Cinema Sunday: Nightmare Castle (1965)

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Title: Nightmare Castle

Distributor: Allied Artists Pictures (U.S.)

Writers: Mario Caiano, Fabio De Agostini,

Director: Mario Caiano

Producer: Carlo Caiano

Starring: Barbara Steele, Lawrence Clift, Paul Miller, Helga Line

Released: July 1965 (Italy)

MPAA: UR

 

Taking a break from the Boris Karloff addiction, and roaming across the seas for a look at one of my favorite scream queens of all time, Barbara Steele! A while ago I reviewed Black Sunday, another film starring Miss Steele, and that one was a product of the late, great Mario Bava. This film didn’t have his legendary vision, but I’ll bet it will surprise you! Alright, let’s get down to business!

 

The film starts with a mad scientist guy experimenting on frogs. A beautiful woman approaches, and we find out then that Stephen Arrowsmith (Paul Muller) is on the precipice of a break through. His wife, Muriel (Barbara Steele), taunts him, as he’s about to leave on a trip to a science conference. The maid interrupts their little spat, and then later, Stephen leaves in a carriage. Before he leaves, he leaves instructions with the gardener, David (Rik Battaglia), that he needs to take care of a few things while he’s gone.

 

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After he leaves, David comes into the house and at this time we find out that he and Muriel have had an affair. As they run to the greenhouse to make whoopie, they’re both seen by the maid, and she has a sinister look on her face. The two begin making out in the greenhouse, but before things can get to crazy, they’re surprised by Stephen. Apparently he knew something was up and faked his departure earlier. He smashes the gardener over the head with a poker, then the next time we see the trio, Stephen has the two adulterers chained up in the basement, and is whipping the beejeesus out of them.

 

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As the torture is continuing, Muriel tells him that she knew that he was a beast, so she tore up the old will she had made that bequeathed everything to him, and made a new one that leaves every penny to her sister (who’s apparently mentally unstable).  Stephen then tries to get Muriel to tell him where the will is, and that if she does, he’ll not kill her and things can go back to normal. She refuses of course, and then we see him and the maid, Solange (Helga Liné), trying to formulate a plan. They resolve that they’ll kill the two in the basement, and then set their sights on the sister.

 

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He concocts a plan, and then executes it. He ties Muriel to the bed, then drops some acid on her! He then releases her boyfriend, who lunges to her side. At that moment, he electrocutes the two of them! Time passes, and we see Stephen continuing his experiments. He uses the blood from his dead wife and her lover to reverse the aging process on the maid, Solange (who’s now beautiful, and not old and decrepit).

 

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The scene changes again (some time passes I believe), and the carriage approaches the home. We now see Solange, as she comes outside to greet Muriel’s sister, Jenny (Steele again, but now blond, instead of her trademarked jet-black hair). Solange is startled at the uncanny resemblance of the girl, but also the fact that Stephen is with her, and announces that the two were married just this morning. The two then set out to drive Jenny insane, and then they’ll have the family fortune all to themselves. Stephen and Solange think they have Jenny trapped like a fly in the web of a spider…but what they don’t realize is that sometimes the spider becomes the fly, and can become the victim as well!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

This film is one that fits into the category of being better than it gets credit for. Of course you’ll have those that will say it’s cheesy, or cheap, or that it lacks quality in certain areas. While that may be true at times, you cannot deny the foundation of the film, which is the actors. Barbara Steele does a great job in her dual role (actually triple role, but I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself). She really has a knack for playing someone who is truly sinister. Between this film and Black Sunday, she should be mentioned in the same breath as the other female horror greats that have graced the screen.

The film is also slightly esoteric, but this is part of its charm (and all movies of this type). Some get put-off by dubbing, but this film does a decent job compared to some atrocities that are out there. The home where the film largely takes place, is atmospheric enough to lend some weight to help things along. A mediocre sound track also helps in a couple of spots as well. The two leading ladies are nothing short of gorgeous (images below), and that is something this era is spectacularly known for, and is expected by fans. Murder, betrayal, possession, ghosts, torture, you name it, you get it all in this must see film for any Barbara Steele fan!

 

Click here for the trailer (even though I believe the film is public domain)!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Macabre (1958)

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Title: Macbre

Distributor: Allied Artists

Writer: Robb White

Director: William Castle

Producer: William Castle

Starring: William Prince, Jim Backus, Christine White, Jacqueline Scott, Susan Morrow

Released: March 1958

MPAA: Approved

 

As I march thru the holiday season, there are a couple more flicks I want to get out of the way. This one by William Castle and company is at the top of my list. For those who haven’t seen this film, you’re in for a treat. Imagine if you got home one day, and your child was missing. You frantically run through your entire house, but the child is nowhere to be found. A sinister voice over a phone tells you something nightmarish, and voilà, you have an incredible thriller! Oh, and when you see a familiar face as one of the main characters, try not to laugh! OK, here we go…

 

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The film begins with a funeral parlor director giving a statement to the sheriff (Jim Backus, yes, from Gilligan’s Island!) about how his establishment was broken into. He tells the sheriff that it was a child’s coffin, but the sheriff seems to think the man is probably trying to pull an insurance scam to pay off gambling debts. He then sees a man get out of a car across the street, and you can tell he’s got bad intentions towards the man. We are then introduced to Dr.Rod Barrett (William Prince), as he’s verbally accosted by the sheriff, who seems to have it in for him. Why? Because apparently the Doc won the affections of a woman who the  sheriff also loved (Alice, the Doc’s wife who died). The sheriff advises him to get out of town, but the Doc tells him to get lost, then heads inside to his office.

 

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Inside the office, we meet the Doc’s secretary, Polly Baron (Jacqueline Scott). She’s prettying herself up for the Doc, as she seems to be smitten with him. He enters the office and she lights up like a Christmas tree. They talk briefly about the sheriff, but the Doc (with Polly in-tow) eventually heads out and to his home. Once there, he looks for his daughter, who was with his girlfriend all afternoon, but returned home safely. The nanny, Miss Kushins (Ellen Corby), informs him that his daughter is probably just hiding, and that’s why he can’t find her. He frantically searches for her, but to no avail. He thinks maybe she’s gone back to his girlfriend’s house, so he heads over to her place. He arrives but she’s not there either, and he has a brief conversation with Sylvia Stevenson (Susan Morrow), but returns home quickly.

 

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Just before he reaches his home though, the telephone rings. Polly answers, rushing in front of the nanny. She gets a horrified look on her face, and then begins screaming at the caller. The Doc rushes in, and asks her what’s going on. She tells him that the unidentified caller told her that the Doc’s three-year old daughter has been kidnapped, and buried alive. They only have a few hours before she runs out of air, and dies. Polly, the Nanny, and the Doc are trying to piece together this insane assault on his family, but cannot figure it out. The Doc thinks she must be buried in the graveyard, so he and Polly head over there to try to find her. Meanwhile, the nanny goes to the grandfather (the Doc’s father-in-law), to inform him of the incident, even after the Doc requested she not tell him due to a bad heart condition he has recently acquired. She tells him what’s going on, and you can tell by his demeanor that he’s not going to take this lying down.

 

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Over at the graveyard, Polly and the Doc are still trying to piece this together while searching the area. They seem to feel like they’re being watched, and Polly tells him numerous times that she heard and saw something in the brush nearby. They see a fresh grave, so they begin digging. A few minutes in, and the Doc realizes it’s a ruse. They then head over to a crypt of the family’s but it’s so full of cobwebs, you know it hasn’t been disturbed in years. They get surprised by the grave keeper, but explain to him they’re not grave robbers. Jode Wetherby (the grandfather, real name Philip Tonge), surprises the grave keeper, and accidentally kills him. Polly rushes him back to the Doc’s house, where he accuses the nanny of possibly being the abductor.

 

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Is it the nanny, the sheriff, or another enemy of the Doc or Wetherby family? Find this movie and get the answers to this riddle!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This is one film for the time that was pretty morbid and outlandish. Think about it, the year is 1958, and most of us weren’t even in a dream in momma’s head yet. William Castle can be called nothing less than a revolutionary in the film industry. Yes, most will remember him for the gimmicks (this film had one- an insurance policy because you might die of fright! – image below), and rightly so, but dig deeper, and watch these films, and you’ll see the substance is there.

 

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Believe it or not, Jim Backus plays an incredible heel in this film. Most will remember him as Thurston Howell III, from Gilligan’s Island, of course, but put that role out of your head, because this is nothing like that show. William Prince does a good job portraying a tortured soul, and the frantic father. The supporting cast is above average, and we get a great mystery with a few red herrings to throw you off the scent. A couple of beautiful starlets are a treat as well (images below)!

Get out there and find this flick, you wont regret the time spent watching this thriller!

 

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Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: Tormented (1960)

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Title: Tormented

Distributor: Allied Artists

Writer: Bert I. Gordon (and George Worthing Yates – screenplay)

Director: Bert I. Gordon

Producers: Bert I. Gordon, Joe Steinberg

Starring: Richard Carlson, Susan Gordon, Juli Reding, Lugene Sanders, Joe Turkel

Released: September 1960

MPAA: UR

 

I’m sure everyone out there has a movie star crush. Well, in this case, I’m spotlighting a movie with one of my “man crush” movie stars in Richard Carlson! This guy was quite the tough guy/leading man back in the day, and when you look at his resumé, you cannot deny his place in movie history. And honestly, he fought the ‘Gill Man’ in Creature from the Black Lagoon, so does he really need anything else to be said about him? Exactly.

In this film Carlson is somewhat of a cad, and you don’t feel one bit sorry for him when he gets what’s coming to his way. He’s typically the strong, macho type, that is the hero, but not in this film, oh no. Rather than boring you, why don’t we get to the plot!

 

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The film opens with a voice telling that the nearby island (near Cape Cod) holds secrets, voices from the dead! Close by, a lighthouse has two people in it. A beautiful woman, Vi Mason (Juli Reding), and Tom Stewart (Richard Carlson), argue over their past relationship. Vi wants Tom back, but he’s engaged to be married to a much younger, and more wealthy woman now, so he couldn’t care less about Vi. This infuriates her, so she tells him that if he doesn’t consent to be her husband, she’ll produce a letter that he gave her a while back, stating his lover for Vi, and it will ruin his engagement to his new lover. You can see the desperation in Tom’s eyes, and then the two continue to have a back and forth argument on the gallery. She even threatens to ruin his musical career (he’s a successful jazz pianist apparently), and this really twists Tom’s nips. He throws her a really evil look, and she remarks that he looks as though he wants to kill her. Just as she smirks at him, the railing she’s leaning against lets loose, and she falls. She manages to grab on to the deck but needs help getting up…but Tom realizes her “accident” means an easy way out for him. He watches as she plummets to her death on the rocky shore below.

 

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The next morning, Tom dives into the waters to recover her corpse. He does, and then brings it to shore. Once there though, it turns into a pile of seaweed! A voice then cries out and startles Tom. We see a little girl (Susan Gordon) approach who’s the younger sister of the woman whom he’s going to marry. Sandy wants to hang out with him, but Tom is quite shaken over recent events, and wants to be alone, so he asks her to get lost. As she’s ready to leave, she notices something shiny nearby. She picks it up and shows it to Tom. It’s a very nice watch with the name Vi on the back, and she asks him if he knows anyone by that name…Tom denies knowing anyone by that name of course, but wonders what is going on. Sandy runs off to play.

 

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Tom begins to have an internal monologue and thinks his imagination is getting the better of him, so just leaves the beach and heads over to the lighthouse. He heads up to retrace the steps from the night before, and then tries to pull the railing back in place, but it wont stay, and keeps going right back into the same spot. A seagull flies by and scares the crap out of him, and then he hears someone enter the lighthouse. As the steps get closer, Tom’s sphincter tightens. We then see a gorgeous young woman approach, and Tom can breathe easy. It’s his fiancée, Meg, and she’s elated to see her man. The two have a few moments, but then she decides it’s too creepy in there, so she wants to go back to the beach. As they leave, you hear a mysterious whaling noise from the lighthouse.

 

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As the two lovers walk along the beach talking about their wedding ceremony (one week away), the camera pans down towards their footprints in the sand. As they continue on, we see that just behind them is another set of footprints being made, but from no one we can see. As the two stop to make out, Tom notices the extra set of prints, and freaks out. Meg doesn’t understand, and when Tom tries to point them out, the ocean washes up and erases the tracks. Tom gets frantic, and begs Meg to go away with him to the mainland now and get married, but she refuses, and tells him that her father would go berserk. Tom is left wondering what to do, and again, we see a set of footprints right next to him!

 

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The next day, Sandy is trying to show Tom her new magic show, but he couldn’t care less. Sandy gets angry, but forgives him. He asks her to get the magic show ready for another time while he practices his music. He begins to play, but out of nowhere, the record player turns on by itself. Tom notices the name of the song is “Tormented” by an artist with the first name “Vi” so he unplugs the record player. He heads back over to the piano, and just as he’s about to begin playing again, the record player starts up again! He runs over and smashes the record. Just then, he hears a knock, so he calls out, and gets an answer from Mrs. Ellis (Lillian Addams). She’s was a local real estate agent that he knows, and she just stopped by to pay him a visit and see how he’s doing. She’s blind, but knows the area very well. He begins to ask her questions about local ghost stories and her personal superstition. She tells him that there is a strong presence in this area, and just down the block they had an incident years earlier.

 

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That night, Tom is dreaming (or is he) that Vi’s ghost is calling out to him, begging for help on the lighthouse once again and just flat-out taunting him. After wetting the bed, Tom wakes up, and that watch is on the nightstand. As he looks out of his window, he sees the light is on up at the lighthouse, so he bolts up there to check it out. He calls out to Vi, and initially gets no answer. As he heads out, a voice answers him, but it’s too late. The next day, he’s doing his thing again at the piano, and Sandy drops by to annoy him. He shows her the wedding ring and she asks if she can try it on. He turns away, and gets the ring out of the case, and thinks he’s slipping it on to the child’s finger. A minute later, she again asks if she can try it on, and he tells her that he just gave it to her, but she tells him that he didn’t. Just as he turns back around, he sees Vi’s floating hand wearing the ring! He freaks out, slaps the hand down, and backs up. Sand y doesn’t understand what’s going on, and she thinks he’s dropped it. She looks under the piano, and then Tom can see the creepy hand crawling around with the ring. As Sandy gets near, he pulls her away, and the hand then disappears.

Will Tom make it to his wedding day? Or will the ghost of Vi get her revenge?!?

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

Being a film that’s in public domain, give it a look. Richard Carlson is a strong actor, and gives a very solid performance. Nothing Oscar worthy, but definitely worth giving this one a try. The rest of the cast isn’t anything to write home about, well, the little girl has some funny scenes, and the ladies are very beautiful, but they could’ve been anyone. Lillian Addams was pretty good, not only at portraying a blind woman, but also at being a sort of medium.

The sets were OK, but the real cool scenes were in the lighthouse. That was something cool, and really added the atmosphere to the flick. There wasn’t much else, and the music score was kind of generic, but hey, Bert I. Gordon films aren’t really known for the big budgets and elaborate music scores. The special effects were decent for a low-budget film, and didn’t pull down the supernatural tone that the movie was trying to give you. Seeing Carlson’s character mentally decline is half the fun of the movie, but once the blind lady senses something wrong, then it gets really interesting. I’ll add a link to the full movie so you can decide for yourself!

 

Click here for the full movie!

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday – Special Edition! House on Haunted Hill (1959)

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Title: House on Haunted Hill

Distributor: Allied Artists

Writer: Robb White

Director: William Castle

Producers: William Castle, Robb White

Starring: Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Elisha Cook Jr., Carolyn Craig

Released: February 1959

MPAA: UR

 

Anyone that knows me (or follows my blog, etc.), will undoubtedly understand why I’m reviewing this film. Vincent Price is one of my film heroes, and that will never change. His voice, the way he commanded a scene, and his overall creepiness, make him a movie icon. It cannot be disputed or denied. This man’s body of work is incredible, and worthy of high praise. When this film debuted in 1959, Price had already established himself as a B-movie stalwart, starring in hits like House of Wax , The Mad Magician, and The Fly. He also worked on a few more films before those, but they weren’t horror or suspense really. No, it was the horror genre that Price would become infamous for, and I don’t believe he wanted it any other way.

A fine actor Price was indeed, but who is the man behind this film? A gentleman named William Castle, that’s who! Let’s just say that this man could churn out a movie on time, within its budget, and oh yeah, it would be great, too! He was the king of gimmicks, but the story was still always there in his movies. OK, now, let us get to the movie!

 

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The film opens with a woman’s shriek, followed by ghoulish moans, and more shrieks. Next, we see the floating head of Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook Jr.), and he explains that the house you are about to see is haunted. He also tells us that he almost died in this house. Another floating head, that of Frederick Loren (Vincent Price), explains that he has rented this haunted house, and is having a party for his fourth wife, Annabelle (Carol Ohmart). He also is going to offer ten thousand dollars to anyone one of the party-goers who can stay the entire night in the house. You definitely get the impression that he doesn’t particularly care for his wife.  As the guests arrive, he introduces them to us, one by one. A test pilot, Lance Schroeder (Richard Long), a newspaper columnist, Ruth Bridges (Julie Mitchum), a psychiatrist, Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal), Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig), who works for one of Loren’s companies (he’s a multimillionaire), and finally, the home owner, Pritchard, who says he needs the money.

 

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As they all make their way inside, introductions are made, but the questions remains. Where is the host of this party? Suddenly, a door slams shut, and the chandelier begins to shake. Loren watches with glee. he makes his way to the bedroom, calling his wife. He announces that the guests are all here, and unfortunately still alive. He asks her if she’s “put her face on” and she emerges from the bathroom, firing right back with insults of her own. The two go back and forth for a few minutes, and then Loren asks his wife if she’ll take a million dollars and just go away. She tells him that she won’t, because she wants all of his money. He then recalls a time when she poisoned him, but she denies it, and tells him that it was something he ate…he replies with “yes, arsenic on the rocks.”

 

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Loren then heads downstairs and makes some drinks for his guests. He then takes them on a tour of the house, and Pritchard tells them about some of the murders that took place in th house at one time or another. Some blood drips on Ruth, and Pritchard tells her that she’s been “marked” but they laugh it off. In the basement, they see the pit of acid that one man supposedly used to kill off his wife. Nora almost falls in, and everyone gasps. Lance then gets Nora alone, and begins to hit on her. Nora explains that she needs the money because she’s the only one in her family that’s working. Lance opens a door, and walks in, and the door immediately shuts behind him. Nora tries to open it, but can’t even budge it. The lights go out, and a weird noise starts up, and scares Nora. She looks across the room, and a ghastly figure appears. She nearly dies of fright, and after the apparition disappears, she runs into the other room where everyone else is congregating. They all rush to find Lance, and he’s lying in the room, with a huge gash on his head, bleeding.

 

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Lance then has Nora help him try to figure out what happened when he was hit on the head. He and Nora split up just for a moment, and once again, Nora sees the horrible woman/ghost, as it menacingly leans over her, she huddles down near the floor. It floats away, and Lance hurries in. She tells him what happened, but he doesn’t believe her because he didn’t see anything. She leaves in a huff, and goes upstairs. She runs into Annabelle, and the two have a talk. You get the feeling that Annabelle thinks that her husband is fooling around with Nora, but she denies it vehemently. After that, Annabelle runs into Lance, and they have a talk about the house, and about Loren. Annabelle seems to be scared that Loren is going to try to kill her, and Lance seems puzzled. Annabelle rushes back to her bedroom, and Loren comes in and threatens her, that she’d better come downstairs, or else!

 

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As the night grows older, more and more hi-jinx ensue, with some of the shenanigans getting even more deadly by the minute! Is ten thousand dollars worth being scared to death or worse? Watch and find out!

OK, here are my thoughts:

When you look at this film’s budget, and the fact that it made a ton of money (for its time), this film is a gem that cannot be undervalued. Price is his usual brilliant self, but the rest of the cast also gives quite a good performance. Some of the scenes are hilarious, and really add to a movie that already is gold. At one point, Price and Ohmart are jabbing back and forth at each other, and Price tells her not to “stay up all night thinking of ways to kill him, because it will give her wrinkles.” Another great touch is when Price is attempting to assuage the fears of the guests, so he hands out pistols to each of them. The guns are being kept in little miniaturized coffins! Carolyn Craig (Nora) gives a good performance as well, and should be applauded for it.

The cinematographer (Carl E. Guthrie) must be mentioned, as his efforts were monumental considering what he had to work with budget-wise. William Castle was the ultimate showman, and he was the king of gimmicks. He had most of the theaters rigged with flying skeletons, to try to scare the audience. This was something he used many times, but most notably in this film, The Tingler (1959), and 13 Ghosts (1960). His biggest commercial credit is being the producer of Rosemary’s Baby (1968). This film lapsed into public domain, so give it a shot, you have nothing to lose!

 

Click here for the full movie!

 

Cinema Sunday: World Without End (1956)

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Title: World Without End

Distributor: Allied Artists

Writer: Edward Bernds

Director: Edward Bernds

Producer: Richard Heermance

Starring: Hugh Marlowe, Nancy Gates, Rod Taylor, Nelson Leigh, Shawn Smith

Release: March 25, 1956

MPAA: PG

 

I’ve been dying to return to some Science Fiction, so why not return to the best decade for that genre, the 1950’s! The theme of space exploration was used heavily in this decade (and for the next couple), but for me, as long as the story is good, and the acting at least above average, it never gets old. This film has a solid cast, good sets, and a very good music score! Oh, and the first thing you see (even before the credits), is an atomic bomb detonating! C’mon, you know you’ve got a good movie on your hands when the beginning brings something that cool!

Well, rather than going on about this one for too long, I’ll just say that you should really see this film for no other reason than Rod Taylor, and a pack of gorgeous women! They have this film on Warner Archive now, so get over there and give it a watch!

 

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The film begins with a group of military men telling the Pentagon that a ship out in space has gone silent for a couple of days. A spokesperson then tells some reporters that they can’t give any information about it until they investigate further. This same spokesman, comforts a woman and her children, because apparently her husband is one of the men on the mission. Switching to a TV station, a man tells the world that the space mission near Mars may have ended in disaster, with the ship losing communications with Earth. Speaking of the ship, we see it hurtling through space, as the communications officer, Ellis (Rod Taylor The Time Machine, The Birds), informs the commander, Galbraithe (Nelson Leigh Gunfight at the O.K. Corral), that they still cannot connect with Earth. Along with the rest of the crew, science officer,  Borden (Hugh MarloweThe Day the Earth Stood Still), and engineer, Jaffee (Christopher Dark), they are all optimistic about their return to Earth. Just as they finish some a last pass by the red planet, they ready themselves for the long trip home. Suddenly, the ship is tossed all over the place, and the crew hangs on for dear life!

 

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After a crash landing, the crew believes they’ve landed on Mars or another nearby planet. As they look out the window, they see snow-covered mountaintops. They initially theorize, that they might be on Mars, but quickly discern that they are most certainly not. A Geiger counter tells them that there is some radiation, but nothing toxic. Ellis attempts to use the radio to contact someone, but gets static. The crew then packs up their gear, and heads out to explore this strange new world.

After walking for a while, they stop for a rest, and talk over a game plan. Jaffee is having a difficult time adjusting, and the rest of the crew wishes someone with a family hadn’t been allowed on the mission. They discover a cave, and upon exploring it, find a huge spiderweb. Ellis gets a bit too close though, and gets tangled up in it, then attacked by a huge spider! They wrestle with it, then shoot it at point-blank range. Another one tries to ambush them, but they put the kibosh to that one quickly with their pistols. Back outside, they find a clearing, but decide it will take too long to get anywhere else today, so they settle in for the night, and make camp.

 

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During the night, we see a group of savages surround the camp, and they viciously attack the crew. Eventually, Ellis gets to his sidearm, and puts a couple of them down, and the rest flee. They notice that the attackers seem to be part human, part animal. The next day, they grab their gear and head off for the clearing they saw the day before. They come upon a gravestone, and it is then that they realize that they have time traveled into Earth’s future. Borden tells the rest of the crew that they were caught up in a time dilation, and pierced the sound barrier, and traveled into the far-flung future. Jaffee is having a tough time dealing with the fact that his family is long dead. They believe that there must have been a giant catastrophe that decimated the world, years before their arrival. They also think that the beasts that attacked them earlier are mutated human beings.

As they search on, Borden sees some unnatural smoke, and volunteers to investigate. The rest of the crew talks about his family, that died in a plane crash years ago. Just as they finish talking, another group of mutates attacks Borden, but between his fighting prowess, and the others hooting, they manage to fight off the mutates for a while. The mutates outnumber them by a long-shot though, so they hide in a tunnel nearby. As they look around, they find a steel door, that is obviously man-made, and harboring something. Another steel door closes to seal off the cave, and then another opens, inviting them inside. They enter, and are almost immediately met by a man who asks them to follow him down a corridor. They are brought before a council that informs them that Armageddon ravaged the planet, and that they are all that’s left of the human race, along with the mutates. And also, that it is now the year 2508!

 

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As they get more familiar with each other, a door opens, and a beautiful woman enters, Garnet (Nancy Gates), and introduces herself as the leader’s daughter. She escorts the men to a room where they can relax, and then two other women, Deena (Lisa Montell), and Elaine (Shirley Patterson) . The weary explorers are at a loss for words. Galbraithe then asks the girls why they haven’t gone back above ground since the radiation levels are livable. She explains that they have come accustomed to living there, and that the mutates might kill them, so they’d rather live below in peace.

A few hours later, Galbraithe meets with the council to discuss some things, but they only want to talk about ancient history, and he wishes to discuss fixing the ship to explore the rest of the planet. One of the council members, Mories (Booth Coleman Planet of the Apes), is very skeptical about their intentions, and wants them to either conform or leave. The men take a tour of the complex, and Garnet gives Borden a “private tour” because they seem to be sweet on each other. There’s a bit of jealousy on the part of Mories, as he gives Borden the evil eye when he sees Garnet giving him so much attention.

 

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The crew repeatedly attempts to sway the council to rise to the surface, and defeat the mutates, and live as humans should, on top of the surface. The council seems to think the crew might have a point, but Mories keeps frightening them with stories of how they’ll be murdered by the mutates. The crew even asks to just be able to use some men to make it to their ship, and also use their factory to make weapons, but they are told that isn’t possible. Mories is then seen spying on them, and then tells the other council members that the crew is planning a coup. Garnet talks to her father, Timmek (Everett Glass), (the leader of the underground people), and tries to convince him that they are sincere, and just want harmony for all mankind.

 

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One of the other council members reports this to Mories, who then devises a plan to frame the crew for crimes against the council. He steals the weapons of the crew (that were confiscated earlier), and then hides them in their room, and accuses them of subterfuge. The council has a kangaroo court that finds them guilty, and they’re locked up and told that they’ll be thrown out with nothing more than what they had when they came to the community. As Mories was stealing the weapons though, he was discovered by one of the other council members, so he killed him to hide his actions. He blames the crew for that as well. The women don’t believe it though ( as they’ve fallen in love with the crew members), so they agree to help them escape. Unbeknownst to Mories, Deena saw him enter the room of the crew, and tries to report him, but he attacks her as well. She eventually recovers, and outs Mories.  He runs to the only place where he can get away, the outside world. Within seconds he’s savagely attacked and killed by the mutates.

 

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The council changes their mind, and agrees to help the crew with furnishing weapons and some men to help them make their way to the ship. Will they be able to fight off the mutates, and make it to the ship? Will they ever see the 20th century again? Only watching the movie will get you those answers!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

There’s no two ways to say this other than if you like Sci-Fi, you need to see this movie. It’s not as flashy as Forbidden Planet, but I’d guess that the budget was significantly less, so you’d have to factor that in the equation. The crew of the ship really do grow on you, and have you on their side from the beginning. Rod Taylor does a fantastic job at playing the young, cocky space-jocky type, and Hugh Marlowe and Nelson Leigh really excel at being the “father figure” types for the younger two crew members.  Of course you get some of the same tropes in this film that you get in most others of this period, but if you think about it, they’re still being used to this day in one way or another, so they can’t be labeled as tiresome in a movie from 1956.

The sets/locations for this film were pretty good, and really looked best in the outdoor scenes. The underground community set was solid as well, and looked like something straight out of a Star Trek episode (even though this movie predates that series by ten years!). There’s a bit of social commentary in the film but it doesn’t get too heavy or ridiculous. The music score (Leith Stevens), was very good, and I haven’t personally ever heard of this gentleman, but I’m definitely going to keep my eyes open and look for more of his work.

As I said above, either grab this film on DVD (you can get it in a double pack with Satellite in the Sky (1956) for around $12-15. Or if you have any kind of tablet, download the Warner Archive app, because you can get a month of free movies, where this flick is available as of now. Do yourself a favor, and give some of these classics a shot. They really did lay the foundation for the rest of the movies and TV shows for years to come in this genre!

 

 Click here for a clip!