After mega-doses of second-hand smoke fail to have an effect, the doctors use dangerous psychoactive drugs to tease the memories out of the frail, flame-haired doll of a scientist. The tale she has to tell is one of the strangest ever told, involving lush Martian jungles full of man-eating plants, 40-foot alien hellbeasts, and three-eyed Peeping Toms leaving sucker-prints on the rocket's glass portholes. How did they manage to escape? What happened to the other two astronauts? And what, if anything, can humankind learn from their folly?
All those questions are answered in The Angry Red Planet (1959, dir. Ib Melchior), a true classic of pre-moon landing US science fiction and a nonstop good time from blast-off to splashdown. We get special effects that range from the goofy (actor-animated carnivorous plant) to the surprisingly effective (death by blob!). We get charmingly naive science fantasy (Of course Mars is covered in lush jungles and oily lakes! How *else* would it be?), groovy visual effects courtesy the patented CineMAGIC process, and enough gleeful mid-century sexism to keep the writers of Mad Men in one-liners for a full season. (Mohr as O'Bannon is a real hoot--a 45-year old Lothario with spacesuit open to the navel, mouth twisted into a perpetual leer, who speaks almost exclusively in double entendres...except when speaking in SINGLE entendres.) Bad acting and questionable science can't overpower the film's energy, pacing, and sheer joie de vivre. By the time I got to the genuinely exciting climax and the requisite post-crisis warning, I was grinning from ear to ear and ready to do the whole thing over again.
2.5 Thumbs. Highly recommended.
Now, enjoy these MADcaps from The Angry Red Planet (1959):
|Sleeves: They Don't Make 'Em Like THAT Anymore|
|A botanical sketch of the rare Martian Pussy Willow|
|Sammy (Jack Kruschen) worries needlessly about excessive oxygen consumption.|
|Angry Red Plant|
|Professor Van Dyke...um, Gettel (Les Tremayne) struggles manfully not to stare at the Colonel's sparse chest hair.|
|"Thomas! What have you been doing in here?"|
|"Well, guys...looks like we're fucked!"|