🚀 Keep Watching the Skies! Science Fiction Cinema of the 1950s: The Year is 1953

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BUD & LOU, CAT-WOMEN, JEKYLL & HYDE, HOSTILE BRAINS and HOSTILE MARTIANS… IT CAME FROM… AND MUCH MUCH MORE!

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They’re too wild for one world!

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Source-courtesy of Getty Images

Directed by Charles Lamont. Starring those 2 brilliant comedians Budd Abbott and Lou Costello, as Lester and Orville. With Mari Blanchard as Allura, Robert Paige as Dr. Wilson, Horace McMahon as Mugsy, Martha Hyer as Janie Howe, Jack Kruschen as Harry, Jean Willes as Capt. Olivia and Anita Ekberg as a Venusian guard.

From Keep Watching the Skies by Bill Warren –“To children in the 1940s and on until the mid-50s, a new Abbott and Costello movie was better than a trip to the circus.”

We all noticed that Bud Abbott was the straight man and Lou Costello was the mechanism to draw out the comic gags. At times Bud even came across as Warren says, “cruel” to Lou and I know for me it made me a bit uncomfortable even back then. Lou was lovable and wasn’t considered an idiot, but rather like a little boy trapped in a man’s body. Again I cite Bill Warren who sums it up beautifully-“His curiosity and haplessness got him into trouble and assured that he would stay there, but the film’s essential unreality always made us feel that Lou and Bud would be out of problems by the end…[…] There was always a sadness to Lou Costello, as there is with almost every clown.”

Go to Mars

Directed by Charles Lamont who did all of Bud and Lou’s films here, Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953) Bud plays Lester, a handyman who works for a rocket research institute, and Lou plays Orville, a handyman who works at an orphanage. Of course the story’s title indicates that they take a trip to Mars, when the pair accidentally launch one of the rockets with them on board! They take a short trip, a very short trip as unbeknownst to Lester and Orville they haven’t landed on Mars, but in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. So when the outlandish and bizarre costumes parade around the duo, they have no reason not to think they’ve landed on another planet…

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The film co-stars two wonderful character actors Horace McMahon who plays Mugsy  (Naked City tv series 1960s) and Jack Kruschen who plays Harry– both are bank robbers on the lam, who have used spacesuits they stole from the ship as a disguise when pulling the heist. The two criminals hide away on the spaceship equip with paralyzer guns and lots of science fiction gadgets. And it gets launched yet again with our two characters Lester and Orville. This time they are heading for Venus. To go with this silly gendered plot line you’ll have to take it that Venus is run by a Matriarch name Queen Allura (Mari Blanchard)

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Allura has banished all the men from the planet 400 years earlier because the King had been unfaithful to her. She also falls in love with Orville. Lou has eyes for Anita Ekberg (who wouldn’t…) she plays a Venusian guard. Queen Allura finds out that Lou is also unfaithful ‘like all men’ and goes crazy with anger. The passengers of the renegade ship manage to get away and crash land back on Earth.  There’s a funny scene as they zip around Manhattan in the ship they make the Statue of Liberty duck then they zoom thought the Holland Tunnel giving New York a piece of science fiction slapstick. The film also co-stars Robert Paige as Dr. Wilson, Martha Hyer as Janie Howe, and Jean Willes as Captain Olivia.

In Jim Mulholland’s The Abbott and Costello Book he talks about the film, “The futuristic sets on Venus look expensive , but the film is so silly and is so obviously geared to kiddie matinee audiences that it is almost impossible to endure.”

Well if the adult child in you still adores seeing the antics of Bud & Lou then it should be included in their list of films you want to see.

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Mary Blanchard as Queen Allura

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Anita Ekberg as a Venusian Guard

Venusian #1: “What is it?”

Allura: “I could be wrong, but I think it’s a man.”

Venusian #2: “That’s a man?”

Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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The Laughs Are Twice as MONSTER-OUS as Ever Before!

Again directed by Charles Lamont. Lee Loeb and John Grant wrote the screenplay working from a story by Sid Fields, based off the character from Robert Louis Stevenson’s immortal science-fiction fantasy novel. With camera work by cinematographer George Robinson (Son of Frankenstein 1939, Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman 1943, Tarantula 1955)

With make up both Mr. Hyde and the mouse mask by Bud Westmore!

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Our two heroes Slim and Tubby meet Boris Karloff as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde.

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Bud and Lou had already met Frankenstein, Dracula, the Invisible Man and The Wolf Man, it was just a matter of time until they met the conflicted dual personality of Dr. Jekyll and his darker alter ego Mr. Hyde. It was the first time the boys came up against a monster since 1951.

Bud and Lou are American detectives who tag along Scotland Yard, and come to find out that that the menacing Mr. Hyde has been terrorizing London for years. Meanwhile the mild mannered Dr. Jekyll is one and the same man… Boris Karloff. Of course, Lou tries so hard to get Bud to believe that the kindly Dr. Jekyll is actually Hyde. The other players in the film include Craig Stevens as Bruce Adams a newspaper reporter who is in love with Vicky Edwards (Helen Wescott) which poses a problem as Dr. Jekyll himself is in love with Vicky as well.

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Bill Warren writes- “This romantic triangle is extremely artificial-Karloff at all time seems avuncular, not predatory-and was apparently added for the obligatory romantic elements, to enlarge the plot beyond Bud & Lou fleeing from Hyde.”

The film shows as Warren points out a “series of set pieces” as they chase Hyde around a wax museum, filled with homages to other films like wax likenesses of the Frankenstein’s monster and Dracula.

Sadly, the film was not well received, people had started to tire of the ‘meet’ films of Bud and Lou and the popularity was waning. Universal had actually been planning a Abbott and Costello Meet the Creature from the Black Lagoon but it never got off the ground.

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Craig Stevens co-stars as Bruce Adams, Helen Wescott as Vicky Edwards and Reginald Denny as the Inspector with John Dierkes as Batley.

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Abbott and Costello Meet Dr Jekyll and Hyde

Slim: Now look! You can’t make two persons out of one. If there’s a monster, there’s a monster. If there’s a Dr. Jekyll, there’s a Dr. Jekyll. But one can’t be the other.

Tubby: Now listen Slim. All I know is that I locked up the monster and when I came back, Dr. Jekyll was there. You know I’m no magician.

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The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

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FANTASTIC SEA-GIANT CRUSHES CITY!

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Eugène Lourié who was an art director working with Jean Renoir. Directed The Colossus of new York 1958, The Giant Behemoth 1959, and Gorgo 1961. He started out designing ballets in Paris, was the art director for Strange Confession 1944, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry 1945, Limelight 1952, Shock Corridor 1963, The Naked Kiss 1964, The Strangler 1964. Eugène Lourié  designed one of Renoir’s most influential films, Rules of the Game (1939), he also designed work on The Southerner (1945) Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) and The River (1951) To say the least he has had a wide range of eclectic films.

Eugène Lourié  worked with the master Ray Harryhausen on the special effects and the creature which are spectacular!

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Screenplay by Bronx born Fred Freiberger ( Garden of Evil 1954, Beginning of the End 1957)

The film stars Paul Hubschmid as Professor Tom Nesbitt, Paula Raymond as Lee Hunter, Cecil Kellaway as Prof. Thurgood Elson foremost paleontologist , veteran science fiction hero Kenneth Tobey (The Thing 1951, It Came from Beneath the Sea 1955) as Col. Jack Evans, Lee Van Cleef as Corporal Stone, Steve Brodie as Sgt. Loomis, Ross Elliot as George Ritchie, Frank Ferguson as Dr. Morton and King Donovan as Dr. Ingersoll.

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A ferocious dinosaur awakened by an Arctic atomic test terrorizes the North Atlantic and, ultimately, New York City. The film begins when they are testing a nuclear device inside the Arctic Circle, which winds up freeing a prehistoric ‘Rhedosaurus’ which is a carnivorous giant beast that walks on four legs and lives under water and can walk on land too! Tom Nesbitt played by Paul ‘Hubsschmid’ Christian is the only survivor to tell about the prehistoric creature, but no one believes his story.

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Eventually the Beast emerges again and sinks a small ship with that survivor telling the same story, identifying the ‘Rhedosaurus’. Cecil Kellaway plays a well known paleontologist that Nesbitt seeks out for help. Now the Beast starts moving toward New York City believed to be the ancestral origin and breeding ground for the Rhedosaurus. It comes ashore on Manhattan, right near the Fulton Fish Market. Elson is lowered in a type of diving bell called a bathysphere so the paleontologist can study the creature up close. Unfortunately he becomes a tasty morsel, a hard candy with a soft center… Yikes!

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It then proceeds to smash and stomp everything in it’s path, until it returns to the river. What complicates things is that while it becomes wounded, they discover that it’s blood is highly infectious and deadly, so they need to find a way to destroy it even more than ever.

The wounded Rhedosaurus takes refuge in an old fair ground on Coney Island near a roller coaster which it takes out it’s aggression on by snapping it like twigs in it’s massive jaws and claws.

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Prof. Thurgood Elson: [in the diving bell, to view the monster] “This is such a strange feeling, I feel as though I’m leaving a world of untold tomorrows for a world of countless yesterdays….[…] It’s unbelievable he’s tremendous!”

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Professor Tom Nesbitt: “The world’s been here for millions of years. Man’s been walking upright for a comparatively short time. Mentally we’re still crawling.”

George Ritchie: [referring to the A-bomb test] “You know every time one of those things goes off, I feel as if I was helping to write the first chapter of a new Genesis.”

Professor Tom Nesbitt: “Let’s hope we don’t find ourselves writing the last chapter of the old one.”

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Cat-Women of the Moon

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SEE: THE DEADLY CAVE OF MOON-GOLD!

SEE: THE BLOOD-THIRSTY BATTLE OF MOON MONSTERS!

SEE: THE LOST CITY OF LOVE-STARVED CAT WOMEN!

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Directed by editor Arthur Hilton, who worked on noir classics  The Killers 1946, and Scarlett Street 1945. The film stars Sonny Tufts as Laird Granger, Victor Jory as Kip Reissner, Marie Windsor as Helen Salinger, William Phipps as Doug Smith, Douglas Fowley as Walt Walters, Carol Brewster as Alpha, Susan Morrow as Lambda, Suzanne Alexander as Beta, Cat-Woman are Bette Arlen, Roxann Delman, Ellye Marshall and Judy Walsh. originally in 3D– it’s Schlock at it’s very best!

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An American space crew is led by the uptight straitlaced Laird Granger (Sonny Tufts) who does everything by the book, but as Kip (Victor Jory) says “some things aren’t in the book” And that’s for sure, when you wind up on a planet with Cover Girls in black leotards. From the moment they leave the base on route to the moon, the crew find themselves in trouble when a meteor creates trouble for the ship, a fire in the bottom of the craft started by acid forces them to land, suggested by Lt. Helen Salinger who is the ship’s navigator and Laird’s girlfriend. She picks the area in between the dark and light sides of the moon. This makes Kip very suspicious though he’s pretty skeptical about most things that’s why he carries a gun with him at all times.

Don’t be too impressed with Windsor’s character playing a Lt, after they crash land she still has to grab for her compact and fix her face, and powder her nose. Marie Windsor (whom I adore) is sultry and perfectly suited for film noir (Force of Evil 1948, The Sniper 1952, City that Never Sleeps 1953, The Killing 1956, The Narrow Margin 1952 ), and is a joy to see in this film even if it’s a true stinker! She’s much better suited for the science fiction obscure gem that has it’s shocking moments, The Day Mars Invaded Earth (1963).

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Helen leads the crew when they go out to investigate their surroundings and find a nearby cave, they realize that the atmosphere is exactly the same as it is on earth. There’s water and oxygen and so it is safe to take their space suits off. The gang is attacked suddenly by some cheesy hairy horned spiders which they manage to kill. In the meantime someone has stolen their spacesuits and helmets. They go deeper into the cave until they stumble onto an ancient Greekesque city inside the moon where they are greeted by women who look like a dance troupe for Martha Graham and Twyla Tharp in their black leotards. Helen slips away to meet Alpha (Brewster) the leader of the Cat-Women who are telepathic.

They are called Cat-Women for no reason I can glean, or that emerges from the entirely silly narrative. Alpha tells Helen- “Our generation predates yours by centuries.”

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The Cat-Women led by Alpha (Carol Brewster) has been in telepathic communication with and controlling Lt.Helen Salinger for years, unbeknownst to the men in the crew. There are no men on the moon but Zeta (Alexander) explains, “We have no use for men.”

Alpha tells Helen-“You are one of us now.”

Alpha has been controlling Helen by imprinting an image of the moon, a white spot on her hand. Once this spot is covered it breaks the control over her.

It’s not that the Cat-Women haven’t been enjoying their lives cavorting around with each other dancing and creeping around in their oh so Mod-erne leotards, it’s that their planet’s atmosphere is breaking up and in order to survive they must seek out a new planet. So the plan is to steal the crew’s rocket and go to Earth, c0ntrol the mind of the Earth women  and eventually take over the planet! First they must truly gain Helen’s male compatriot’s confidence in order to find out how to run the ship.

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Of course the cynical Kip doesn’t want any part of these gorgeous moon gals…

Kip secretly in love with Helen gets her alone, puts his arms around her, which breaks Alpha’s spell, and Helen tells him what’s going on.

Once Kip (Jory) figures this out he covers Helen’s hand and quickly asks her three questions, two that inquire whether she’s truly in love with Laird or him, the other is to find out how to get away.

But Alpha has already gotten information out of Laird and Walt has taken Zeta back to the ship to show her how it operates.

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It was Alpha who helped Helen get her assignment to the space crew. Of course, the men become enamored of Cat-Women in leotards, except for Kip (Victor Jory) who is suspicious of these beguiling tribe of moon temptresses. Walt Willis (Douglas Fowley) wanders off with one of the women to explore the cave that is filled with gold, she stabs him but not before he teaches her how to fly their spaceship. Another of the Cat-Women has fallen for one of the crew members, Lambda (Susan Morrow), falls hard for Doug Smith (Bill Phipps) the radio operator. All she wants is to go back to earth with Doug, romp around on a sandy beach drinking a Coca Cola.

In this soap space opera, the staid and steady Laird has fallen for Helen, and under a sort of mind control has given all the information the Cat-Women need to take over. They make plans to return to earth with Alpha and Beta (Suzanne Alexander). Lambda tries to intervene but gets brutally conked on the head with a large rock and killed. Kip shoots the evil Zeta and Alpha off screen, the remaining earth crew kill the rest of the Cat-Women, escaping with Helen and head back to earth.

Cat-Women of the Moon is one of those so bad it’s good movies that’s just fun to watch! It’s more space soap opera than science fiction but those girls are so outré Mod-erne in their black leotards BUT no physical attributes that make one think of any similarity to cats, their features nor feats of skill… The best part of the film is the dance scene by the Hollywood Cover Girls in their unlike cat costumes. The film was remade in 1959 called Missile to the Moon.

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As Bill Warren illustrates how badly filmed this is and in particular how ‘excruciatingly stupid’ the script and visuals are… (i.e.) the chairs the crew sit in are standard swivel desk chairs that roll around the floor on castors.– “Take the spaceship cabin. Ignoring the fact that it looks like someone’s front room and that down is always in the direction of the floor, even when the ship spins end-for-end in an effort to make the meteor fall off (which it does), there is still enough in the room to make a good technical director faint.”

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Laird Grainger: “The eternal wonders of space and time. The far away dreams and mysteries of other worlds. Other life. The stars. The planets. Man has been face to face with them for centuries, yet is barely able to penetrate their unknown secrets. Sometime, someday, the barrier will be pierced. Why must we wait? Why not now?”

Alpha: “Four of us will be enough. We will get their women under our power, and soon we will rule the whole world!”

 

Donovan’s Brain

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Directed by Felix E. Feist (The Devil Thumbs a Ride 1947, The Man Who Cheated Himself 1950)

Based on a story written by Curt Siodmak who wrote the script for The Wolf Man 1941, with the script co-written with director Feist. This above average Science Fiction suspense stars Lew Ayres as Dr. Patrick J. Cory, Gene Evans as Dr. Frank Schratt, Nancy Reagan as Janice Cory, Steve Brodie as Herbie Yokum, Tom Powers as Donovan’s Washington Advisor, Lisa Howard as Chloe Donovan.

Donovan’s Brain is perhaps the caviar of Brain in a Tank films to all the other Velveeta films of that sort. Although it is a remake of the quite engaging Lady and The Monster (1944) and Vengeance (1962) both based on the novel Donovan’s Brain by Curt Siodmak.

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Siodmak’s story has been retold several times, first with director George Sherman’s  The Lady and The Monster (1944) starring Erich von Stroheim, Richard Arlen and Vera Ralston. Then in 1962 it was re-visioned as a British Sci-fi chiller directed by Freddie Francis called The Brain starring Anne Heyward. Because of Siodmak’s talent at storytelling the film is an intelligent and compelling film

And there was at least one radio adaptation I believe through the Suspense series, which is a wonderful version, I own cast with Hans Conried, Jerry Hausner, John McIntire, and Jeannette Nolan.

And Boris Leven’s set design lays out the eerie ‘science gone awry’ landscape, with tanks filled with brains, it doesn’t hearken back to Strickfaden’s elaborate mad scientist milieu but it works for this particular science fiction/horror narrative.

Bill Warren-“One of the few sets apparently actually constructed for Donovan’s Brain is the laboratory, which looks satisfactorily jury-rigged and inexpensive. Unlike most ‘mad scientists’, Pat Cory hasn’t bothered to build elaborate consoles with labeled switches. The tank for the brain is literally a large tropical fish tank, again adding to the air of improvised science.”

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Essentially Dr. Patrick Cory (Lew Ayres) and his associate Dr. Frank Schratt (Gene Evans) are doing brain research, they’ve been trying to remove a monkey’s brain and keep it alive outside of the body, though the foundation for doing these experiments aren’t truly spelled out. We just hear that it’s “for the good of humanity.” In these fascinating Science Fiction tales where science hubris and it’s idolization by often well meaning doctors –often see their experiments go awry.

Assisting them is Pat’s wife, Jan played by Nancy Davis, who had just become Mrs. Ronald Reagan. Now, the experiment with the monkey was encouraging –“A brain without a body, alive!” I suppose in 1953, these three hadn’t met Jan in the Pan (The Brain that Wouldn’t Die 1962), or they wouldn’t have been that excited over the prospect of live brains in tanks looking like a benefit to humanity.

As fate would have it, the same day they have success with the monkey brain, a small plane crashes very close to the lab, being doctors Cory and Schratt are called upon to help the victims. There is but one survivor, a multi-millionaire named Warren H. Donovan. Donovan is close to death so the two operate on him, but it’s no use and the millionaire dies. But, it is Dr. Pat Cory who has the idea –“Science can use Donovan’s brain,” though his wife Jan and partner Frank fervently object at first. “What an idea, stealing a man’s brain”-they go along with Pat’s operating to remove the dead man’s brain and keep it alive in the tank…

In many ways, looking past the sci-fi elements of the story, it is a stark crime thriller about the evils of power. This is also one of those science fiction morality plays that informs us that is it ‘science’ itself that is the villain and is ‘evil and dangerous’, especially in the hands of a scientist, even if he is altruistic at heart. Dr. Pat Cory is a good man, who happened to trigger a very bad series of events. It is a story about “tampering with things man (and women) was not meant to know.” In the end he tells us, “I did many foolish things.”

The 1953 film is the closest to the novel. Dr. Patrick Cory, the scientist, attempts to save the life of millionaire Donovan “Donovan carried to an extreme the independence of the self-made man”, Dr. Pat Cory, who is working with the research of the powers of the brain, seduced by the potential of unlocking the secrets of the brain, seizes the opportunity to explore his theories. The danger ensues once he removes Donovan’s brain from the severely damaged body and under very clandestine experimentation not unlike our old Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Pat Cory manages to keep the brain alive in a tank in his laboratory.

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W.H.Donovan had been a very famous yet shady character in his business dealings, so his death draws a lot of media attention. So Pat and Frank have to keep their experiment a dark secret. The two scientists also run into a free-lance journalist Herbie Yocum played by Steve Brodie, who wants to take some sensational photos like the operating table where Donovan died. This, Pat Cory agrees to because he doesn’t want to create any suspicion around his death, especially near his laboratory. But Yokum takes a photo of the brain in the tank.

The experiment is a success and Donovan’s brain is taking in all the nourishment it needs to become stronger, it actually begins to increase in size. The equipment in the lab also indicates that there are thought waves occurring in the brain. Donovan’s brain is actually sending out thoughts telepathically. “Donovan’s brain is giving out thoughts. All I have to do is use my brain to receive them.” Pat Cory tells Frank. So he sits in front of the tank and concentrates leaving his mind open, and it works, he goes into a trance and starts to write notes in W.H. Donovan’s handwriting. This terrifies Jan and Frank, who worry about Pat’s state of mind. The next day, Donovan’s brain takes hold of Pat once again, this time actually causing him to limp the same way Donovan used to when he was alive. At this point Donovan is in complete control of Dr. Pat Cory.

But Donovan alive was a very powerful and ruthless business man , one of the wealthiest men in the world who is still asserting his influence from his remote tank. He forces his will over the poor scientist and actually possesses Dr. Pat Cory like an evil demon.  Lew Ayres is a wonderful actor who does a great job of playing Dr. Pat Cory. So good at playing sensitive civilized men, here he is at the mercy of a very strong willed cutthroat, who wants to see his missions carried out as planned right before his plane crashed. Pat charters a plane where he takes Donovan’s favorite suite in a hotel he was famous for hanging out in, and he closes out his bank account for $27,000 that Donovan kept under a false name. He purchases new equipment so the poor doctor can now boost his brain power even more. He even orders suits like the ones Donovan used to wear and takes up his dirty business dealings.

Pat runs into Yocum, who has figured out the truth behind all the secretive veil surrounding Donovan’s death/life. He knows that Donovan is still alive and starts to blackmail Pat Cory.

Steve Brodie who plays the smarmy reporter Yocum pays the price of finding out about Dr. Cory’s stealing Donovan’s brain and his plan to blackmail the doctor backfires. It isn’t long before, the ruthless mind of W.H. Donovan takes over Cory’s body again hypnotizing Yocum and sending him off into the desert so he can drive his car off a cliff into a fiery mess…

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Gene Evans is very subtle as the inebriated colleague Dr. Frank Schratt. Donovan forces Dr. Pat Cory to continue his tax evasion scheme. He also cuts Donovan’s children out of his will, and plans to have his brain placed in permanent residency at a special installation to house and protect his criminal brain..

Frank tries to shoot the brain in it’s tank-“It’s unnatural, unholy”-but it forces him to shoot himself instead.

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From Bill Warren- “When the brain takes over, Ayre’s transformation from Good Dr. Cory to Bad W.H. Donovan are subtle and powerful.”

During a moment when Donovan is not in control, Pat Cory takes the opportunity to send a message to his wife, with instructions on how to destroy the monstrous brain, but we do not hear what he instructs her to do. Later Donovan thinks that Frank (Gene Evans) and Janice (Nancy Reagan) are in the way and plans on having them taken care of the same way he did with Yokum. That’s when Frank tries to shoot the brain as it forces him to turn the gun on himself. Once Donovan has taken over Pat Cory’s body fully, the doctor no longer exists. He tries to strangle Janice Cory, during a thunderstorm, when a bolt of lightning strikes the lab’s lightning rod, which we now learn was part of Dr. Pat Cory’s instructions. He has hook up a special conduit so when the bolt of lightning hits, the juice charges the tank and Donovan’s brain becomes fried dumplings.

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Of course Dr. Pat Cory must pay for his profane crime of tampering with science and using an unauthorized brain in his experiments,but his faithful wife Janice promises to wait for him.

Gene Evans (The Giant Behemoth 1959, Shock Corridor 1963) plays the good friend who drinks too much, but he’s dependable and likeable. And have no fear, though he shoots himself he does not die by the film’s end.

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: [after Cory wakes Dr. Schratt up from a drunken stupor] “My dear Dr. Schratt, you sober up with more—[pauses and shrugs] grace than anyone I ever saw. You’re terrific. C’mon, let’s go.”

Dr. Frank Schratt: “Are you kidding?—[He hold out his shaking hand]—Look! Nope.”

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: “Frank, don’t let me down.”

Dr. Frank Schratt: “What’s more useless than a surgeon with a hangover? I’m a drunken zero.! I pass!”

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: “No, you don’t. I’d rather have you do a corneal transplant for me drunk than anyone else sober—[Pulls him by the arm] Let’s go boy.”

Dr. Frank Schratt: “You’re brilliant but not normal.”

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: [Laughs] “So are you, but are you and who is?”

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Dr. Patrick J. Cory: [after Cory wakes Dr. Schratt up from a drunken stupor] “My dear Dr. Schratt, you sober up with more.” [pauses and shrugs]
… Grace than anyone I ever saw. You’re terrific… C’mon, let’s go.”

Dr. Frank Schratt: “Are you kidding?” [He holds out his shaking hand]
… Look! Nope.”

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: “Frank, don’t let me down.”

Dr. Frank Schratt: “What’s more useless than a surgeon with a hangover? I’m a drunken zero.! I pass!”

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: “No, you don’t. I’d rather have you do a corneal transplant for me drunk than anyone else sober.” [Pulls him by the arm]
… Let’s go boy.”

Dr. Frank Schratt: “You’re brilliant but not normal.”

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: [Laughs] “So are you, but are you and who is?”

Donovan's Brain 1953

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Dr. Patrick J. Cory: -“Perhaps I’ll cure Frank and every other alcoholic if I can solve the mystery of Donovan’s Brain. I think it’s a matter of chemistry how the brain thinks. The problem is to find out what chemical combinations are responsible for success… failure… happiness… misery.”

Janice Cory: “Sounds impossible.”

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: “But it is not. It can’t be. There has to be a way.”

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Four Sided Triangle

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Directed by Terence Fisher this is a rare and obscure little film! Stars Barbara Payton as Lena/Helen, James Hayter as Dr. Harvey, Stephen Murray as Bill, John van Eyssen as Robin, Percy Marmont as Sir Walter.

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Photo courtesy of: Alamy

1950s had some memorable science fiction films within the genre that entertained us in the decade that saw the heyday of the illusory American dream—where the books and films forged out of fantasy were a great release from the anxiety of WWII and the advent of McCarthy Era paranoia. It was rarity to find American science fiction films of the early 50s that were based on novels of the same name. This was even more of an oddity for British films. Then there was the very provocative Four-Side Triangle, adapted from the novel by William F. Temple and scripted by the prolific Terence Fisher who also directed, co-scripted by Hungarian born Paul Tabori who went on to write several science fiction novels himself, the most well known being The Green Rain. The novel was published in 1939. A first fantasy feature by Hammer with director Fisher’s that predates his stint with the Hammer brand horror/sci-fi The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Horror of Dracula (1958)

Four-Sided Triangle wasn’t received very well, and it’s still considered quite dreary and so it remains pretty obscure today.

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And I find it sort of possesses an air of deviance and a serious curiosity piece concerning a love triangle that becomes a twisted kind of quadrangle. The films stars Barbara Peyton who plays a dual role —the object of both men’s desire.

Lena who returns to her English home town to see her old child hood friends, Robin (John Van EYSSEN) and Bill (Stephen Murray) have invented a machine that can duplicate objects by reconstructing matter into energy. Not unlike the transportation device in The Fly (1958) that messed with atomic particulars that re-assembled matter then sends it to another location re-assembling it, sans any contamination in the field like let’s say a house fly… “Eeeeeee….Help me, Help me!”

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They try out their experimental machine first using a totally innocuous  object — a watch, which they manage to duplicate. Meanwhile Lena and Robin get engaged and leave to get hitched, leaving Bill to mess around with their new discovery. He uses a living subject instead of just an inanimate object. He’s also madly, tragically in love with his brother’s girl, Lena. This is where the story becomes if not risqué it bares the element a of twisted Sci-Fi melodrama. His brother Robin returns from the honeymoon and heads out to London on business. Poor lovesick Bill asks Lena to please submit to his very profane request… to allow him to duplicate her, using the machine, so that he may fulfill his desire for her in some way.

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Lena actually agrees to this, and her doppelgänger Helen is born. But as they say careful what you wish for, and while the machine is effective in duplicating the subject, it does exactly that! And what happens… Helen falls in love with brother Robin as well. Oh what a tangled web we weave. It’s a theme about life’s song of irony and the lesson that we shouldn’t meddle with nature. The constant trope that runs through most to all Science Fiction stories. Not to play god, not to tamper with the nature of things, nor to be as bold to force our will upon other people or the natural world, at least not without paying the consequences for these sacrilegious actions.

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Of course Bill is devastated by the outcome, and instead of learning his lesson, he delves deeper in the dark recesses of his lower self and tries to wipe out Helen’s memory, in hopes of being able to seduce a blank slate. Bill does wash her mind clean, by electronically eradicating Helen’s memory but there is a fire in the laboratory and one of the women is killed.

I’m sorry, but you get what you deserve when you’re willing to create a woman in a machine that mimics the object of your desire. It is pathetic and outré creepy, and it says that that any woman will do as long as she’s from the same atomic particle ‘mold’ rather than accepting fate. It doesn’t create much sympathy, even if it is born out of a broken heart. Get over it, or get a puppy!

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Lena: An empty mind… and a new beginning!

Invaders from Mars

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Murderous Martian creatures from out of space! From out of space… came hordes of green monsters! Mankind’s oldest fear…The Alien’s last conquest!

Directed by innovative designer William Cameron Menzies who directed (Things to Come 1936) a surreal & beautiful science fiction dreamscape with a screenplay by Richard Blake. Starring Helena Carter as Dr. Pat Blake, Arthur Franz as narrator/Dr. Stuart Kelston, Jimmy Hunt as David MacLean, Leif Erickson as George MacLean, Hillary Brooke as Mrs. Mary MacLean, Morris Ankrum as Col. Fielding, Max Wagner as Sgt. Rinaldi William Phipps as Sgt. Baker, Milburn Stone as Capt. Stone.

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Cinematography by John F. Seitz (The Lost Weekend 1945, Double Indemnity 1944, Sunset Boulevard 1950) and music composed by Raoul Kraushaar (Cabaret 1972)

Invaders From Mars is perhaps one of the most recognizable science fiction gems of the 1950s partially due to William Cameron Menzies eye and experience for artistic design, he creates a dreamlike colorful yet terrifying landscape, with the feel of a comic book horror/sci-fi/fantasy. It’s a vision of alienation, alien occupation and paranoia that we can all relate to at some point in our lives. I know it effected me as a kid, while not growing up in the 1950s I certainly was fed a substantial dose of the product of horror/sci-fi/fantasy that came from the contribution of literature and film that preceded my childhood growing up in the following decade of the turbulent 60s.

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The story uses as it’s protagonist a little boy who experiences a nightmare journey that recycles itself in the end, creating the dreaded sense of entrapment. The young protagonist finds his “Own reality is being twisted into the kind of horror…[…] the story is literally a nightmare.”

The story is told from the point of view of David MacLean played by Jimmy Hunt. Bill Warren in his terrific overview Keep Watching the Skies published by McFarland. “Children operate with a different kind of logic than adults: events proceed from cause to effect, but the causes adults and children see don’t produce the same effects, and vice versa. Adults and children are not frightened of all of the same things, nor do they find the same things interesting. It takes a special imagination to achieve this kind of viewpoint.”

David is a young star gazer who is awakened one night by a flash of bright light when he looks out his bedroom window and sees a flying saucer land out over the hill. He wakes his parents, George and Mary (Leif Erikson and Hillary Brooke) to inform them of what he’s seen. The artistic direction and color palette reminds me of Finnish painter Hugo Simberg. The set pieces have a surreal, simplistic yet fantastical color scheme and composition.

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Menzies art directions were “like a daisy chain” of dream sequences.

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In the morning, father George goes out to investigate near the place David saw the craft go down, the fence seems to disappear into the sand dune. A mysterious hole in the sand swallows up George, who doesn’t return home, his wife phones the police, until George suddenly comes back but with a completely different temperament. He seems like a changed man. He has no emotions at all, yet he bares a strange ill-tempered streak, verging on violent when unprovoked he strikes David hard with the back of his hand, when David questions him about a strange mark on the back of his neck.

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“Say dad when you were out there did you see anything?”
“lets not start that flying saucer nonsense again.’

he notices the implant in the back of his father’s neck “Hey dad” “Yeah what do you want!” “what happened to your neck, it looks like there’s a ….?”

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Imagine the nightmare of a twist of fate where the people who love you now hate you and the ones who are supposed to keep you safe, become the most dangerous!

The next to disappear in the sand pit are the two policemen Douglas Kennedy and Charles Kane -called out to find David’s father. Once they return they appear to have the same eerie ill mood as George, zapped of any human emotion. Now, when a little girl also disappears, seemingly swallowed up by the sand and disappears in front of David, he tells his mother, but she too returns just as a fire starts in the basement of the little girl’s house. David panics and goes to the police station. Seeking out the symbol of authority and protection right… wrong…!

The little guy talks to the chief. “You wouldn’t believe me.”

“What makes you think the chief will?”

One of the cops who has been taken over by the invaders asks, “What’s the trouble Mac?”
it’s a very creepy tone, that seems menacing in it’s coldness…

David sees that the guy has the same wound on the back of his neck. Pulling his collar over it to conceal it.

When the little guy runs into the police station asking to see the chief, it goes to that place where we feel most vulnerable and the panic sets in when we realize there is no one you can trust, no one to believe you. There is no safe place. And those you love are gone. The threat goes to the issue of trust and sense of safety and not just about creepy aliens lurking around. A film of paranoia and insecurity.

Spielberg says that Menzies gave himself the license to work on the film doing homages using BERTOLD BRECHTIAN sets, because it was a dream. Also the fear that it kept recurring is the notion that there isn’t any escape you can wake up from the nightmare, but it only begins all over again. “It’s a trap. It’s absurd. it’s deadly frightening.”

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There the chief of police Bert Freed has also been taken over by the Martians who have submerged themselves in the land behind his house. David is locked up until a psychologist Dr. Pat Blake played by Helen Carter who comes to see him and realizes how genuinely frightened he is. He is petrified when his parents come to pick him up, his mother now showing the same frozen demeanor as his father. So Dr. Blake keeps David in her care and takes him to see a colleague Dr. Stuart Kelston played by Arthur Franz. Dr. Kelston is also an amateur astronomer who not only believes that David saw a space craft land in the back field, but that the earth could very well be under siege by Martians, an immanent invasion could be near. That they might be trying to interfere with local rocket experiments being launched in the area. And of course, that’s where David’s father works.

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Kelston has a telescope and he, David and Dr. Pat Blake see David’s father lure General Mayberry (William Forrest) to the sand dune that swallows him up. Soldiers are sent to surround the sand pit, overseen by veteran science fiction supportive actor Morris Ankrum who plays Colonel Fielding along side Sergeant Rinaldi (Max Wagner). Meanwhile the Martians are systematically sending out their possessed humans to sabotage the works. The Martians act like puppet masters who can also control their subjects by exploding the devices implanted in their brains –the marks on their necks are where they’ve been drilled. Lovely thought…

David is told that his parents are getting their control devices taken out through surgery, just as the sand trap opens up right under his and Pat’s feet, they fall beneath the sand into the underground lair that the Martians have been operating from. We get to see two green Martians who walk like they shuffle (excuse me for saying, back in the day my older brother used to say that they walked like they had shit in their pants) actually these Martians do sort of qualify as ‘pants monsters’.

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Anyway, the two Martians bring David and Pat unto the grand Martian leader, a very kitschy Martian –a goldish green head including shoulders with nasty tentacles encased in something like a glass orb. The main Martian telepathically uses it’s eyes to communicate it’s creepy menacing power not with squinting veracity but more with a comical sort of soulessness.
The nefarious Martian Intelligence is portrayed by Luce Potter.

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Thank God the military saves the day as Fielding, (poor General Mayberry gets killed), enter the Martian’s underground chambers and rescue David and Pat, she was just about to get her brain drilled into, they blow up the spacecraft. After this climatic seen as David is on the surface running away, he awakens from this nightmare, (the rolling flashback in his head is a terrific touch) as it was truly a nightmare… runs into his parents bedroom, thank god the nightmare is over, he goes back to his room falls asleep until he is again awakened by a space craft landing out in the field behind his house, the entire cycle of events to repeat all over again. It’s quite a stunning conclusion… that doesn’t give us any release.

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In honoring Menzies incredible eye for design, and how the film was envisioned as if we are experiencing the nightmare through a child’s eyes, I defer to the way Bill Warren sums up some of the visual highlights of the film- “The jail set is especially impressive. The only things on the set are those that would impress themselves on a boy; (I’ll ignore that presumptive gender bias) there is a police chief, one sergeant at a towering desk, and on the wall behind him a clock with hands that don’t move, one cell and one key to the cell. The walls are white and almost not there at all; the hall from the front door to the desk is long and tall, it is a set out of a dream, as if it is only partially real…[…] The interior of the Martian flying saucer is equally imaginative and equally minimal. It’s composed almost entirely of greenish plexiglass. There are no instruments visible at all, there are a couple of tubes which reach up out of sight and a large inexplicable hole in the floor. The sphere with the Martian Intelligence inside rests on a pillar, and is brought to it brought to its perch by the giant green mutants.”

Not to mention the surreal space behind David’s house, the sand pit and the fence that disappears out of site, the winding trees that melt into space. It’s all very much a dreamscape. A reduction of images in which the minimalist elements actually add to the eerie atmosphere the opposite of Grand Guignol and Gothic old dark house set pieces. How can something so simplistic be so menacing. I guess that’s why Menzie’s film is still so gorgeous to experience today.

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Actor Mark Hamill-“The Invaders From Mars were no angels. They were here to bend our minds. They were the thieves of love and trust. The film was directed by the great art director William Cameron Menzies who gave it a memorably surreal design on a tiny budget.”

Director Steven Spielberg talks about how Invaders From Mars turned his world around “it got to a primal place which basically says the first people not to trust is your father and mother.”

Director James Cameron “What is the deep seated psychological fear that’s happening here. Maybe it’s a simple and elemental as you’re in a relationship with somebody whether it’s child/parent  husband/wife but you never really know what that other person’s thinking. And they might be evil.”

Steven Spielberg “It certainly touched a nerve among all the young kids like myself who saw that movie at a very young age. That you would come home and that you would not recognize your mom and dad they would have changed into people who hate you.”

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When the father hits his son so violently that it knocks him down, as Spielberg says “it’s a shattering primal attack on us.”

I had the same reaction, I came home one night and felt like my parents had been exchanged somehow. they were not cruel like David’s parents in Invaders from Mars, yet I felt that they were somehow duplicates. I walked around the block for an hour afraid to go inside the house. These movies certainly made impressions in that deep rooted primal way. The subtleties of films like Invaders from Mars will still leave their mark on your psyche.

The giant green Martian Mutants must have zippers up the back of their velour costumes…

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The idea of not being believed works as a trope and it possesses a powerful persuasive tone that seeps inside and effects you as a kid watching Invaders From Mars.

All of a sudden, parents turn into aliens, monsters and cruel. It could be a metaphor for any number of difficult issues children might confront, like alcoholism, abuse etc. It is the changes that the child experiences in private where they cannot convey to people outside the home, that tells the story of alienation and estrangement. It is a terrifying journey they must navigate on their own, while they try to negotiate what is happening to them.

The ship has crashed into the land, over the hill. The sand sinks down like quicksand that drags down anyone who walks over it. The mutants who walk like my brother used to say to me, like they’ve got shit in their pants, worship and serve this giant tentacled head in a glass orb. The whole vision of the ground ‘literally’ collapsing where you stand. it gives the idea that you can’t even feel safe where you stand. It will suck you down into the bowels of the earth where evil creatures will turn you into a mindless image of yourself.

Spielberg says “What really unseats you as a child seeing that movie. it’s all a dream. He wakes up and his mom’s normal and his dad is normal and they don’t believe him, but what happens in the last scene.”

“It starts all over again…  It’s the groundhog day of science fiction —lol I thought the same thing Spielberg. that’s pretty much what it is…. he’ll just go through the whole loop and then wake up over and over again. There’s a twilight zone episode like that where Dennis Weaver keeps getting sentenced to death by a jury and goes thought the execution only to wake up and do it all over again… Spielberg puts it like this “it’ll be a never ending mirror tunnel of nightmares.”

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Narrator: The heavens. Once an object of superstition, awe, and fear. Now a vast region for growing knowledge. The distance of Venus, the atmosphere of Mars, the size of Jupiter, and the speed of Mercury. All this and more we know. But their greatest mystery the heavens have kept a secret. What sort of life, if any, inhabits these other planets? Human life, like ours? Or life extremely lower in the scale? Or dangerously higher? Seeking the answer to this timeless question, forever seeking, is the constant preoccupation of scientists everywhere. Scientists famous and unknown. Scientists in great universities and in modest homes. Scientists of all ages.

It Came from Outer Space

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XENOMORPHS INVADE OUR WORLD! They can look like humans or change to objects of awesome terror!–From Ray Bradbury’s great science fiction story!–Amazing Sights Leap at You in 3-DIMENSION

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From a story by the master of fantasy and science fiction Ray Bradbury

The science fiction film that brought us the amorphous bubbly one eyed Xenomorph.

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Jack Arnold’s amazing foray into an alien crash landing that involves stolen identity, invasion fear and the possibility that life on other planets might be benevolent but still really really creepy.

The film stars Richard Carlson as displaced reporter John Putnam, the wonderful Barbara Rush as Ellen Fields, Charles Drake as jealous Sheriff Matt Warren, Joey Sawyer as Frank Daylon, Russell Johnson as George, and Kathleen Hughes as June.

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Art direction by Robert F. Boyle (North by Northwest 1959, In Cold Blood 1967, Cape Fear 1962, The Thomas Crown Affair 1968) and Cinematography by Clifford Stine (This Island Earth 1955, The Incredible Shrinking Man 1957,Touch of Evil 1958, Imitation of Life 1959, Operation Petticoat 1959, Spartacus 1960, Patton 1970) Read Stine’s credits on IMBd they are far too many to list! The mesmerizing musical score is by an un-credited Henry Mancini, Irving Gertz and Herman Stein. The memorable visual effects are by David S. Horsley-(The Killers 1947, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein 1948, This Island Earth 1955) It Came From Outer Space was also filmed in the sensationally hyped 3D!

It Came From Outer Space 1955 Carlson and Rush

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The music is wonderfully inspiring to the mood, especially with the desert’s sense of estrangement and when the presence of the Xenomorphs are near. I think they use it as some of the stock music for Night of the Living Dead… I need to check that out… From what I see about their contributors I cannot link to any of the three music contributors to It Came from Outer Space… but I always get a thrill when the ‘coming near’ motif music happens in both!

In reading Bill Warren’sKeep Watching the Skies his overview of It Came from Outer Space, gets into the discrepancies about Ray Bradbury’s full participation in writing the screenplay, being totally replaced by Harry Essex who is credited for the screenplay, if it was his memory that was failing in recollecting what happened or if he had been misunderstood and his work co-opted by Essex because Universal didn’t like Bradbury’s treatment of the script. Warren is totally supportive of Bradbury being an un-credited contributor to the script. While he delves into the weeds a bit more about the mystery and contradictions about the facts behind-the- scenes, I think I’ll just stick with Jack Arnold’s beautifully executed science fiction master work here. But the entire section on the film is fascinating if you want a good read and 1950s science fiction is of particular interest, pick up a copy of Keep Watching the Skies by Bill Warren, it’s a sensational compilation of a decade of gems and stinkers, informative, funny engaging even including old published reviews of the films during the time of their theatrical release. I highly recommend it.

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First of all,this is one of those science fiction films that’s actually a really good film, with so many elements that work fabulously to transcend genre. This is one of the first major studio Universal – International to release a film in 3D, and one of the first to be shown in what was called wide screen and in stereophonic sound.

It was also the first science fiction film to be directed by Jack Arnold. (YAY!!!) The first using the southwestern desert as a location— the Mojave desert to be exact and not the Arizona desert as plotted out in the story—Donovan’s Brain was set there but made little use of the area as a central focal point. The desert already has an eerie, isolated vibe to it…

The film stars Richard Carlson as John Putnam and Barbara Rush as Ellen Fields.
Ray Bradbury wrote the original story on which the film is based, He was at the height of his writing with The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man and Fahrenheit 451 which brought his genius into light.

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The story opens as a meteor cuts through the evening sky like a glowing fireball high above the alienating desert landscape. For the locals, this brings about many different reactions, including that of John Putnam, amateur astronomer who’s having dinner with his fiancee Ellen Fields. This gets John so excited that he immediately wants to drive out to the sight to investigate. He and Ellen hop on a helicopter and go and see where the meteor left a large crater.

Meanwhile from the view of what ever the alien life force is, it moves from the crashed spacecraft, revealing that it wasn’t a meteor at all. —“Bradbury describes  quick shots of animals fleeing in fright from the alien visitor. The jack rabbit, for instance. At this point, he does not mention the use of a subjective camera technique , which has so often been commented on in relation to the film.” -Bill Warren.

Putnam arrives at the crater and approaches the object that has crash landed in a gaping hole, nearly burned to molten rock. Suddenly a landslide occurs and covers up the opening and the space ship.

Bill Warren–In a sequence (not in the finished film) almost certainly suffused by Billy Wilders’ Ace in the Hole /The Big Carnival 1951, which also took place in the Southwestern desert, earth moving machinery arrives in an effort to uncover the buried pilot. No one believes Putnam’s story. Eventually everyone give up and goes home, including Ellen and Putnam. A strange shape crosses the highway in front of them, they stop to look for whatever it was and a Joshua tree in the dark frightens Ellen, but they do not see the strange shape again. The alien, with the first-person camera emphasized (the camera’s point of view is the Alien’s) watches them leave.

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The next day Putnam is interviewed by hostile reporters. A few days later, the excitement of the meteor has died down. They drive into the desert alone. stopping to look around. “It’s alive” says Putnam “it looks so dead out there. And yet, it’s all alive and waiting around us and ready to kill you if you go too far from the road. The sun will get you, or the cold at night, or the snakes and the spiders or a sudden rain that floods the washes will get you. Ohm there are a thousand ways you can die in the desert.”

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Here’s Essex’s version of the same scene, which is in the film, “It’s alive.” say Putnam. Ellen nodding adds, “And yet it looks so dead out there.” Putnam goes on. “But it’s all alive and waiting for you… And ready to kill you if you go too far. The sun will get you or the cold at night… a thousand ways the desert can kill.” There isn’t much difference though some of the dialogue is shared by Ellen which is a nice touch.

Putnam and Ellen drive on and meet the phone linemen. Putnam climbs up the ladder to listen to the strange sounds on the wire that the linemen have been noticing since the crash. The elder lineman says —

 

–“In all my years nothing like that sound. Like Someone’s on the line. Down that way maybe, tapping the wire. Or up the other way, tapping the wire. listening to unlike we’re listening to him… After you been working out in this desert for fifteen years like I have you get funny ideas. There’s that sun in the sky and the heat, and look at the roads, full of mirages. And the sand out there, full of rivers and lakes that are fifty, a hundred miles away…. And sometimes you get to thinking maybe some nights, or some noons like this noon , the sun burns on the wires and gets in the wires and listens and hums and talks like this talk and that’s what you hear now. And sometimes you wonder if some of the snakes and the coyotes and the tumbleweeds don’t climb the poles at noon, far off where you can’t see them, and listen in on us human beings.”

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“Once again, Essex condenses and duplicates this speech without understanding the poetic paranoia behind the words. Fortunately director Jack Arnold and actor Joe Sawyer did, and the scene is one of the most famous and best like in the finished film.”-Bill Warren.

Putnam and Ellen decide to help the linemen find out what’s happening to the wires, and head off in the opposite direction from the one the linemen take. The linemen meet the alien , the scene cuts to Putnam and Ellen. who turn around and go back. They meet the alien masquerading as the younger lineman (Russell Johnson) When he quietly walks up and taps Putnam (Ellen in the film)  on the shoulder, Putnam spots a body behind a mesquite bush, assumes the linemen are dead, and that what he is talking to isn’t human.

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The scene that follows, one of the only two in the film in which Putnam is not the central figure, was added to the screenplay by Essex. In it, the alien George (Russell) tells the real Frank (Sawyer) that they have landed by accident and that they have the power to make themselves look like us.

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Bill Warren passionately tries to defend and clarify this.. “I could continue through the entire storyline in this fashion , it would be profitless. Despite  all claims by everyone else to the contrary, the story and the best elements of It Came From Outer Space were written by Ray Bradbury, not by Harry Essex. Because of the many influences of this film, Ray Bradbury’s therefor far more responsible for the look, the feel and the approach of 1950s science fiction movies than he has ever been acknowledged or even suspected before.”

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In the finished film the aliens apparently literally take on the form of other people, they are actual shape shifters their bodies are malleable enough that they can actually restructure themselves to resemble anyone. In Bradbury’s script, the effect is the same but the power seems to come from hypnosis —the aliens resemble lizards in Bradbury’s treatment.

I learned something really interesting from reading Warrens analysis of the film. I myself have often confused Richard Carlson with Hugh Marlowe at times. Here is partly the answer to that

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“In the draft actually called It Came from Outer Space, almost all of the film that was to be was created by Ray Bradbury. In this draft (begun October 1, 1952) Bradbury emphasized scenic and character descriptions much more strongly than the had in his earlier drafts. probably on studio orders. In so doing he created the standard science fiction her of the 1950. who was to be played by Richard Carlson or the nearest equivalent through most of the rest of the decade. Hugh Marlowe, John Agar, Jeff Morrow, Rex Reason. The characters they played were almost always variations on John Putnam the dedicated slightly strange and earnest young researcher. The actors often physically resembled Carlson.”

When it all comes down to it, what Bill Warren is asserting is that he found evidence that Essex’s script was a duplication of Ray Bradbury’s treatment, meaning the result –he isn’t getting the credit for his contribution and Essex is getting credit for Bradbury’s work. And he feels that what Essex did manage to change slightly, didn’t work at all, including inventing some of the poorly envisioned scenes.

What does happen by the end of Bradbury’s final draft is how his incredibly fluid and convoluted description of these alien came to life as close to the poetic description Bradbury put forth. The few times the aliens show themselves they are hard to assess, in form, with the emphasis on their milky jelly like eye in a gigantic impression of a head, surrounded by a foggy mist, with sparkles and glistens like a jello mold … but in the end, the film shows them as close to their poetic description that Bradbury had envisioned. Different than some man in a lizard type pants monster suit with bug eyes, or layers of monster make-up, the floating amorphous alien really does seem to exist on the extra terrestrial plane.

“One of his main contributions to It Came from Outer Space seem to have been the shimmering bullseye effect used whenever the camera ‘is’ one of the aliens. The subjective camera “playing’ the aliens at time is Bradbury’s idea. but the refinements seem to have been Jack Arnold’s–Bill Warren

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Another aspect of these aliens is that they are not quite hostile, though they are not benign either. it’s sort of a unique view of them. They are panicked and desperate to get off the Earth, and get back to their original destination “Our mission was to another world, only an error dragged us to Earth” Some of the aliens, such as the one in the guise of Ellen that tries to kill Putnam,are indeed hostile to people. Others are just nervous, such as the Putnam duplicate. or openly friendly , like the one that copied George the lineman. In short, just like real people, they don’t have a common attitude they are not of one mind. They reveal an individual spirit. It’s quite a break away them from other aliens who are a collective group on a mission, unified.

This being director Jack Arnold’s first science fiction film leads with a focus on how the alien relates to this world he has invaded. The result that his films seems less fanciful and more realist than most other of this period, such as The Incredible Shrinking Man 1957.

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Ellen Fields: If we’ve been seeing things, it’s because we DID see them.

Sheriff Matt Warren: [three-shot, characters gazing toward sky into which meteor-spaceship has rocketed] Well, they’ve gone.

Ellen Fields: For good, John?

John Putnam: No. Just for now. It wasn’t the right time for us to meet. But there’ll be other nights, other stars for us to watch. They’ll be back.

 

The Magnetic Monster

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See The Only Man That Dared To Track The Monster To Its Lair!–Cosmic frankenstein terrorizes earth!–The astounding story of the “thing” that came alive!

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Directed by Curt Siodmak and Herbert L. Strock. Stars Richard Carlson as Dr. Jeffrey Stewart, King Donovan as Dr. Dan Forbes, Jean Byron as Connie Stewart, Harry Ellerbe as Dr. Allard, Leo Britt as Dr. Benton, Leonard Mudie as Howard Denker, Bryon Foulger as Mr. Simon, Michael Fox as Dr. Serny, John Zaremba as Chief Watson.

Howard Denker: It’s hungry! It has to be fed constantly – or it will reach out its magnetic arm and grab at anything within its reach and kill it. It’s monstrous, Stewart, monstrous. It grows bigger and bigger!

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This is a surprisingly interesting and engaging low-budget science fiction films of the decade. Curt Siodmak directed and also co-wrote the script with producer Ivan Tors.

The Magnetic Monsters , the feature was intended as a test balloon to start a television series would have had a Dragnet type of flavor but instead of crime stories these would be based on the “Office of Scientific Investigation” created by Siodmak and Tors. Tor had produced Science Fiction Theatre. Once the Nazi’s came into prominence Siodmak left Germany, but his origin stems from his life working in the old German fantastic cinema around the early 1930s, that his vision is one of science meddling can create chaos and “expresses the darker side of man’s nature” -Bill Warren

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So The Magnetic Monster almost works as a crime thriller, as detective Jeff Stewart (Richard Carlson) who narrates the story, he works for the Office of Scientific Investigation. He gets to work one day and his partner Dan Forbes (King Donovan) tells him that they have in their possession air samples that are radioactive more normal than they should be for Los Angeles. I thought it was the smog that was daunting L.A. but this works right!

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Jeff and Dan go to a local hardware store where the place is literally out of whack, appliances working on their own, lawnmowers mowing down aisles, metallic objects sticking to the ceiling. There is an obvious magnetic field. They find the source of the contamination, a container used to transport radioactive material. The film uses some scientific terms like para-magnetism, uni-polar magnetism bandied around by the Office of Scientific Investigation it seems that a very dangerous radioactive element is lurking around the city. They follow the trail across town and onto an airplane, the dangers radiation is finally traced to a dying scientist Howard Denker (Leonard Mudie). He had been experimenting with a new element called ‘serranium” using alpha particles for 200 hours, and it becomes what’s called ‘unipolar’ magnetized but is unstable. It requires a constant charge of electricity to keep it controlled but of course this is a science fiction film so you know that the Magnetic devouring energy fiend grows larger as it eats atomic particles turning it’s energy into matter. Dr. Denker dies of radiation poisoning and Jeff declares, “In nuclear research , there is no place for lone wolves.”

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The particle of serranium is taken back to the university’s cyclotron, but an implosion occurs, smashing the building to smithereens. Now the element is starving, it’s hungry and the power it generates continues to need more and more energy to be fed. The serranium doubles in size every few hours, and with that each atom also expands, forming a mass that begins to occupy the empty space. The narrative intimates that this is how creation of the universe began. Dekker has brought into existence a monster that will now draw all it’s energy from all surrounding matter, creating more mass. The only way to stop it’s expansion is to bombard it with more energy than it can eat otherwise it will continue to cause more mass and implosions growing larger and larger until it’s unbounded force will ultimately destroy the earth.

Jeff (Richard Carlson) finds an installation that generates enough volts of power then flies the ‘serranium’ there to try and destroy it. This is a giant secret power station located in Canada buried deep below sea level off the Nova Scotia coast.

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Bill Warren writes that a lot of the end footage utilized a blend of new footage and old stock footage was used from an old German film called Gold (1934) that was composed of huge electrical machines used to manufacture artificial gold.

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Mesa of Lost Women

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A race of deadly spider-women luring men to their death!

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Directed by Ron Ormond and Herbert Tevos. Stars Jackie Coogan (Yes… Uncle Fester –that Jackie Coogan from The Addams Family television series) as Dr. Araña, with Cinematography by Karl Struss.

Co-stars Allan Nixon as Doc Tucker, Richard Travis as Dan Mulcahey, Lyle Talbot (Plan 9 From Outer Space 1959) narrates, Paula Hill as Doreen Culbertson, Robert Knapp as Grant the pilot Phillips, Tandra Quinn as Tarantella, Chris-Pin Martin as Pepe, Harmon Stevens as Dr. Leland J. Masterson, George Barrows who has appeared in many an ape suit Robot Monster, Hillbillys in a Haunted House, Nico Lek as Jan van Croft, Kelly Drake and Candy Collins as the Lost Women. Cult star Angelo Rossitto plays the dwarf companion and Wu (Samuel Wu).

Tarantella (Tandra Quinn) is Dr. Araña’s ultimate of all his experimentation with super women.

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The film is told in flashback by pilot Grant (Robert Knapp) and Doreen played by Mary Hill who is the heroine of this bubbameister as my Yiddish grandmother would say, but the authorities will not believe them. Mesa of Lost Women is also called Lost Women and Lost Women of Zarpa. Jackie Coogan plays the evil Dr. Araña (spider), a mad scientist living in Mexico on Zarpa Mesa where he experiments with giant spiders, women and dwarves, the result of his formula used on humans. His associate Leland Masterson played by Harmon Stevens refuses to work with the diabolical Dr. Araña who wants to infuse women with the serum that would draw out the vicious killer instinct from the spiders and create a race of superwomen!

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This film would be a great cheesy companion to Cat-Women of the Moon. Mesa of Lost Women qualifies for a Pow Pow Pow award! here at The Last Drive In.

An oil surveying team discovers Grant (Knapp) and Doreen (Hill) wandering through the desert of Mexico. When they are brought back to the oil company’s medical facility, Grant spouts off ranting about giant spiders, Zarpa Mesa and somebody named Dr. Araña (Coogan). Company employees Doc (Nixon) and Don (Travis) try to figure out what Grant is talking about and urge him to tell his story, but before he can do that, the film is taken over by narrator Lyle Talbot who takes us by way of flashback back to the day when Dr. Leland Masterson arrives at Zarpa Mesa by request of Dr. Araña.

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Araña has built his lab inside a mountain, and Leland Masterson see lots of women and dwarves running around the place. Leland Masterson is a big fan of Araña’s published papers that’s why he came to Mexico. Araña explains that he has finally isolated a growth hormone that he can use to create giant spiders. But he soon transplants the giant telepathic spider hormones into women who become indestructible.

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He wants to create a master race of superwomen by injecting his female subjects with the spider venom. His greatest creation is Tarantella who never says a word. The dwarves in Araña’s lab are spider men. Since in the insect kingdom– often the female is the stronger of the species right. “No No you can’t do these things” Masterton tells Dr. Araña. He is then turned into one of the mad doctors subjects who goes crazy, gets sent to a mental hospital and then escapes.

He winds up in a Mexican cantina where Tarantella also hangs out. There he meets Jan (Nico Lek) and his young fiancee who turns out to be Doreen from the beginning of the film. Leland Masterson is acting weirder than usual. Soon the trio are joined by George (the ape suit Barrow) an attendant at the asylum who has been sent to get Masterson and bring him back to the rubber room he escaped from.

Tarantella does a her strange little dance that I’m sure caused some titillation back in 1953, after which Masterson pulls out a gun and shoots her, taking Jan, Doreen and George hostage leaving the cantina. After Masterson and his prisoners leave the cantina, Tarantella comes back to life, -she’s indestructible as the evil doctor intended.

The Bartender [on the phone, stunned] Sheriff! The body just got up and walked out of here!…

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Jan has a plane waiting and Masterson takes them there, where they meet the pilot who is none other than Grant! (Robert Knapp). Everyone, Leland Masterson, Jan, George, Doreen, and Jan’s servant Wu cram inside the small plane which winds up crashing on… Zarpa Mesa!.

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This is where it gets hairy and messy on the Mesa…

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George winds up getting killed by a giant spider, and Doreen figures out that her wealthy fiancé is a cowering weasel, and falls in love with the pilot, Grant. She also learns that Wu has been working secretly for Dr. Araña sent to bring Masterson back. Araña has his sights on Doreen and Grant for experimenting just for the hell of it. For some odd reason, maybe he has fallen for Doreen, he defies Araña and winds up getting killed by the spiderwomen. Later, Jan gets picked off by a giant spider too. Araña finally gives Masterson an injection that relieves him of his insanity, so now with his all his faculties firing he mixes the right chemicals together tells Grant and Doreen to make a run for it, and blows up the laboratory and the evil creations that go with it! This is all told in flashback of course so were have to hang in there within this mixed up mess and find ourselves back at the oil company present day. Grant finishes telling his story but no one believes it.  The camera goes back to Zarpa Mesa and there is one super spiderwoman who survives. So the sordid slimy science fiction tale has just begun…

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The Neanderthal Man

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HALF MAN…HALF BEAST… What primitive passions…what mad desires drove him on…? He held them all in the grip of deadly terror…nothing could keep him from the woman he claimed as his own!

Directed by Ewald Andre Dupont. Screenplay by writer/producer/direct Jack Pollexfen (The Man from Planet X 1951, The Secret of Convict Lake 1951)

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Stars Robert Shayne as Prof. Clifford Groves, Joyce Terry (The Naked Street 1955, The Beatniks 1960), as Jan Groves, Richard Crane as Dr. Ross Harkness, Doris Merrick as Ruth Marshall, Beverly Garland as Nola Mason, Robert Long as George Oakes, Tandra Quinn as Celia the housekeeper, Lee Morgan as Charlie Webb, Eric Colmar as Buck Hastings.

The Neanderthal Man is a ‘pants monster’ movie it’s also a variation on the Robert Louis Stevenson story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Producers Aubrey Wisber and Jack Pollexfen picked writer/director Ewald Andre Dupont. (The Scarf 1951, Please Murder Me! 1956), Robert Shayne plays the typical meddle’s with nature mad scientist who experiments with his poor housekeeper (Tandra Quinn) regressing her back to a primitive by injecting her with a serum, he follows her progress through a series of photographs that reveal to us, his profane work.

As Bill Warren informs us, “One of the reason the series of photos of the hapless girl is more convincing that makeup on Shane is that the Neanderthal Man is generally only an elaborate mask, and the girl is actually made up with paint, makeup and appliances. The mask Shayne (or his stunt double) wears doesn’t move or flex with the performers face, and they eyes seem to be painted on. The makeup/mask also varies throughout the film.”

The credit for the make up is not listed on the film. Warren continues “Another flaw is that the makeup doesn’t look like any reconstruction of a Neanderthal Man…[…] in behavior the creature we see is more like a vicious ape-man monster than the Neanderthals, who were probably not much different from Homo sapiens in general behavior.”

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The plot is bombastically annoying and Professor Groves is not a nice man, he certainly isn’t a likable protagonist nor is he even an interesting anti-hero, he is more a ‘bad scientist’ filled with hubris and is self-aggrandizingly loathsome. The film possesses a basically weary plot device using a rogue scientist who is shunned by his peers, who goes off on his own, developing a serum that can regress it’s subjects back to it’s primal origins. Groves tries to convince the Naturalists’ Society about his theory that the primitive man with his larger skull can be equated with larger intelligence, making him the superior man.

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Of course they reject his supposition and he is rejected,which sends him into a spiral of madness determined to prove his theory to the world. He rejects any companionship from his fiancée Ruth and locks himself away in his creepy minimalist lab where he first tortures the poor cat.(I’ve edited out this part as I can’t bear to hear it screaming and screeching after it’s injected in it’s wooden crate) There, Groves works on further developing the serum that will enable him to regress his subjects, eventually being himself.

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Groves decides to prove his theories by naturally turning himself into a Neanderthal Man. First he tries out the serum on said cat, who regresses back into a saber toothed tiger which they basically use a trained tiger and they freeze frame the gaping mouth using large fangs superimposed, it’s rather silly special effects. The worst of his experimentation is like Dr. Moreau as he exploits his mute housekeeper Celia (Tandra Quinn), His plan is to tap human’s primitive instincts by using this serum, which makes Shayne’s character even more unlikable as he is taking advantage of a defenseless unknowing victim. She goes through unpleasant and frightening changes and can’t tell anyone about them. Joyce Terry plays Jan Groves, the scientists daughter, Richard Crane plays Dr. Ross Harkness. The wonderful Beverley Garland has a small part in this un-hair raising hairy flick as Nola Mason– a waitress. Doris Merrick plays Ruth Marshall and Robert Long plays game warden George Oakes. Frank Gerstle plays Mr. Wheeler a hunter in the California High Sierras that is scoffed at by his audience of listeners at Webb’s Cafe when he comes in trying to tell everyone that he was attacked by a Sabre Tooth Tiger.

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Here’s the carnival prize looking stuffed tiger passed off as the regressed cat into a primitive Saber Tooth Tiger.. it’s laughable… it’s just plain silly.

Oakes who at first doesn’t believe the hunters story until the Tiger actually jumps out in front of his car finally manages to convince a skeptical zoologist Dr. Harkness (Richard Crane) to come an check things out for himself.

Harkness meets Ruth Marshall (Doris Merrick), Prof. Groves’ fiancée whom he doesn’t treat very well but she still works for him, taking care of his needs, around the house and the lab.

Prof. Clifford Groves: [Angry at skeptical scientists hearing his lecture] “Let me assume you, for want of your own understanding, that man’s boasting pride in his alleged advancement is based on one hollow precept that is his ego.”

Dr. Ross Harkness: [referring to Groves] “He tampered with things beyond his province… beyond what any man should do… and if it was madness, well… those whom the gods would destroy… they first make mad!”

Phantom from Space

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WHAT was he?–His secret power menaced the world!–He came from a billion miles of space to meet the strangest destiny ever told!

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Directed by W. Lee Wilder (Billy Wilder’s brother) and stars Ted Cooper as Hazen, Tom Daly as Charlie, Steve Acton as Operator, Burt Wenland as Joe, Lela Nelson as Betty Evans, Harry Landers as Lt. Bowers, Bert Arnold as Darrow.

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The cinematography and optical effect are by Howard Anderson who does a lot with a low-budget using matte backgrounds to execute the scenes of invisibility. With a screenplay by William Raynor and special effects by Alex Welden.

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Phantom From Space is done in a documentary style, glum and devoid of any of the wit or humor that some of the better science fiction films of the decade possess.

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The story begins with a radar station in Alaska that track a mysterious space craft which is interfering with radio and television frequencies. Hurling through the sky at 5,000 mph the object goes off radar and lands somewhere near Santa Monica beach. The Federal Communications Commission agents headed by Lt Hazen played by Ted Cooper are assigned to track down the cause of the disturbances. Suddenly we see a spacesuit emerge scaring off a some couples on a picnic, and accidentally kills two men. Lt. Bowers played by Harry Landers of the Los Angeles Police Department homicide division accompanies the Federal agents in tracking the mysterious object picked up on the radar, and the mysterious killer. They are unaware that it is a visitor from space.

Afterwards they manage to corner the phantom space man in an oil refinery led by Harry Landers as Lt. Bowers and Rudolph Anders played by Dr.Wyatt and his assistant Lela Nelson who plays Betty Evans. The phantom from space removes his suit and to reveal or ironically not reveal his presence as he is invisible to the eye, he then escapes. The group take the spacecraft back to the laboratory near the Griffith Park planetarium and perform tests on it, learning that the alien is silicon based and not carbon like human life forms. The phantom is also dying slowing without it’s life supporting spacesuit, so naturally he will be desperately tracking down the location of his suit so he can save himself.

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The phantom climbs a ladder, when infrared beams are turned on him, he becomes visible. He appears to have no ears, basically the alien (Dick Sands) just looks like a pale bald bodybuilder. And though the two guards are killed, it was merely by accident as the phantom is not a menacing hostile alien at all, but a guy who lost his way.

Together are Lt. Bowers Lt. Hazen, the scientist and Major Andrews played by James Seay- The film also co-stars Jack Daly as Joe Wakeman, Bert Arnold as Darow, Burt Wenland as Joe Tom Daly as Charlie, Harry Strang as a neighbor Steve Acton credited as an operator.

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Dr. Wyatt: “My theory is that this space ship, or whatever it was that he came in, operated on the principal of magnetic, rather than atomic, propulsion and that somewhere in the Outer Limits met with a condition where the earth’s gravity pulled it down and it fell into the ocean and that he managed to save his life and reach shore.”

Lt. Bowers: “What you’ve told us is very interesting, Doctor…”

Robot Monster

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MOON MONSTERS LAUNCH ATTACK AGAINST EARTH!

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The monstrous Ro-Man an guy in a gorilla suit with a helmet and antennae attempts to annihilate the last family alive on Earth, but finds himself falling for their beautiful daughter.

Directed by Phil Tucker. Stars George Nader as Roy, Claudia Barrett as Alice, Selena Royle as Mother, John Mylong as The Professor, Gregory Moffett as Little Johnny, Pamela Paulson as Carla, George (the ape suit) Barrows as Ro-Man and a cast of thousands of bubbles, tiny little bubbles!

Considered one of THE WORST films of all time, Robot Monster is still so much fun to watch. It’s so out there and as Bill Warren puts it, “The major attribute of Robot Monster is its earnest ludicrousness or ludicrous earnestness.”

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I’m only going to say this once then scratch my head… Elmer Bernstein is responsible for the score… yes the brilliant composer responsible for scores– Walk on the Wild Side and To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962, The Great Escape 1963.

The special effects are filled with bubbles! yes putting forth bubbles blown out of Ro-Man’s space radio in the cave has to be one of the best accompaniments to the outrageously awful space alien gorilla costume. Automatic Billion Bubble Machine by N.A. Fisher Chemical Products, Inc.

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Little Johnny (Gregory Moffatt) is playing spaceman with his small sister Carla (Pamela Paulson) during a family picnic near Bronson Canyon. when he meets two archeologist the professor (John Mylong) and Roy (Nader) who are working in a nearby cave. His widowed mother (Selena Royle) and their older sister Alice (Claudia Barrett) come to get the two little ones to wash up after their picnic. Then the family decides to just lay down and take a nice nap.

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Johnny wakes up and sneaks back to the cave. Suddenly lighting strikes nearby and Johnny falls down. When he gets up again, he finds strange equipment right at the mouth of the cave. Which is basically a wooden table with a machine that creates killer bubbles, no only kidding about the killer part. He also meets Ro-Man (Barrows) a hostile alien in a badly done up ape suit and diving helmet. The two kids listen to Ro-Man contact his master The Great Guidance (Barrows in the same costume, with a home made theremin type antennae, rods and bows wavering ) Ro-Man reports that he has wiped out all life on Earth. He calls them Hu-Mans- death brought about with his calcinator death ray. The Great Guidance points out that Ro-Man has made a mistake, there are still 8 humans left. “Eliminate error” he is warned, “Is this not the law.” This is not the theatrical magnitude of Bela as the lawgiver in Island of Lost Souls (1932)

Ro-Man must take care of the survivors or he himself will be put to death for his failure.

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This is where the story gets so unbelievably convoluted as if not already… so you’ll have to follow the mobius strip —

In the story the little boy and girl meet the professor (John Mylong), a geologist and his assistant Roy (George Nader). Little Johnny bumps his head and when he come to, everything is different. Not only is the Professor now his father, but the six are almost the only people left alive anywhere. There are two others, but they’re in space.

Johnny returns back home where now the professor from the cave is his father, a brilliant scientist who with Alice’s help has developed electronic equipment  to cloak their house from Ro-Man. As long as they remain inside the compound. Mother, Father, Alice, Carla and Johnny are safe. Soon Roy returns to the house too… now he is the professor’s assistant and together they have developed a serum to prevent all diseases. This is helpful since all the rest of human kind is dead. Roy reports that Jason and McCloud –who ever the hell they are– are still alive and that they are going to try to reach the garrison stationed on the space platform in orbit around the Earth to try and get help. But Great Guidance destroys their rocket ship and the platform. And Ro-Man contacts the professor on his view screen to tell him… “There must be an end to your race.”

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Fearing competition from Earth, Ro-Man (George Barrows) from the planet Ro-Man has been sent to earth to wipe everyone out. with his CALCINATOR DEATH RAY.

But the professor has inoculated all eight remaining humans with a serum which prevents death by the ray. The two in space head for the satellite , but Ro-Man kills them. Ro-Man (that menacing guy an ape suit with a diving helmet with antennae) offers the remaining 6 people a quick and painless death but they are defiant. Although ordered by The Great One or Great Guidance ) also played by Barrows) to destroy the rest of the people by using physical means. But Ro-Man has become attracted the big sister Alice. He sees her on the view screen. He is driven by his compulsion to meet Alice. “I do not understand, but it is only the girl called Alice that I want to see.” She agrees to meet him, to give herself up to the ape helmet antennae monster in order to save her family and any bit of humanity that is left. But Roy and her dad won’t let her go and they tie her up.

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I believe the actress is laughing, perhaps more stupefied that this she’s starring in this film more than horrified… or perhaps both!

Johnny sneaks out again and meets Ro-Man who tries the calcinator ray on him and finds out about the serum that makes his death ray ineffective. Finally Roy unties Alice so they can go look for Johnny, but they run into Ro-Man and so they hide. Johnny returns home while Roy and Alice stay out for a while smooching and pawing at each other, you need some romance in these films right. I’d rather see Ro-Man try to tango with Alice, now that would be entertaining and with the bubbles you could book them on Lawrence Welk right…

Little Carla leaves home to pick some flowers, (Makes you think of the little village girl Maria- who is thrown into the pond by the sympathetic Frankenstein’s monster) and in a horrific moment, Ro-Man strangles the little girl. Then he stumbles onto Roy and Alice kissing in the bushes, he pushes Roy off the cliff and finally carries Alice off with him to the cave holding her captive. While holding a ceremonial funeral for Carla, Roy comes broken and battered back to the compound and tells them that Ro-Man has Alice, then he dies.

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[Roy walks up to the group and collapses]

The Professor: “He’s dead, and there’s nothing we can do.”

The Great Guidance calls Ro-Man “You have captured the girl and not destroyed her” He  wants to experience what the Hu-mans feel. Great Guidance communicates with via television screen telling him to kill the girl or be killed.

Johnny comes to the cave and lurres Ro-Man out so mom and dad can sneak in an free Alice. Just as Ro-Man is about to strangle Johnny- Great Guidance zaps Ro-Man who has fallen prey to his own desires.

When the Great one sees all his plans going awry , sends bolts of cosmic energy to Earth which temporarily revives dinosaurs (footage from One Million B.C) and causes volcanoes to erupt. Just as the world ends Johnny wakes up. (Interesting that the film is centered around yet another nihilistic vision through the eyes of a little boy).

But after the six leave… a whole slew of Ro-Mans come of Bronson Caverns.

The film is absurd, relying on a few deviant elements to shake up the shoddy narrative like-Ro-Man suddenly desiring Alice and not in a Beauty & The Beast Cocteau style romance either, this is pure beastiality and bondage as everyone winds up tying up Alice up at some point. Compelling action no… Stinky & Kinky yes… Robot Monster too gets The Last Drive In’s Pow Pow Pow Award…cue Barney Fife with a great big axe and Pow Pow Pow!

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The film may also be one of the worst films, so bad that it even drove it’s director Phil Tucker to attempt suicide out of embarrassment.

What can I say about the dreadful dialogue Ro-Man becomes impassioned when the Great Guidance says, he’s starting to think like a human being. “Yes!” the invader cries, “To be like the hu-man! To laugh! Feel! Want! Why are these things not in the plan?”  He agonizes over his order to destroy the world, “I cannot—yet I must. How do you calculate that? At what point on the graph do ‘must’ and ‘cannot’ meet? Yet I must, but I cannot.”

Some Scholcky Shakespeare for you mere mortals or should I say Hu-Mans!

Ro-Man: “What are you doing alone, girl-child?”

Carla: “My daddy won’t let you hurt me.”

Ro-Man: “We’ll see!”

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Ro-Man: “I cannot – yet I must. How do you calculate that? At what point on the graph do “must” and “cannot” meet? Yet I must – but I cannot!”

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Carla: “Is Alice going on a date with Ro-Man?”

Johnny: [to Ro-Man] “You look like a pooped out pinwheel.”

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Ro-Man: [confronts Johnny and explains the Ro-Mens’ motive for wiping out Earth’s population] “Your people were getting too intelligent. We could not wait until you were strong enough to attack us; we had to attack you first.”

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Ro-Man: “I will re-calculate. Your deaths will be indescribable.”

Great Guidance- “Earth Ro-Man, you violate the laws of plans. To think for yourself is to be like the hu-man.”

Ro-Man: “Yes! To be like the hu-man! To laugh! Feel! Want! Why are these things not in the plan?”

Great Guidance: “You are an extension of the Ro-Man, and a Ro-Man you will remain. Now, I set you into motion. One: destroy the girl. Two: destroy the family. Fail, and I will destroy you!”

Great Guidance: “Have you made the correction?”

Ro-Man: “I need guidance, Great One. For the first time in my life, I am not sure.”

Great Guidance- “You sound like a hu-man, not a Ro-Man. Can you not verify a fact?”

Ro-Man: “I meshed my LIP with the view-screen auditor, and picked up a count of five.”

Great Guidance: “Error! Error! There are eight!”

Ro-Man: “Then the other three still elude me. Is it possible they have a counterpower?”

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Ro-Man: “I am ordered to kill you. I must do it with my hands.”

Alice: “How is it you’re so strong, Ro-Man? It seems impossible.”

Ro-Man: “We Ro-Mans obtain our strength from the planet Ro-Man, relayed from individual energizers.”

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Ro-Man: “Great Guidance, I have a favorable report. I have already eliminated one of them.”

Great Guidance: “Good.”

Ro-Man: “Force was necessary. It was a simple matter of strangulation. That leaves four.”

Great Guidance: [buzzer sounds] “Error! Again! Five!”

Ro-Man: “Four – and one more on whom I have made an estimate in relation to our strategic reserve. The plan should include one human being for reference in case of unforeseen contingencies.”

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The Professor’s Assistant: “I’m bossy? You’re so bossy you oughta be milked before you come home at night.”

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Ro-Man: “The child is impertinent.”

The Professor: “He’s impervious!”

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Alice: “Unless we find his weak spot!”

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Ro-Man: “Show yourselves, and I promise you a painless death.”

Ro-Man: “Hu-mans, listen to me. Due to an error in calculation, there are still a few of you left.”

Johnny: “I think you are just a big bully, picking on those smaller than you are!”

Ro-Man: “Now I will kill you.”

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The Professor: [during wedding ceremony] “Dear Lord, you know I’m not trained for this job…”

Alice, The Professor’s Assistant: [under their breath] “You could say that again.”

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Ro-Man: “All humans there is no escape!”

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The War of the Worlds

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Amazing! terrifying! The most savage spectacle of all time!

Mighty panorama of Earth-shaking fury as an army from Mars invades!

Directed by Byron Haskin. (special effects, director & cinematographer)

Based on H.G. Wells novel focused on the earth being attacked by destructive Martians

With a screenplay by Barré Lyndon (The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse 1938, Sundown 1941, The House on 92nd Street 1945, Hangover Square 1945, The Man in Half Moon Street 1945, Night Has a Thousand Eyes 1948,T0 Please a Lady 1950, Man in the Attic 1953, Thriller tv series 1961-1962, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour 1964, Dark Intruder 1965)  

War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds (1953) Stars Gene Barry as Dr. Clayton Forrester, Ann Robinson as Sylvia van Buren, Les Tremayne as Major General Mann, Robert Cornthwaite as Dr. Pryor, Sandro Giglio as Dr. Bilderbeck, Lewis Martin as Pastor Matthew Collins, Paul Frees as Second Radio Reporter, William Phipps as Wash Perry, Vernon Rich as Col Ralph Heffner, Jack Kruschen as Salvatore, and the fabulous Cedric Hardwick as the Commentator.

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 Commentary:No one would have believed in the middle of the 20th Century that human affairs were being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than Man’s. Yet, across the gulf of space on the planet Mars, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded our Earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely joined their plans against us. Mars is more than 140 million miles from the sun, and for centuries has been in the last status of exhaustion. At night, temperatures drop far below zero even at its equator. Inhabitants of this dying planet looked across space with instruments and intelligence that which we have scarcely dreamed, searching for another world to which they could migrate.”

From Bill Warren- “In the early 1930s, when fantastic films became acceptable again, interest was again aroused in The War of The Worlds. Alfred Hitchcock personally approached H.G. Wells in Nice, but was informed that the movie rights were locked up by Paramount. When Sergei Eisenstein was at Paramount in early 1930s, the property was briefly reactivated for him;a script was allegedly prepared, but nothing came of this. Around the same time in England, Alexander Korda toyed with the idea of filming The War of the Worlds, but instead filmed Things to Come. The property lay dormant at Paramount until 1951.”

Visionary H.G. Wells’ martians invaded movie theaters in 1953 and George Pal’s film still remains a landmark monument to Science Fiction cinema!, though the story had left it’s lasting impression on the collective conscience from the novel and then from the all too infamous radio broadcast in 1938 by Orson Welles that panicked America.

The film varies it’s location from Wells’ London in 1890 and sets the story in a contemporary California town called Linda Rosa, but the highlight of the film itself is the art direction and special effects department that created some of the most beautiful and colorful Martian machines that were also altered from the Martian war machines in the shape of titanic walking tripods. First with the extraordinary cinematography by George Barnes (Rebecca 1940, Meet John Doe 1941, Spellbound 1945, The Bells of St. Mary’s 1945, Force of Evil 1948, The File on Thelma Jordon 1950, The Greatest Show on Earth 1952) creates an unreal landscape that inverts an otherwise bucolic setting into a virtual nightmarish siege of the senses. Quick mention that the brilliant designer Edith Head was responsible for the fashion!

Albert Nozaki  (The Big Clock 1948, When Worlds Collide 1951) and Hal Pereira, (Rear Window 1954, Vertigo 1958, Breakfast at Tiffany’s 1961) are credited for the innovative and stylish Art Direction, and visual effects by master Gordon Jennings...( The Lost Weekend 1945, Sunset Boulevard 1950, Stalag 17 1953), not to mention an impressive crew of folks who worked on special effects, visual effects and even the sound department, just check out the long list of contributors at IMBd.

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Charles Gemora gets into his Martian suit for The War of the Worlds 1953

The famous green “skeleton beam” which cuts across the lines of force and disintegrates anything was created by cartoon animation!

Plus the evocative score from the very versatile composer Leith Stevens who’s worked in major motion pictures, television and rare off-beat films like Screaming Mimi 1958.

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Image courtesy of Alamy stock

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From Phil Hardy’s The Overlook Film Encyclopedia:Science Fiction —“When a meteor falls near a small community in southern California, a large orb emerges. A death ray disintegrates the first investigators and scientist played by Gene Barry guesses that the meteor is a pioneer Martian spaceship. He then discovers that meteors have been landing all over the world. Soon flying machines with attached death rays arise from the meteors. and no matter how much armament is gathered against them including an A Bomb, the death rays of the flying machines are invincible. The machines are not robots, but controlled from within by Martians, who raid Los Angeles but eventually succumbs to Earth’s bacteria. The ruined buildings, the deserted city, the death rays and the Martians themselves come together in a stunning special effects’ climaxed. With the exception of Earth versus the Flying Saucers (1956) War of the Worlds is the only American Science Fiction film to feature a mass invasion of aliens which give the film a deeper resonance than normal, especially when allied to Haskin’s dwelling on religious symbols and the prologue which suggests, equally unusually that the Earth is merely one of many planets. The Result, the sub-plot of Barry and Robisnon’s developing romance notwithstanding, is that The War of the Worlds remains watchable to this day, a film that is less a simple mirror of American attitudes and fears of the fifties and more a reflection of man’s conservative responses to the idea of other life-forms before the possibility of such contact was seen as possible. In this respect, despite the updating, the film is true to H. G. Wells’ novel.”

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I learned in reading about The War of the Worlds that George Pal was very unhappy with interjecting a romance into his epic science fiction story, let alone the idea that Dr. Clayton Forrestor (Gene Barry) would spend the last quarter of the film fanatically looking for a girl he hardly knows-Sylvia van Buren (Ann Robinson). Though I do enjoy the scene when the smug (Nobody plays smug as wonderfully believable as Gene Barry) Dr. Forrester and Sylvia both seek shelter in a house that has been caved in. The living Martian with his three colorful eyes and the long probing device that has been watching them are one of the most iconic scenes in Science Fiction history. The little guy almost seems more frightened of them than they are of it! After he curiously touches Sylvia on the shoulder and Forrester shines a flashlight in it’s eyes… the poor guy looks almost harmless.

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I think he’s kinda cute!

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The War of the Worlds is a constant onslaught of sleek and colorful machines flown by yet unseen Martians who disintegrate and pulverize the cities leaving a devastated Earth, causing mass exodus of it’s people who are left with no place to run and hide. And it’s not just the smashing hot white rays that emanate from the serpentine like periscopes that slither and scope around to find it’s targets, its the sound, the mind exploding sonic blasts the machines give forth as they burn to ashes every obstacle or earthling they encounter. The utter sense of menace that director Haskin’s film creates is at times suffocating in it’s grip, as we watch various players scramble to safety as if there was such a thing as a safe place. In the end, though it isn’t weapons, or atomic bombs that bring down these hostile invaders, it is a simple germ, the common cold that destroys these sinister creatures from Mars, as they haven’t any immunity. What’s the lesson here? Well, perhaps it’s always get your flu shot, or perhaps it’s that weapons are useless, turned on ourselves there will always be a menace out there, bigger and meaner than us.

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COMING SOON! THE YEAR IS… 🚀

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9 thoughts on “🚀 Keep Watching the Skies! Science Fiction Cinema of the 1950s: The Year is 1953

  1. Okay. I’m tying myself to a chair in front of my laptop until the next installment. This is so awesome to read and remember those films I’ve seen maybe too many times but still enjoy.

    BTW, that Martian was trying to ask Ann Robinson who did her hair. I always thought that ‘do was the scariest thing in the film! :D

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    1. G- I hope you’re not still chained to the chair. How will you get up to grab the popcorn! I think you’re right about the Martian and Ann Robinson’s hair, it definitely frightened me! But isn’t just the cutest little fellow with his tri colored eyes. Sort of like ET, I think… Okay, so what’s on your list of Halloween films to watch… I got a few good ones lined up. And next time Aurora, Wendy and I go to the Loews, you coming? Hope so…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m watching a neo-giallo called Francesca that was made recently, but really looks just like a film from the 70’s. I also have Dark Water queued up, The Initiation, and Microwave Massacre. Might squeeze in Dead End Drive-in if I can.

        Amusingly enough, I actually have jury duty on Halloween (boooo, but civic duty and all that stuff), so I’m trying to cram in a chunk of scares before my brain goes numb from sitting on it for eight hours a day until who knows when, lol. A movie day/night sounds fun- I’ll keep an ear peeled (ew!) for an invite.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve given me even more great sci-fi titles to watch, Jo! I can’t believe how many of these I haven’t seen.

    As an aside, I am utterly fascinated by that sea monster from “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms”. I think it’s some of Ray Harryhausen’s best work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Ruth! I’m glad you’ve got some good titles to think about watching. I know you always inspire me with your thoughtful posts. The Sea Beast is so wonderfully done, Harryhausen was such a genius… We should do another live tweet one of these days..!

      Liked by 1 person

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