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The November 2014 Sci-Fi Movie Marathon

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Why a sci-fi marathon in November?  Well -- why not?  In between watching football, raking leaves, and battling blackberry vines, I like a little sci-fi. As with the previous months horror marathon, I have a Mill Creek collection on hand, this one of classic <cough> sci-fi films.  I doubt if there's a single classic in these one hundred public domain flicks; in fact, glancing over the titles, it looks like many aren't even sci-fi.

 

But that's cool.  Here's the format:  I'm planning on posting one review a day, Monday -- Friday, and I'm hoping you'll all join in with your own reviews and comments.

 

For Monday: Horrors of Spider Island

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HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND  (1960, German, dubbed)

 

Alright, everyone, please check your passports and boarding passes.  Is everything in order?  Good, because we're taking an airplane to Singapore, but not just yet, because there's the audition to get through first.

 

Audition?  Why, yes.  You can't join a dance troupe without an audition.  Oh, I see I haven't explained things fully.

 

To start at the beginning:  Gary Webster, show biz entrepreneur, and his assistant (and mistress), Georgia, are organizing a dance troupe to play in nightclubs throughout Asia.  So, a bunch of attractive women are sitting around in a casting agent's waiting room.  Alpha male Gary and sidekick Georgia have them come in to the inner office one by one;  he asks some to dance, others he just wants to show their legs.  There's a ballet dancer who does some pirouetting (she's rejected), and a stripper who disrobes without being asked (she's accepted).  So we have a pretty good idea of what kind of dancing this troupe is going to be doing.  

 

Now Gary and Georgia have all the dancers they need, and now the plane is taking off, and now it's over the ocean, and now it's catching fire and plummeting into the water.  It looks like Gary and his dance troupe won't be arriving at Singapore any time soon.

 

Miraculously, Gary and all of his women survive the crash.  When we next see them, they've been on a lifeboat for several days, and everyone looks pretty wilted.  Gary is in control, rationing supplies, and even slapping a woman who tries to sneak an extra drink of water.  Things are looking pretty hopeless until they spot an island in the distance.

 

Led by Gary, they reach the island, and collapse in exhaustion  -- even Gary, but he soon recovers, and locates a stream, and, after drinking his fill, calls the women over.  He lets them drink for a bit, but then tells them they've had enough, because if you pamper females, they might start getting funny ideas about social equality.

 

As they head inland, they find a long-handed hammer, and Gary opines that it's a tool used for prospecting, probably for uranium , but doesn't say how he knows this.  Maybe he was a miner before he managed a dance troupe.  Pressing on, they find a cabin in a clearing, and in the cabin is a man, or, at least what's left of him.  He's been dead for awhile, and is hanging in a giant spider web.  And this explains the  original German title for this film, which translates into The Corpse in the Web.  Except we don't really see much of the corpse; it gets disposed of pretty quickly so that Gary and his women can move in.

 

It turns out that the dead guy was some kind of professor; he kept a journal and from that we learn that he was here looking for uranium, so Gary was right about the hammer (of course he was right -- he's the Alpha Male).  The professor had plenty of supplies, including canned goods and extra clothing, so the outlook for our castaways is looking much brighter.  You'd think those dancing girls would appreciate that, wouldn't you? But no, they start fighting over trifles, and two of them play tug-of-war with some clothing, so Gary tells them to knock it off, "or I'll take care of both of you."  Then he demands something to drink and orders everyone to get to sleep.  He, himself, is going for a walk, having armed himself with the professor's gun.

 

He gets as far as the porch when he's waylaid by the stripper, who wants the only available male for herself.  They're in the midst of a hot and heavy kiss, when Georgia steps out for some fresh air.  Gary is -- surprisingly --  a little non-plussed, and mumbles something about the heat affecting his mind, then hurries off for his walk.  Georgia, asserting her rights as consort of the Alpha Male, gives the stripper a couple of good slaps.

 

But Gary will not go unpunished for his indiscretion.  As he walks into a woodsy area he is attacked by a enormous spider, who clamps onto his neck.  Gary manages to tear off the hideous thing and shoot it dead, but not before he was bitten.

 

Let's stop to ask ourselves a couple of questions:  One, of course, is what's going to happen to macho man Gary?  Secondly, why is this spider so big?  Maybe it's because of the uranium, and maybe the spider is radioactive.  When Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, he became a super-hero.  Will Gary become a super-hero?  No, Gary becomes a monster, and very rapidly, too. He gets a spider-face and spider hands, although, to be honest, he really looks more like a wolf-man.

 

When Gary doesn't return, the women organize a search party, but exclude the stripper, who is told to stay in the cabin, but she gets bored and wanders out.  Bad move -- Spider-Gary comes by and strangles her.  When the search party returns, they find her dead, floating in a pool of water.  I'm thinking this all doesn't make too much sense -- if Gary now has a spider nature, it seems to me he should put her in a big web and let her hang there for awhile, so he can suck the life blood  out of her at his leisure.  But maybe he's killing for revenge, maybe he blames stripper lady for his downfall?  

 

In any case, after killing the stripper lady, Gary vanishes.  Somehow, the women do just fine without his leadership.  Then a boat arrives with two men,Joe and Bobby, bringing provisions for the Professor, which include a big box of whisky.  And there's also a radio with which they contact the mainland.  Hooray! The women are saved!  And now there's two big, hunky men as well.  Time to party.

 

The ladies decide to "go native", which means they dress up in bikinis.  Don't ask me where they got the bikinis -- in the Professor's closet?  Did he engage in other activities besides uranium prospecting?  So they're in bikinis, drinking the whisky Joe and Bobby brought, dancing to music from the radio (they get reception way out on that island?)  Joe is falling for a woman named Ann, and Lothario Bobby is falling for everyone, and the party goes on and on, and keeps getting sexier, and really just stops short of being an orgy.  And where is Spider-Gary during all this?  Oh, he's around.  We'll see him soon.

 

When this movie was released in the States, it was re-titled  It's Hot in Paradise.  As it contained a few nude scenes, it only played in adult theaters. I imagine it was a big disappointment to X-flick viewers, considering they paid good money for porn and only got a few shots of naked women.  So the distributers cut the nude scenes, gave it the current title, and released it as a sci-fi horror film.

The big problem with this movie, besides the silly dialogue and horrible dubbing, is that it can't decide whether it's  island adventure,  bikini dance party, or horror.  It ends up alternating between laughably stupid or just plain boring.

 

Rating: 1/5 

 

 

 

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THE WASP WOMAN (1959)

 

The poster for this film shows a giant wasp with a woman's face, carrying off a bare-chested man.  That's an interesting reversal of the usual horror poster fare of hulking male monsters abducting scantily clad females; unfortunately, it's got things twisted round:  Janice Starlin, our lead character, retains her human body but gets a wasp's head.  And she doesn't actually carry off any shirtless males.  

 

At the film's beginning, Starlin is an attractive middle-aged woman who owns and runs a cosmetic company.  Starlin Enterprises has been quite successful in the past, but sales have been dropping steadily for several months now.  What's the problem?  Starlin's advisors suggest that consumers are losing interest because she's no longer the spokesperson for her own company -- the decline in sales started when she stepped aside.  Janice is a little embarrassed, but points out that she's no longer the glamor girl she was in her twenties.

 

Enter Dr. Eric Zinthrop.  He's an elderly, rather eccentric scientist who's developed an anti-aging serum from the royal jelly of wasps. (Do wasps even make royal jelly?  I don't think so, but never mind.)  The serum does more than prevent aging, it actually reverses the process.  As demonstration, he injects a couple of guinea pigs and within seconds they turn into white lab rats. Um, okay, we, the audience, aren't supposed to notice that.  Those rats are supposed to be juvenile guinea pigs.  Except they're clearly rats. We need some handwavium here . . .Okay, moving on . . .

 

Zinthrop needs to do more research to make the serum suitable for human use; Starlin is excited at the prospect.  She'll give the scientist a laboratory in the firm's own building, an unlimited budget, a share in the profits when the serum goes to market, and full credit for his invention.  In turn, she wants to be the first human test subject.  Zinthrop agrees.  It's a deal!

 

Before long, Janice Starlin is receiving injections of the serum, and is getting some results. But she's getting impatient  -- couldn't she have stronger doses?  Dr. Zinthrop refuses and urges caution; after all, this is  still experimental.  So Starlin sneaks into the laboratory at night and injects herself.  The results are phenomenal -- to the amazement of her staff, she looks like she's twenty again! (And she'd better stop those injections now, or else she'll turn into a prepubescent kid.) Naturally, this arouses the curiosity of her employees, some of whom start snooping around, not necessarily with benevolent intent.

 

And are you ready for more bad news?  Starlin is having some side effects from the serum; when feeling threatened -- like from a snooping employee -- she develops a wasp's head with a wasp's aggressiveness.  And company empoyees are starting to disappear. . . 

 

Yesterday we had a boss-man turning into a human-spider hybrid; today it's a boss-woman turning into a wasp-human.  Both movies are pretty silly, but today's selection is watchable, yesterday's wasn't.  

 

Rating: 3/5  Recommended for bad movie lovers.

Edited by miles2go

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VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET (1965), VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN (1968) (BOTH RUSSIAN/ENGLISH, DUBBED)

 

Both of these movies are taken from a 1962 Russian film called Planeta Bur, or  Planet of Storms  .  I haven't seen the original film; it's available as a free download, but unfortunately without subtitles or dubbing.  Going by what I've read, the basic plot is as follows: three Russian spaceships travel to Venus on a scientific expedition.  One, the Capella, is destroyed by a meteor. The crew members of the two remaining ships decide to continue on in spite of the loss.  Two cosmonauts from the Vega travel down to the planet's surface using a shuttlecraft, bringing along a sophisticated robot; left behind is the lone female crew member, named Masha.  

 

The cosmonauts soon lose radio contact with the shuttle crew, so the third ship, Sirius,  lands on the planet to find them.  Masha is left entirely alone in orbit on the  Vega , keeping radio contact with the landing party and home base.  The film covers the two exploring parties on Venus as they attempt to find each other, while performing the scientific and exploratory tasks they were sent to do.  

 

The flora and fauna of Venus look remarkably like that of Mesozoic Earth;  the Sirius explorers encounter dinosaurs and flesh-eating plants, although most of these are easily disposed of.  A bit more threatening is an extremely large pterodactyl, which attacks the Sirius crew as they travel in their hovercraft.  Unable to fight it off, they dive into the ocean below. This hovercraft can not only fly, but can act as a car or boat -- what it can't do is travel underwater, so the cosmonauts must tow it towards the shore.  Along the way to dry ground, they encounter signs of an ancient civilization, including a statue resembling the pterodactyl-like creature they recently encountered. One of the cosmonauts picks up a strange-looking stone he finds in an underwater cavern.

 

Meanwhile, the Vega crew aren't having it easy. either.  They  crash-land, need to repair the damaged robot, and pick up a fever because their spacesuits were torn in the crash.  Then they get too close to an erupting volcano, and lose the robot to a lava flow.  The Sirius crew locate and rescue them at the last minute.

 

During these adventures, both parties occasionally hear something that sounds like a human female singing, but see no one who could have made the sound.  There's something in the distance that might be a city, but with the area around the Sirius spaceship starting to flood, the cosmonauts have no time for further explorations.  Then, as they prepare to leave Venus and return to orbit, something rather interesting happens with that odd rock from under the ocean.

 

Okay, that was Planeta Bur .A few years later, the film was acquired by an American company which made a few changes.  Apparently feeling the need for some recognizable names in the cast, they cast Basil Rathbone as the expedition's commander, Professor Hartman.  He stays on the lunar base and gives instructions to the astronauts (not cosmonauts any longer).  The scenes with Masha, the female cosmonaut, were  eliminated, and replaced with new footage starring Faith Domergue (now unknown, but an up-and-coming actress during the '6o's) She plays Dr. Marsha Evans, and, as far as I can tell, is very similar to her Russian counterpart.  The credits were falsified, substituting Western European or American names for the Russian.  It was then passed off as an original production -- except the less- than -terrific dubbing gave away its foreign origins.

 

A few years later, Planeta Bur was again modified.  It was decided that what this movie really needed was . . . BABES!  Blonde, buxom babes!  So all the footage of Basil Rathbone and Faith Domergue was cut out and replaced with a whole new sub-plot, involving a race of Venusian females who live partially underwater and worship a pterodactyl god.  In this version of the story, the pterodactyl which attacked the hover craft is killed, which angers the women, because it's the living representative of their deity.  The Venusians have telepathic powers which allow them to control the elements, so they create rainstorms and volcanic eruptions and earthquakes to kill the human interlopers.  Did I mention that these Venusians wear tight bellbottom slacks and use big shells to cover their breasts?  And that they're all platinum blondes? 

 

Okay, the new Prehistoric Women subplot is not as bad as it sounds (although it's not very good, either).  Nevertheless, there's a very nice twist at the end that makes it all worthwhile.

 

Both of these flicks are a little hard to follow sometimes, probably because too much material was cut from the original movie. On the whole, though, they are not bad films, so I'll recommend them, particularly the 1965 version.

 

Rating: 3/5 (for both)

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KONG ISLAND, aka KING OF KONG ISLAND (1968),  original title EVE, THE WILD WOMAN (Italian, dubbed)

 

Mill Creek plot summary: A diabolical team of scientists land on Kong Island determined to implant devices in the brains of the gorilla population that will transform them into an unstoppable army.  Their plan for world domination runs off the tracks when a descendent of King Kong arrives and the mayhem begins.

 

This is a trifle inaccurate.  There's no island and there's no Kong or descendent of Kong.  Nor is there a team of scientists -- there's just one, who is, of course, quite mad.  He is assisted by an evil henchman and a couple of radio-controlled gorillas.  So they got the "gorilla" part right.

 

They may be radio-controlled,but the gorillas are still the most sympathetic characters in this movie.  Consider who we've got to play out this jungle drama:

 

Burt, a mercenary and highway robber.  He's our handsome, super-masculine hero.

Diana, teenage cutie who is really hot to kill a legendary sacred monkey

Robert, her only slightly less bloodthirsty older brother

Ursula, their step-mother, who  flirts with old flame Burt while dressed in underwear and an open robe

Theodore, Diana and Robert's father.  He's bad-tempered, treacherous, and abusive to his wife

Albert, the mad scientist, former colleague of Burt

Turk, his cruel henchman, also a former colleague of Burt

Eve, the wild woman of the jungle.  Unlike Tarzan, she doesn't swing from vines.  Instead, she spends her time giggling and simpering.

And then there's a mysterious guy who keeps following Burt around, but we'll get to him later.

 

The thing is, there's no one here who's very likable.  Eve may be alright, but she drives me nuts with all her giggling.

 

Well, those are the characters.  Now for the plot:

 

We open with Albert, Burt, and some nameless guy holding up a payroll truck and stealing all the money.  Albert shoots everyone in the truck, and, when Burt objects, shoots him and the nameless guy, too.  No honor among thieves.

 

Next, we're in some caves, with an unconscious gorilla on an operating table.  Albert, assisted by Turk, installs some kind of electronic gizmo into the ape's skull, then sews him back up. Albert laughs,"Heh, heh, heh."  This is different from the usual mad scientist's crazy laugh.  

 

Next, we're in a town somewhere in Nairobi.  Burt, who has been MIA for some time, hospitalized for the gunshot wound (at least he survived, nameless guy didn't), stops by to visit Theodore and his dysfunctional family.  But, really, he's trying to get news of Albert so he can get his revenge.  Ursula is pleased to see him, making sure her robe is open and her scantily-clad body is on display.  She and Burt used to be an item, although it's not clear whether that was before or after her marriage to Theodore.  The latter is  understandably not thrilled that Burt is in town, and makes sure his wife knows it.  Theodore is not a nice man.

 

Burt also encounters Diana, who has crush on him.. She and her brother Robert are going on safari the next day, and want Burt to come with them, but he has other business, like hunting down his treacherous former colleague.  So, in the morning, Diana and Robert drive off to the jungle to do some killing of innocent animals and Diana keeps nattering about the legendary sacred monkey and how she'd really like to shoot it.  Ordinary game is, like, you know, so dull.  

 

But just as they settle down in their tents for a good night's sleep, dreaming of all the killing they're going to do tomorrow, a couple of Albert's radio-controlled gorillas invade the camp, kill the native servants, beat up Robert, and kidnap Diana.  Then Turk stops by and tells Robert that, if he wants to see his sister again, he needs to follow instructions.

 

Back home, he and his father try to convince Burt to help look for the fair Diana, but he thinks it's a waste of time as she's probably already dead.  Then he finds out that Albert's henchman, Turk, is involved, and he gets more interested.  Besides, Theodore offers him a bunch of money.

 

So Robert and Burt and some servants traipse off into the jungle hunting for clues.  They're followed by a mysterious man, who turns out to be Agent Forrester from Interpol.  He's been keeping tabs on Burt because he thinks Burt will lead him to the mad scientist, Albert.  He seems like a decent guy, but soon disappears from the movie, presumably killed in an attack by hostile savages.

 

Yes!  In addition to a mad scientist and radio-controlled gorillas and a mysterious sacred monkey and a kidnapped girl, there's a raid by hostile natives.  Everyone is killed except Burt and the Interpol guy, but Burt manages to escape.( We never find out for sure what happens to Forrester).  And finally Burt meets the jungle woman, Eve.

 

Eve's been hanging around for some time, apparently attracted by Burt's virile good looks.  She giggles and simpers and gives Burt some food.  Burt decides she must be the sacred monkey (that's entirely unfair, she looks nothing like a monkey), and, since she can't tell him her name (unless maybe her name is "giggle, giggle, simper") he decides to call her "Eve".  But . . . what's this?  Eve has Diana's bracelet!  She's picked it up as an attractive trinket.  Does Eve know where Diana is being held?  Why, yes, she does. (All this is being communicated via gestures.  Eve can't speak English, but she is very intuitive.)  So  Wild Woman of the Jungle brings Vengeful Mercenary to the lair of  Mad Scientist.  And it  turns out that the kidnapping of  Bloodthirsty Cutie Pie was a plot to lure the Mercenary into the villain's clutches.

 

It's a pretty lame movie.  The best thing about it is the stock footage of various African critters.

 

Rating: 1/5

Edited by miles2go
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GAMERA THE INVINCIBLE (1966), ATTACK OF THE MONSTERS (1969)  both Japanese, dubbed

 

Huge stomping monsters -- nope, I've never been much interested in them.  Outside of seeing the occasional clip of Godzilla, et al, I've never actually seen one of these flicks.  So this is the first time, and, much to my surprise, I actually rather liked Gamera the Invincible; the other one, not so much.

 

The first Gamera series of eight movies were produced from 1965 -- 1980; the big monster was revived in 1995 for three films, and again in 2006.  According to Wikipedia, another film is in the works, with no specified release date.  So, if nothing else, Gamera has long-term appeal.  Just who -- or what -- is Gamera?  He (I'm going to use "he", since everyone else does, but for all we know, Gamera could be a "she"), anyway, he is an enormous, destructive turtle with fangs.  I'll have to admit it took me a while to get my head around this, because the only turtles I'm familiar with are the small, peaceful creatures who like sunning themselves  on the shores of Lake Washington.

 

Gamera was introduced to the public in Gamera the Invincible, aka Giant Monster Gamera  (the name is sometimes spelled "Gammera").  Soviet planes carrying atomic bombs have strayed over Alaska, and one is shot down.  The resulting nuclear explosion awakens the giant turtle, who has been peacefully sleeping under an Arctic glacier for many hundreds of years.  So the big guy is a little grumpy and disoriented and starts stomping around, crushing anything that gets in his way.  According the Eskimos, there's a legend about this beastie; they call him "Gamera", and he's bad news. (So does that mean that Gamera has been awakened before, or maybe there are others of his species around?)

 

Anyway, Gamera stomps his way to Japan, leaving devastation in his wake, although it's not entirely clear whether he's being deliberately destructive or not.  He may be looking for food or trying to make sense of this unfamiliar world.  Gamera does a lot of roaring while on his travels (actually, he sounds a lot like a trumpeting elephant), so is that expressing belligerence or is he calling out for another of his species?  Whatever his motives, Gamera is wreaking havoc, all of civilization is being threatened, and the leaders of the world need to do something about it.

 

Many attempts are made to destroy the giant, fanged turtle; none work, because Gamera's shell repels bullets and bombs, neither does electricity have any effect on him, and, as for fire, well - - -the big guy eats it.  He also eats petroleum products, which may explain Gamera's remarkable ability to fly.  He retracts his head and legs into his shell, his leg holes become propulsion vents, and off he goes -- and with all he eats, he has plenty of fuel.

 

But Gamera isn't all death and destruction: on one of his rampages, he knocks over a lighthouse, and rescues a little boy who was on the tower.  This is a significant event, especially for later movies, as it shows Gamera has a soft spot for children. 

 

The Gamera problem is eventually resolved, with the whole world cooperating.  There's some chat about the wonders of international cooperation, and how all civilization would have been destroyed without it -- this dialogue was probably thrown in to give the movie a veneer of social relevancy.  I suspect most fans of the huge stomping monster genre could care less about Important World Issues; they just want to see the big beasts smash and destroy.

 

Now, I did enjoy this movie; it was entertaining and even had a few humorous scenes.  Mind you, I would not care to see it twice, nor do I have any desire to watch any other huge stomping monster film.  But for a one off, it was fine.

 

Now,  Attack of the Monsters:  this is the fifth movie in the original series, it's Japanese title translating as Gamera vs Guiron.  The story goes like this -- two boys, about nine years old, named Akio and Tom, are nuts about space science and interstellar travel and theories about life on other planets.  One night, looking through their telescope, they see a flying saucer land nearby.  The next morning, they hop on their bicycles and head out to investigate, bringing with them Akio's little sister, Tomoko.  They find the spaceship apparently deserted, but with its doors invitingly open.  Tomoko is too frightened to enter; but the boys, confident that aliens advanced enough to visit earth would also be friendly, march right on in.  The spacecraft, evidently on automatic controls, takes off and heads  for the stars.

 

The two boys are a little scared, but soon they notice that Gamera is flying along side of them.  Yes, between the first flick and this one, the big turtle has become a space creature!  Moreover, he has gained a reputation for being a friend and protector of all children; he's the St. Nicholas of monsters.  So Akio and Tom are relieved because Gamera is there to protect them.

 

Then the spaceship speeds up so that even Gamera can't keep up and then lands on an alien planet.  It seems to be a technically advance civilization, but the boys see no people, just two big monsters fighting -- one is a gyaos, which resembles a pterodactyl, the other is an unknown creature with a huge knife on its head.  After a brutal battle, the gyaos is defeated, and the mystery monster disappears.  Next the boys encounter Barbella and Florbella, two space babes who are the last remaining humanoids on this planet.  They are very kind to the boys, offer them food, and explain that their planet is dying and being taken over by the gyaos creatures.  The knife-headed monster is called "Guiron" and acts as a sort of watchdog for them.

 

Plans are made to repair the damaged spaceship -- which the two alien women had sent out as a scout to find a habitable planet.  And, once it's ready, they're all going back to Earth and live happily ever after.  But, when Barbella and Florbella have a private conversation, we learn that the spaceship will only carry two people, so the  real plan is for the two ladies to eat the brains of Akio and Tom so they can absorb all their knowledge of Earth.  And maybe Barbella and Florbella just like brains for supper.  In any case, the two kids are in trouble.   

 

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Tomoko tries to convince the adults that Akio and Tom were taken way by a spaceship.  Of course, no one believes her.  Time passes, and the boys don't come home; everyone is getting increasingly worried.  Finally, a local policeman, who knows Tomoko well enough to know she's not a liar, thinks there might be something to what she's been claiming.  Unfortunately, he's opposed by Tom's mother, Elza, who says that "Believing everything that children say is educationally unsound." (Huh?)

 

So the boys can expect no help from planet Earth.  Gamera is their only hope, and he does indeed show up.  What ensues is a long, nasty, brutal fight with Guiron and it looks like Gamera might have been killed.  Will Akio and Tom have their brains eaten?  Will Barbella and Florbella escape to Earth?  Will Gamera survive?  There's three more movies in the series, so you can probable figure things out for yourself.

 

I really disliked this flick, although it was clearly meant for children, so I may not be the best judge.  Maybe kids would like it, I don't know.  The violence does get pretty nasty; my stomach turned more than once, and, yes, I do realize the combatants are imaginary creatures and it's not real blood they're shedding.  Perhaps I'm overly squeamish, but I'm giving this a thumbs down.

 

Rating: Gamera, the Invincible: 3/5

             Attack of the Monsters: 2/5 (I'm giving the movie some credit for creative design)

 

Note:  I won't be doing a review on Monday.Will be  back on Tuesday.  Have a nice weekend, everyone.

Edited by miles2go

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TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE  (1959)  aka THE GARGON TERROR

 

Look out, here comes a space ship!  And, given the title, it's probably full of teenagers.  This ship has a rather interesting design, looking a bit like a big drill, but then it burrows into the earth and all we see is the top part, which is a standard flying saucer shape.  So that's a disappointment.

 

As the space ship lands, a small black dog comes over to investigate.  The door opens, out comes an alien -- who looks just like a human -- and shoots the dog with a ray gun.  Nothing's left but a skeleton and a dog tag. Killing a dog?  I hate these aliens already.

 

So they all come out, there's about five or six of them, all male, and none of them look like teenagers.  But they're an alien species, so who knows? Anyway, they start hauling out equipment and talking among themselves.  This is mostly exposition, so I'll just summarize:  They come from a far-away planet and believe themselves to be the master race; however, they're not here to conquer the earth.  No, the aliens are looking for suitable grazing grounds for the gargons, a primary food source.  And what is a gargon? It looks just like a lobster; unlike a lobster, it will grow to a huge size.  Gargons also don't need to actually be fed, as they can get nourishment from the air they breathe -- of course, the more nutrients they get, the bigger they will grow.  One can see that these beasties would be a handy, inexpensive source of food, but there's a big drawback in that they can be very dangerous.  I'm sure we can all appreciate the problem:  lobsters are good to eat, but who wants to meet a big one in a dark alley?

 

Anyway, the aliens figure they can turn the gargons loose on Earth and then harvest them from the air.  But one guy, after examining the remains of the unfortunate pooch, finds the dog tag, and points out to the others that this planet must have intelligent life to produce an object like that.  The others say well, so what, we're the master race, and the protesting guy pulls out a weapon and says hold it right there, we're going to leave this planet alone.  Turns out he's part of an underground group which is anti-government, but he's not winning any converts from the others, who disarm him and plan to bring him home to face justice.  Rebel guy manages to escape, the expedition's leader sends another guy named Thor to hunt him down; then he chains the gargon in a nearby deserted mine entrance and they all climb back into the space ship to  head  home.  They'll be back with lots of ships and lots of gargons.

 

Scene change:  we are now in Wholesome Town, USA.  The nice alien is smiling a nice smile at some children who are gawking at his space uniform.  Then Nice Alien wanders over to a gas station attendant and asks him what the inscription on the dog tag means.  (You know, I've neglected to mention that all the outer space folk speak perfect English, so the gas station attendant has no problem at all understanding him.)  The inscription has the dog's name, Sparky, and his home address, so the attendant gives the Nice Alien directions to a house up the street.

 

Sparky's home has a room-to-let sign, so when a young lady opens the door and sees Nice Alien standing there, she assumes he's there as a prospective renter.  She invites him to come right in.  Expository chat commences.  I'll summarize:

 

Betty Morgan, a pretty lass of about eighteen, lives with her grandfather, who apparently has no name but "Gramps".  Betty's brother recently got married and now lives out of town, leaving his room empty.  Well, says Gramps, what's your name, son?  Derrick, says the Nice Alien,( so now I'll start calling him that.  And isn't it lucky that he has a name that fits in so well with English-speaking human culture.) Derrick says he likes the room, and Gramps says, it's settled then, bring your bags over, and Derrick says he doesn't have any bags.  No problem, says Betty, my brother left some clothes behind, you can use those.

 

Now, I have to stop a moment in absolute amazement.  Here's a totally strange guy with no references, no background info, and no money, and they're letting him stay in their house and even borrow some clothes.  But there's more!  Betty was on her way to a swimming party when Derrick showed up.  Now, her boyfriend, Joe, drives by and says he can't make it.  You see, he works for the local newspaper and his boss wants him to interview some people who say they saw a UFO last night.  Ha, ha, ha.  UFO!  Would you believe it?  But that's the sort of material cub reporters are sent out to cover.

 

So Betty is without a date, but, you know, here's Derrick, so why not go with the total stranger that she knows nothing about?  Of course, it's the perfect plan. So Derrick, the Nice Alien, is about to experience his first teen swimming party.

 

Betty and Derrick arrive at a big house with a swimming pool in back.  Splashing about in the water is a forty-year old teenager named Alice, who immediately starts flirting with Derrick.  He's been holding on to the dog tag all this time, and now it drops in the water, and Alice dives down to fetch it.  Why, it's Sparky's tag!  How did Derrick get ahold of it?  So now he has to stammer out the story of how Sparky died, although he leaves out the part about flying saucers and ray guns.  This puts a damper on everyone's spirits.

 

At the scene of Sparky's death, Betty is puzzled that there's nothing left of her pet but a skeleton, so Derrick has to explain about "focusing disintegrator ray guns".  He doesn't say anything about outer space, so Betty thinks the ray gun is some scary new weapon the military just invented.  Derrick hears a strange noise from the mine shaft, and hurries Betty away.

 

Meanwhile, Thor, the not-so-nice alien, is killing people right and left as he searches for Derrick.  You'd think he'd be more subtle in his approach, but you know how it is -- give a punk a focusing disintegrator ray gun, and he thinks he's king of the world.  Soon there are a lot of skeletons lying about, and it's not even Halloween yet.

 

Now, a bunch of stuff happens, and I'm just going to give the highlights, because I'll bet you're wondering about the poor lone gargon chained up in the abandoned mine.  So:  Thor gets in a shootout with the police, kidnaps Betty and Derrick, forces a surgeon to remove some bullets from his chest, kidnaps a nurse, loses control of a car and crashes.  He survives, but is pretty well neutralized.

 

Meanwhile, the garcon has gotten pretty big and has broken free of its chains.  It wanders around, roaring, and waving its claws.  Derrick decides to shoot it with Thor's ray gun, but it was damaged in the crash, so he has to take time to fix it, and time is of the essence, because maybe the big lobster will stop making so much noise and actually get around to attacking someone.  You ask me, they're going about this the wrong way.

 

Here's what they need to do:

1.  Get a huge vat of boiling water

2.  Get a big truck or bulldozer or something of the kind

3.  Push the creature into the boiling water

4.  Lobster roll for everyone

 

What else can I say?  Poor script, poor acting, poor special effects.  Boring movie.  Not recommended.  I'll give them credit, though, for avoiding some of the invaders-from-space cliches.

 

Rating: 2/5

Edited by miles2go

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CRASH OF THE MOONS (1954)

 

Ah, vintage television.  Today's movie is taken from a 1954 syndicated children's show called Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. This program, being syndicated, was filmed rather than broadcast live, and so survives when other, more successful shows of its type did not. Most Space Ranger  episodes were three-part serials presented in half-hour segments.  After the program's short run, these serials were re- packaged as TV-movies.  Crash of the Moons is one of them.

 

The year is 2054.  Space travel is commonplace, and Earth has made contact with numerous different inhabited planets. "United Worlds" is a league of planets designed to promote peace and prosperity among its members.  The "Space Rangers" is an Earth-based organization whose officers act as interstellar policemen.  Rocky Jones is a famous Ranger who pilots the spaceship "Orbit Jet", his co-pilot is "Winky" (I'm assuming that's a nickname; only a sadistic parent would give a kid that name).  The attractive Vena Ray is Rocky's navigator; she dresses in a mini-skirt, but is depicted as intelligent and competent.  Other regular characters are: Professor Newton, an elderly scientist; his ward Bobby, a ten-year-old boy; and Secretary Drake, head of the Space Rangers and a diplomatic representative of the United Worlds.

 

Now, for the main plot:  the Gypsy Moons, Posita and Negato, orbit around each other, while traveling through space on an eccentric path.  Each moon is inhabited; the ruling family of Posita, is, in fact, on very friendly terms with Rocky Jones and his crew.  But there's a huge problem -- Professor Newton has discovered that Posita will collide with a planet called Ophicius [i'm guessing at the spelling] in a couple of weeks.  Arrangements are made to transfer the Positan population over to Negato, but what about Ophicius?

 

Ophicius, you see, is ruled by the suzerain Cleolanta, who is a strict isolationist.  She has resisted all of Secretary Drake's diplomatic overtures and refuses to consider joining the United Worlds.  Will she heed their warning now?  Will Ophicius and its population be destroyed?  

 

This is hardly Emmy-winning material, and it's not too surprising the series only lasted about a year.  Still, it has a sort of earnest, awkward charm.  The sets and special effects are primitive, but actually rather inventive, given the no-doubt minuscule budget.  The performances are passable, and the story-line for Crash of the Moons isn't bad.  While I have no desire to see any more episodes from this series, I didn't mind this one at all.  Can't really recommend it, though, unless you have an interest in vintage television.

 

Rating: 2/5

 

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THE LOST JUNGLE (1934)

 

This is in the Mill Creek Sci-Fi collection, although it's really more "jungle adventure".  Not sure how they justified placing it in the science fiction genre, although the movie does have lions and tigers sharing the same habitat.  This doesn't happen in the real world, so, if we close one eye and squint with the other, we can call this science fiction.  Except it really isn't.

 

The Lost Jungle  started off as a twelve-part serial; the material was cut down to a little over an hour to produce this flick.  Clyde Beatty, a real life wild animal trainer and circus star, plays himself.  He's not much of an actor, but he's adequate.  And the rest of the performances aren't much better, so he doesn't really stand out.

 

We start with a circus, the camera panning over many depressing scenes of big cats stuck in small cages.  The makers probably didn't think it this was depressing, they were just establishing the setting.  We meet Clyde; his publicist and friend, Larry (he's the comic relief and the worst actor of the whole cast); Sharkey, Clyde's assistant  (and with a name like "Sharkey", you know he's the bad guy), and a group of annoying kids here to gawk at the famous circus star.

 

Outside the training facility, Captain Robinson and his daughter Ruth enter the scene and have an expository conversation, as follows:

 

Ruth has been dating Clyde for two years, but he shows no sign of popping the question.  The captain is about ready -- this very day, in fact -- to sail off on a long voyage to find a lost island known as Kamor.  He's bringing Ruth with him, unless she becomes engaged to Clyde.  Ruth has known of the intended voyage and her father's ultimatum for several months, and was supposed to have brought the matter up with her boyfriend.  She has procrastinated, however, and now it's the last minute, and she still hesitates. "Do you want me to speak to him?" asks the no-nonsense Captain Robinson.  "No, Dad, I'll do it," she tremulously replies.

 

So now Ruth is talking to Clyde, who is  preoccupied with a new lion just delivered to the circus.  It's a dangerous business transferring the cranky beast into a new cage, and here's Ruth trying to tell him something, dithering and hesitating, and then something happens with the lion and Clyde has to rush over to prevent a catastrophe.  "Oh," wails Ruth, "now I have no choice", meaning that she has to go on the voyage with her father.

 

No choice?  She can't say "no" to a long, possibly dangerous, voyage?  She couldn't have brought up the matter with Clyde a long time ago?  She had a choice, alright, and she chose to be passive and allow circumstances to control her.  Yeah, I know this material comes from the 1930's, but this woman is still a moron by the standards of any age.

 

Now, stuff happens, but it's all kind of boring, so I'll just summarize:  Clyde finally finds out about Ruth going on Captain Robinson's voyage, and rushes off to the dock, but he's too late. Being a sensible man, he gets on with his life.  This means he does his act with the circus, which involves putting lions, tigers, bears, panthers, and assorted other creatures into the same ring and having them do tricks.  While the beasts are being demeaned in this fashion, Clyde cracks a whip and brandishes a wooden chair.  (I can't help but wonder if some of those animals were thinking "You scrawny punk!  One swipe of my paw would finish you, just one swipe!")

 

Meanwhile, Captain Robinson, Ruth, and the crew have reached the fabled island of Kamor, but their ship is pretty beat up.  They'll have to repair it, but in the mean time, they build a stockade to protect themselves from all the wild animals, which include all sorts of beasties who shouldn't be living together.  Professor Livingston, the expedition's chief explorer, goes off into the jungle to find the lost city of Kamor, cradle of civilization.  He doesn't return.

 

Livingston has sent off a homing pigeon with information about the ship's whereabouts, and the news is published by the world's newspapers.  Clyde, accompanied by Larry and bad-guy Sharkey, hire a dirigible to go find them, although he also plans to capture some more animals for his circus act. (How does he expect to transport them back in a dirigible?)  They run into problems and crash-land, and by amazing coincidence, here they are on Kamor!  Only Clyde and Larry have survived the crash -- they think.  Actually, Sharkey had stolen a parachute and escaped from the floundering dirigible.  He lands on a different part of the island, finds a big door, enters, and Hey!, it's the lost city of Kamor.  And there's Professor Livingston, close to death and babbling about a great treasure.  This interests Sharkey, but the treasure is in a pool filled with crocodiles, and he doesn't have a weapon. So he steals the Professor's notebook and heads out for the stockade.

 

Meanwhile, Clyde and Larry also find the stockade and there's a big reunion scene.  But the evil Sharkey is hanging around outside, so a confrontation is bound to come sometime.  Will Clyde and Ruth be reconciled?  Will Sharkey get his just deserts?  Will the lost treasure of Kamor ever be found?  Does anyone care?

 

Rating: 1/5

 

 

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MESA OF LOST WOMEN (1953)

 

This may well be the most idiotic opening for a movie ever filmed:  Man stares blankly at the camera.  Female hands with very long nails reach up to caress him.  Soon the rest of the woman appears on screen and kisses the man.  He keels over, dead.  Male voice-over:  "Have you ever been kissed by a girl like this?"

Um . . . I don't suppose so, considering I'm still alive.

 

Now the film starts, we're watching a man and woman struggling across a desert landscape, and the narrator -- same guy who did the pre-credit voice-over -- is blathering on about the puniness of humanity and how great is the insect world, blah, blah, blah, off the beaten path, blah, blah, loss of reason, blah, blah, don't bet against the insects, desert of death, blah, blah . . . is this guy never going to shut up?

 

So now there's an off-roads vehicle with a couple of guys and they happen to see the man and woman staggering around and the narrator announces that they will not be living things for long, but he's a big liar, because next we're at a field hospital run by an oil company, and everybody's alive.  Seems the fellows in the all-terrain vehicle were doing a little survey work when they stumbled upon the lost couple, who are now recuperating from their ordeal.  The man recovers consciousness and starts babbling about huge bugs, nothing scares them but fire, we must destroy them, et cetera.  And then he mentions Dr. Aranya, and one of the oil men, named Pepe, looks alarmed.

 

This sets off the narrator again.  Now he's yapping about all the rumors Pepe has heard about Zarpa Mesa and Dr. Aranya and grotesque people and . . .look, why doesn't he just let Pepe speak for himself?  But now we're going into a flashback and Pepe doesn't get a chance to talk.

 

A world famous scientist named Leland Masterson has come to visit Dr. Aranya at his remote laboratory on Zarpa Mesa.  Narrator keeps on a'yapping . . .Muerto desert,desert of death, why Zarpa Mesa, are you seeing things, Masterson, . . .blah, blah,  . . OH, GEEZ, SHUT UP, WILL YOU.

 

This may be as good a time as any to mention the only thing in this flick that's worse than the narrator and that's the score, which consists of badly-played flamenco guitar and a cat walking across piano keys.  Apparently, Ed Wood liked it well enough to use it in one of his movies, Jail Bait.  (I haven't seen that one, and if this "music" is in it, I never will.) The score is memorable, I'll give it that.  I'm sure it will eventually show up in one of my nightmares.

 

Where was I?  Oh, yes.  Masterson in Dr. Aranya's remote underground  laboratory.  The visiting scientist encounters male dwarves and mute, beautiful females, and, of course, there's all the standard equipment of a mad scientist's laboratory--test tubes, beakers, weird bubbling substances, etc.  Masterson also sees a woman strapped down on a table.  Aranya tells his colleague all about his groundbreaking experiments, lots of technobabble about swapping hormones around between humans and other critters, especially tarantulas.  The end result is a lot of mute women who are nearly indestructible; the male subjects don't fair so well as they all turn into dwarves.  But, wait, there's more!  Aranya shows his visitor another one of his creations: a big tarantula, about the size of a St. Bernard.  At this, Masterson freaks.  Up to now, he's only shown mild concern, but a big spider -- that's going too far!

 

Oh, says Aranya, but I want you to work with me, and Masterson says, no way, so Tarentella (that's one of the spider women) injects him with something and he collapses, but, don't worry, he's still alive.

 

So Tarentella and her sisters in spiderhood are the "lost women" of the title, because Aranya had to get his test subjects from somewhere, and I doubt if they came to the mesa laboratory voluntarily.  Same goes for the men, of course, but I suppose "Mesa of Lost Women and Men" wouldn't be as cool a title.  Somewhere there must be missing persons reports on all of these people.

 

Anyway, Masterson doesn't end up as a dwarf -- he is found on the desert, stark raving mad, and confined to a mental institution .  How did Masterson get away from Aranya? Was he set free as part of another experiment ?  This is never explained, but Masterson does seem to have some talent for escape , as he soon slips out of the sanatarium. (which, by the way, is named "Muerto State Asylum." I'd try to escape from the "Death State Asylum", too.)

 

Next scene:  run-down cantina on the Mexican border.  Masterson enters and orders a drink at the bar.  While he's imbibing, two new customers arrive, Jan van Croft, an older man with a vaguely German accent, and his fiancé, Doreen Culbertson, an attractive, much younger woman.  Masterson immediately gloms onto Culbertson, plunking himself across from her and grinning like the crazy man he's become.  Van Croft is not pleased.  Soon they are joined by a fourth person, George, Masterson's nurse from the mental hospital.  George, it seems, has been looking for his patient for a couple of days.

 

Their conversation is interrupted by a dance performance by none other than Tarantella.  It's kind of a slinky, sort of erotic, interpretive dance.  Not very good, really;  Masterson pulls a gun and shoots her -- not because she's a lousy dancer, but because he remembers her from Aranya's lair and thinks she's evil.  Then he forces George, van Croft, and Culbertson out of the cantina and into the asylum's car, but he doesn't want to go back to the Death State Asylum.

 

Now, it seems that Doreen and Jan were on their way to Mexico City to get married; their hired plane had engine trouble and was forced to land at this border town.  So, Masterson, still with a gun, has them drive to the air strip.  There they encounter Grant Philips, the pilot, and Wu, Jan von Croft's Asian servant.  The plane isn't quite ready yet, but Leland "crazy man" Masterson wants to fly, and he's the one with the gun, so off they go to the wild blue yonder.

 

Meanwhile, back at the cantina, Tarentella comes back to life.  

 

Okay, we've got all our principal characters together: insane former scientist Leland Masterson and his psychiatric nurse, George;  wealthy man Jan van Croft and his gold-digging fiancé, Doreen; Wu, the valet, who is behaving rather suspiciously and may have deliberately sabotaged the plane, and Grant Philips, the strong and stalwart pilot.  Dr. Aranya, mad scientist, is lurking in his lair at the mesa, and Tarantella is still alive.

 

The airplane has engine trouble, and is forced to land on a isolated mesa.  Three guesses which mesa this happens to be.  Although, it's quite a bit different from when we last saw it -- instead of barren rock, the mesa is covered with dense foliage.  Where'd that come from?  Isn't this a desert? I guess Dr. Aranya has been doing a few more experiments, this time with trees and bushes.  So we've got six people stranded here, and there's mysterious noises coming from the woods, and Wu is acting strange, and Masterson still has a gun and what do you want to bet these people are going to die one by one?

 

You know, this flick has all the makings of a good bad movie, but it's just plain bad.  Slow pacing, awful music, and a horrible narrator -- it all adds up to a film catastrophe.  If you're offered a chance to view this film, run the other way.  Fast.

 

Rating: 1/5

Edited by miles2go
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C'mon, miles, the narrator is that Ed Wood stalwart, Lyle Talbot!  Need I say more?

 

Well, let me add that Doctor Aranya is none other than Jackie Coogan, aka Uncle Fester.  :D

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Poor Coogan -- made millions as a child star, but his mom and step-dad squandered it all.  By the time he was an adult, there was nothing left.  So I suppose he had to get work wherever  he could find it.  Still, I loved him as Uncle Fester.

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ASSIGNMENT: OUTER SPACE , aka SPACE MEN  (Italian, dubbed) (1960)

 

The year is 2116.  Ray Peterson, a reporter for "Interplanetary Chronicle of New York", is traveling into deep space to investigate infrared radiation something-or-other.  This sounds terribly dull; it's a good thing the subject is never mentioned again, or this movie would be even more boring than it is.  Ray arrives at a space station ZX34 to find that he is not exactly welcome; the commander, named George, wants him to stay out of the way and not do anything without getting permission first.

 

 Ray's a brash soul and this "get permission first" business doesn't  sit too well with him.  And so, when the  ship that transported him into deep space is getting re-fueled, Ray dons a space suit and goes outside to record the process for his newspaper.  Just then a meteorite comes zooming by, heading right for crewman Y13.  Ray pushes the astronaut out of the way, but in the process Ray ends up tumbling into the fuel hose, dislodging  it and causing a whole lot of hydrazine to spill into space.

 

The commander is none too pleased with Ray,even though he did save a crewman's life, and gives the reporter a stern lecture.  In a bit of a sulk, Ray goes off to find Y13, and, rather predictably, discovers that Y13 is an attractive young woman named Lucy.  He finds her in  the hydroponics lab; Lucy is actually the ship's navigator, but she likes to mess about with plants in her spare time. Ray -- this guy doesn't waste time -- immediately starts hitting on her, using pick-up lines like: "I'd like to buy these flowers from you so I can give them back".  Lucy doesn't exactly fall for this stuff, but she doesn't throw him out an air lock, either.

 

Now a crisis develops:  an experimental spaceship, Alpha 2, is out of control due to a faulty computer.  It had only one crew member, who has died, and the ship's photonic generators are creating so much heat that anything within a 5000 mile radius will be burnt to a crisp.  And it's headed straight towards Earth!  As our valiant space men and women, and one reporter, rush to destroy this threat to human life, sacrifices are made and heroic deeds are performed.  And it all just about put me to sleep.

 

I give the film credit for at least some attempt to be progressive; an important character is Al, a black pilot and engineer.  He's portrayed as being intelligent and very competent, unusual for 1960 (at least in American cinema).  There are women in the space program, but we only see two -- Lucy and a nameless lady on the Venus space station.  I get the uncomfortable feeling that Lucy's character was included only to provide a love interest for Ray. (and Commander George also has an interest in her, adding a bit of tension to his relationship with that pesky reporter.) 

 

I'm not sure whether to recommend this or not -- it's by no means totally bad, but it is quite dull and the dubbing is awful.  If you like "hard" science fiction, you might want to give it a look, although, not being a scientist, I can't vouch for its accuracy.

 

Rating: 2/5

 

 

 

 

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LASER MISSION, aka SOLDIER OF FORTUNE (1990)

 

Ah, an action flick, marinated in testosterone and spiced with some really unfunny humor.  The word "laser" is in the title, so it must be science fiction-y, no?  Well, not really; in fact, not at all.  Lasers barely appear in this movie, although they are referred to several times.  This production does, however, have a science fiction moment, but I'm not going to tell you what it is yet. You'll have to wait for it.

 

Now, for our three leads:

 

Michael Gold (played by Brandon Lee, son of martial arts star Bruce Lee):  He's the "soldier of fortune" of the alternate title, sort of a free-lance spy, currently employed by the CIA.

 

Professor Braun (played by Ernest Borgnine):  Important scientist, apparently German (at least, he has a German name and accent), who specializes in lasers.

 

Alissa (played by Debi Monahan.  No, I never heard of her either.  IMDB says she had guest roles in ST:Deep Space Nine and Voyager, but I don't remember her) She's the professor's daughter.

 

Also assorted bad guys ,mostly either German or Russian or maybe both.  Included in the "bad guy" category are two soldiers who may be Cuban.  They're the very uncomical comic relief.  They sort of turn into good guys late in the movie, but they're still not funny.

 

Plot:

 

Professor Braun is kidnapped by the bad guys.  Gold is hired to get him back.  Why the CIA had to hire a freelance spy to do this, is never explained.  He seeks out Alissa, the Prof's daughter, thinking she might know about his contacts, interests, etc.  Alissa  is pretty and wears a low-cut dress.  Soon, Gold and Alissa Braun are on the run, aiming to find the Prof while staying one step ahead of the bad guys. Ms. Braun, a veterinarian, is surprisingly adept at spy skills like shooting guns and reckless driving.

 

The action:  Shooting, explosions, car chases, fist fights, daring escapes, lame one-liners.  Mix these elements up, and repeat in endless loop.  For variety, throw in a guillotine, bow-and-arrow, shrunken heads, a big stolen diamond, a desert trek, a horse, and an old, grizzled miner who disappears overnight.  Now, I hope you're ready, because we are approaching the Science Fiction Moment.

 

Gold, captured by the bad guys, finds himself tied up and in the same room with Prof. Braun.  Braun tells him that the bad guys want him for his skills; he knows how to use a diamond and a laser to create a nuclear bomb.

 

The words in italics are this movie's Science Fiction Moment.  I mean, just in case you missed it.

 

Borgnine does a pretty good job with his role; it's too bad he doesn't get much screen time.  Brandon Lee is an adequate performer, and, as you might expect, does some martial arts stuff.  I've never seen a Bruce Lee movie, so I don't know how he compares to his father. The rest of the cast are barely passable.

 

Recommended? No.  If you like macho action flicks, there are much better ones available.

 

Rating: 1/5

 

 

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PHANTOM FROM SPACE (1953)

 

This movie and the two that will follow were directed and produced by W. Lee Wilder; the script writers were his son, Myles Wilder and William Raynor.  If you're a film buff, that name "Wilder" will ring a bell:  Billy Wilder, director and author of numerous films, including such classics as Sunset Blvd and Double Indemnity.  W. Lee Wilder was his less talented brother who produced and directed a whole string of B flicks, often working with his son, Myles.  It's a shame the talent genes were so unevenly distributed in that family.

 

Our current film starts with lots of stock footage of airplanes and radar apparatus and people in control centers.  They're tracking a fast-moving UFO traveling over Alaska and down the North American coast, where it finally disappears in the vicinity of Santa Monica.  Soon after, radio and TV reception goes wonky in the area. The Feds send out people to investigate.  Meanwhile, the police have their hands full due to some very odd events. First off, a trio of campers are approached by a man in what seems to be a diving suit.  That's weird enough, but this fellow doesn't appear to have a head.  One of the campers freaks out and hits the stranger with a piece of wood; the guy-with-no-head retaliates by injuring one man and killing another.  Second incident:  Man is found murdered ; a witness says the attacker was someone wearing a helmet.  Third incident:  an explosion at an oil refinery; once again, a witness describes someone wearing a helmet with apparently no head inside.

 

So, a bunch of people go to the oil refinery, thinking Mr. Helmet may still be there, and he is.  They chase him around and Mr. Helmet hides in an old shack and removes his suit and headgear.  And then we find out why no one could see a head -- he's invisible! So we may as well start calling him "Phantom" since that's what's in the title.

 

Anyway, the investigators find the discarded outfit and bring it to a Dr. Wyatt for examination.  He and his assistant, Barbara Randall, discover that the suit is radioactive and impervious to cutting and burning, nor does it react to acid.  The helmet has an air tank that contains a mixture of gases that would be impossible for a human to breathe.  Conclusion:  the invisible fugitive is a space alien who was on the crashed UFO.  He won't be able to survive for long without his helmet, so he's going to come looking for it. As it turns out, they don't have long to wait.

 

What follows is a mixture of sense and nonsense that seems to be typical of a W. Lee Wilder movie:

 

Randall is alone in the same laboratory in which the space suit and helmet are being kept.  The door opens and shuts without her noticing.  The Phantom is now in the room, and puts on his helmet to breathe in his special air.  He also locks the door.  Randall keeps her head and tries to communicate with him.  Then her husband comes by, and encounters the locked door.  Randall calmly explains the situation and urges him to get the others.

 

But when Mr. Randall, Dr. Wyatt and the other folk return, the lab door is open, Mrs. Randall is nowhere to be seen, and the helmet is back on the work table.  Everyone goes off hunting for Barbara.  We have a scene with the unconscious lady carried aloft by an unseen presence -- the Phantom has carried her off to some other part of the building.  When the coast is clear, he brings her back to the lab.

 

Sense:  Randall reacts to the situation sensibly, although I'm a little puzzled at what the Phantom is trying to accomplish.  It may be he realizes that others are coming and he will be trapped in the laboratory; when Barbara's husband leaves, he takes the opportunity to escape and then later return to his all important helmet with its air supply. 

 

Nonsense:  Why drag along Randall?  Why not just grab the helmet and run?  And why is Randall unconscious? Did she faint? Was she overcome by the radiation? Did the Phantom knock her out?

 

The sequence continues:

 

Phantom again puts on the helmet; he is now breathing with difficulty (the air supply is probably getting low). As Randall recovers consciousness,the alien picks up some scissors -- she is at first alarmed, thinking he is going to attack her -- but he uses them to rap on the table.  She realizes that he is trying to communicate, and jots down the pattern of raps, thinking that it may be a sort of Morse code.  She also picks up an ultraviolet lamp and shines it at the scissors.  In the ultraviolet light, a hand appears grasping the scissors.  Randall then screams in fear.

 

Sense:  Both Phantom and Randall do their best to communicate in what is probably a hopeless situation.  Using the ultraviolet lamp is also sensible; it may not work, but it's worth a try.

 

Nonsense:  Why the scream?  Barbara already knows Phantom is present and must have some sort of limb in order to manipulate the scissors.  She wants to see if the alien will be visible in ultraviolet light; she is hoping to see something.  So when she does see something, she screams?  

 

If nothing else, this sequence illustrates a couple of B-movie rules.  The first is:  if a monster and a female are both in a film, the monster must at some point carry off the female. She will either be unconscious or screaming and kicking.  If the monster does not carry off the female, put that scene in the movie poster, anyway.  Second rule: a female, no matter how level-headed, must scream at least once, because . . . well, because.

 

Should I recommend this film?  Well, I don't know.  It's got some good ideas, but they're rather poorly executed.  The flick is very slow-moving and overly-talkie.  Still, a fan of bad movies may find it worthwhile.  Maybe multi-task while watching -- have a crossword puzzle or a knitting project or something of the sort handy to get you through the dull patches.

 

Rating: 2/5

 

 

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KILLERS FROM SPACE (1954)

 

As in our previous offering, the trio of Wilder, Wilder, and Raynor are  the creative minds behind this B-flick.  

 

We begin with stock footage of an atom bomb test explosion in Soledad Flats.  Dr. Doug Martin, played by Peter Graves (best known for his role as Jim Phelps in TV's Mission: Impossible) is the lead scientist in the project.  He and a nameless pilot fly over the test site a few days afterward.  It's not entirely clear what they're looking for, but what they see is something glowing in the debris.  Then the controls freeze and the airplane plummets downward to an inevitable deadly crash.

 

Back at headquarters, Dr. Martin's wife, Ellen, is  given the bad news. They can't find her husband's body, but the pilot is dead and the plane itself is a total loss, so it's very unlikely that Doug has survived.  Ellen bravely accepts the grim news.

 

A couple of days later, a disheveled man staggers into the base.  It's Doug Martin and he's very much alive, although he can't remember a thing from the time of the crash to his arrival at headquarters.  He's examined by the base physician, who can't find anything wrong with him, except there's a large, L-shaped scar on his chest.  The physician is sure it is a surgical scar, not a wound from the crash;  Doug claims he has never had surgery in his life.  The situation worries the military brass, who wonder if  this is the real Dr. Doug Martin.  But all the tests indicate that he is who he says he is, so he's allowed to go back home, although he's placed on the inactive list.

 

The base physician encourages Ellen to keep her husband entertained with calming activities, but a regimen of movies, bridge, and drives doesn't do much for the restless Doug.  He wants to go back to work; not only do they refuse him that,but they won't give him any information over the phone, either.  And on top of everything else, Doug doesn't sleep well -- he keeps having these visions of eyes staring at him.

 

Now, a word about these eyes:  we see scenes of them hovering in mid-air, like a spectral vision.  From what I've read, they are supposed to be large, bloodshot, and bulbous.  Unfortunately -- and this may be the result the Mill Creek DVD's poor visual quality --these eyes look more like a couple of glazed doughnuts floating in the air.  So, instead of thinking "Yikes!", I'm thinking, "Doughnuts and coffee . . .mmmmm."  Kind of spoils the atmosphere.

 

One day, Doug picks up the morning paper from his front porch, and sees a headline announcing a recent atom bomb test explosion.  The scientist is aghast -- he's their top scientist!  Not only did they run a test without his involvement, but they didn't even tell him about it! He rushes into headquarters, only to be firmly told that he shouldn't even be on base.  Doug manages to hide out until closing time, then sneaks off to the "top secret" room (which he enters with surprising ease), where he copies down information on a slip of paper.  He's a very careless spy, however; not only does he leave the cupboard doors open but he spills a bit of pipe tobacco on the floor.  It's not long before a  guard discovers the security breach, and Doug Martin becomes suspect number one.

 

I'm going to skip over some boring stuff, and jump to Doug, having been apprehended, tied down in a hospital bed and given a truth serum.  Under the influence of the drug, Doug's memory comes back.  He tells a fantastic story:

 

After the crash, Doug awakens in a cavern filled with bulbous-eyed aliens.  They're inserting something into his chest -- the alien leader explains that Doug died in the crash, so they had to give him a new heart.  The big-eyed folk come from Astron Delta, and they plan on taking over Earth with the help of some over-sized spiders, lizards, snakes, and assorted other creepy-crawlies.  These they are breeding using the radiation from the atomic blasts.  They want Doug to supply them with information about the test blasts; he tries a bluff, pretending cooperation, but the aliens realize he is lying and hypnotize him.  

 

Now freed from the effects of the alien brainwashing, Doug works out a plan to save human kind.  But will he be allowed to put it into effect?

 

Like yesterday's flick, this one is rather slow-moving in spots, and frequently pretty silly.  It has some good points, though: one is Peter Graves, who gives a very believable performance.  Unfortunately, everyone else is just so-so.  Another good point is the avoidance of some typical B-movie cliches.  For instance, Ellen does not get carried off by the bug-eyed aliens. (Nor does she ever scream, as far as I recall.)

 

So it's a passable flick.  Recommended for bad movie lovers only.

 

Rating:2/5

 

 

 

 

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THE SNOW CREATURE  (1954)

 

Here's another offering from W. Lee Wilder and son.  Raynor's not on board this time, so he can't be blamed, I mean, credited for this flick.

 

Dr. Frank Parish is a botanist organizing an expedition into the Himalayas, with the goal of finding exotic mountain plant life.  He brings with him Peter Wells, a photo-journalist, and several Sherpa guides.  So the group treks up the mountain from their base in the town of Shakar.  There's a whole lot of snow and uphill trudging.  Trekking and trudging, trudging and trekking.  It goes on for a while. The two Caucasians keep apart from the rest, only interacting with the Sherpa leader, Subra, who speaks English.  

 

Finally, something happens besides uphill snow trekking.  Back down in Shakar, Subra's wife, Tala, is collecting firewood when a tall guy wearing a shag rug grabs her and takes off.  She only has time to scream once, but this alerts some of her neighbors, who see what happened.  Leva, Subra's brother, organizes a posse and they head off up the mountain.

 

They catch up with the Parish expedition, and deliver the bad news to Subra, who in turn appeals to the two white guys for help.  A yeti has kidnapped his wife, the distressed man explains, please help us look for her.  Parish and Wells sneer at the whole idea; they're not going to divert a scientific expedition to go look for an imaginary snow monster!  Personally, I think these guys are a couple of jerks -- so maybe they don't believe that yetis exist, but, clearly, something has happened to Subra's wife, and he's obviously distraught.  Parish and Wells couldn't at least express some sympathy?

 

Parish -- he's our narrator, by the way -- remarks that he may have alienated the Sherpas by his decision. (Gee, ya' think?)  And, sure enough, there's a mutiny.  Subra confiscates the expedition's rifles and ammunition, and forces Parish and Wells into a hunt for the stolen Tala. (Note that Subra is actually being a nice guy by bringing them along --  he could have just left them behind to die in the cold).  So now there's more trekking and trudging, only this time Subra's in charge.

 

I'm going to interject here that yetis may be getting  a bad rap in this movie.  According to some of the film's dialog, it's not uncommon for the snow creatures to raid human villages for their women.  But that doesn't seem to be the case in actual folklore (admittedly, my researches were limited to a half-hour with Google).  Yetis are regarded as dangerous and have been known to kill people, but not to carry off females.  Yeti predations on human settlements seem to be motivated by hunger rather than lust, and they have a taste for yak meat; thus, half-eaten yak carcasses are sometimes blamed on yeti attack.

 

Okay, back to the movie.  After a whole lot of uphill slogging,  the posse discovers some unusual tracks that the Sherpas think were made by yeti.  Parish and Wells are starting to think that maybe there is something to this abominable snowman business, after all.  Now a storm sets in, and the group takes refuge in a cave -- only to find a necklace that belongs to Tala!  She's been here!  Further into the cave, they find a skeleton of a mountain goat -- remains of a yeti meal, perhaps?  So they press on.  And finally find a yeti.

 

Actually, three yetis, apparently a family group.  The male dislodges part of the cave wall in an attempt to create a barrier but ends up bringing a load of dirt and rocks on himself and the female and child.  In the confusion, Parish and Wells take back the rifles from the Sherpa.  The white guys are back in charge.

 

The male yeti survived the debacle, the other two were crushed to death.  Parish, once again the expedition's head honcho, decides that finding a real live yeti trumps any botanical specimens he might find, and so has the yeti tranquillized and brought back to Shakar. Since this village has suddenly become big enough to have a police station and all sorts of modern conveniences, Parish makes a number of arrangements:  calls back home and lets the Corey Institute know about his big discovery, arranges for the yeti to be kept in Shakar under sedation until he can be moved, and has all the Sherpas in this expedition arrested.  But then he magnanimously decides not to press charges.  

 

In addition, Parish has the Corey Institute make up a big refrigerator unit to ship the snow creature back to the USA.  Meanwhile, Wells, the photographer, is irritated because they could sell the yeti to the highest bidder and make a lot of money.  No, says Parish, Mr. Snow Monster is going to the Corey Institute where he belongs.  (Um,  doesn't he belong in the Himalayan mountains with his own kind?) 

 

Well, the yeti is shipped to Los Angeles, being stuck a big upright box, refrigerated, sedated, and, presumably fed.  I hope they had enough raw yak meat to keep him happy.  Parish and company run into some trouble with customs and immigration, and while they're dealing with the red tape, the yeti is left in a sort of warehouse.  Either someone forgot to give him an injection, or maybe he's developed a tolerance for the stuff, because he wakes up.  And he's not very happy.  Soon the abominable snowman has escaped and is roaming the streets of LA.

 

Like the previous two W. Lee Wilder movies, this one has some good ideas, but is very dull in execution.  Just how much slogging through snow do we need to see?  How many time-filler conversations?  Too much of this flick is just plain boring.  I recommend it for bad movie lovers -- but have a pack of cards handy.  You may want to play some solitaire during the long trek-and-trudge sequences.

 

Rating: 2/5

 

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POLAR STORM (2009)

 

Decided to take a bit of a break from Mill Creek.  Today's offering is a made-for-tv disaster flick that I found "on-demand".  I wish I had 'demanded" something else.

 

I'll admit that disaster movies aren't my favorite genre, but I have liked some: Deep Impact, The Poseidon Adventure, and the 1953 Titanic, and maybe a couple of others.  As for Polar Storm -- who ever thought the end of the world could be so dull?

 

Let's meet our lead characters:

 

Dr. James Mayfield:  astrophysicist

Cynthia, his wife, a high school science teacher

Shane, James's son from a previous marriage.  Shane is upset with his father for being too busy to have much time for him; moreover, his step-mother is also his teacher.  Ultimate bummer!

General Mayfield: James's father, and an advisor to the US president.  He's estranged from his son for reasons that are never entirely clear.

 

For a disaster movie to really work, we need to care about the characters; otherwise, all you've got is a bunch of special effects and a lot of screaming.  While Dr. Mayfield and family are sympathetic characters, it's still a little hard to work up too much interest in them, so that's one reason this film is dull. The other reason is the plot, which is pretty much a retread of any routine disaster flick you've ever seen.  As follows:

 

A comet passes close to the earth. Part of it splits off and plunges into Alaska, creating big problems there.  James is up there to observe the comet and barely escapes with his life.  Returning home, James observes that the sun is setting where it shouldn't be.  When he checks with the scientific institute that he works for, he finds that everything has become classified.

 

So James does his own calculations and figures out that the sun is off by 10 degrees, so something is clearly very wrong.  James figures that the asteroid impact has damaged the earth's core and that will cause major consequences.  Clearly, the authorities should be making some sort of announcement, but there's a gag order.

 

What follows is rather amusing to a resident of the coastal PNW.  James contacts an old school friend who is a TV reporter; they meet in a park that has a sundial, known to be perfectly accurate.  Using the sundial as illustration, Dr. Mayfield demonstrates that the sun isn't where it should be because the earth's polar axis has shifted, and people really need to know.

 

Why is that scene humorous?  Because this movie takes place somewhere in Washington state, and judging by the abundant foliage, it's in the area west of the Cascades [note: this was actually filmed in British Columbia].  In other words, the wrong part of the world to be expecting much in the way of sunshine.  Certainly, there's a few decorative sundials in these parts, but they're entirely useless ten or eleven months out of the year.  How could anyone know whether or not that movie sundial was accurate, except maybe in August?

 

That's the high point of this movie, because it gave me a laugh. The rest is pretty predictable.  The feds want to keep things under wraps because they don't want people to panic.  The president himself orders Major Mayfield to rein in his son.  Cynthia and Shane are in one of the danger zones.  There are earthquakes and waves of electro-magnetic energy.  People get electrocuted.  The world's coming to an end, what shall we do?  Well, let's get some atomic bombs and a Soviet diesel-powered submarine and head for the Marianas Trench. 

 

And, viewers,  if you stay awake long enough, you'll see an underwater volcano. So stop yawning.

 

Rating: 1/5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WHITE PONGO, aka ADVENTURE UNLIMITED (1945)

 

A couple of days ago we were trekking up the Himalayas looking for a yeti.  Today we're on safari in the Congo, looking for a white gorilla, or pongo, which, according to the film, is the native word for gorilla.  Not only is this gorilla white, but he's far more intelligent than other gorillas.  Some think he is the missing link.

 

Our safari is led by Sir Harry Bragdon and some other old guy whose name I didn't catch.  Bragdon also brings along his daughter, Pamela, and his secretary, Clive Carsell.  Neither Pam nor Clive are very useful on safari, but Bragdon never travels without them, and he's the boss.  There's also Hans Kroegert, a guide, and several  white guards carrying rifles, and a great many native servants who carry stuff through the jungle and probably do the cooking and cleaning.

 

So here we are trekking through the jungle, sometimes on the river with boats, and sometimes through the foliage on foot.  We get to see lots of stock footage of animals, some of whom actually belong in Africa.  Meanwhile, as we're trekking, Pamela has her eye on one of the guards, named Geoffrey Bishop, which doesn't sit well with Clive, who has long lusted for his boss's daughter.  Sir Harry doesn't like it, either, because Geoffrey is a mere guard, and therefore of a lower social class.  Geoffrey acts like he's annoyed by the whole business, but he really is rather attracted to Pamela.  Pam is persistent in her wooing of the handsome guard and  approaches him wearing a frilly white dress while he's trying to eat dinner.  (She packed that fancy gown for a safari?)

 

Okay, enough of the soap opera, what about the safari?  Well, they come to the area that the White Pongo (I'll just call him WP from now on) is supposed to be, and set up permanent camp.  Actually, they chop down a bunch of trees and create a fort, complete with comfortable sleeping quarters and even barred windows.  WP has actually been hanging around the fort, hiding behind trees and bushes.  One night, his curiosity gets the better of him and he peeks through a window.  He just happens to be looking into Pam's bedroom, and there she is, sound asleep on her nice metal framed bed with mattress and pillows (They packed that for a safari?)  Pam wakes up and screams.  Everyone comes  running, but WP has already fled. And everyone thinks Pam just had a nightmare.

 

Now, it seems that Hans Kroegert, the expedition's guide, is in reality a bad guy, although there's been no sign of it until now.  Clive, getting tired of being constantly rebuffed by Pamela, and also, like the audience, getting bored with the whole safari business, approaches Hans. "Whatever you're up to, I want in." he says.  Well, what Hans is planning is to mutiny and divert the the expedition to a gold field where he expects to get filthy rich.  He'll be taking all the native servants and the guards and leaving the good guys behind with no provisions.  "Alrighty, " says Clive, "as long as I can bring Pamela with me."  Hans isn't keen on the idea, but agrees as long as Clive promises to keep her under control.  (Why does Hans let Clive come along, anyway?  He isn't much use on safari, why would he be any good at gold mining?)

 

So the mutiny happens; Hans, Clive, all the servants, and the most of the guards take off, after tying up Bragdon, et all.  Pamela is forced to go with them.  But Geoffrey is loyal to Sir Harry, because he really isn't a lowly guard at all.  He is an undercover Rhodesian police officer, who joined the safari on the trail of a notorious killer, believed to be Hans Kroegert.  So now he helps them all escape and they take off after the bad guys.  As a plus point, Geoffrey is now socially acceptable to the snobs.

 

But what of WP?  He's been following the fair Pamela, because, as we all know, gorillas are easily smitten by human females, and habitually carry them off.  Clive and the other rascals get into a dispute, and Pamela takes advantage of the moment to escape, but Hans follows her and is about to grab her, when WP shows up, kills Hans, and runs off carrying Pam over his shoulder.

 

Will Pamela be rescued?  Is WP really the missing link?  Will those jerks on safari capture him?  Where is that gold mine, anyway? Is the movie over yet?

 

Rating: 1/5 

 

Note: No review tomorrow, it being Thanksgiving Day.  I'll be back Friday with a little something to start off the Christmas season.  Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Edited by miles2go
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SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS  (1964)

 

This film gets panned quite a bit  -- it was even on MST3K -- but I'm going to come right out and confess that I liked it.  Sure, it's not in the same league we find Rudolph, Frosty, or Charley Brown, but it's still a fun movie.  So if you're not up to seeing It's a Wonderful Life for the umpteenth time, or can't endure yet another version of A Christmas Carol, you may want to give this one a try.

 

We start off with a news broadcast from Santa's workshop at the North Pole, in which KID-TV reporter Andy Henderson asks Santa about new toys for this year.  The jolly old elf shows him a toy rocket, an action figure of a Martian (a humanoid with antennae, dressed in green), and a life-like doll.  All this doll needs, says Santa, is tender loving care.

 

The scene changes to the planet Mars.  Two children are watching this same broadcast on a futuristic television, "What's 'tender loving care'?" one child asks the other.  But the other child doesn't know.  Aw, poor kids.

 

Just then their father comes home, and he looks remarkably like the Martian action figure from Santa's workshop.  He wakes up his servant, Dropo, who's taking a nap and has to be awakened with a "tickle rod".  Dropo, the bumbling comic relief, is quite deferential to Lord Kimar (he's actually leader of all the Martians), and tells him that Lady Momar is out shopping for food pills for tonight's dinner.  As for the kids, Bomar and Girmar, they're watching television, as usual.  Kimar is not happy about that, he really doesn't like the children to watch all those Earth broadcasts.

 

Now, a quick word about the Martian home:  it's rather spare and futuristic , as we might expect.  Most everything has a reddish tint, which is a nice touch, Mars being the "red planet" .  As for the Martian people:  most of their costumes are green, and their skin has a brownish-green tint (although the make-up department was a little careless with the skin coloration -- in many scenes there's no tint at all)  Martians (with one exception) have antennae, and always wear  helmet-like head gear, even inside their homes.  The helmets have tubes on them, which seem a little cumbersome to wear.  Presumably, those tubes have a purpose, but it's never explained.

 

Momar comes home with the food pills and has a chat with her husband.  The children all over Mars aren't eating or sleeping well and seem unhappy.  Their heads are full of this Santa Claus person.  What should be done? Momar suggests that Kimar and the Martian ruling council should consult the sage Chochem, who lives in a cave in a forest.

 

So Kimar gathers together the council members and they go off to  the cave of the ancient wise man.  This is a rather barren cavern with a lot of red rock and seems at first to be deserted, but Chochem suddenly appears for a consultation.  He's very, very old and is the only Martian with no antennae and no helmet. (Maybe Martians lose their antennae with great age?)  Chochem has visited Earth and knows all about Santa Claus.  He says Martian children lack fun and gaiety; they live too regimented a life.  Mars needs to allow its youngsters a real childhood. Then Chochem disappears in a puff of smoke.

 

So Kimar decides on a sensible course of action:  Lighten up on the schooling requirements, give the kids some toys, and throw in some tender loving care while they're at it.  Right?  No, he doesn't decide that.  The best solution, he thinks, is to go to Earth and kidnap Santa Claus!

 

He's opposed by council member Voldar, who thinks introducing fun and games into Martian culture would rip apart the fabric of their society.  But Kimar brings him along on the expedition anyway.  So, the Martian space ship blasts off and soon is in orbit around Earth.  They have a nifty anti-radar cloaking device which doesn't work at first,  causing Earth to send out aircraft to investigate the anomaly on the radar screens.  But the device is fixed when Dropo is pulled out of the "anti-radar box" -- he had stowed away there because he's always wanted to visit Earth -- and the crisis is averted.

 

The Martians look for St. Nick but are confused by all the street Santas ringing bells and doing the store front "Ho, ho, ho" bit.  So they land by a lake where there just happens to be a couple of children just sitting around listening to a radio.  These are siblings Billy and Betty, eight and ten years old, and they're a little scared, but Kimar assures them that no harm will come to them, he just wants to know about all these Santa Claus guys he keeps seeing.  Oh, there's only one real Santa, the kids tell him.  And he's at the North Pole.

 

That's enough for Kimar, but old meanie Voldar points out that the kids might alert the Earth leaders, so Billy and Betty are abducted and find themselves on a Martian space ship.  And off they go to the North Pole.

 

I'm going to summarize the next part:  Betty and Bobby escape the Martian ship with the intent of warning Santa.  There's a brief encounter with a silly-looking polar bear and then they're recaptured by an even sillier-looking robot.  When the robot proves useless against Santa's magic, the Martians break into the toy workshop, and, using ray guns  that temporarily "freeze" Mrs. Claus and the elves, force Santa to come with them.  "You're working for us now," the jolly old elf is informed.

 

Santa Claus is dismayed, of course, but he takes it in stride, and acts as a comfort to Betty and Bobby.  He even makes himself agreeable to his captors, teaching them a few jokes, such as: What is soft and sweet and green and you roast it over a fire? Answer: A martian-mallow. (Oh, come on, don't roll your eyes.  If you were nine years old, you might think that was a great joke.)

 

Being captives of green aliens is not the worst of the troubles for Santa, Billy, and Betty.  Voldar, believing the Earth folk will contaminate Martian life, tries to send the trio out of an airlock. Naturally,  Santa doesn't let that happen; Voldar's perfidy is revealed and he is arrested.  But we're not done with the evil Voldar yet -- upon arriving at Mars, he escapes from the bumbling Dropo's care, hides in a  cave, and leads an anti-Santa resistance movement.  

 

As for St Nick, he's put to work making toys, although, this being technologically superior Mars, he pushes a button on a big control panel to produce machine-made playthings.  He's assisted by Betty, Bobby, Girmar, and Bomar.  Poor Santa is pretty bored.  But that's not the worst of it -- Voldar and his minions are planning some new deviltry.

 

This film can be pretty silly at times, but unlike most B-flicks, it's silliness is deliberate rather than accidental.  Obviously, children are the target audience, although I'm not sure if today's kids would like it, given that the special effects are pretty primitive. Personally, I enjoyed this film, but "your mileage may vary."

 

Rating: 3/5

 

 

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