satellites were destroyed. The satellite sails into space to infest it with the corruption of the Earth. The end.

Evidently the aliens on Line duty, perhaps thanks to budget cuts, did not have any more tricks to use. Or maybe they were in a meeting about KPIs.

Where the satellite is going no one bothers to mention. It just boldly goes….

Why these English-speaking aliens chose to inscribe that warning Roman Candle rocket in Latin has bothered the fraternity brothers since 1958. There is no explanation in the film, and in 1958 it was no more a global language than Swahili.

Much in evidence in the parking lots are 1958 Detroit gas guzzlers with tail fins and chrome. They go with the duck tail. We also like the recliner chairs for space flight and the black zip suits.

The cast includes actors who were stalwarts in Batman (Michael Fox was Inspector Basch) and Superman (Robert Shayne was Inspector Henderson). Both parenthetical inspectors were veterans of B movie Sy Fy. But Richard Devon as Van carries the picture with his dour monotone, until he gets a heart and there flickers emotion in his eyes and a twitch of the lips. About Wasp Woman and Dickie the less said the better.

Corman.jpg Roger Corman at the ground controls.

After seeing movies by Al Zimbalist, Ed Wood, and Lee Wilder, Corman seems like a genius.

Peter Graves made this for a Wilder in 1954, the year before he had made ‘Stalag 17' for a Wilder. What a different a Wilder makes. More on this enigma at the end.

First the IMDb facts, it runs for 1 hour and 11 minutes of Dali time, and the 1566 ratings average to 3.1/10. That is right at the Mendoza line.

Grave Peter is abducted by aliens, a frequent occurrence for those from Minnesota, but instead of the anal probe that St Paul of ‘Paul’ (2011) made (in)famoius, they bring him back from the dead with a heart transplant. He never says ‘Thank you.’

Killers poster.jpg A lobby poster straight out of Faux News

What happened? Grave Peter is a nuclear scientist who knows as much as Kevin about nukes, and is participating in above ground nuclear testing in Nevada (which then as now is not much good for anything else). Since the tests are atomic bomb drops and the technicians, politicians, generals, grunts, journalists, and scientists stand around with sun glasses on to watch, there is also plenty of longer term killing right there. In addition, everyone smokes.

The plane Grave Peter is in mysteriously crashes and is incinerated. The assumption is that he was barbecued in the pile of ash. Grieving Wife sheds a tear. Wooden colonel stiffens his upper lip. The next test is scheduled. Must not hold up progress to Armageddon.

Then Grave Peter in a ragged jumpsuit walks home in a daze. Whacko! He survived! But how? He is stunned and remembers nothing. Not even the massive butchers’ scars on his chest. The fraternity brothers were sure they would remember something like that no matter how OBs they drank.

He is physically fit after a shower, shave, coffee, and a pipe (being a tweedy scientist he smokes a pipe so he can leave a trail of ash for the plot). Yet he remembers nothing. Mondayitis? While the examining doctor remarks on the scars, he does not investigate them in any way. Guess it was a short 15-minute consultation on the Medicare scale and there was no time for more.

The shadow of the Cold War falls with a thump. What if this Grave Peter is a substitute planted by you-know-whom. The real Grave Peter could not have survived the crash. Ergo this one is an imposter. What other explanation could there be, Erich? This possibility does not explain the scars but no one seems to care about that. He is sequestered in the base hospital under observation, i.e., hospital arrest to await the Good Doctor to come and fix him up. But he is compulsive about carrying on. This arouses more suspicions by the wooden FBI man on the scene.

With the touching faith in drugs of B-movies, they shoot up Grave Peter with a truth serum, and he tells all. This is one blabber mouth. It goes like this:

He awoke on an operating table just as a heart, he says his, but he would wouldn't he, was stuck back in his chest by a mechanical arm attended by the losers of a Ping Pong match.

Graves post op.jpg Grave Peter in post-op.

He raves about those eyes. ‘Those eyes!’ He does this a lot.

Then the drug wears off and he wakes up in the hospital to find the doctor, the colonel, the stooge, and the FBI staring at him liked he just confessed to liking the Osmond Family’s music! Disbelief isn’t the half of it.

Conclusion: He’s no commie plant; he’s crazy. They change the locks on the hospital door. Well, no they don’t. And he is now determined to clear his name alone! Not only is he not a commie, he is not crazy, though why else did he accept this part? Grieving Wife is nowhere to be found. Another abduction? We’ll never know.

He breaks into the top security military base, he breaks into the top security safe, where he leaves pipe tobacco ash (was this an unconscious plea to be stopped?) and steals the nuclear test data.

He drives into the night, since the budget did not run to lighting, and sticks the top secret results under a rock. Oops! This is the very rock the FBI man is standing on in Bronson Canyon. Of all the rotten luck! There is punch up and Grave Peter flees. For a tweedy scientist he can hit below the belt with the best of them.

While I was raiding the refrigerator, he got himself into the aliens’ den where the Bug Eye in Chief talks to him. ‘We speak all languages,’ replies bug-eye numero uno Grave Peter’s amazement that he speak English. Polyglot, uh, a sure sign of someone up to no good. BEiC then explains to him in detail the nefarious plot in the best Dr No fashion.

They have destroyed their own world thanks to the climate change deniers and now have to relo. Earth will do, but first they have to rid it of us humans. To do this, sparing Occam’s razor, they will use the radiation from nuclear tests to charge the batteries in the hot house where they are breeding giant spiders and ants (some of which escaped to ‘Them’ [1954] - much the better film) and once they have enough creatures for a feature, they will unleash them to devour humanity. Gulp! One suspects a sequel in the works.

Now the Earth will be overrun with big bugs, but not to worry, then the bug eyes will spray DefCon to kill the insects, whose rotting bodies will fertilise the soil. See, a grade A plan with KPIs galore. In this case of McKinsey speak KPI means Killing People Immediately. Grave Peter is impressed with the grantsmanship of the plan, but instead of throwing in with them as a nuclear expert and getting promoted to Honorary Bug Eye, he escapes.

No gratitude has he. While babbling Geordie-speak he rushes to the one power planet in the place and brandishing a pistol that came with the elbow patches on his tweed coat, he throws all the switches to Off, including the MASTER Switch. Darkness fell. Iron lungs stopped, ‘I Love Lucy’ went blank. Surgeons said ‘Oh Oh.’ Nine months later there were surprises. But the power is off only a ten seconds, so maybe not so much of the latter.

The wooden ones, the colonel, the FBI, the stooge, Grieving Wife are now looking for a net to throw over Grave Peter when KABOOM! That was the sound of the aliens’ den blowing up, just as Grave Peter predicated! The mere sound of the explosion clears everything up and he is welcomed back on the road to Armageddon.

The end.

Seen today there is a message about destroying one's own world by electing idiots, and another about the dangers of radiation. But neither of these was intended at the time. Just plot devices though a few films like 'Rocketship X- M' (1950), reviewed elsewhere on the blog, do have an ever so carefully put case about the dangerous of nuclear radiation. Enough to get the screen writer a mug shot it was. But that was exceptional. In 1954 any doubts about the safety of nuclear energy and weapons were Commie tweets.

The only thing a sensible viewer remembers from this celluloid is the bug-eyed aliens. There are conflicting stories about this effect was achieved. The budget did not run to having anything made by a optician. They look like Ping Pong balls and that is the usual explanation, cut in half, with a black dot painted on them in which is a pin hole so the actors with them glued to his eye sockets does not stumble over a paycheque.

Though there is another story according to which Wilder himself came up this idea. He opened the refrigerator at home to get a beer and noticed the white egg rack built into the refrigerator door. Hmmm.

He yanked the rack out, cut the egg cup receptacles off, and ‘Voilà!’ alien bug eyes without the expense of Ping Pong balls. Because this is a difference without any significance, it heats up cyber space as adherents to the Ping Pong ball explanation dispute with Egg Rack believers. The tweets fly. Good thing they don’t have nukes.

Bug eyes.jpg Ping Pong balls or egg cups? You must decide.

Peter Graves went on and on. His last credit was in 2010, the year of his death. This man seldom said no. Witness ‘Airplane!’ (1980). In the latter part of his career he often played, parodied, himself, grave, stalwart, gravelly voiced, and wooden. In 1954 he was impossibly handsome and trying very hard. But maybe he should have said no now and then.

Lee Wilder produced and directed ‘Killers from Space; hot on the heels of the ‘Snow Creature’ (1954). Since a Lee Wilder movie took no more than a week to film, he could turn them out when there was coin. Coin? The story goes that Lee left his native Austria and migrated to New York City where he became a very successful hat maker. Whether for men or women is a question only further research could answer. His younger brother Billy was cinema-struck as a boy and had gone to Berlin to learn the business.

Reading the blood signs on the street in Berlin, Billy wanted to go the Amerika, and brother Lee paid his way. Billy said thank you and took train to Lost Angeles where talking movies were the go, and he saw his future in that. Off he went, and the string of commercial and artistic successes is now legend. He made one of his masterpieces, ‘Sunset Boulevard’ in 1950. By then he was so well established he could defy Tinsel Town conventions, command extraordinary budgets, attract great stars out of retirement, make a star out of an also ran..…

Lee Wilder.jpg Lee Wilder

Is this a case of inverted sibling rivalry? Older brother Lee then sold his New York City business and moved to Lost Angeles and set himself up as an independent film producer with his son Myles, who did not have to be paid, as the screen writer.

My five minutes of web research indicates that there was no rupture between the brothers, but though they both made films and lived in Lost Angeles they never met there and when they bumped into one another, they exchanged nods, not words, and went on.


IMDb 3.1/10 from 711 votes at 1 hour and 9 minutes of Dali time.

This title is often found on those list of films that are so bad that they are fun to watch. Just about everything is wrong. Error spotting keeps the viewers interest. Nothing else does.

Snow poster.jpg

An American scientific team scales the Himalayas to find rare botanical specimens. This team has only two members, the botanist and a newspaper reporter to publicise the investigation for the ‘Daily Plant.’ To ascend the mountains they hire locals to schlepp the gear, including a radio (so they can follow the World Series?). They encounter the abominable snow man! Yeti they do! They subdue him and ship him back to Lost Angeles where half the film is set in the dark. He escapes and wreaks so little havoc few in LA would notice. The forces of order are mobilised and slay the beast. End of story.

At least half the footage is stock film of airplanes landing and taking off. Nearly all the shots of the actors are in the middle distance. No close ups. A sure sign of a tip-jar budget. Shots of the trekkers are repeated again and again. The one close up of Abominable is repeated three times. The first time it was effective when he stepped back into the darkness. Less so on each repeat. When he is photographed on a slope in the distance, he looks so awkward and fragile that a gust of wind would level him. Some threat.

Another sign of a micro budget is that much of the story is told through voiceovers and not dialogue. That indicates no sound man on the payroll. Nor is anyone credited with make-up in the credits, so Abominable had to do his own. He is clearly wearing a two-piece fur suit. He is seen only once in a close up, and he looks wrapped up like the invisible man.

The fraternity brothers liked the footage of aircraft. In the first, the voiceover ponderously says they are flying into Bombay. Time to change airlines, folks! On the ground beneath the aircraft clearly visible are the pyramids of Giza. That pilot missed India! Cairo, Bombay, what’s the difference?

But wait, there is more. Later after boxing up Abominable (on that more in a moment) the voiceover has them landing in Lost Angeles. Hmm, yet beneath the aircraft we see the Statue of Liberty from New York City Harbor. No continuity editor is in the credits either, though this blunder is beyond the pay grade of a continuity editor.

Those instances indicate the quality of this celluloid from the Dream Factory.

The natives who figure in the first half as bearers are Sherpas, only one of whom is endowed with a name. The others go by ‘Hey you!’

But wait, there is more. They all speak Japanese. Yep, all the Sherpas are Japanese. The fraternity brothers thought the Japanese had been driven out of India by 1944 but apparently some remained under cover as Sherpas. The more prosaic explanation is that the only extras who looked Asian the producer could get at the price were Japanese, and to let them use Japanese was good enough for the Sherpa tongue.

There are condescending and racists asides by our heroes about the Sherpas on whom their lives depend.

The duo stumbled upon Abominable in his lair and the roof fell in and stunned him. Thus incapacitated they tied up this Gulliver and shipped back to the States for study in a refrigerated telephone booth. This was no Tardis.

They knew Abominable was about because it was alleged he had creature-napped a Sherpa woman, but that loose end it left flapping. Just one less Sherpa to make stupid remarks about.

Abominable descends into LAX, and like many travellers is consternated. Officials with clipboards appear, asking what is in the phone booth. Having seen, Dr Who in action, they are careful. If it be man, where is his visa and passport? If it is beast, where is the quarantine certificate? The officials cannot decide. Can we? This is the only interesting scene in the film, and much, much more could have been made of it. Is Abominable a man or a beast? What about the Twit in Chief?

The journalist has made a sensation of him as a man, whereas the good doctor refers to him as an animal. The officials are inclined to believe what they read in the ‘USA Today.’

Newspaper.jpg The Murdoch press, as responsible as always.

Yep. Hard to believe, but if a journalist says Abominable is a man, maybe he is.

To resolve this conundrum, the officials send for an expert. Huh? An expert in what? A theologian perhaps? A talk-back radio shock jock? A fraternity brother, often accused of crossing the line between human and beast? Who?

Whatever this Doctor’s qualifications he arrives, and sits at a desk. No, he does not look at the subject but smokes cigarettes at the desk. That’s how we know he is a regular guy.

By this time, Abominable has had enough waiting in his cubicle and he tips it over and this breaks it open and off he goes to wreak havoc here and there. Women are his prey, though why and what his motivation is, no one bothers with. Maybe he wanted return fare?

At no time was any effort made to communicate with Abominable but maybe he only understood Nepalese and neither Japanese nor Hollywoodese. To keep him quiet before the phone booth was ready they just keep cracking him on the noggin.

In Lost Angeles the rampaging Abominable Man is declared NRA-bait and Bam! They get him. Too bad, but it had to be is the coda.

The one cliché absent from this hash is the comic relief. For that relief much thanks.

No one is credited for the part of the Abominable Man but the gossip is that it was Lock Martin, whose role as Gort was unforgettable and this one was unfortunate.

Late in the piece the ever reliable William Phipps enters and tries to eject some life and humanity into this script but even he fails.

This film is one of several B- creature features made by W. Lee Wilder, the older brother of Billy Wilder, who got all the cinematic genius in the family. Lee Wilder used a screen play written by his son Myles Wilder. Case closed. They say Lee Wilder made worse films, hard though that is to believe.

From the IMDB 3.7/10 from 878 votes, running 1 hour and 30 minutes Dali time. For a Sy Fyan this is a zero (0).

It comes up in searches for Sy Fy but it does not make the grade, but since I had to sit through it to discover this fact, I will give it a few words.

Prsioners Lost card.jpg As crassly misleading as adertising must be, it seems.

In 1983 contemporary Lost Angeles a blood sucker (journalist), a working stiff, and an uncle of Erich’s get transported to an ‘alternative universe.’ One at a time. Like the Three Stooges, each one makes the same mistake and gets transported through the photocopier. Pretty sure they did not go to Wonderland.

Prisoner lost.jpg This poster pretty sums up the picture.

Once there Uncle is nowhere to be found, while Blood Sucker and Working Stiff stick together, ahem. Yet even afterward they still seem tense. The Fraternity Brothers found that odd, but then there were no cigarettes available.

After some roaming around they conclude that this is Disneyland with creeping thingies, hairy cave men, green elves, and more. This is a stone age world with spears, animal skins and furs for clothing. Altogether so primitive that the fraternity brothers felt right at home amid the grunts, thumbs, and beasties. They get into and out of scrapes and the time passed, slowly. S l o w l y,

The credits promised Carmine Orrico and so I persisted because if there anyone who can inject life into …, well, into a film it is Carmine. By the way the Hollywood gossip vine is full of strange stories about his life style choices. Even in Tinsel Town it is outré. He must have saved all his vices up for that because in this part as the Villain in Chief he looks bored, distracted, and worried (about his next doctor’s appointment). In equally limp offerings he has put some steel into the flaccid films. Not so here.

Uncle is working for Carmine as a wizard and Carmine makes sure his wizard does not find a way back to his own alternative universe.

Working Stiff is Richard Hatch from both versions of Battle Star Galatica with Sy Fy credentials, which also enticed me into viewing this swords and sandals bore.

Kay Lenz is Bloodsucker and she reminded me of Gretchen Corbett from ‘The Rockford Files,’ an old favourite. Doppelgänger one for the other they are, as a check for net pixes confirmed.

Most of it is out doors and though it starts with Lost Angeles, the whole thing was filmed in the Republic of South Africa of apartheid. When Bloodsucker is driving to meet Uncle at the outset the car radio is from LA and she drives not on the right, though the car is left-hand drive. The first hint that it was not filmed in the Alabama Hills, though that is the look, in a very dry summer. While the credits show many actors from the Republic I heard nothing I think of as a South African acccent. Still less did I see any black faces. Apartheid on the set, did not present a problem to the cast and crew, it seems.

The director also wrote the screenplay, served the tea, and must have many relatives to account for the few positive remarks in the User Reviews on the IMDb.

While Uncle refers to it as an alternative universe, in the marketing department this became ‘the Lost Universe.’ Of course, it is not lost to those who live there.

1 hour 24 minutes of Dali time, rated 2.5/10 from 415 on the IMDB

In the effort to ride on the ticket sales of ‘Star Wars’ this quickie was rolled out, one of several Italian efforts of this kind. It is hard to get a rating as low as 2.5 on the IMDB.

It is, oh hum, another yarn about the end of the world. A mysterious spaceship appears from the void and penetrates all the many space defences Earth has, satellites, space stations, rhetoric, and an armanda are brushed aside. There is no reply to communication and atomic missiles bounce off.

Sette over.jpg

There is only one thing to do in this crisis! Yes, project the Bat Signal into the night sky.

But wait, Batman took early retirement and is unavailable. Forget about, Robin. He was only ever there to hold the cape.

Instead High Command calls in Big Brain; Italian screen writers have an endless supply of bad tempered professors on call and Big Brain gets this part. He carries on like he is God’s gift to the world, while much of the world is destroyed. He rants on.

Later by some fancy screen writing the villain is defeated. The end.

At the end we learn the villain is a mega Meriton developer who bought the Earth at an auction to market its population as McKinsey KPI slaves. That might have been a better start.

The villain had some makeup! The fraternity brothers could not decide whether it was a road map of New Jersey projected onto his face or he was wearing the netting from last year’s Christmas ham, but he looked weird. In addition, his spaceship was overdue for service because it evidently has killer drafts, considering the triple high collar he wore on the back of his neck.

To subdue the Earth’s primitive inhabitants this bogey man dispatches an endless army of wig wearing androids, who when cut in half look like robots, but the characters insist on calling them androids. Droids or Bots, they all look alike to me.

The Earthlings fight them off with camera flashes. Honest, that is what it looked like. Luke also lent them a light sabre. Yes, indeed.

The decor of Big Brain’s house is all very stylish, I am told, but he never dirties his hands with any science, though some of the Z-team he assembles peer down lens and point at steaming vials.

There are also two or three robots brought onto the team who move like molasses and only bicker among themselves. These two would be an asset in any fight to save the world, not! Ditto the rest.

Though most of the film concerns assembling this team of Z-grade treacle, they prove ineffective against the Bogey Man and his wig-wearing automatons. As a last resort Big Brain wills the Bogey Man away. Wow!

Frontal lobes are creased in ominous and continuing silence. The Bogey Man relents. So that is what it takes to save the world. Wrinkle the frontal lobes and hang on.

There is also a lot of staring as coloured lights play on the irises of the one staring. If it was hypnotism it did not make the time pass any quicker, though we all hoped it would.

In contrast to some of the other Italian stallions in this stable of ‘Star Wars’ copies, the players in this one seem to be in on the joke and none try too hard to make it stick.

The title roughly means ‘Seven golden (hu)men(s) in space’ making this a variant of the Seven Samurai. Note the seven includes at least two women in this case. None of the characters is developed and none of their talents contribute to the defeat of Bogey Man. Figure that out. Why it appears in English as 'Star Odyssey' is anyone's guess. It has also been marketed as 'Prisoners of a Lost Universe' but that may refer to the money put by the investors. It has been released under several other titles too trivial to list. But beware.


A German production running 1 hour and 23 minutes, which rates 4.0 from 10 on the IMDB from 924 votes. Oh. My vote would be zero (0). The video quality is HD but the sound is not. It is replete with CGI and when they appear it is loud, while the dialogue is quiet. Up and down went the volume.

Ice Planet cover.jpg

The plot? Good question, one I still have though I watched it. Some Earthlings on a space station get attacked and take off, ending up on the Ice Planet. It is a mixed bag of space cadets. travellers, research scientists, and odd balls. (Yes, really fresh-faced space cadets.) Now they have to work together to survive.

Sound familiar? Try Star Trek: Voyager, for one.

The players are the usual suspects. The martinet commander, the slinky woman, the bewildered astronomer, the square jawed cadet, the androgynous waif, and many disposable red shirts. The red shirts get toasted and roasted by a variety of mean CGIs. Boom, crash, wham! Perhaps forty minutes of the picture in all is a CGI mosh pit nonsense.

The visuals of the ice planet are neat but contribute nothing to the plot. They might just as well have landed in New Jersey for all the relevance it has.

A meeting with Ice natives made-up like Inuits is promising but dissipates into nothing. What I liked was the challenge of communicating without a language on the home turf of the Inuits.
Inuit.jpg Moreover, with their local knowledge they seemed like good allies, but no…..

Enigmatic or unintelligible, cryptic or vague, mysterious or incomprehensible, puzzling or impenetrable, full of ideas or indigestible, stimulating or half-baked? Those who gave it a 4.0 or higher on IMDb went for the former in each of the preceding pairs. Me, went for the latter in each case.

The IMDb has a plot summery that may have come from the press kit, because no one relying only on viewing the film would find it even that coherent. There seems to have been plenty of budget for CGIs but not for a continuity editor, and that adds to the confusion. The sound technician was AWOL.

Yet the director was Winrich Kolbe who has many credits from the Star Trek franchise. Many. Now that is a mystery. How did he come to make this…, hum, pastiche seems too elegant a term.

This was a movie-length pilot for a television series, and so we have something for which to be grateful. It was not continued. Reviewed elsewhere on this blog is ’Destination Space’ (1959) was likewise a pilot that failed but a far better exercise with some intellectual content and character development in a mere 41 minutes.

Much of it was filmed in Canada, and a web whisper is that Michael Ironside was in line for the captain’s chair if the series eventuated. Seems best this way.

2.9/10 from 617 brave souls but the zero (0) in the title seems to have application. It runs 1 hour and 29 minutes Dali time.

The only surprise here is that it is rated as high as 2.9 from 10. One of the many films trying to cash in on the success of ‘Star Wars’ but there is no comparison on any score. It looks like something from Poverty Row in the 1950s. The props look like leftovers from Flash Gordon of that era.

A strange signal disrupts all communication. That much is clear and that it about all that is.

Planets poster.jpg

The Italians launch a Ferrari space ship which traces the signal to an undiscovered planet somewhere. They need to clean the lenses on the telescopes more often to spot these things.

On this murky planet they find a giant juke box robot that has enslaved the humanoid locals with a GOP spiel and is now after the Earth! The plucky Italians in cute, colour coded skull caps set out to put things right amid incomprehensible cross-cuts, dialogue that sounds like out-takes from another film, a soundtrack that bears no relation to the action on the screen, until one of the crew takes off the skull cap and goes nuts. Guess that is why they keep them on. Prevents going nuts.

Planest cap.jpg
Proof? Did Silvio Berlusconi ever sport a skull cap? No. Is he nuts? Yes.

Most of it is so dark and so poorly photographed, who knows what is going on. The fraternity brothers made many rude remarks about this.

Our heroes, their numbers diminished in the dark, confront the juke box and talk it to death, and thus distracted, they then blow it up. At last!

Most of the cast and crew are Italians using English aliases, for reasons best known to the marketing department.


The IMDb info is this: 1 hour and 33 minutes of Dali time, rated at 4.3/10 by 563 ratings.

Long before Star Wars, the Italian cinema offered this title. Directed by Antonio Margheriti, who like others in the cast, used an Anglo pseudonym in the credits. In his case, it was Anthony Dawson. The aim was to sell the film into the American market, and along with the aliases, the director/producer recruited the Invisible Man Claude Rains for that purpose.

The set-up makes as much sense as some of the later Italian Sy Fy films. Z e r o.

Rains is a curmudgeon and at first I liked that but it went on and on and on. He lives in a palace by the seaside somewhere surrounded by bright young things. Easy to see why Rains liked the part for the three or four days he spent on it. Every one stands when he enters a room, and the bow their heads to him. Moreover the set abounds with sunshine, nubile and virile creatures coming and going, and no script to remember, just snarl.

Rains poster 2.jpg

Downstairs in his palace is a scientific establishment that by some unspecific means monitors the heavens. The fraternity brothers accomplish this with beer. How it is done in this seaside palace is less clear. Many bright scientists come and go; sometimes they enter Rains’s inner sanctum where they bow and hand him written reports in ring-binders. Furturistic, not. He looks disdainfully at their efforts, and in one case, while declaiming how useless the report is, an over the shoulder close-up shows he is holding it upside down. Well, it would not make much sense that way, would it. (Though I have tried that a few times with journal manuscripts I have had to review.)

He tells everyone how stupid they are repeatedly. He must be emeritus because he is never going to get another research grant with all the friends he is making.

Thanks to the Stockholm Syndrome, the more he abuses people. the more they think he is a genius. Why did not I try that in my career?

Then the Outsider, Planet X on loan from ‘The Man from Planet X,’ appears in the Solar System. Gulp! All eyes turn to Rains, who tells the eyes how stupid they are. See, he repeats the same line again and again. Easy to remember. He punctuates his castigations with cigar smoke.

High Command mobilises its Ferrari spaceships to blast Planet X. Rains tells them how stupid they are. Planet X will not collide with Earth, and only fools would think it would. However, it will pass so close that it will cause catastrophes of all sorts. This last fact does not bother Rains who is more interested in telling the others how stupid they are, while puffing away on his life-ending cigar.

Stock footage of catastrophes appears on cue. Floods, fires, short-order famines, hysterical people, GOP majorities, and stampeding animals, empty coffee cups and other signs of devastation. Rains tell everyone how stupid they are.

High Command sends the rockets to blast Planet X. Whoa! Flying saucers appear from the surface and blast the rockets. Game and set are lost. The Ferraris were a lot more show than go.

Rains tells everyone how stupid they are.

Planet X goes into orbit around Earth. Laws of physics go out the window. Whooska! Rains admits he had not foreseen this, but quickly recovers to tell everyone how stupid they are.

To prove his point he kneels on the floor and writes a few squiggles with chalk. High Command is so astounded that a man of seventy-two can kneel on the floor and get up that it gives in to his demands.

He claims as his own the discovery of an underling that the flying saucers go wobbly when hit with classical music. Phasers and atomic bombs have no effect, but a piano sonata does the trick. How much better it would have been had it been the Queen of the Night's aria!

rains stupid.jpg Rains tells everyone how stupid they are.

At seventy-two he takes rocket to Planet X, but at least this geriatric is not smoking a cigar in-flight. However he does tell everyone how stupid they are.

Sure enough the defending flying saucers go all dishy with the music allowing the Italians to land. Rains penetrates the interior to find THE TRUTH. Meanwhile, the landing party has started a giant doomsday bomb to blast Planet X into the void. (I held out hope this crescendo would be the Queen of the Night's aria, but no.)

There are no inhabitants of Planet X and the flying saucers were automatons whose code was scrambled by the music. It seems an IOS update killed all the Xers long ago.

While telling everyone else how stupid they are, Rains ignores the calls to return to the rocket and leave before Kaboom. He stands around agape. Maybe he is wondering where his cigars are. No need because KABOOM! Now who is stupid?

The end.

That terse summary makes it sound better than it is. Watch at your own risk as they warn on CSPAN.


It runs 1 hour and 24 minutes and it seems like more. Four hundred and twenty-two opinionaters at the IMDb rate it 5.6/10 as of 3 December 2017. A generous lot they are, too.

It comes from the imagination of Arch Oboler, who did much television work, and it seems like an extended skit from a 1950s television variety show.

Twonky (2).jpg

A hapless college professor, played by that television stalwart, Hans Conreid, buys a television, entering the analogue age with reluctance. This is a man who prefers to listen to Mozart while reading large and dusty tomes. I warmed to him right away. Not so the fraternity brothers who made a play for the remoter that had to be smacked down.

To please Wife, who finds him boring, and who would not, he buys the latest television, a device strange to him. It is delivered and left sitting in his study, it seems, while she is away.

Soon enough its true black-and-white colours show. It is Siri on steroids! A beam from the television knocks the second cup of coffee out of his hand. Not believing his eyes, Hapless tries again. Again a beam from the screen foils the caffeine intake. One cup, yes. Two cups, no.

Thereafter this TV Siri takes over. Its beam whirls records onto an off the turntable. Turns off lights when it thinks he should retire and so on. That beam is handy and it also vacuums the floor, answers the telephone, finishes Prof's solitaire games, and prepares food. (However it does not mark the pile of student papers he carts around.) Wife being way, he suspects madness.

To get a witness he calls in his buddy, the ageing football coach whose playing days were well before the concussion protocol. Nonetheless, in time coach is also persuaded that the TV Siri is doing all these things. Even when it is not yet plugged in. Yep. No one has plugged it in or anything else and yet it is taking over. Did Marshall McLuhan see this film?

Twonky vaccum.jpg Twonky at work. Siri does not vacuum.

Efforts are made to return the television to the store. Foiled. To reason with it. Foiled. To cover it with a blanket. Foiled. To lock it in cupboard. Foiled. And so on, for forty-five minutes while Coach mumbles and Prof flicks dandruff off his collar, evidently a task Wife usually does.

Coach, after consulting his inner Erich, concludes this is a TV Siri from the future which has traveled back in time. What other explanation could there be?

This is the future that awaits us! A know-it-all Siri which will restrict our free will. It will light one cigarette for Prof but not a second. One a day is OK as with the coffee, but not two.

Prof gets even goofier than television profs usually are and embarrasses himself in front of a class. I kept looking at the clock, noting how slowly Dali time was passing.

Finally, this Siri TV is destroyed, by accident. Whew! Prof is free to drink more coffee and smoke more cigarettes.

Slight though it may seem, it is prescient because we now have our very own Twonky in Siri who can be programmed to ride herd on us.

Slight as it seems Arch Oboler always drives the points home with an axe. This is our future. Control and repression of our freedoms through technology! If so the film offers nothing about how to avoid this micro Nineteen Eight-Four future, but drink that second cup and smoke that second fag while one can.

Oboler's best Sy Fy is ‘Five’ (1951) though it lacks the leaden humour of this film, it addresses serious subjects, so many that indigestion follows.

The term ‘twonky’ comes from the concussed coach and it means a MacGuffin, something that has no other name.

From the IMDB: 1 hour 11 minutes, 7.4/10 from 23,534,

Genre schizophrenia here. Is it a horror movie or is it Sy Fy? Arguments over definitions are best because they have no end, and no point.

IM poster.jpg

H. G. Wells published the novel ‘The Invisible Man’ (1897) first as a magazine serial and then as a title. His hand makes it Sy Fy, but when Universal filmed it, that studio’s association evoked Horror because Universal had specialised in that genre. Though British in look, it was made in the USA.

Invisible book.jpg

The film differs from the book in several ways. The first and most important is that the Invisible Man is mad from the beginning on film, whereas in the book he becomes more and more unhinged the longer he stays invisible, which may be due to the drugs he is taking for the pain that the invisibility drug causes and the other drugs he is taking trying to become visible again. On top of that he takes strychnine as a pain killer. Killer, indeed. This guy could give the wanna be druggies around Kings Cross lessons in shooting up.

In the film his ambition from the get-go is a Reign of Terror, because he likes having power over others. In the book he comes to this term in his frustration to control the environment so he can concentrate on research to find a way back to visibility. He grows ever more unstable and despicable, but it is a process.

The film gives him a love interest absent from the book. She is played by a luminous Gloria Stuart who later appeared in ‘Titanic’ (1997) and whose last credit was in 2004. There was a sabbatical between 1946 and 1975. There are many familiars in the cast, and some familiar footage that was used again later in other Universal pictures, like the train crash.

While the Invisible Man causes as much mayhem as the fraternity brothers at the end of the semester in the book, in the film the Reign of Terror is not merely a threat, he kills at least two people, including his would-be confederate Dr Kemp. Moreover, he causes a train to crash with countless death and injuries. He is beyond redemption even by the love of good woman.

The book has some discussion of invisibility as a way of being. See! Sartre is relevant, albeit cryptic. (It takes him hundreds of pages to be cryptic. Nausea is certainly relevant to Sartre.) There is no doubt that Wells knew the references to the Ring of Gyges in Plato’s ‘Republic’ and in some way thought he was dramatising something of that philosophical discussion.

The fraternity brothers cut that class, and so for their benefit here is a refresher: Glaucon says a person is only moral because the responsibility imposed by society. Persons free of consequences of their actions would behave selfishly, knavishly, piggishly in the manner of the Tweet in Chief. If an ordinary Josephine came across a ring that could make one invisible, she would get up to no good. Want to know what Plato replied? Read the book! Wells’s novel is an examination of what an invisible person would then do. Though Dr Griffen, the Invisible Man, would hardly consider himself an ordinary chap.

At times I thought of the Invisible Man as an alter ego for Wells himself, and took the study to be autobiographical in a way. This is not a standard interpretation, so do not crib it.

The special effects must have been mind-numbing in 1933. Objects floating in the air, like a telephone. A cigarette smoking itself in mid-air. An unbuttoned shirt dancing by itself. The bicycle riding along sans rider. But most of all the several unveilings when the invisible man removes the bandages that conceal his nothingness. Did Jean-Paul Sartre see this film? Bet he did.

Invivisle chin.jpg The Invisible Man unveils himself.

The denouement is the dealh of the Invisible Man, when the police cordon has finally tracked him down in the fresh snow and dealt him mortal injuries. His shoe prints were easy to track in the snow. Yes, shoe prints. But the shoes were not visible…

Invisisb clade.jpg
Lying in a hospital bed he gradually dissolves into view as the very young Claude Rains.

By the way, the cinematic invisibility of Claude Rains was achieved by wearing a black velvet body suit with no holes. None. Then putting the bandages on and then the clothes over the top. Altogether an uncomfortable and awkward business. Then he would be filmed against a matte, but the technical matters are best left to technicians. The point is that it was hard work being invisible on film just as invisibility was a curse to Griffin in the story.

Claude Rains was a young actor who had appeared in some silent films but who preferred the theatre and was content there. That is, until the Great Depression thinned theatre audiences to nearly nothing and income was hard to get. The Universal agent who negotiated the film rights with Wells agreed to an English lead and Rains, a near unknown then, was recruited. It was easy money for him and a free trip to the USA.

It made sense. A big name actor would be expensive and wasted since unseen until the very end in one shot. Indeed a big name actor might not wanted the part or demanded it be changed for more face time. Not even still photos before invisibility or flashbacks are used to show Griffin before. Plus the Invisible Man had to command the attention of the audience with his voice. Rains’s perfect diction and distinctive intonation did just that. He made it seem credible that he could dominate scene against visible actors where he was unseen, and so carry the audience with him.

Rains had done some screen tests earlier and they were terrible. He effected a declamatory style suited to nailing the back wall of a large theatre, entirely wrong for the camera, which magnifies everything. See Marshall McLuhan on hot and cold media for enlightenment, Mortimer. However his voice got the attention of the casting director and since he would not be seen, Rains’s emoting would not be seen. Moreover, the oral intensity of his emoting was in keeping with the Invisible Man’s madness.

In time, Rains liked earning a living in films and the sunshine, and adjusted his style to the camera. This story is a reminder of the differences between stage and film, and why some players prefer one to the other, and all find the change an effort.

Social invisibility has been a theme in literature and I expect somewhere there is a syllabus that brings some of it together. There is Fyodor Dostoevsky. ‘Notes from Underground’ (1864) and
Ralph Ellison, ‘The Invisible Man’ (1952). (Ross McDonald’s ‘The Underground Man’ is literally a man underground, buried.) Plus the other Universal films and their many imitators.

1 hour 30 minutes, 6.5/10 from 58,642

Europa cover.jpg

Sy Fy, drama, mystery, documentary, these are all terms that might apply to this film. In it a multi-national, multi-ethnic crew pilots a spaceship from Earth to Europa, a large moon of Jupiter. Europa is an ice world and where there is ice there might be now or once water, and where there is water, there might be life. That is why Europa.

There is not a uniform or rank in sight. This mission is that of private company. Shades of the Alien franchise.

The approach is near documentary and the time line is jumbled as new data is made available. The perspective is a forensic investigation into what went wrong, using video sent back by the ship. ‘Everything’ is the short answer. The company CEO reports on the mission … [to the shareholders]? It was amusing to imagine Richard Branson doing this, flipping his hair, flashing his teeth, and thrusting forward the hips, as he does.

We are treated to the starry firmament and the awe of the deep and dark unknown. There is much display of the tedious work of running a spaceship. William Xu is in command but there is much discussion, but no one ever calls him captain.

Europa crew.jpg The crew before....there were none.

Repairs have to be made and are routine,… not all. One repair requires an EVA and when a bolt flies out, the first crewman is lost, drifting off into the void in radio contact for a while…. No bang, just a whimper.

They land on Europa, as per plan, leaving the orbiter above. It is indeed ice, but not solid. Hmm. Will the ice withstand the weight of the lander? It seems OK. They do some ice fishing, cutting a hole and dropping a probe down into…. yes, it is water. The data streams in, then the probe stops. Huh? What happened? An IOS update? Flat battery? One of the crew goes to change the battery and sees the ice cracking and… Two down.

Another one forgot to fasten the seat belt. Whack. Three down.

So it goes until only one is left.

These are explorers like those who went with Columbus, Lewis and Clark, Captain Cook, Marco Polo, Edmund Hilary, Robert Scott, Thor Heyerdahl, and their ilk. They want to know what is there, and send that knowledge back to Earth. Or the scientists like Marie Curie who exposed or injected themselves to their discoveries to see what happens.This desire to know kills each of them one-by-one like the Agatha Christie story shorn of the evil mastermind making it happen. Just the laws of physics.

Europa with Jupiter.jpg

The film is distinctive in good part for what is not there.

1.There are no meteors to provide an easy crisis. This is the oldest chestnut in the Sy Fy writer's manual.

2.There is nothing military about the exercise, and no weapons of any kind were on show. No wonder the NRA banned it.

3.There are no political echoes from Earth of any kind. No scheming Russians, no holy Greenies, no nothing of that sort. In no sense is this mission to save Earth, another common trope omitted.

4.There are two women in the crew of six, and there is nary a word about whether a woman could be a scientist and a woman, etc. All that tiresome, trite, and trivial nonsense so favoured by scriptwriters of Sy Fy in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Oddly, they got paid for writing such bilge. One hopes they are out of work today.

5.Although the mission is a private business there is none of the corporate chicanery beloved by the scripts in the Alien sequence. The CEO suppresses emotion at times recounting the fates of the minions.

6.There are daring deeds but no grandstanding heroics to pull off a miracle. It is realistic enough that most of the time crew members are wrapped in safety gear, which they do not rip off for close-ups pace ‘Arrival’ (2016). None have make-up like Sandra Bullock in ‘Gravity’ (2013).

7.There is no creature in this feature. Much to the annoyance of the monkeys at keyboards who have commented on IMDb and You Tube. Yes, they do find an amoebae of sorts in the water and that is life, and that is tremendously exciting, but that bug does not cause any trouble. It just is.

8.There is, mercifully, no comic relief. No character who tells jokes trying to be funny, emphasis on trying. This figure appears far too often and in many films the butt of the humour is woman. Glad to be rid of that.

9.And there is no salvation. They all die. Very lifelike.

‘Completing the Channel Tunnel in 1940….’ are the opening words of this futuristic movie made in the depths of the Great Depression from the typewriter of the then recent German refuge Kurt Siodmak while in England.

Tunnel poster.jpg

Face-time video telephone calls are common. Giant television screens in public squares, on outside walls, in railway stations are the source for news. Aerodynamic designed automobiles glide by. Non-stop transatlantic flights ply the airway from London to New York City and back. (The first non-stop flight on that route occurred in 1958). The face-time calls are also made from the airplane to home. The first passenger train took the Chunnel in 1994. As always Curt was ahead of the times.

The 1940 Channel Tunnel led to the development of a steel that can hold up the universe and a radium drill that churns through all matter and antimatter, too. The investors who paid for the development of those technologies want to see them used again for a return on that investment. The financiers gather to start the trans-Atlantic tunnel. Among them are many wheels within wheels. Some are motivated by philanthropy, others see in the Tunnel greater unity to prevent (another) war (though the Great War is never mentioned explicitly or implicitly). some are there for the likely profit, and then there are the merchants of death who think the tunnel (somehow, and this is never explained) will lead to war and increase demand for the armaments they have to sell.

There are three plot lines, which is three more than in some films reviewed on this blog. First is the Tunnel itself. Second is the personal life and relations of the Chief Engineer on the project. Third are the machinations of the financiers. Without a doubt the Tunnel is the star of the show.

The Tunnel is a gigantic maw that consumes money, labour, tools, lives, men, emotions, patience without end.

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The five year project takes twenty. (Mega-engineering forecasts have not improved since then.) Chief is so obsessed by it that he does not notice his son or his wife. Wife tries to share his passion for the Tunnel by going to work as a nurse in it, where she contracts Tunnel disease from the gases and goes blind. Chief does not notice. Now blind (but evidently wealthy) she leaves him with the son. Chief does not notice. The son grows up. The Chief does not notice.

The daughter of one of the philanthropic investors is madly in love with Chief, married or not. Chief does not notice. She throws herself at him repeatedly. Chief does not notice. (This man needs glasses. Look at those assets.)

The financiers buy and sell Tunnel stock to drive others out of the project and Daughter sells her body to the arch villain to secure continued funding for the Tunnel. Chief does not notice.

Accidents, floods, power surges, equipment failure bedevils the project. These the Chief notices. He throw himself even deeper into the work. Workers die. The Chief does not notice. HIs son comes to work in the Tunnel. The Chief does not notice. His son dies in the Tunnel. At last the Chief does notice this, and united by grief he and Wife reconcile.

The Tunnel is vast, on two vertical levels with two way monorail traffic and a two lane road between the monorails.

Tunnel car.jpg

Nothing like the dual tubes that comprise the Chunnel, which is still losing money. Its investors are still in the red.

Daughter discovers that life with the villain is exciting.

The British Prime Minister and the US President pontificate on the unity of the English-speaking people, though Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, New Zealand, Nigeria, the Bahamas, and Australia are absent from this incantation. Walter Huston does the US President whose pathetic pension meant he had to go to Mexico to find ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ (1948).

In the end, Chief has to do it himself. He does. End.

It got a laudatory review in the ‘New York Times’ and so it should. The design and staging are striking even today. Siodmak’s futuristic toys outdo ‘Metropolis’ (1926) and its successors like ‘High Treason’ (1929), ‘Just Imagine’ (1930), or ‘Non-Stop New York’ (1937).

The Chief was completely consumed by the Tunnel. How will he live now that it is completed?

It was made at a time when talkies were filmed in three (or more languages) in parallel. The props, costumes, designs sets, and story on the English version were used with a different actors and directors in French, and then again with another cast and crew in German. All this was done quick smart. Doing this led to huge multi-lingual and multi-national production facilities like Gaumont in Paris and UFA in Berlin.

Tunnel French.jpg The French version.

These polyglot facilities later opened doors for actors, writers, directors, designers, engineers, cinematographers, and others to move from one country to another after 1933.

From the IMDB, 1 hour 34 minutes at 6.2/10 from 548

‘They won’t believe me,’ should be the tag line for this story. It has been rendered twice. In 1953 it ran one hour and seventeen minutes scoring 6.6 from 5828 votes, while the big budget CGI version in 1986 is 5.5 from 5972 votes running one hour and forty minutes.

Invaders 53-1.jpg The 1953 lobby card makes it into a creature feature.

Invaders 86-1.jpg The 1986 cover.

A boy of twelve is a star gazer, and he sees a bright light land just over the tree line. He convinces his dad to check it out. The re-make mimics the original in this scene and yet it is played differently. In the original there is mystery, while in the second it is explicit. In the original the loving father comes back from checking out the light a zombie in some kind of inner pain. While in the second he comes back an automaton with no interior. Leif Erickson in the original plays this transformation very well. He is no longer the loving father, but in distancing himself from his son, on his face we seen confusion and even anguish, while in the latter version the dad comes back an expressionless robot.

Leif.jpg

The subtlety of the original is lost in 1986. While in 1953 the persistence of the boy triggers events, in 1986 he is a midget Indiana Jones who makes things happen. Indeed at one point the Marine general defers to him. Ah huh.

Mind, there are some nice touches in the 1986 take, as when Nurse Ratched is caught eating a live frog, legs last. If only Red could have seen that. I also liked the unspoken reaction to the mother, now a zombie, burning a pile of bacon to blackened ruins and then calmly eating it. A frog, well that is odd but what do you expect from Ratched, but charred bacon is positively appalling. She must be an alien to do that. Burn it, I mean.

The only character in the 1986 version who bites into his role is the general who hams it up for all its worth. He, at least, knows it is a joke. While I loved the general, the time it takes him to blast the Martians was boring.This part was played in 1953 by that Sy Fy stalwart Morris Ankrum, of whom no criticism will be heard.

In 1986 Karen Black gives a a good performance but it does not match the material, but this woman can look worried, thoughtful, determined, and more. She is trying but …. its not enough. Yes, I know the boy is her son and perhaps that explains a lot. He seems to be stubborn, wilful, and blank most of the time.

There is far too much CGI of the Martians and their tunnel. It goes on and on and bored me. The rubber suit for the Martian in 1953 is preferable to this monotonous red CGI. The planet is red, see, so the Martian bugs are red, too, and everything around them is red, see. Yes, I saw.

In addition, I was never quite sure what the Martians were up to. Ugly yes, but what else? Yes, yes, I saw the NASA connection but I still did not fathom the point there, and since it is all boom-boom there is never an exposition, not at least while I was still engaged enough to notice. In 1953 it was clear they wanted to thwart the spaceflight but in 1986 there seems to be more to it, and less.

I liked the tribute of 1986 to 1953 in casting Jim Hunt, who was the boy in the earlier film, as the sheriff in the re-make. A nice touch.

OK, I admit I did some FF and may have missed the subtlety. While confessing, my comments on the 1953 version come from the Mind Palace, not a recent viewing.

Operation Ganymed 1 hour 56 m 6.6/10 from 258 : Orion’s Loop 1 hour 25 m 5.6/10 from 78

These two Sy Fy movies have much in common with each other and with ‘Space Odyssey’ (1968) and ‘Solaris’ (1972). As to the latter they are post-modern avant le mot, ambiguous, incomplete, contradictory, unreliable, deceptive, all much like some …[fill in the blank] I have known.

‘Operation Ganymed’ from West Germany starts with astronauts returning after several years from a mission to Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter, which went wrong, leaving members of the expedition dead. (We never find out why Ganymed?) The five left are returning to Earth, among them Jürgen Prochnow, in a hurry to get to Das Boot. These survivors are dazed, battered, and anxious as they power home. The anxiety turns to angst as they near the blue dot because there is no radio communication. They keep calling but no one picks up, and yet they are sure their radio is working. If they cannot get ground help, it will be hard landing. Siri! Wake up!

Gany poster.jpg

As for the Russkies, there are many space ships out and about and recently a number of them have come to grief. No, not by coming across Rush Limbaugh broadcasts, nothing that awful. Rather some unknown kind of radiation is penetrating the ships and driving the crews mad, and killing many of them. Video evidence from an Italian space ship shows the crew, eschewing pasta, and bashing into walls in their orange jumpsuits, double knit with flared trousers. Hold on, any Italian made to wear such a clown-suit would surely contemplate suicide.

Orion poster.jpg

A committee meets. [Shudder.] Pontificating follows. Ditto. Ditto. The Libras want to study the phenomenon for a while, maybe forever. They can see research grants galore, fulfilling their KPIs, until retirement. The Taureans want to get out and taste the radiation. The noble Russkies agree to lead the mission in purpose-built ship they have whipped up. There were eight or nine of them. Each is cloned into an android to ease the burden. This gimmick is not integral to the plot and used in only two scenes. Much ado about little. The androids do not seem to be proof against the brain pain radiation later.

Distracted by the hijinks of the fraternity brothers, this correspondent missed some details, now and later, in both films. Ahem.

The Germans have no help and have to land hard and out of control. Surviving the landing, they emerge from their craft rocky and rolling after years in low gravity space. After some this-and-that, they guess that they missed the Pacific Ocean! Instead they are in Baja California near that ocean.

That is the mystery. What happened? Where is everyone? Meanwhile, how are these weakened men with only a few leftover supplies from a four-year mission survive in the harsh desert conditions in which they now find themselves? This environment is as harsh and forbidding as any Martian landscape shown in other Sy Fy films.

While the imperatives of the operation on Ganymede and then the concentration required to return kept the five cohesive and sane, this empty desert weakens those bonds. Injuries, delirium, dehydration further impair them. They head north and come across a few abandoned trucks and a few empty villages at crossroads. But no people, dead or alive, nor any animal or bird life. Just that rugged, endless, dry stony desert under a relentless sun.

Gany walk 1.jpg The walk.

We then get the dreams and nightmares of the individuals. I loved one who dreamed of being the only survivor interviewed by the media while himself dying. The carrion of the media attack him with a battery of trivial and stupid questions, oblivious to his mortal distress as he dies under the barrage of their self-serving and aggressive questions. It seemed so plausible and realistic it could have been on the ABC.

Another stunned astronaut, blinded by the sun, imagines himself in a ticker tape parade of welcome.

A third has disconnected, blurred flashes of what happened to the others on Ganymede.

This parade of delusion interspersed with conflict among the five, though they are too exhausted for much.

On the other fork in the space-way, the Russkies are nearing the energy source which is cotton candy whirling in space. Their craft has all manner of special shielding, such as applied to those about the go to a dean’s budget briefing, but even so members of the crew start experiencing brain pains of considerable magnitude, though not as bad as though endured by budget meetings. It kills some. Even the androids need Tylenol. Others put on headphones to listen to Reiki music to recover. (Well, that is what it looked like, and I missed some the subtitles.) The crazier ones want to destroy the ship by pulling the USB cables out without ejecting the device in the prescribed manner! Unsafe withdrawal! That is a death wish! Others just want to go home. More die, though there is no gorefest. They just creep off and lie still. Kind of like Alexander Technique exercises.

Barnars loop.jpg Barnard's Loop stands in for Orion's.

Whoa! Other members of the crew get holographic visitations that seem to be communicating with them. It takes a while to tune into the channel, but when they do, the message is, ‘Wait! I am not a dream. Listen.’

These visitations cause pain to the one visited, like when the in-laws come for Thanksgiving. The holographs have been trying to tune their visits so as not to kill those visited, something in-laws never do. The holographic visitors do some Geordie Speak and claim that they are there to help. Ah huh, this is after killing the crews of several other ships with these brain-pain inducing visitations. The energy field called Orion’s Loop, which the holographs have created, will save Earth from a speeding orb on a collision course, not yet sensed by Earth’s primitive instruments. Ah huh. But Earthlings must not interfere with the Loop. (Why did I just think of El Trains in Chi Town?)

‘We come in peace. We are here to help.’ That is what the holographs say as they flicker in and out. The visits seem to take a lot out of them, too. Why they did not try FaceBook is unknown where all the other weirdos go. The Russkies have heard all that before. Said it even. Some think it is a trick and without ejecting pull out more USB peripherals, while others dally with these spectral visitors. Dally. Pull. Dally. Pull.

Then it ends.

Back to the Germans. A couple of the wandering astronauts die in the desert.

Then it ends.

‘Operation Ganymed’ is a character study as each of the survivors deteriorates. While ‘Orion’s Loop’ shows the reactions of crew members to these alien apparitions.

Both movies have effective set designs, especially the Russkie computer, which is walk-in, like the one that used to be in the computer museum in Boston. The spaceships, the space suits, the instruments, especially in the German take, all have a verisimilitude to this viewer. Though the Germans are always complaining about what junk their Audi ship is. Whinge. Whinge. Whinge. It got them there and back.

Both movies are like ‘Odyssey’ and ‘Solaris’ in being cryptic, and it is left to the viewer to get something out of them. OK. Not something I would pay to watch, but far preferable to the Italian Sy Fy I have seen where there is a story and plot and both are confused and nonsensical, and evidently forgotten by the cast half-way through. No loss.

At 1 hour 10 minutes, 5.3/10 from 417 casters.

A missile appears on Soviet radar and the response is measured but finally an effort is made to intercept and destroy it. It fails, while intelligence reports that the missile did not originate in the USA or its allies. Huh!

The Soviet interception, while it did not disable the missile, deflected it into an Earth orbit. Around it goes at such great speed that the heat and sound in its trail destroys all. The new course will bring it over New York City in an hour. The countdown begins. (Note: the Russkies did it even they did not mean to do so.)

Lost Missile.jpg A misleading lobby card because there is no creature in this feature.

In Gotham we learn that a really big missile called Jove is soon due for a test flight at nearby Havenbrook. In New York City itself other scientists are making a bigger and better bomb; all are enlisted in finding a way to eliminate this threat. Among them is Robert Loggia, he of countless television programs, who spouts Geordie-speak and proposes to use Jove to carry the bigger and better bomb to blast the Lost Missile. He and his colleague Philip Pine, another TV regular, set to work against the clock. Tick, tick, tick…

Will exploding a hydrogen bomb in the atmosphere near New York City be wise? The Geordie-speak covers that. As the missile continues, it destroys Ottawa; no one noticed.

Only Philip Pine even wonders where the missile came from or with what intent and that is brushed aside by Loggia. Who cares? Let’s blow it up! Though admittedly, communicating with the silent runaway does not seem the obvious thing to do.

To get the plutonium bomb from New York City to Havenbrook, Loggia puts it in a Macy’s bag and sets off with his fiancée in tow. Sure.

Loggia.jpg Loggia rides to the rescue and his own demise in one of his few leading roles.

He sacrifices himself to arm the missile and launch it in the best Hollywood manner by installing the shopping bag in the missile, handling the plutonium. As crude as that it is, this is one of the few instances of movies of that era that emphasises the deadly radiation of nuclear weapons and atomic energy. Contrast that to ‘The Atomic Man’ (1955) where radiation is an annoyance to be treated with soap and hot water followed by a lie down and an aspirin.

Meanwhile, New York City is evacuated and those that stay in Gotham imitate Brits in the Blitz and gather in air raid shelters in a tense but calm manner to do the crossword puzzle. As if…

In between this action we see a lot, too much, stock footage of rockets, airplanes, weapons, wreckage, city streets, panic, and so on and on. These inserts seem promotional videos for the Air Force, for Conelrad, for NORAD, for Civil Defence, Macys, for…. One of them showed school children calmly crawling under their school room desks which would… (Remember that drill? I do.) Those inserts are good quality but pointless in the story. Perhaps sixty percent of the screen time is this padding. That made me wonder if the story was originally conceived to be shorter for a television playhouse program and then padded with this footage to B movie length.

The action with Loggia and company is well acted and briskly directed, but there is too little of it. Given that there is nothing about the origins of the missile, despite the misleading lobby cards with the hoary hand releasing the missile, it is hardly Sy Fy. We are none the wiser after it is blasted. Hope it does not have any siblings.

Again unusual for the time, the Soviets are shown to be cautious and the population of New York City includes blacks. Both are unusual for the time.

Common to the times is the role of the women to panic, cry, shout, and so on. Loggia's girl is a scientist but you'd never know it after the introduction. She performs the stereotype duties well enough but there is no hiding how tiresome those duties are.


3.7/10 from 575 at 1 hour 25 minutes

A slasher movie with invisibility and no slashes.

A convicted murderer reads a lot. Strange. He murdered his celebrity mother because she ignored him. HIs reading has given him telekinetic powers and also the on/off switch for invisibility. Wow! Mrs Hoover was right in the sixth grade when she said reading broadened the horizon.

Astral coveer.jpg

The cast includes some name-recognition players: Sue Lyon, Elke Sommer, Leslie Parrish, Stephanie Powers, and Marianna Hill. Most of these women get one scene where they pretend to be strangled by an invisible man. Put that on the demo tape. On the other side, Percy Rodrigues is wasted though he imparts gravitas and integrity to a cardboard role. But the male lead is Robert Foxworth, about whom more later.

Back to the crazed killer.

Astal man.jpg

His reading homework done, the villain, Sandman, uses his telekinetic powers and invisibility to escape the slammer and mow down the those enumerated above. The only incident that engaged the jaded attention of the fraternity brothers was the murder during a modern dance performance, and that was the choreography. Honest!

To get ‘The Invisible Strangler’ (alternative title) the master plan is to bait him onto a stairway and then remodel the house with gunfire. The bait at the top of the stair is Elke Sommer. Well, that would work. A step is loosened under the carpet so that it squeaks. Set! Wait a minute, who put the cat out?

Sandman is duly riddled in an NRA-approved fusillade. For about five minutes. End. Though how they know he is dead remains a mystery since he is still invisible, or did I blink.

Did not these people watch any of the Invisible Man movies? Evidently not. To flush out an invisible man or woman, blow smoke, pour water, vent steam, spray insecticide, use paintball, something. But not here; instead it is a hail of bullets.

To attract the slasher demographic the alternative title was used when it was finally marketed. ‘The Astral Factor’ is never explained in the film anyway, and it would just confuse the anti-vaxxers. Mondays do that, too.

There were no special effects. No floating glasses, moving telephones, and since he strangles there are no wafting weapons. Nor is there any problem with invisible clothes and shoes or going bare and barefoot. Nor is there ever any explanation of how Sandman does it. Who cares anyway? (But which book was he reading? )

It was made in 1976 but not released until 1978 for the desperate VHS market of the day.

Seeing Robert Foxworth reminded me of one of the most enjoyable movies that has ever come my way, ‘The Black Marble’ (1980). It is a police procedural that is sad, funny, romantic, idealistic, pragmatic, has dogs, a chase, singing, and gave me an appetite for St Petersburg Russia, which was satisfied in 2017, though not in August. I re-read Roger Ebert's laudatory review from the time and agreed with every word and sentiment. Foxworth is the movie but it helped to have that Amazon from Texas, Paula Prentiss, and the desiccated Kentuckian Harry Dean Stanton alongside. Joseph Wambaugh, the author of the novel, one of many, felt that previous Hollywood renderings of his books were stupid and superficial, so he decided to do it himself with this one. He succeeded! Chapeux!

A boring film of 1 hour and 13 minutes about a nuclear apocalypse. It is marked as 5.5/10 from 557 time wasters.

A highway patrol officer in the Alabama Hills near Los Angeles is ordered by radio to set up a one-man road block in the middle of nowhere because a fugitive is about. He complies.

Not a test cover-1.jpg

For nowhere there is lot of traffic and each time he orders the driver to stop, pull over, and wait without a word of apology or explanation. Send him back to the training course, cried the fraternity brothers. The motorist are varied.

Yes, this the Otranto roadblock where a mixed group of individuals are thrown together by larger, external events and must interact with each other. A disaffected wife sneaks off into the bushes, unbuttoning her blouse with the virile truck driver, a worried businessman has to fly to Mexico, a drunken socialite wants more liquor and her ageing beatnik boyfriend wants to match macho with the police officer who promptly clocks him with a rifle butt. This is a man of few words.

Copper forbids them from returning to their vehicles and has pocketed all their keys, hence no one can listen to commercial radio. The only source of intel is the police radio which begins to talk about evacuation of the city with the title phrase, ‘This is not a test.’ Everyone of a certain age will recognise the title as the Conelrad alert for atomic armageddon. Sixty minutes is mentioned as the time to….. Transmission ends.

The police officer redoubles his efforts to keep the party together, get those two out of the bushes, whack some sense into the would-be beatnik, kill the socialite’s annoying dog by strangling it, and coerce the truck driver and his off-sider to empty the truck. Why? So that it can be used as a bomb shelter! Yep. Well it is better than nothing. That was one training course he did.

So they crowd into the Otranto moving van truck which just happens to have a supply of canned food and bottled water, well beer. There was not much bottled water in 1962. Everyone in the truck feels sorry for themselves and has to decide how to live the remaining hours of their lives. Mostly they stand around saying that. They need an agenda and chair to focus the discussion. They need a McKinsey-speak manager to confuse things properly with micro-managed KPIs.

One hopes that in the truck's supplies there is plenty of deodorant, because they may have to stay there for months. So it is said. It varies between oblivion in sixty minutes or months of waiting while the radiation dissipates, and that seems to be realistic in a way. Who knows? Who has tried to sit out a nuclear war in a truck before?

In 1962 nuclear war was a reality though the Soviets are never mentioned, and there is no chest-thumping about the American way in the back of the truck. Ergo it is certainly of the time but subdued. There are many films with a similar setting, like ‘Five’ (1951), ‘Alas, Babylon’ (1960), ‘Ladybug, Ladybug’ (1962), and more. Each of these three has a lot to offer.

Like many of those other films this one is intended to be a taut character study, but, well, it never had a theatrical release, not even for the triple feature drive-in market, where the cheap schlock was always welcome, and it is easy to see why. It is not taut though it is confined like a stage play. The writing does not produce or reflect tension though it is combative. The characters are so shallow, who cares. The more so when compared to the films named above. It seems to be the only credit for the director, screen writer, producer, and lead actor. The cinematography is either bleached or shadowed.

The Easter Islander playing the lead is monosyllabic and seems to have no inwardness. Some the players are familiar like Thayer Roberts, the farmer driving a crop to market and Norman Winston as the husband who shoots himself, not at the prospect of incineration but because it was his wife off in the bushes with the truck driver. In the hills the fugitive is still after the one-armed man.

However, despite its qualities, the film brought back a lot of unpleasant memories from that time and place when nuclear Armageddon was a prospect. The drills in school. The repeated testing, as in 'This is a Test' of the Conelrad network. The public service announcements on television about taping windows in preparation for annihilation. The ominous announcements in October 1962. Then there was the ordinary high school day when we were sent home early without explanation. Gulp! I have never been able to watch 'The Day After' (1983) because I thought I would relive that.

A novel about two underlings in the negotiations at Munich in 1938. Years ago I read Georges-Marc Benamou’s ‘The Ghost of Munich’ (2009) concerning the late-life recollections and reflections of
Édouard Daladier, the French Prime Minister who took part along with Neville Chamberlain.

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The stereotypes of this episode are many and seldom varied. Too bad. Harris, as always, digs deep into the strata and finds complexity, contradictory strands, variation, mixed motives, and men in way over their heads in deep and dark water where there is no bottom to touch.

In the main the reader looks over the shoulder of the youngest of the private secretaries in Prime Minister Chamberlain’s office, Hugh Legat. At times we see his Oxford friend, Paul Hartman, sometimes it is implied ever so delicately that they were very close and more than friends, who has become a translator in the Wilhemstrasse Foreign Ministry. They meet at Munich.

Much of the novel demonstrates the great pressure Chamberlain was under to find a way to peace and avoid another blood bath, his heart-felt desire to do that, his unflagging energy even at age seventy to pursue every last chance to the Nth degree, and his creative strokes in keeping the peace-process, as we have since learned to call such negotiations, alive on the assumption that talk-talk is better than kill-kill. He emerges as a good swimmer destined to drown in a mighty tsunami.

While the sniping from the Churchill lobby is noted, the real problem is always Hitler. He is the swirling eddy sucking everyone else into the maelstrom. Harris is a master of the detail of the Nazi regime down to the buttons on the uniforms of the waiters, and yet if comes across easily.

Chamberlain’s most creative stroke was to draw Benito Mussolini into the conference and that did buy several days, a week even. Hitler could hardly refuse the participation of his one and only ally, and Mussolini liked a stage and made the most of it with his prolix German and French. But here he is relegated to the wings.

Daladier said virtually nothing, so exhausted and preoccupied was he by the back-stabbing and internecine struggles in Paris that he spent most of the negotiating sessions making plans to do down some of his host of opponents at home. Among his own dwindling supporters some rallied under the banner ‘Better Hitler than Blum,’ the socialist Jewish alternative.

Chamberlain’s second stoke came after the partition of Czechoslovakia was agreed; it was to extract from Hitler that piece of paper he brandished at Heston aerodrome. At the end of the formalities in Munich he asked for a private meeting with Hitler and presented Hitler with a joint statement that paraphrased one of Hitler’s own recent speeches about peace. Clever that. Although Hitler had no interest in seeing Chamberlain he did so, he said, out of courtesy. Still less did he want to issue a joint statement, but he could hardly repudiate his own words just then. Moreover, it was just a piece of paper so why not sign it, if for no other reason than to get Chamberlain to leave. So he did and he did.

Chamberlain is shown to be a terrier about details throughout and to have an encyclopaedic grasp of the situation. He is also aware of how greatly people wanted peace.

Indeed, one of the interesting elements in this telling is the jubilant popularity Chamberlain had in Germany where the women and men in the street saw him as a messenger of peace, and cheered his every appearance. They crowd around the hotel and call for him to appear, but he does not do so in deference to his host. This popularity annoyed Hitler, who darkly grumbles about the problems with Germans weakness.

There is much in the book about how the PM’s office worked, relations with the cabinet, and with the Foreign Office, that shows the stage machinery of such dramas as well as the rivalries. As always Harris has immersed himself completely in the subject. Likewise, we read much about how Hitler’s entourage was organised at the time, as Hartman is drawn into it, and then recoils from it.

Legat and Hartman have their own private dramas but the master narrative that unites them and propels the book is this. What if Chamberlain (and Daladier) knew for a fact that Hitler’s intention was to go to war? Would that knowledge have led to a change at Munich with a different result?

I included Daladier about in parenthesis though there is virtually no liaison with the French shown in these pages. The French were paralysed by their own domestic strife and were present only in body. In Benamou’s novel Daladier is fatalistic. War is coming and there nothing to do but wait, and then he had faith in the Maginot Line. He is more worried about the prospect of a French Civil War similar to that in Spain.

Legat and Hartman offer such proof of the bellicose intention, and Chamberlain refuses it. Intentions can change, he may have believed, and maybe here today we can influence that change. Moreover, there is no advantage in being seen to be the aggressor. He is perfectly aware of the fact that a signature on a peace of paper will not stop Hitler from doing his worst, but it will give England the moral high ground. And it might delay the inevitable if it is inevitable for a few more days.

Furthermore, Hartman’s suggestion that an aggressive Britain would precipitate a coup d’état against Hitler is so much wishful thinking. Everything the Brits saw in Munich convinced them that Hitler had complete control of the country and that fit with every other source of intelligence they had. To be sure there were dissidents but they were but fleas.

Appeasement to use a word that barely figures in this text is the term usually associated with the period immediately before World War II. In its earliest days, when Germany reclaimed the Saar, and the Rhineland, and unilaterally cancelled some debts, appeasement was a positive policy by England, France, and Italy to assuage some of the injustices of the Treaty of Versailles, which had been imposed upon Germany at the insistence of Georges Clemenceau who wanted forever to cripple Germany. Subsequent French governments wanted, not to ease the German plight, but to strike at Clemenceau’s legacy for momentary political advantage, and so acceded to British initiatives to relent. The Brits wanted a German bulwark against Communism from the East.

But the demands from Germany continued, and no one in France or England wanted another war. While England and France had won in 1918, the war nearly destroyed both. Peace was popular, very. In addition internal political turmoil in France was paralytic as its own fascists were inspired by the Italian and German examples and the Spanish Civil War. Italy soon went with the wind into Hitler’s camp. The French hated each other more than any enemy and locked themselves in a battle to the death; that is no exaggeration because there were assassinations and beatings aplenty.

Chamberlain had learned the value of publicity and ensured that the press with BBC news cameras were waiting his return, though Harris is silent on this point, and in the wind after a rain shower he made that much quoted remark with that peace of paper in his hand which promised ‘Peace for our time’ but I have heard it said that this seventy year old after the arduous days in Munich where there was little sleep and no rest misspoke and meant to say ‘Peace for a time.’ By that measure it was a success.

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It is certainly plausible but Harris passes on this possibility in silence.

That possibility reminded me of Neil Armstrong’s much quoted 1969 remark ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’ Wikiquotes now does Armstrong the service of inserting an indefinite article in from of the noun ‘man’ so that it reads: ‘one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.’ But accompanying sound file has no ‘a’ in it. The commentariat has been squeezing ego-time out of that ever since.

What else then could Chamberlain do but buy time, and hope against hope that the winds might change, and those cheering crowds in Munich heartened him, though his long political experience meant that he did not bank on an enduring vox populii.

For some years I was an HSC examiner and read each night for three weeks countless, well in fact they were counted — eight an hour — handwritten scripts on Modern History examinations on appeasement and this era. The words occasionally swam before my eyes but on it went but I learned a lot, about both the subject matter and the high school examination process, though as to the latter I was disappointed by its mechanistic rigidity, no paper could be awarded the highest grade of twenty unless it had mentioned every possible point on the list, emphasis on list. Out of the scores I read there was an outstanding one that was intelligent, well written, insightful, and probing but which, because of its tight focus, omitted a single point on the checklist and so, despite my advocacy, it was docked. That still rankles all these years later. (There were many other good ones but I refer to the one I tried to promote. Thereafter I learned my lesson and did not push.)

While indulging in autobiography, I spent a day in Munich in 1983 in a driving rain that inhibited much sight-seeing but I did find the bookstore that figures in a few episodes of 'Derrick,' a long running German cop show on SBS.

Starring Christopher Lee and Lolita, this was released in the same year as ‘Start Wars.’ That is the only thing they have in common apart from the genre classification of science fiction. This one is in the class ‘End of the World’ films like ‘Doomsday Machine’ (1967 and 1972) reviewed elsewhere on this blog and watched on consecutive nights. Contra T. S. Eliot on both nights it ended with a bang, not whimper. 'Start' for 'Star Wars' is the fraternity brothers' idea of a witticism, since that first film started the endless franchise that is still with us.

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This entry runs feature length of 1 hour and 28 minutes; by the end we all wanted it to end. The End of the World was a small price to pay for the relief. On the IMDB it rates 2.9/10.0 from 654 votes. That comes in below the average excrescence from Adam Sandler, but 0.5 ahead of ‘Doomsday Machine.’

It starts well, and that has trapped a lot of viewers per the comments on the IMDB. The cadaverous Lee in a Catholic priest’s garb with a vacate look blunders into an all-night dinner; no one else is there but the attendant. Lee is sub-verbal, like a 7MATE announcer, but looks like the survivor of a car wreck. Stunned, dazed, off-centre, and muttering about calling the police. OK.

Then the telephone explodes off the wall! That’s Telstra service! Anyway, then the coffee urn explodes and the whole place goes up in blazes. Lee stumbles into the dark and ends up in front of St. Demon’s church, where he is greeted by …. himself! This is a mysterious start…and most of the mystery ends there, too.

Meanwhile we see Square Jaw sitting at a 1970 dumb computer terminal in a room full of clicking, spinning, blinking gizmos, so we know this is hi-tech. We see a lot of him sitting. He's good at it. Sometimes he smokes a cigarette in this hi-tech environment. Then he sits some more. Occasionally he furrows his frontal lobes. Is this gripping or what? “Or what,’ said the fraternity brothers.

After what seemed like twenty minutes of furrowing, he says he is receiving messages from S P A C E. No one cares. His boss, the redoubtable Dean Jagger (what porkies was he told to take part in this travesty?) wants him to get back on schedule and forget this nonsense. Stick to the KPIs! Lolita just wants to party.

There must have been a sweet talker in the production because some of the footage is from the Rockwell plant where a space shuttle is under construction. This part is limited but it is impressive.

In the best tradition of a earlier era, Square Jaw takes Lolita hither and yon. No doubt the director knew who viewers wanted to see more.

They go to a super secret facility and walk in to find Lew Ayers who injects gravitas and humanity to this connect-the-dots exercise. More on Ayers below. We never see him again, nor is any use made of the gobbledegook he spouts from the screenplay.

They go to St Demon’s which is a convent and nose around. They nose around some more. Square Jaw exerts his lobes again.

Most of this movie was evidently filmed at night, in the dark, and through a fish tank. Much is not seen and every comment I found on the inter-web said that, so the print I watched was not unique.

Spoiler.

It turns out the alien garbage crew has landed. These aliens have duplicated Lee and the nuns at St Demon’s, though the real Lee keeps wandering about. (He rehearsed this role earlier in an episode of ‘The Avengers [1965].) No explanation of that. The avatar Lee explains that the Earth is a menace to the universe with its pollution, 7Mate, wars, hideous advertising, immorality, lousy presidents, and he and his crew of nuns have come blow it up.

Today that message has resonance about the pollution and destruction of the Earth but in 1977 it sounded dopey, the more so when joined with moralising about how evil humans are. That is, considering the the avatar Lee boiled the short order cook alive in the opening scene, and murdered a few others along the way, including his alter ego. Is he above reproach, not hardly.

With that explanation avatar Lee sets the bomb ticking and his crew step through a portal to go home, as avatar Lee steps up he invites Lolita to come along and Square Jaw, too. in an after thought. The former the fraternity brothers could understand but not the latter. Anyway without a word of demur, they do so.

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After all, the news on CNN is that the world is ending. Kaboom! The END of the movie.

This is a production that languished without release, until it was bought by another producer and sold to the late night television market, where it continued to languish taking a few unsuspecting viewers with it.

In the paranoia of the 1950s witch-hunting, Lew Ayers became suspect to the Tweets of the Time in a whispering campaign. After all he had starred in an anti-war film early in his career. This, they alleged, set him on the Red path as a fellow traveller. The film was ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (1930). Worse, in World War II he had served as a front line medic, rather than carry an NRA approved gun. His film career slipped away and he turned to television. Many years later inspired casting made him the incoming President of the United States in ‘Advise and Consent’ (1962) and that put him back on the wide screen.

From the IMDB: 1 hour 35 minutes and 6.2/10 from only 88 opinionators

A movie made on the cusp of talking pictures. It was made silent and then shortly thereafter a soundtrack was added, though the inter-title cards from the silent version remain. It is called the British response to ‘Metropolis’ (1926) with its futurism rendered by miniatures.

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It is set in the far distant future of 1950 where face-time phone calls are the norm at the top of the social pole.

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We never see any proles. Everyone of the elite scoots around in a personal airplane. Art Deco is über alles. The gear is all sleek and flapper with cloche hats. Fantastic, perhaps, but the clipboard is much in evidence. Not a computer in sight. But rows and rows of clerks adding things up. What things? Dunno.

The post-Great War world is divided into the Federated States of Europe and the Atlantic States, as illustrated on a map. Did Eric Blair see this movie?

Somewhere there is a land border between these two. Greenland? Bermuda? Wales?

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At the border the opposing guards play cards and joke about another war. A futuristic car pulls up and much suspect behaviour ensues. Will they declare the duty free or not? Not! Finally the car breaks away and shooting follows. The guards in the best NRA training start shooting each other rather than the fleeing automobile, which looks like a low-slung rocket on wheels. We never do find out what this is all about except that the guards are trigger happy, and that is well conveyed.

The blame bat swings and the politicos on each side of the border pontificate and bluster. All this is observed over a tele-screen by a room of bearded men in a smoke filled room who are spying on the politicos and brag about manipulating them. These are the plutocratic merchants of death. They are indicted by the film for encouraging war, but how they caused those border guards to go all NRA is never explained.

Once the bluster starts it has no end. See Barbara Tuchman’s ‘The Guns of August’ reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

In a parallel path we have the World Peace League, which is compromised mainly of women who wear white. There is a lot of white. There are millions of members, but, of course, the head is a man, ahem, whose daughter is betrothed to a soldier. The Montagues and Capulets at it again.

When Romeo and Juliet go to a ball and dance there is marvellous scene with an automated orchestra and a mechanical dance. The scale is great but the movements are stiff and poorly timed, by purpose, to reflect the pace of the instruments. At least that is what I think the point was.

Dad Montague is president of the Atlantic States and keen for war. No reason is offered for his belligerence; he is just written that way. Romeo Montague is a pilot who is ordered to bomb the Federated States of Europe, which is headquartered in London. Juliet Capulet in white harangues one and all campaigning for the Nobel Peace Prize or at least the Sydney one.

There follow two confrontations. One is choreographed like Busby Berkley at the aerodrome between the bomber pilots in slick black leather gear, and the women in white, lots of them. They mill around, confront, mill some more, while Romeo dithers. This scene is very nicely staged. The pilots have to get to those boy toys so they can blow people up, and quick! Guns are drawn, but…

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Meanwhile, Dad Capulet in white goes to see President Montegue in his private sanctum. In passing we learn that many chaps are keen for another war, though there are some chaps who know better in white, too. Not a white feather is sight. Boys Own stuff. This man of peace carries in his pristine, moral high ground white clothing a gat. A smile comes to the NRA composite. Got a problem. Shoot it! Problem gone.

Ah…. Peace now prevails in this world of personal rule. No more detail about this miracle is offered. If Hitler had been murdered at Munich….? Well, then perhaps Reinhard Heydrich for Führer. Gulp.

Instead we have the trial of Dad Montague in white for murdering President Capulet in black. The judge, determined to make the law an ass, rules irrelevant all matters of context and intention. A life for a life is the rule he knows. Though the jurors are anguished cravenly they comply with the direction of the judge, and he is sentenced to death, left then staring at the camera, while Romeo comforts Juliet. He never seems to note or care about the murder of his dad. Will the Federated States now launch an attack. Unknown. Maybe they are having their own white and black confrontation. Who knows.

That is where the version I watched faded. Fine with me. It is available for Free View from BFI web site, but I cannot access that. I found it on the Internet Archive and mirrored it to the Apple TV.

The futurism is fun, and the extended Art Deco set design and costumes are noteworthy. The comparison to ‘Metropolis’ is right for the staging, but not the story. War and peace is a big subject, true, but here it reduces to the bad will of a single individual, President Capulet. There is never any indication that the beards with cigars have any influence on Prexie Capulet and they disappear from the film. Or will they return to manipulate his successor into war? ‘Metropolis’ offers a more complex account of good and evil. Nor are there the macabre touches from ‘Metropolis.’

Start with the IMDB information: 1 hour and 23 minutes, with a score of 2.4/10 from 761 brave souls.

It is also a fact that it has two dates. The core was filmed in 1967. Notice the bouffant hairstyles and the hairspray required to hold them in place. The film, however, was not released until 1972 when a creative entrepreneur bought it, and proceeded to cut and paste into and around the core excerpts from two other, as yet unidentified movies, to produce this pastiche. Ordinarily such comments about production follow a discussion of the film but in this case they offer an explanation for the mish-mash.

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Let’s try to take it in turn. It opens with a woman sneaking into a secret (but poorly guarded facility) and since everyone looks California Chinese we are to conclude it is RED CHINA! This woman is a spy and she proceeds to murder the hapless security guard. Evidently the budget cutters had been at it and reduced the security to this schmo. She also -- and the fraternity brothers liked this touch -- strangles a lab technician with her own pigtails. She also stabs another lab rat who happens along. With her blood lust sated, she then examines a throbbing mechanism. Imagine what the fraternity brothers made of that.

Next she is seen behind a slide carousel (that’s a memory test) projecting pictures of the aforementioned mechanism to a room full of hirsute men with yacht sails for neckties, saying only Chairman Mao has the key for it. Heavy! They conclude it is a Doomsday Machine and pick up the phone to call the president in Florida on the golf course.

This is part one and it is lifted from another film entirely and we never see any of these characters again, but it justifies the title that was put on in 1972. It is all poorly staged, acted, lit, photographed, and very unbelievable. Not even the Twit-in-Chief would fall for it. Hmm.

Now we come to the core which has an airforce mission to Venus in preparation. NASA is nowhere to be seen but there are many blue uniforms and much saluting. There are seven men, straight and tall, ready to go. Much banter among them. Much stress on the physical rigours that await them, and their superb preparation. More saluting.

Then a car pulls up, security here, too, is lax, because a civilian emerges. Suits are always bad news among uniforms and this suit has three women in tow, but at least they are each in uniform. Gasp! One of them is in a brown uniform with a Red Star on it! Gasp. A Russky! Gasp! [It goes on like this for a while.]

By order of the Twit-in-Chief, three of the men are stood down and the three women replace them. Much amazement among the men that a woman might be a flight surgeon, a space pilot though this patricianly specimen was the first woman on the Moon, and an astrophysicist. Uniforms, military rank, a bushel of advanced degrees these they may have but they are WOMEN!

However ‘ein Befehl ist ein Befel’ and Colonel Physique submits, though he asks repeatedly why, especially as to the Red Russky. The long established plan is abrogated and they are launched toute suite, without a lot of TSA pre-flight checks. Again there is no explanation for the rush, but viewers know it must have something to do with Chairman Mao.

In sum, we have three young men and the old codger along with three nubile young women with bouffants. The fraternity brother had no trouble following this.

Sure enough the codger goes crook, and the women look after him, when not serving drinks. Colonel Physique strips off his shirt, and on him and this more below to reward the persevering reader, and parades around bumping into the women in states of undress. ‘This is ridiculous!’ he shouts. So did we. The visual evidence confirms three young men and three young women.

Pairing begins immediately when one unstable, snivelling male, let’s call him Donald, jumps on one of the women. So this the elite of the best of the best. His approach reminded the fraternity brothers of things they had seen in the zoo. The object tries to put him off, short of belting him. 'No' is not the answer Donald wants, and we all knew ‘he’ll be back.’

Meanwhile, they lose contact with ground control, because…. there is no longer any ground. Turns out the China Syndrome was right. Bored one night, Mao turned the key on the throbber and it split the world apart. Gasp! They watch the CNN broadcast of the end of the world, but give it a stingy two stars. Bang. No more Earth. Ah ha, that is why the women are on board. The United States Air Force has sent Adams and Eves in space with that codger as chaperone, though why a Russky was included still baffles Physique.

As usual, a meteor has crippled the ship and radiation is bad so they apply much Reynolds Wrap Heavy Duty here and there to fix it up. But they have used too much fuel outrunning the debris that once was Earth and dodging the meteors. Meanwhile, Donald continues to harass the object of his extension. In fact, and this is a first for the Sy Fy seen thus far he tries to rape her, in an airlock.

Remember how lax the security has been everywhere? Ditto for airlocks. There is a big red button with a sign in 8-point type that says Do Not Push. In their struggle it gets pushed and the load is lightened by two as they are blown out into space. Donald, OK, but her, she was the victim. There is no justice in space.

Still the load is too heavy to reach Venus. Whoa. Almost forgot Venus, and so did the director and producer. They talk about throwing each other out to lighten the load.

‘Why didn’t they use the hairspray aerosols for propulsion?’ cried a fraternity brother. ‘Why not ditch the codger? asked another. A third, suggested that they jettison the hairspray tins and the brushes, combs, and other impedimentia seen earlier. In fact, he suggested they ditch their clothes. These boys are smart despite their grades.

In the meantime one crewman and the Russky in space suits clamber outside the ship to repair a tear in the Reynolds Wrap and accidentally on purpose the rocket zooms out from under them and the are lost in space floating. They make comic relief remarks.

But by chance, in the vastness of space, there floats by a Russky spaceship. Is that handy or what! They board… Wait.

Here is where another, third film is cut and pasted in showing two completely different people in different space suits entering a ghost space ship where they find the crew dead but the ship fully operational, though it is the comic relief man who pilots it, the Russky ship, and not the Russky woman pilot with him. No women drivers in space. Note for pedants. These space suits are not those originally made for 'Destination Moon' (1951) and used repeatedly in other films since that year. Either they were worn out when this clanger was made or they were checked out to an Apollo mission.

They radio the mother ship [get it] and there is much talk of heading on….

Cut back to Adam and Eve, oh and the codger is still looking on and moving his lips about the future. An eternal optimist.

At this point a title card came up: The End.

Word on the inter-web is that the producers of the original film about the Venus mission went bankrupt before filming the Venus part and that is why it went on the shelf in 1967. The new producer spliced in other stuff and added a voice over ending with the codger rabbiting on about little rabbits or something to sell the resultant turkey to the drive-in market.

Roger Corman also spliced in various visuals of the destruction of the Earth from public domain news footages of fires, floods, GOP majorities, and other disasters, passing space junk, including two or three ersatz space stations cribbed from other movies and which were never noticed by the crew, and many different rockets. The ship they set out on morphed into two later configurations. Ditto the space suits as noted above.

The comic relief by the way was played by that triple threat performer Bobby Van, cannot sing, cannot dance, and cannot act. Confirmed. Confirmed. Confirmed.

Physique is played by Denny (Scott) Miller, a Hosier. whose stint as the title character in ‘Tarzan, the Ape Man’ (1959) left him forever shirtless. His parents were physical education nuts and passed it on to him. He went into television and had a long career as an extra, often unnamed. I recognised him from something but could not identify it, though he was recurrent on ‘Wagon Train’ (1961-1964). Although his real claim to fame is that he played basketball at UCLA. Most Hoosiers are born with cross-over dribble in the blood.

His Eve was Ruta Lee neé Ruta Kilmonis from Quebec, who likewise had a long subsequent career on day-time televisions soap operas up to and including 2017.

Mike Farrell has a few early lines as a journalist, before he went to Korea.

After completing the Invisible WoMan spin offs, this seemed the next logical title. It was all the more intriguing for being directed by Edgar Ulmer whose ‘The Man from Planet X’ (1951) and ‘Beyond the Time Barrier’ (1960) had merits and his ‘Detour’ (1945) has many rave reviews. That was enough for me to tune in.

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It starts with a boring jailbreak where the villain climbs a wall and hops into a hot convertible driven by a moll. In the dark he sheds his prison stripes for civies and in a moving car without the aid of mirror he ties a bow tie! Wow! This is a man to watch, as long as possible.

Bow tie.jpg Note the bow tie.

I knew then why his name was Joe Faust. He had already sold his soul to the devil if he could do that.

The convertible was driven by B-picture stalwart Marguerite Chapman, who topped the bill in ‘Flight to Mars’ (1951). Her childhood nickname was Slugger and it seems she lived up to that name in later life as a few wanna be Lotharios discovered. Now if she had just knocked some sense into this screenwriter.

James Griffith, familiar from 1950s television, wants Faust to steal radium for experiments he is running with a coerced German scientist whose daughter he is holding captive. Faust was in the slammer as an ace number-one bank robber, and so knows a thing or two about vaults, entering and exiting there from.

So far, so what, but…Griffith wants radium for transparency experiments. The word ‘invisible’ was never used, and I listened for it, as I am sure the lawyers for the Universal franchise did too. His German scientist, who gives the only creditable performance, can render living beings transparent for brief periods but he needs more radium to perfect the process and extend the time. Of course with prolonged exposure one becomes dead and buried, beyond transparency.

Faust talks tough but agrees quickly. Faust by the way is a behemoth and why he did not just muscle his way out then or later passes belief. Griffith is no match for him on any score and his one measly henchman sleeps most of the time. It is so hard to get good henchmen in B movies.

Faust steals some radium and has fun assaulting unsuspecting people in his transparent state. Since funds are needed he decides to do likewise in a bank where a wad of cash is conveniently bagged on a table top. Off he…, whoops, the transparency juice wears off and he passes into and then out and then back into whole and part visibility. The effects are good but very brief and not well centred.

Marguerite and Faust plot against Griffith and in the resulting showdown the radium is ignited. Kaboom. End.

Earlier the daughter was freed, and she had a non-speaking part and stuck to her amazing silence, and the scientist was liberated. These two survive and he offers the last line asking the audience ‘What would you do?’ The question is about the secret of transparency but most of the audience was surely already gone by then. They knew what to do: L E A V E.

Griffith is referred to throughout a major. He seems very unmilitary and there no explanation. At times he waxes on about a transparent army. His unseen army would have an advantage over the invisible characters from H. G. Wells because they would be clothed. When transparent Faust remains clothed. Huh? Yep. When he comes to light in the bank he has his clothes on. Never tried putting on a pair of invisible pants myself but…. don’t want to try. Would the weapons of this unseen army also be transparent, and if so, how would they ever find them.

The imprisoned daughter is in a bedroom upstairs. Go get her would seem the obvious solution. The gunsel has no loyalty to Griffith and with a word breaks from him. Within five minutes of snarling, Marguerite is in with Faust who hulks and towers over the whole rest of the cast assembled. Talk about a house of cards.

Ulmer did not apply himself, is all I can conclude. Nothing is made of that name Faust. There is no science in the transparency. Just dim the lights and poof! There are no sight gags like floating telephones or drinks. Just guys pretending to be punched and falling over. The fraternity brothers can do that after a night on the keg!

Still less is there any reflection on the advantages and disadvantages of transparency, like finding the pants.

The set, apart from the convertible, is an A-frame farmhouse. Most of the acting looks like it was done in one-take. Yet it was shot back-to-back with ‘Beyond the Time Barrier’ using the same camera crew and so on. This latter film has a poor story but it has some intellectual content and a distinctive visual style. Ulmer’s earlier ‘The Man from Planet X’ had an ethical ambiguity that was intriguing. Here we only have the heavy hand of Joe Faust slapping people around.

In sum, it is not Sy Fy but a very cheap and nasty film noir done in five days for the drive-in market. None of the characters are engaging. Even the grey-beard scientist who freely and quickly admits to having performed experiments on live human subjects to earn his crust. These victims included his own wife. So how come he goes all gooey about a daughter? Was she on his Green Card? Does he need her to remain eligible for his next role? Does art imitate life?

On IMDB 3.8/10 from 1,782 brave viewers. Run time: 58 minutes.

Dare I suggest that the 3.8 is boosted by the short running time. If it had been longer, the score would be lower.

Running 1 hour 27 minutes, 4.9/10.0 from 904 opinionators

The sagacious Finn Janne Wass gives it 1/10 and still that requires justification. Read on.

It is very well staged, acted, and photographed. though conspicuously lacking flying saucers or Martians. The laboratories are well stocked. The telescope looks serious and not cardboard. The interiors are fully furnished in Palm Springs, perhaps owned by someone in the production. The acting is fine. That is the good news.

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Then there is the script and direction. There are too many speeches about nothing much to slow things down and pad it out to feature length. Some of that may be down to the director who does not give pace a priority. There are bumps and drags. But the greatest problem remains. Before getting to that, some context.

The dumb blonde Peter Graves is a radio astronomer who has a home laboratory where his wife assists. He collaborates with Distinguished Professor who has a big telescope. There is much blah, blah, blah. The Prof has photographic evidence of the Schiaparelli canals on Mars and has observed how the polar ice cap is melted into the canals. (These canals were born of the fertile imagination of Giovanni Schiaparelli [1835-1910].) This is proof of intelligence at work! What other explanation could there be, Erich?

It fits because Blonde Peter is getting radio messages from Mars, sort of. He is sending to Mars and later he gets a reply that is identical to his message. It is not an echo, that has been checked and ruled out. So he says ‘tomato’ and later the reply comes ‘tomato.’ It is the way a child might repeat what a parent says to it. This conversation is so boring, Peter will never get another research grant unless he can move things along.

Pete.jpg Peter doing his dumb blonde routine.

Ah ha, an MIT graduate, Blondie decides to send the mathematical constant, pi. Why didn’t he think of this earlier? Well he is a dumb blonde. The Martians will recognise it and extend the result, and… Not only is this a mathematical constant, it evidently is a universal. Huh?

The Martians use the decimal system and Arabic numbers? Clever those redskins. Oh and Morse Code, too, since that is what Peter uses to send.

Worse the explanation of pi is inverted while it also asserted in this garbled dialogue that one cannot have, make, or use a wheel without knowing pi. Oh. Even the fraternity brothers snorted at that, during a brief moment of consciousness. A circle can be made with two sticks and piece of string. Stick a stake in the ground. Tie the string to the second stick and extend the string and walk about the perimeter. The footprints describe a circle. Voilà! A circle. Then there are round stones and logs, and….

Still this is a good set-up. It has basic credibility, an element of mystery, attractive leads. and the promise of more to come. The pace is good at the start; the cinematography is crisp. That is the first third of the run-time.

But wait, wifey goes all wifey. She is a zealot and fears all this science might disorder the Lord’s work. She goes on and on. Science destroys. Prayer is good. Though we never see her doing anything Christian, like shut up and do good works, give away some of the luxury furnishings in their home, teach their children to offer hospitality to visitors, or any of that boring stuff. Rather she fulminates. (Another case this is where the actor ought to have punched the lights out of the screen writers, John L. Balderston and Anthony Veiller.)

Still she wants to send truckloads of prayers to hurricane victims and not desalination planets, vaccines, or MRI machines, and trained up doctors. For this, by the way, she is much praised in the half-witted remarks on You Tube. So much for the longterm salutary effects of free public education.

Peter puts his Jim Bakker wife into her box, and continues talking to the Martians. Which one is the nutcase?

In a parallel plot the Russkies are also trying to dial up Mars. Red Planet Mars, right? It must be Red. (Get it, Mortimer?) No luck. Their vacuum tubes are leaky, just good enough to listen in on Peter’s transmissions. Some Russian is spoken though the chief villain is Michael Anthony, later of fame on television, who speaks only nasty.

The NBN connection to Mars clears and Peter get the skinny on Mars from his unnamed correspondent. Mars is Eden. There is no scarcity. No disease. Obama-care for all. No bad stuff at all. Not a single Republican on the planet. Everything is free. Everything is good. It is an all-over Donna Reed Show world. Average life span is three hundred years. (Think about sitting through strata meetings for three hundred, that is, 3 0 0, years while Mr. Numnuts bangs on about the drain pipes.) But not a word about those canals or the ice cap.

News of this paradise gets out and hits the spinning headlines around the world. Realisation that Mars is so well off depresses everyone on Earth in a kind of reverse of schadenfreude and they stop consuming, working, earning, start phoning in sick, altogether which makes the world economy crash and society begin to collapse.

How come the Martians are so well off, asks Blondie? Well, they follow the words of the Lord to the last detail. Yep the little green man from the Red Planet starts spouting the King James translation of the New Testament. No copyright?

This news heartens the god-fearing Westerners, and does-in the Earth Reds. The Soviet peoples rise up and overthrow the Commies. Bye, bye Michael Anthony. The Patriarch puts Vladimir Putin in the big chair and he in turn puts the Twit-in-chief in the Oval Office.

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At this point the Hallelujah Chorus should have cut it, but there are few more twists and turns. They just do not know when to quit, these people. Fortunately, I do.

Why the good news about Mars should depress people and lead to social, economic, and political collapse in the West is anyone’s guess. Likewise, why this news should arouse the Soviet populace is another guess. After all, if they needed scientific evidence via that radio to uphold their faith, well then, it is not faith now is it?

All of this is presented with a straight face. God is a Martian! He is a Red from the Red Planet. See title. And like all Martians he is a little green man. Tricky as a Red could be, hiding behind that green look. Lyndon LaRouche is right the Green movement is Red at heart! Mars, the symbol of war and blood, is E D E N. Is there an NRA message in this? (Don't know this Lyndon? Keep it that way.)

No wonder the half-wits commenting on You Tube love it. Still less, do any of them understand the liberation rhetoric of the King James edition of the New Testament, but they wax enthusiastic in the self-imposed dark.

Janne Wass says on the blog Scifist that the original stage play from a generation earlier used the religious card for laughs, but when the playwright tarted it up for the cinema in the frigid atmosphere of the Cold War, it went all serious, solemn, and sanctimonious, a cynical judgement of the audience in 1952 and one that continues to payoff. It is impossible to underestimate some things. It was during the Korean War and the HUAC rampage for those who were not born and have no brain.



From IMDB 3.4 / 359, 1 hour and 18 minutes

In far distant 1975 four astronauts are Mars-bound when they check in with Earth control. Everything is AOK. We knew that would not last. It didn’t. No sooner did Deep Voice hang up the phone, then strange things began to happen.

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The plan had been to orbit Mars once, gathering data by scans, ogling, and pressing buttons, when the ship began to shutter and shake. Was it a meteor strike? Meteors are always on hand during space flight films. Was it some force from Mars? Had the lease expired on the ship? Was not it built by the low bidder?

The crew is four, along with Deep Voice, for whom this is the single credit in the IMDB, there is Goofy Charlie, Doc, and Whiner. The dialogue goes like this, repeatedly: ‘I dunno,’ Deep Voice. ‘Let’s find out,’ Goofy Charlie. ‘I’m scared,’ Whiney. ‘Let’s study it,’ Doc. This four-cornered exchange occurs enough times to send me to the crossword puzzle. Deep Voice never knows anything, making him the perfect McKinsey manager, having no encumbrance of knowledge. Charlie is always ready to leap into confusion. Doc wants more data before moving.

Whiney is the woman in the crew and she is always scared, when is not afraid, worried, sick, crying, or wailing. Personally I thought she should walk off the set and sock the script writer for sticking her with such a pathetic character. After all she sat on a mountain of combustible liquid rocket fuel to travel a squillion miles through the void of space to get there, and once there she goes all mushy. Really! 'Sock him, girl,' we cried!

More generally I considered the question of whether these four were the best the population of the Earth could find for this unique mission. A leader whose big line is ‘Dunno.’ Doc who looks like a Colombian drug lord. All that about study is just cover. Charlie the dolt. Really, this is the A-Team. Next thing a television clown will be US president.

Oh.

When things go wrong the crew has to land on Mars, though the ship, was not designed for that purpose and compromises have to be made. They use the command module as a heat shield and retreat to the landing pod. They jettison the module and bump, bump, bump, they land on Mars!

Doc wants to wait in the pod for rescue, estimated at four months. Whew, did he bring that much deodorant? (Well, it is a fair question.) Whiney also wants to sit tight and be scared, but Dunno Deep Voice wants to find the remains of the command module and salvage the radio and his PlayStation from it. Using the radio they can pinpoint their location (if by some miracle they can figure it out) and he can pass the time with the PlayStation. ‘Let’s,’ says Charlie, again, and again. My brief hope that they might jettison him went for naught.

Since he has a deep voice, the others agree with Dunno. They don their space suits, for once not those from ‘Destination Moon’ (1950) which must have disintegrated from repeated use under bright lights, and sally forth. Whiney goes on about water, food, nail polish, while silently cursing the script writer. Doc constantly falls behind studying sand, rock, paper, scissors, whatever. Charlie bounds around like a puppy off the leash. Whiney…. well,… Dunno still doesn’t.

For the next thirty minutes or more they traverse Mars. They are awed by it, fascinated by it, wary of it, and thrilled to be the first Earthlings to see it.

Mars sand.jpg

What a change of pace from Mars movies up to this time, when most Earthlings on Mars, just want to go home. Though ‘Rocketship X-M’ (1950) has some splendid imagery of a mysterious sepia toned Mars, none of the intrepid adventurers seem to notice, while in other films the explorers do no exploring whatever. In this respect, ‘The Wizard of Mars’ is superior in its effort to present Mars as unknown, mysterious, different, and so on.

The science may be whacky but at least it tries to present a brave new world.

That the only creature in the feature is a PVC alligator is down to the materials at hand. Though the creature high point has to be the Ferengi under glass with a transparent skull for a dome in the city they discover.

Yes, they discover a city by following, I am not making this up, a yellow brick road to the castle on a hill. The Wicked Witch was out but the Ferengi was in. (If you don’t know ‘Ferengi,’ get a life! Or ask The Google, as we were once advised to do.)

Regrettably the Ferengi with the glowing dome merely points the way, and bows out. Too bad because though he had been dead for eons, he showed more life than the Wizard to follow.

The Wizard is the head of John Carradine projected against a field of stars mouthing a ridiculous but lengthy speech about space (vast), time (long), and Visa card payments (overdue). He went on and on, and I began to pine for the thirty minute trek across the sands of Mars, which sands by the way, were white and not red, because it was filmed in Great Basin National Park in Nevada where red sand is scarce. Most of the time during this rant he is out of focus and that helps endure it.

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Finally he comes to a point. (He must have been paid by the word, though pretty clearly this is one take and his contribution to the film is this ramble.) If these strangers (I’ll say) will just adjust the universal symbol of time, he will - Hey, presto! - power their rocket ship back to Earth. It seems his watch has stopped and he has forgotten how to set it. Just like my granny.

Charlie says, ‘Let’s.’ Deep Voice, ‘Dunno.’ ‘Let’s study it,’ Doc. And, inevitably, ‘My watch has stopped,’ Ms Whiney. (She really should have socked the writer. Though it should be noted she is not harassed by the men in the crew.) Turns out easy enough. The Universal Symbol of time is a pendulum. Remember that, class. Charlie adjusts it by replacing the rock crystal with the city within. Don’t ask.

Whuska! Off they go back on board the space ship, checking in with ground control for re-entry, only two minutes after their last check-in! Two minutes! What? Was it all a dream? The laundry suggests otherwise but these four are puzzled. Look at yourselves! Their clothes look lived in, torn, dirty, and rumpled. Moreover, and conclusively, wee Charlie has grown a dirty upper lip for Movember. The script writer and director have overlooked this obvious and visible evidence.

This opus has had other titles. including ‘Horrors of the Red Planet’ and ‘Alien Massacre.’ Neither is accurate but the marketing department prefers alternative facts. It has also been re-cut hither and thither to make a silk purse out of it. No go.

A word on John Carradine (1908-1988), the man who pursued a triple career. He appeared in many classic A-features like ‘Stagecoach’ (1939), ‘The Grapes of Wraith’ (1940), ‘The Last Hurrah’ (1958), ‘The Man who shot Liberty Valance’ (1962), ‘Cheyenne Autumn’ (1964), working with some of the greatest stars and directors in the Hollywood firmament. This is by no means a complete list.

In parallel he also was also a guest star in every television series of the epoch, 'Gunsmoke.' 'Perry Mason, 'Mr Ed,' and so on and on and on. Though not, I noticed, in 'My Favorite Martian.'

But by night he also appeared in such cinematographic works as ‘Captive Wild Women’ (1943), ‘Revenge of the Zombies’ (1943), ‘The Mummy’s Ghost’ (1944), ‘Half Human’ (1958), ‘Invasion of the Animal People’ (1959), ‘Curse of the Stone Hand’ (1964), ‘House of the Black Death’ (1965), ‘Blood of Ghastly Horror’(1967), ‘Vampire Hookers’ (1978), ‘Evil Spawn’ (1987), and ‘Buried Alive’ (1990), which fittingly appeared two years after his death and that was not his last credit for he died on set. This is by no means a complete list. It would seem, he never said ‘No’ to a part.

The script writer’s previous major work is listed as ‘Monsters Crash the Pajama Party,’ which was never produced. Sighs of gratitude were hears around the room at that news.

Perhaps it was best that the print I watched was smeared. Then again, perhaps, it was made that way. Per Wikipedia it was made using an optical printer for special effects and was filmed for $33,000. A glance at the cast and crew on IMDB suggests none of them had a prior or subsequent career in the dream factory. Still the space suits looked good, and the desert trudge was noteworthy, if boring.

The facts from the IMDB: 1 h 53 m and 5.5 from 507

A whopper from 1880, oh wait, make that 1930, but it opens with a comparison of New York City in 1880 with that of 1930 to illustrate the change in fifty years and then projects another fifty years into the future for the story of Romeo and Juliet in space suits, sort of, with singing and dancing. Yes it is that rarity of rarities, a Sy Fy musical, only the second I know of. (Read to the end to find out about the other, or just scroll there.)

Just Imagine card.jpg

In distant 1980 things have come, pace H. G. Wells. Evidently traffic is so bad that everyone uses a personal, fold-up light hover craft to get around. The craft is a light airplane capable of vertical take off and landing, and can hover, as the opening scene shows. In it Romeo and Juliet meet in the air and each sets their craft to hover, while they talk of their troubles.

Romeo and Juliet Air.jpg

Troubles? Yes, they have troubles right there in Sky City.

For a start the Volstead Act is still in force, as one of the characters says in a contemporary reference. Fraternity brothers, cover your ears. Moving on.

Think of Plato’s marriage festivals first, to get in the right frame of mind, Mortimer. A man has applied to the Marriage Bureau to conjugate with Juliet against the application of Romeo, whom she prefers. In this world she is not even consulted in the matter. The Bureau decides in the favour of the other chap, whom we shall call OC. OC is of a higher status than Romeo and so gets the wife he wants. Period. End. Well, if it ended there, it would be not one hour and fifty-three minutes long.

Men apply to marry women, but women, as it explicitly stated, cannot apply to marry men. This process is asymmetrical.

Romeo appeals and has four months to lodge a counter application. But how can he raise his status in that time? He is already at the top of his profession as a Zeppelin pilot and there is no way up from there. (Get it, Mortimer? [Probably not]) Not sure why but he does not think of going into management. Guess the scriptwriters did not foresee the Invasion of McKinsey Managers and the havoc their KPIs can bring.

He wanders around the Big Apple and bumps into Igor to whom he tells his troubles. This is just the man Igor is looking for, because he boss, Mad Emeritus Professor 1, wants a disconsolate but experiences Zeppelin pilot to fly his experimental, virginal spacecraft to Mars. To be the first man to fly to Mars and return will give Romeo a super deluxe status and he will easily win Juliet’s hand and all that goes with it. If he survives the trip.

Earlier when he was drowning his sorrows with this buddies, they went to watch, as one does, Mad Emeritus Professor 2, resuscitate a dead man killed in 1930.

JI Lab 1.jpg

He is the Comic Relief, whom we shall call Lazarus. Lazzie tells stupid jokes for the rest of movie. Reviews from 1930 suggest this was instantly detected.

Naming the characters at will is both easy and necessary because in 1980 no one has names but only numbers, e.g. JN-102.

Romeo, one of his drunk buddies, and Lazzie fly to Mars. Gaavoom! And their iSpaceShip hits Mars. There they are greeted by Busby Berkley’s dance company and have a high-ho time.

Girls girls girls.jpg

Though things are confusing because everyone on Mars is a twin, one good and the other a Republican. They get confused. They do look alike.

Every now and then someone breaks into song, and there are many dance numbers. Indeed the Martians are mimes who express themselves in dance, a lot.

The film was enormously expensive to make with all those sets, mechanical contrivances, travelling mattes, and extras, and it bankrupted the studio just as the Great Depression closed theatres. Not a CGI in sight. It was made prior to the Hayes Code and there is much female flesh on display, and some implicit homosexuality. On the other hand, there is little cigarette smoking, which is so pronounced in some other, later Sy Fy films on the Moon and Mars and even in the space ship en route.

In 1930 talking pictures were in the first decade and many of the conventions, camera angles, transition cards, and the like are used. In vaudeville shows there was often a comic or clown on the stage between acts, as one set of performers cleared out and another set up, to fill the gap and hold the audience. That is what Lazzie does here, though in this case he had the reverse effect of clearing the sofa for a time, with his lame, forced, often incomprehensible efforts at humour. Suddenly an urgent need came over this viewer to fill the dishwasher.

Maureen O’Sullivan is in it, before she landed in the jungle with Tarzan, but like most of the other players, she goes through the motions. Marjorie White as her brassy girlfriend is the only one who injects energy and vitality, albeit not creditability, into the proceedings in her scant screen time. The word ‘scant’ also refers to some of her costume, what there is of it.

Among the other appurtenances of 1980 are video phones and televisions, and meals in pills. Buildings with two hundred stories are equipped with light-speed elevators.

Among the songs in this film are ‘Old-Fashioned Girl,’ ‘I'm Only the Words, You Are the Melody,’ ‘The Drinking Song’ and ‘Never Swat the Fly.’ ‘The Drinking Song’ is staged on a dirigible and the ‘Never Swat a Fly’ was a show stopper when, instead of Fast Forward, mistakenly I pressed Pause.

Before condescension overtakes us, pause to consider how well we might do today just imagining 2067? About as well as John Lennon did?

Fritz Lang’s monumental ‘Metropolis’ (1927) had only appeared a couple of years earlier, and many in the audience for ‘Just Imagine’ may have been unaware of it. The ‘New York Times’ reviewer, at any rate, does not mention it. Mortimer, that was a silent movie with a wall of sound for orchestral accompaniment.

‘Time Flies’ (1944) is the only other entry in the category Science Fiction, Musical, Comedy. Believe it or not, it was made in England. In it four contemporaries travel backward in time to the Sixteenth Century to correct Shakespeare’s spelling. Well, what other explanation could there be, Erich?


From the IMDB: I hr 9 m with 6.1 / 3674.

A creature feature concerning a Mars mission. Here is the set-up. In distant 1973 square-jawed Marshall Thompson is the man-in-charge, but, well, on Mars things happen - off camera. His whole crew of nine has been killed and only he survived to be rescued by a second mission. Marshall is suspected of murdering his crew, since what other explanation could there be, Erich? Marshall does not know what happened. Napping while in command it seems. Even if he did not kill them, and no motive is ever mentioned, he is guilty of malfeasance.

It Terror.jpg

But on the way back in the rescue ship…., yes, down in cargo hold is a very ugly and very large set of bunions. Any one with feet like that is going to be irritable. But what podiatrist would take on such an impossible set of toenails? For convenience let’s give this creature a name, something creative and imaginative: Mars Bar (MB). Where was TSA when this piece of work boarded?

MB sets about murdering the crew of the ship on the return flight while Marshall is locked up, so he is off the hook. No effort is made either to communicate or contain MB, instead the crew, mid-flight through space, get out their war-surplus pistols, rifles, bazookas, and hand grenades which they use with the panache of Hollywood, shooting from the hip. None this blasting bothers MB much, nor does it rupture the ship’s skin. They must have build it it for inside battle. Me, I would have aimed at the toes.

Murdering members of this crew is almost too easy. They repeat their mistakes repeatedly. They open hatches to see what is going on and the opener finds out the hard way. That does not discourage his mates from doing the same thing again, and again…. Until there were (just about) none.

MB stowed away on Mars for reasons unknown, and so comes from a particular place. How that could be ‘beyond space’ as per the title is lost on me.

Spoiler Alert. When all else fails the remaining crew don the well-used space suits originally made for ‘Destination Moon’ (1950) and seen in many films since, including this one, and let the oxygen out and this kills the creature. Quite how the surveyors are going to re-inflate the ship and return home is elided. That the creature needs oxygen is ... just said since he parades around in the rubber buff.

Also lost on me was the skull with a bullet hole in the forehead which is produced by one point to prove Marshall’s guilt. No explanation is offered then or later that I heard, but napping I may have been. Yet at no time did MB pack a rod. With feet that like he had no need of a gat.

There is nothing about Mars, though two ships have landed on it. Both were clearly and exclusively American. There are two women in the crew who by turns serve coffee and scream. On the other hand the writers were confident enough in the audience to include an airlock without and explanation and also to a multi-story ship again without stopping to explain it. That is some evidence that the genre was maturing.

The end is the tag line that ‘Mars is death!’ No more missions will go to Mars. Instead the strange creatures called Republicans will be examined.

Still this experience did not deter him from 'First Man into Space' (1959) where things were even worse.

Marshall Thompson geared his whole life, it seems, for Hollywood stardom, or so it is said. His family moved to Los Angeles to give him a shot while he was but a boy. He grew into a handsome young man and did all the right things and in 1944 and 1945 when many other Hollywood stars were involved in war work of one kind or another, from active service to fund raising or propaganda filming, he got some parts, but thereafter 'It! The Terror from Beyond Space' is what he is best know for. Except for...

Marshall.jpg Marshall Thompson was so named because his family claimed relation to the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Marshall.

Yes, 'Daktari' in the late 1960s. By some twist of fate he got cast as the veterinarian in an African game reserve and made a success of it. Moreover, even when it wound down, Thompson found he could not let it go and thereafter worked as a philanthropist to raise money for African animals the rest of his days. Though he was upstaged in 'Dakar' by chimpanzees and lions, he forgave them and became a friend to they and their kind.