Monday, March 26, 2012

The Angry Red Planet (1959)

A crippled rocket, damaged on an ill-fated mission to Mars, is brought back to earth via radio control and some breathtakingly skillfull toggle-switch toggling. Inside are Dr. Iris Ryan (Naura Hayden) and Colonel Thomas O'Bannon (Gerald Mohr), the only surviving members of the 4-person crew. With the ship's reel-to-reel data tapes all erased by a powerful magnetic field, and Colonel O'Bannon fighting for his life against a poisonous alien infection that has turned his right arm to Lime Jell-O Fruit Salad™, earth doctors struggle to force the PTSD-ridden Dr. Ryan to remember just what (the fuck) happened.

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, 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!"


Britt Reid said...

"Middle-aged Lothario"?
Gerard Mohr?
You're talking about the original Reed Richards and Green Lantern/Hal Jordan, bud!
Them's fighting words! ;-)


And this movie has Les Tremayne from the SHAZAM! TV series.

DrunkethWizerd said...

It has been years and years since I saw this. Back home I had a mini poster up in my bedroom. I loved it.

dfordoom said...

The rat-bat monster is wonderfully cool. They don't make movie monsters like that any more.

Anonymous said...

I was fortunate to recently find an early mgm edition of this after, regretfully, having sold my copy some years ago. Glad to have restored it to my mgm midnite movies collection. Fun film and interesting artifact.

Anonymous said...

I freakin love this movie! I wrote a song about the "Batratspidercrab" that my band Mad Tea recorded 2 years ago. You can hear it at:

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