Cinema Sunday: It Conquered the World (1956)

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Title: It Conquered The World

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writers: Lou Rusoff, Charles B. Griffith

Director: Roger Corman

Producer: Roger Corman

Starring: Peter Graves, Beverly Garland, Lee Van Cleef, Dick Miller

Released: July, 1956

MPAA: Approved

 

If you put aside Hammer and Universal Studios, I think I’d have to give AIP the nod as far as movie studios go in the impact category. Their horror and sci-fi films were great. Sure, they didn’t have the biggest budgets, so the special effects weren’t the best, but the stories were cool, and they always found good actors for the roles. Whether it was “The Amazing Colossal Man” or Blacula,” AIP always gave it their all when producing a picture!

Speaking of pictures, you’ll love this one as any watcher of this film will tell you, it’s a sci-fi classic that must be viewed! The film isn’t very long, but does have a few actors you’ll definitely recognize. Well, without any more interruption, here’s the plot…

 

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The film begins with four scientists, as they’re keeping an eye on a space probe that’s circling the Earth. Dr. Paul Nelson (Peter Graves), remarks at how much the satellite cost, and that everything better go as planned or this project will get dumped. In a nearby office, a general, Secretary Platt, and another man, Dr. Tom Anderson (Lee Van Cleef), is explaining to them that this satellite business must stop because the aliens will put a stop to it if they don’t. He vehemently pushes back, but they don’t care. Later that day, Tom and Paul, who are good friends, are having dinner together (both wives are present too). Tom takes the time to tell Paul that he’s made contact with an alien via his radio transmitter. Tom’s wife, Claire (Beverly Garland), is reluctant for Tom to tell him what’s going on, but Tom doesn’t care. He shows Paul his radio but just then the telephone rings, and Paul is called away to the lab.

Back at Tom’s house, he and Claire argue over the revelation about the alien. She’s very wary about this, but Tom is convinced the alien is going to help humanity. Over at the installation, the satellite lost contact with Earth, and they can’t figure out why. Tom then makes contact with the alien, and informs Tom that he hitched a ride on the satellite to Earth. Claire begs Tom to come to bed, but he refuses, and tells her he’s going to sleep by the radio. She doesn’t seem to broken up about it.

 

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The next day, the satellite crashes, and the alien arrives. He hides out in a cave near some hot springs, as to closer simulate the climate from its home planet of Venus. Suddenly, every mechanical device n town stops working. Apparently, the alien wants to create chaos, and knows this will get everybody crazy in a short period of time. We next see Tom talking to him again, and giving him a list of names of the most influential people in town (I guess the alien has the Yellow Pages?). The alien responds, telling Tom that he has a control device he can use to subjugate the populace with. Just then, we see the alien, as it release these bat-like creatures that have stingers that implant a radio controlled device when they sting the back of the neck.

 

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The first victim is the sheriff (Taggart Casey), and he gets hit immediately. Next is the general that runs the facility where Paul works. He attempts to hot-foot it to somewhere, but gets attacked by one of the bat creatures. He attempts to pistol whip the creature, and not shoot it…yeah. So, anyway, moments later, two of the biggest wheels in the area are under the control of the alien, and there are more to follow. Paul and his wife were on their way to town, but when their car died, they went to Tom’s house. He then tells them the whole story, and both of them are appalled. Paul tells him he’ll never submit to this alien, and Tom is not happy. Tom then takes them home, and the alien tells him that he must be assimilated.

 

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Back in town, the sheriff tells everyone to get out-of-town, and they listen. One man wont leave, and the sheriff shoots him in cold blood! Paul questions him about it but he only says that the master wants everyone out-of-town. The sheriff attacks Paul, but the alien tells him to let Paul go. Back at Tom’s house, he and his wife argue about the moral ramifications of this situation. Tom doesn’t care, and his wife storms off. Paul then heads to the installation, but is stopped by the general. Paul can tell something is up, so he whacks the general over the head, knocking him unconscious. He takes the general’s Jeep to Tom’s house and questions him further about the alien. Tom spills the beans about everything, and Paul swears he’ll fight this until his last breath, and storms off.

Can Paul stop this invasion by himself? Can he somehow rally the townspeople and stop this menace? The answers are here for the taking!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Just seeing Van Cleef and Graves at this early stage in both of their careers is great. You can see the potential in both, and that they had big things ahead. Beverly Garland was also pretty good, even though her scene near the end where she tried to act all tough in wasn’t so good. The rest of the cast was very milquetoast, and didn’t really add much to the film.

The sets were very plain, and basically what you’d expect from a low-budget offering like this one. The music score was just mediocre as well, except for a few short moments. The special effects were decent for 1956, and you’ll really get a kick out of the bat creatures that the alien has at its disposal. Lets be honest though, when you see Roger Corman’s name attached to something, you know you’re in for a wild ride!

Definitely give this one a watch, because you need to be able to say that you’ve seen an alien from Venus, right (and the beautiful Beverly Garland – image below)?

 

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Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: Scream of the Wolf (1974)

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Title: Scream of the Wolf

Distributor: ABC Television

Writer: Richard Matheson

Director: Dan Curtis

Producers: Charles Fries & Robert Singer

Starring: Peter Graves, Clint Walker, Jo Ann Pflug, Philip Carey

Released: Jan. 1964

MPAA: PG

 

Sticking with the werewolf theme from last week, I thought I’d spotlight this little made for T.V. movie from 1974. Like most television movies, it doesn’t have the big budget that the Hollywood flicks do, but they do sometimes have a charm to them that those other movies don’t. It also helps when you get names like Matheson, and Curtis to be involved with the project.

Two of the actors in this film a good draw for that era as well (Graves & Walker), so that helped bring people in too, and they delivered solid performances. Alright, now let’s get to this ABC television classic from 1974!

 

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The film begins with headlights coming down a foggy road. The car starts to sputter, and the driver realizes that the car is out of gas. He decides to walk to a nearby house, but is startled by something moving in the brush. He sees something that terrifies him, and we hear the growling of a beast. The man runs back to his car, barely making it ahead of the beast. The beast begins to smash his windshield, windows, and tear through his convertible top.

As the credits roll, we see a massive search going on by the police near the scene of the murder. Sheriff Bell (Philip Carey – image below), is on the scene, talking to his men about any clues they may have found. He’s shocked by the remains of the victim, and at the shape the car is in as well. The sheriff then proceeds to the home of a local writer, John Wetherby (Peter Graves – image above), to ask for his help. You see, Wetherby was an avid hunter, and has a good knowledge about animals. The two men then check out the tracks that the animal left at the scene. Wetherby tells the sheriff that the attack sounds like something a leopard would do, but the tracks resemble that of a wolf of considerable size.

 

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The following day, Wetherby is heading over to a local store in his awesome Corvette, to visit Sandy Miller (Jo Ann Pflug), his girlfriend. After he convinces her to go out Friday night, the scene does an about-face, and we see another weary traveler heading down a dark road late at night. This guy is just walking though, and when he hears something stirring nearby, he investigates. He only lives about thirty seconds more to regret that stupidity. Again, the police arrive, and can’t figure out what would’ve done this. Wetherby is also there, and remarks that the man’s whole face is missing! He also follows the tracks of the beast, and sees that after it ran for a time on four legs, then changed to walking like a bipedal animal.

The sheriff drops off Wetherby at his home, and then Wetherby heads over to his buddy’s house. A local big game hunter named Byron Douglas (Clint Walker – image below), is his friend, and the two have been on hunting trips together. Wetherby practically begs Byron to help, but he tells him that he’s too busy. Wetherby is stunned that his old friend wont help, and the scene ends. Later that day, when the darkness falls, a couple are making out in a trailer, when they hear a noise. As they investigate, they are shocked when the beast bursts through the glass door, and devours both of them!

 

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Meanwhile, Wetherby and Sandy are having dinner at a local restaurant, and discussing the murders. Byron walks in, and stops over at their table for a quick hello. He asks Wetherby if the creature has killed again, and Wetherby tells him he was right, that it has killed more people (the couple in the trailer). Byron remarks that the creature is fascinating, and Sandy gets angry (the two are at opposite ends of this conversation). Byron smirks, then asks Wetherby if he’s heard the rumor around  town that people think it’s a werewolf. Wetherby laughs and Byron tells him not to scoff at the notion. He then recounts a time the two were on a hunting trip in Canada, and hunting an enormous wolf. How the Native Americans living in that area told them it wasn’t just any wolf, but a trapper that had been turned into a wolf.

Suddenly, a local man approaches Byron, and asks him what kind of pleasure he gets from killing innocent animals. Byron tells him he can’t explain it. He then stands up and approaches the man, getting right in his face. He tells him he can’t tell him, but he can show him. The dude looks like he’s ready to crap in his shorts, but then Wetherby intervenes and breaks up the confrontation. On the way home, Wetherby tells Sandy that on that very hunting trip that Byron talked about, they were hunting it from the trees, but they couldn’t take it down. So Byron got down on the ground and took it on hand to hand with a hunting knife. He was bitten very badly by the wolf, and almost didn’t survive.

 

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After Wetherby drops Sandy off at her house, he heads home for the night. Sand y showers then gets ready for bed, but hears some noises outside her window. She then heads into the kitchen for some coffee, but sees something skulking in the shadows. She rushes into the other room and calls Wetherby. She tells him that someone is creeping around her house. She begs him to come over, and he tells her he’s on his way. Something then breaks into her home and she screams. She then runs into her bedroom, and locks the door. A beast of some kind begins to break the door down, but then the police arrive, and scare it off. Wetherby arrives minutes later, and tells Sandy she’ll be staying at his house for a while. The sheriff and Wetherby look around the house and see that whatever it was made Swiss cheese out of her door. They investigate outside and the tracks lead to the water, and a dead-end.

Wetherby goes out that next night, with a rifle in hand, to try to hunt the beast. He doesn’t make it very far though, when he’s surprised by the sheriff. The sheriff put a curfew on, and tells Wetherby that he must abide by it as well. The next day Sandy admits to calling the sheriff and ratting out Wetherby out of fear. Sandy then tells Wetherby that she thinks it’s Byron behind the killings. Wetherby dismisses her, and then the sheriff interrupts them. The sheriff then convinces Wetherby to go out to Byron’s house for a visit later on. They do, and Byron still refuses to help. He also puts himself under suspicion with the sheriff. As the sheriff storms out, Byron warns Wetherby about going out after this creature. He tells him that…”the prey will always do the unexpected.”

 

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That night, the sheriff is watching Byron’s house. His deputy shows up to relieve him, and sees some movement near the house. As he moves in to see what it was, he heads into the basement. The corridors are dimly lit, and his flashlight can barely pierce the darkness. Without warning, something snarls at him, and charges. He gets off two shots, but is overtaken by the beast. Out in the woods, Wetherby is also hunting the creature, and hears a wolf howl. He then listens closely and can hear footsteps nearby. As he investigates, he finds the deputy in his car, sliced to ribbons.

The next day, the sheriff and local government officials hold a press conference and try to calm the public down. It backfires though, and then they are told the national Guard is being brought in to stop the killings. One of the reporters exclaims that people think it’s a werewolf, and the crowd erupts. Outside, Byron is waiting to talk to Wetherby about the killings. He tells him that the sheriff had questioned him all morning. Byron leaves, and Wetherby goes to his house immediately. Wetherby demands that Byron help him, but again he refuses. Byron then tells Wetherby that he’ll help, but only if Wetherby can hold his own in an arm wrestling contest for one minute. The two engage in the contest, but Byron easily defeats him. He tells Wetherby to forget about the animal, that it would kill him.

 

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Later, Byron shows up, and tells Wetherby that he’s changed his mind about helping. Sandy is creeped out by Byron, and thinks it’s a trap. Once they arrive Byron asks Wetherby about the possibility of it being a werewolf. Wetherby still won’t believe it’s a werewolf, and the two are about to separate, when Byron tells him again that “a hunter isn’t sure of anything, except that the prey will do the unexpected.” Minutes into the excursion, a shot is fired off, and Wetherby hears Byron struggling with some animal. By the time he finds the location, he sees blood covering the jacket of Byron, lying face down. He then hears a wolf howl in the distance.

 

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That’s where I’ll stop, because the last ten minutes are all spoilers and would ruin the ending. Just keep in mind that things are not always what they seem!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

Alright, first off all, don’t miss out on this one due to it being a TV movie. It has a good production value to it, and also has some solid performances from Graves and Walker. Nothing Oscar worthy, but solid performances nonetheless. Walker is actually pretty creepy in this film, and sets a very ominous tone for the film. Graves plays a writer, and seems to be a little uncomfortable with the role. He never really talks about it or even is seen writing. Only chasing after Jo Ann Pflug, talking with the cops, and also arm wrestling Walker. The scenes where he’s acting like a hunter though, are quite good. Speaking of Jo Ann Pflug, she does a good job of being the “damsel in distress”, but doesn’t offer much else.

The sets were good, but not great. Specifically, the outdoor shots were the good part, but the interiors left something to be desired. The “villain” is a bit disappointing, kind of in the same vein of my thoughts on another “wolf”, in The Beast Must Die. OK, I know so far my thoughts sound pretty grim, but trust me, for a TV movie this one has a good story, two good lead role players, and a good ending. I also love the sound track as well. I’m a sucker for 1970’s music, and that’s a fact! I’m pretty sure that this flick is public domain, so I’ll post the link and you can give it a watch!

Check out the movie here!

 

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