Cinema Sunday: It Came from Outer Space (1953)

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Title: It Came from Outer Space

Distributor: Universal-International

Writer: Harry Essex (novel by Ray Bradbury, and perhaps the screenplay as well)

Director: Jack Arnold

Producer: William Alland

Starring: Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush, Charles Drake, Russell Johnson, Joe Sawyer

Released: May 1953

MPAA: Approved

 

 

After a long winter hiatus, I wanted to return to my roots and review a film from the classic sci-fi (B-movie) genre! Along with classic horror, this category is near and dear to my heart, for reasons that would take forever to explain. Suffice to say they both are treasures from my youth that I still hold close, and got me through some adverse times.

One thing that makes B-movies from the 1950s and 1960s so good, was the “tough guy” lead actors. Perhaps none more so than Richard Carlson. A real life bad apple, serving in the United States Navy as a pilot, Carlson brought his fearlessness to the big screen (and small screen). A cigarette smoking, fist fighting, ladies man who had a very short list of peers in those categories (probably only John Agar), Carlson epitomized everything about that far gone era of films.

In this film however, Carlson is more of the reasonable man, than throwing punches every five minutes. Yes there is some action on his part, but he’s mostly the voice of reason that doesn’t use violence. OK, let’s get on with the show!

 

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The film begins with a spaceship crashing to Earth, on the outskirts of a small, middle-American town. A voice tells us that a little about the town, and the scenery there. We see inside the voice’s home, and as John Putnam (Richard Carlson), and his girlfriend, Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush) are sharing a quiet moment together, they head outside to stargaze. Putnam has a huge telescope, and he peeks through it, hoping to see something. Ass the two are about to start making out, they see a meteorite (or so the think)rocketing towards the nearby desert. It smashes into the Earth, and Putnam, being an amateur astronomer gets riled up about it.

 

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We the viewers get to see that it was no meteorite, but a space ship that crashed. As the smoke clears, we see a terrifying looking alien pop out of a door on the ship! It searches the nearby area, leaving a trail of slime behind it as it scares off the desert animals. The following day, John, Ellen, and a chopper pilot (Dave Willock) investigate. John heads down inside the crater to get a closer look, and when he does, he’s shocked to see an alien space craft! He approaches the open door, but it slams shut, causing some loose rocks to slide down over the craft. John manages to crawl out unscathed, but Ellen and Pete don’t believe him.

 

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As they’re trying to figure things out, Sheriff Matt Warren (Charles Drake) shows up with his deputy, and of course they laugh at Putnam, saying he’s nuts. Of course Ellen and Pete can’t verify the story since they didn’t go down to see it themselves. As they’re driving home, one of the creatures is standing right in the middle of the highway! It forces them off of the road, causing them to almost smash into a rock. As John gets out to investigate, the creature is in the brush, watching him.

The following day, the news media has found out about the “meteorite” crash, and is going crazy. Scientists, the military, and even the sheriff and his men are there lurking around. They continue to make fun of John, and even harass Ellen. The sheriff also tries to warn off John about being with Ellen (as he worked for her father and told him he’d look out for her after his death). John tells the sheriff that Ellen does what she wants, and that he isn’t telling her to do anything she doesn’t want to do.

 

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On their way home, John and Ellen run into a couple of friends that work for the utilities company. One of them, George (Russell Johnson) tells them that everything has been calm as far as they’ve seen. He and Frank (Joe Sawyer) let John listen to some strange noises over the phone lines, but they can’t figure out what is causing it.

Over the next few days, townspeople, begin to disappear for a day or so, only to return in a dazed state like they’ve been hypnotized. They seem to have an ulterior motive for everything they do, and that eventually gets the skeptical sheriff to wonder what is going on. John eventually searches the desert area by the crater, and finds an old abandoned mine. He tries to enter but is confronted by one of the aliens. The alien tells him they mean no harm but recruited the townspeople to help repair their ship, so they can return to the cosmos. Putnam believes the creature, but will the sheriff?

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

One of the earliest films about this subject (you did already have The Thing from Another World, and The Day the Earth Stood Still at this point, plus some other notables), the angle of aliens that were not evil is something you really need to consider. That was not the norm and quite frankly still isn’t. We have Ray Bradbury to thank for that, and from some reading I’ve done, the man credited as screenwriter pretty much just took what Bradbury wrote and made extremely minor changes. We all know Bradbury is a beast at writing scary, weird stories, but he should get the credit for this one.

Most of the films from this era don’t have very notable music but Herman Stein did a good job on this one. Very threatening, and melodramatic when needed. Clifford Stine was on top of his game with the cinematography as well, especially in the scenes with the aliens.

Carlson is his usual awesome self. He’s a very strong presence in every film he’s been the lead in, and that is a fact. Barbara Rush is quite good as well. She does a fantastic job as John’s girlfriend, a concerned citizen, trying to balance being a school teacher and that usual form of reasoning versus her feelings for John and his beliefs and so on. It doesn’t hurt that she’s a very beautiful woman either (image below), as she’s basically the only woman in the entire film!

 

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Don’t hesitate, look this one up and give it a viewing. Set aside a rainy afternoon and check out this classic! You won’t be disappointed!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Colossus of New York (1958)

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Title: The Colossus of New York

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Writer: Thelma Schnee (screenplay), Willis Goldbeck (story)

Director: Eugène Lourié

Producer: William Alland

Starring: Ross Martin, Otto Kruger, Mala Powers, John Baragrey

Released: June 1958

MPAA: UR

 

After missing out on a movie review for the month of March, I thought it would be nice to double up for the month of April! So, in grand fashion, here comes a time-honored sci-fi classic from the greatest decade for the genre, the 1950s! Just do a quick search from this decade, and you’ll find a treasure trove of classics that still stand the test of time to this day.

This film had one name on its lobby card that is synonymous with great films of the genre and decade, in William Alland (the Creature from the Black Lagoon trilogy,  This Island Earth, It Came from Outer Space, etc.). Just his name alone meant you were going to get our monies worth. Throw in some cool special effects, and a cast that had the experience to make the film feel real, and you’ve got a fantastic film that deserves your attention (provided you haven’t already seen it!). Alright, let’s get to the film…

 

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The film begins with a man, Jeremy Spensser (Ross Martin),  and his son, Billy, (Charles Herbert) watching a film with Henry Spensser (brother/uncle) (John Baragrey). The boy remarks about the robotic machinery in a factory that the movie shows, but suddenly, Anne Spensser (Mala Powers), bursts into the room to congratulate her husband on winning the “International Peace Prize!” After a trip overseas to claim the award, Jeremy and his family return and his father, world-renowned brain surgeon, William Spensser (Otto Kruger), is at the airport waiting for them. After a quick reuniting, Jeremy heads across the parking lot to get the car. He’s run down by a truck though, and dies on the scene.

 

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William believes that his son’s brilliance needs to be preserved though, and that the world needs it so badly, that he keeps the brain alive! A friend of the family, Dr. John Robert Carrington (Robert Hutton), urges the family to move on after the accident. Meanwhile, Henry begins to fall in love with Anne. William then reveals to Henry that he’s kept the brain alive, and that he wants him to make a mechanical body for the brain (since he’s an expert in robotics). He’s reluctant at first, but eventually builds the robot.

 

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At first, the robot (Ed Wolff) exhibits some of the traits of Jeremy’s personality, but over a short period, we see the deterioration of those characteristics. Slowly, over time he begins to see himself as more of a device for the destruction of the world, than a provider/savior. In the beginning, the robot will follow simple commands, and doesn’t really resist being told what to do. At one point, the robot begs to be destroyed, but William won’t do it.

 

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William eventually thinks the plug needs to be pulled, but just as he attempts to do it, “Jeremy” hypnotizes him with his glowing eyes, and stops him. He then proceeds to roam around the estate. Within a minute though, he runs into his son, Billy. He talks to him and tells him he’s a good giant, and not a bad giant. Anne begins to call for Billy and search for him, and ten actually gets a glimpse (from far away) of the giant. Billy tells her that he’s a good giant, and not to be scared. Later that night, Henry is in the garden making out with Anne. Jeremy shows up and gets furious. Anne faints, and Jeremy picks her up and carries her back to her room. Back at the lab, there is a device that William made to use as a fail-safe to shut Jeremy down, but Jeremy finds it and smashes it to piece.

 

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The following night, Henry is downtown and realizes that Jeremy is going off the deep end. He calls and asks his father for money to get out-of-town, but Jeremy is there, and hypnotizes William, and tells him to instruct Henry to meet at a quiet location in the city. Henry shows up, and we see Jeremy emerge from the Hudson river! He casually stalks Henry and when the time is right, he uses his disintegration eye beams to turn him into ash! Jeremy then returns home and begins to destroy his father’s lab.

Can anyone stop this out of control giant that seems to be bent on destruction? Will it/he ever regain his will to help and not destroy? Watch the film to find out, people!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

The film is a morality play but they don’t beat you over the head with it. Yeah it’s a bit corny by today’s standards, but it is quite endearing as well to think there was a time when the majority of people actually cared about each other. OK, I’ll get off my soapbox. Anyway, the acting was pretty good in this one. Otto Kruger seemed a little off at times, forcing things to the point of being so deliberate with his lines, it was awkward. Other than that, the acting was solid and should be admired.

The “giant,” was pretty cool, and the special effects were great. The flashing eyes for the hypnotic effect, and the disintegration beams! One more small thing that was sort of odd, was the music. Mostly just piano music, especially at the beginning and end, but it was strange. A beautiful leading lady (image below!), a science experiment gone wrong, and New York City as a back drop…what else could you ask for in a B movie?

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

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Title: The Day the Earth Stood Still

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Writer: Edmund H. North (screenplay), Harry Bates (novel)

Director: Robert Wise

Producer: Julian Blaustein

Starring: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe

Released: September, 1951

MPAA: Approved

 

After reviewing some crazy films leading into Halloween, I felt it necessary to check out one of the all-time classics! The sci-fi genre never saw greater heights than in the 1950s. Such films as this one, Forbidden Planet, and others, set an amazingly high bar, that few films have ever even come close to. Why is that? I have no idea, other than to say that I believe as the years went by, filmmakers relied more and more on style than substance, but also because these early films had a charm to them. Even though they might be considered cheesy and have some dialogue that was shall we say interesting compared to more modern times, they always left you feeling exhilarated.

This movie is a must see for anyone that is a fan of classic cinema, regardless of it being sci-fi. It’s on Netflix right now, so if you have that, there’s no excuses. If not, I’m sure the big box stores have copies relatively cheap (check the $5 bins). Alright, let us commence with the film!

 

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The film begins with a military base getting a reading from their radar that something is circling the Earth at an incredible speed. Radio stations around the world are broadcasting the news, and people look frightened. They make a weak attempt to calm the people down, but then suddenly, over Washington D.C., we see a flying saucer circling the area. People run in fear, and the UFO lands in an open field. Of course, the police show up, along with some bystanders, then finally the military. After two solid hours of nothing, the ship stirs, and a hatch opens. A figure (sort of humanoid) walks out, and informs them that they come in peace. As it comes down towards the crowd, everyone is on edge. The alien has a device of some kind, and it clicks, agitating one of the soldiers. He shoots the alien and blows the object out of its hand! Just then, a giant robot appears from inside the UFO, and you know the crap is gonna hit the fan.

 

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, Michael Rennie, 1951, TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. CREDIT: Everett Collection

It marches towards the crowd, and the people run away screaming. A visor on the robot’s face opens, and a beam of energy shoots out at the weapons, disintegrating them totally. The soldiers can’t believe their eyes, and look like even they are about to panic. Just as it appears the robot is going to go off on them, the humanoid tells “Gort” to stop. He obeys, and then the humanoid tells the military that it was a gift for the President, and not a weapon. They take the humanoid to the VA for a check-up and then some questioning. The humanoid (Michael Rennie), who identifies himself as “Klaatu,” tells the officials that he has an urgent warning for the leaders of this world, and he demands that they assemble to listen to his words. They tell him it’s near impossible to get everyone together, but he tells them it would be in their best interest to make it happen.

 

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Over at the UFO, the robot is being examined, but nothing they try is giving any answers. We then again see Mr. Harley (Frank Conroy), the Secretary to the President, as he informs Klaatu that the worlds leaders wont be meeting together any time soon. This angers him at first, but then he suggests that he gets out and spends some time among the people of Earth, to try to help him understand them better. Mr. Harley tells him that it’s not going to happen, and walks out. Klaatu just smirks. Later that evening, a nurse and a soldier bring some food to Klaatu, but he’s vanished.

The military begins to comb the area, searching for the alien. The radio has everyone in a panic. We then see Klaatu walking around a neighborhood, and that he’s stolen a bag, and some clothes from one of the officers at the hospital. He spots a sign that says “room for rent,” and investigates. He walks in and scares the beejeesus out of the people in the boarding house. He explains that he wants to rent the room, and the elderly woman is a little worried, but then comes around.

 

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One of the boarders is Helen Benson (Patricia Neal), and she has a son, Bobby (Billy Gray). The youth thinks “Mr. Carpenter (Klaatu)” is a FBI agent, searching for the alien. After a couple of days, we see the hysteria growing, thanks in part to the media (imagine that). At the breakfast able, Helen tells the others (who are skeptical about the alien and his motives), that maybe it just wants peace. They kind of scoff at her, and then her boyfriend arrives. Tom Stephens (Hugh Marlowe) has a day planned for the two of them, but Helen doesn’t have anyone to watch Bobby. Mr. Carpenter volunteers, and at first, Helen seems unsure. Tom assures her it will be OK, and then they all part ways.

 

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During the day, Bobby shows Mr. Carpenter around the city. They visit Arlington national Cemetery, and specifically the grave of Bobby’s father. The Lincoln Memorial is the next stop, and we see Mr. Carpenter’s reaction to the words inscribed on the memorial. He wishes he could talk to him instead of the people of today. Mr. Carpenter asks Bobby who the world’s greatest philosopher is, and he tells him that the smartest man is Professor Jacob Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe). Mr. Carpenter wants to meet him, but Bobby wants to go see the UFO first. It’s still a zoo around the spaceship, and Bobby has a ton of questions, most of which Mr. Carpenter answers.

 

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The two head over to the residence of Professor Barnhardt, but he’s not home. Mr.Carpenter sees a mathematical equation on a blackboard, and solves it for the professor. Just as he does, the professor’s secretary comes in. She admonishes them , and tells them to leave. Mr. Carpenter leaves his address for him, and later that evening a Federal Agent shows up and takes him to see the Professor. He reveals who he really is, and that if Earth doesn’t stop with their atomic program and their space program, the other planets will destroy Earth!

Can the professor get the people of Earth to listen? Or will Klaatu and Gort incinerate the planet!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

I usually don’t care for morality plays in movies when they are this over-the-top, but honestly, this one doesn’t bother me at all. The lead character, played by Michael Rennie, is fantastic. His He really makes you believe that he’s an alien, and that we as people are heading down a destructive path. The relationship he has with the boy is absolutely incredible. The way he shows the boy what the really important things are in life regarding humanity, is spot on. Patricia Neal also does a fine job with her portrayal of the fearful mother.

The sets aren’t anything to crow about, but they really aren’t the point and couldn’t add anything regardless. The soundtrack is decent, and adds some tension to the film for sure. The special effects are quite crude, but for the time, they were just fine. I did like the way they showed the eye beams from Gort, destroying the tank. He turned it to ash in a matter of seconds, and for 1951 special effects, it looked pretty cool!

This film is required viewing for fans of the genre, plain and simple!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Night of the Big Heat (1967)

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Title: Night of the Big Heat

Distributor: Planet Film Productions

Writers: Jane Baker, Pip Baker, Ronald Liles

Director: Terence Fisher

Producers: Tom Blakeley, Ronald Liles

Starring: Christopher Lee, Patrick Allen, Peter Cushing, Sarah Lawson, Jane Merrow

Released: May 1967 (U.K.)

MPAA: PG

 

I had an itch to do a sci-fi film, so I picked a good one! Patrick Allen is one of those actors that is often overlooked. He did work with Peter Cushing on the great Hammer film, Captain Clegg, and did a marvelous job. The fact that you get those two actors plus Christopher Lee, is a pretty good indicator on how awesome this flick is for anyone of the genre. Toss in another Hammer stalwart in director, Terence Fisher, and we all know the success rate is even higher!

Planet Film Productions had a very short life span, but definitely left a mark on the industry with just a couple of their films. Alright, let us now take a journey into the realm of science fiction!

 

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The film begins with a shot of a beautiful woman in a motorcar. Then we suddenly switch to a man, Dr. Godfrey Hanson (Christopher Lee), as he seems to be setting up camera equipment in a nearby wooded area. We then see a hobo (Sydney Bromley) snooping around the area after he leaves. Back on the roadway, the woman’s car breaks down, and a local stops to lend a hand. She stays with the car, and hears a weird noise. At about the same time, the hobo hears the noise, but is much closer to the source. He’s then stalked by the thing making the noise, and apparently killed.

 

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At a local pub, a man at the bar, Dr. Vernon Stone (Peter Cushing), is having a drink to keep cool. You see, it’s unseasonably hot at the moment on the island of Fara, and no one seems to know why. The woman serving him is Frankie Callum (Sarah Lawson), and both her and her husband own the inn. The young woman, Angela Roberts (Jane Merrow) from the motorcar finally arrives, and enters the establishment. She asks for Mr. Jeff Callum (Patrick Allen), who’s a writer that needs his own personal secretary apparently. Frankie tells her that he’s out now, and that they’ve been expecting her. Dr. Stone offers to buy her a drink, and she sits for a minute, then heads to her room with Frankie’s guidance.

 

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Dr. Hanson appears in the doorway, and grumbles at Frankie about a parcel that should’ve arrived. She tells him that her husband isn’t back yet, and he quickly barks that he wants it brought to his room immediately upon his arrival. Frankie and Dr. Stone have a quick conversation about his antics. She tells Stone that he goes out once a day with his camera equipment, then stays locked into his room the rest of the time. Jeff is driving down the road in his pickup truck, and almost runs over one of the pub’s patrons. He’s furious initially, but then the man tells him about hearing a strange noise, and they both wonder what it could be.

 

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Back at the pub, Jeff arrives and takes the parcel up to Dr. Hanson’s room. He brusquely snatches it out of Jeff’s hands and slams the door. Frankie then tells Jeff about his new secretary, and that she’s gone for a swim at the cove. One of the patrons gives him a ride, and when they arrive, both are stunned by her beauty. We find out right away that this meeting is no accident. The two apparently had an affair a while back on the mainland, and Jeff took his wife to the island to get away from the trouble. Angela asks Jeff what he’ll tell his wife, and he acts very odd. She then knows that he never told his wife about the affair, but before she can go any further, that same strange noise interrupts them, and they both get a bit apprehensive. They start to make-out, but then Jeff pushes her away.

 

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The scene turns back to the pub, and an old man that’s being helped inside. Jeff asks what’s going on, and the old man tells him that someone’s killed all of his sheep (a farmer, apparently). Dr. Hanson appears out of nowhere and attempts to question the old man. Dr. Stone tells Hanson that the old man is in no shape to answer questions, and they let him lie down in the back. Hanson storms back to his room, and we see that he must be a scientist but why he’s in this specific area, no one knows. One of the pub regulars, Bob Hayward (Thomas Heathcote), is at home and his television begins to act up. It eventually explodes, and the commotion is accompanied by that sinister noise once again. He heads over to see Jeff about this weirdness, but before he can get there, he hears that noise again, and it begins to drive him mad. He swerves the car, and ends up going over a cliff, and the car explodes.

 

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Later that night, we see Hanson setting up more equipment nearby. Angela then makes another play for Jeff, but it’s interrupted by the strange noise. Frankie then runs in and tells Jeff she saw something land in a nearby field. As the three head out to investigate, they see Hanson creeping around. They attempt to check things out, but the girls are too frightened. They head back, and Jeff confronts Hanson about his creepy actions. The two argue, but eventually Jeff comes to understand that something is going on, and Hanson is a scientist trying to solve the puzzle. He tells him that aliens are using this tiny island as a launching point for an invasion. At first, Jeff dismisses his theories, but eventually comes to believe him. The two then set out to find the origin of the noise and come upon the car that crashed with Bob Hayward in it. There’s nothing left but ashes.

Can they find a way to stop the invasion, or is the Earth doomed by these sinister forces? If not, it’s only the end of the world!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Without spoiling some of the good stuff, I’ll just say that you’ll be a bit shocked at who does and does not make it to the end of this flick. Not that it hurts the film in any way, it actually helps it climb a bit higher due to the unexpected nature. Christopher Lee is awesome, and does a great job playing the scientist, a role that you don’t typically see him in, I might add. Cushing’s scenes are few and far between, but as always, he adds a flavor to the film that would be missed if it was not present.

The sets were good, but the music score was average at best. As far as special effects go, this film was more about the unseen and not the seen. So, special effects weren’t really anything to talk about really. The tension building up throughout the movie between Frankie, Angela(Merrow was a tramp in this film, but gorgeous nonetheless – image below), and Jeff was an interesting angle. The movie would’ve easily moved forward without it, but it was a different angle for this type of film. I definitely rank this one up there pretty high on my all-time favorite sci-fi films, as the performances by the cast are excellent.

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

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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: IT! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)

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Title: IT! The Terror from Beyond Space

Distributor: United Artists

Writer: Jerome Bixby (screenplay)

Director: Edward L. Cahn

Producers: Robert Kent, Edward Small

Starring: Marshall Thompson, Shirley Patterson, Kim Spalding, Ann Doran, Dabbs Greer

Released: August 1958

MPAA: Approved

 

 

Tell me if you’ve seen this one before…an alien snakes aboard a ship, and using guile and subterfuge (and the duct work), eliminates the crew of the ship one by one. If you guessed the 1979 classic, Alien, you’d be wrong. Sounds a lot like the screenwriters for that movie “borrowed” some key plot points from this film, doesn’t it. Not that it hasn’t been done many times over, just pointing it out for those that might not have seen this film or know about the similarities.

This film has the “space” theme like many others of the 1950’s, but it does separate it self from most of them because of a few key elements that I’ll talk about in my thoughts later after the synopsis. Well, sit back, relax, and get ready for a rocket ship ride to Mars! Let’s get to the film!

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The flick begins with a monologue from the captain of a rocket ship that crashed on Mars, in 1973. He tells that another ship arrived to help eventually, but that the other crew members are all dead. Col. Edward Carruthers (Marshall Thompson) tells us that the other rocket ship will take him back to Earth, and try him for the murders of his fellow astronauts. We next switch back to Earth, and a press conference being held, telling reporters of the situation. They all immediately run to the telephones to inform their editors of the blockbuster story. Carruthers then tells the viewers that the ship is readying for take off, and that the four-month long trip will be interesting.

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Next, we see the Colonel Van Heusen (Kim Spalding)  asking his crew if everything is ready for departure. his crew all relay their information, and then he notices that someone left one of the hatches open. The one responsible speaks up, and then they close it promptly. There’s only one problem. We see that a shadowy figure has sneaked aboard, and looks really ticked off. After they’re in the atmosphere, Van Heusen approaches Carruthers while he’s deep in thought. He asks Carruthers if he’s thinking about the nine bodies he left down there no the planet. He responds that he was, and then Van Heusen begins to interrogate Carruthers, but he sticks to his story that an alien killed his crew. Van Heusen presses him for answers and even reveals that they found the skull of one of is crew members with a bullet hole in it, and then he tells Carruthers that only one kind of monster uses a gun.

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In the next scene, the crew is having dinner, and making small talk. Carruthers, who’s being escorted around today by Lt. James Calder (Paul Langton), walks in, and the crew goes silent. One of the crew members, Eric Royce (Dabbs Greer), remarks that he doesn’t necessarily think that Carruthers is lying, but that he’s convinced himself that an alien did it, so he wouldn’t go insane. Carruthers interjects and tells them that he’s obviously not insane, and then he leaves the room. Van Heusen tells Royce that he’ll get a full confession out of him by the time they reach Earth.

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That evening, Carruthers is still being watched by Lt. Calder, but then Mary Royce (Ann Doran – Eric’s sister?) walks in and offers him some food. She says that she wants to believe him but that the only version of the story she’s heard is from Van Heusen. Carruthers then tells her about the day the crew began to be murdered, one by one. The crew had set out on a fact-finding mission, but a sandstorm arose, and they headed back towards the ship. One of the crew was snatched out of the jeep like a baby by some unseen beast. They all began firing in different directions (this is when it hits Carruthers that the skull with the bullet hole in it was obviously caused during this event). One by one, the crew gets annihilated, except for Carruthers, who made it back to the rocket ship. Van Heusen then walks in and gets rude with Carruthers, who then walks away. Mary chastises him for acting that way to a fellow officer, and we see that the Van Heusen and Mary are a couple. Van Heusen agrees to stop hassling Carruthers at the behest of Mary.

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Later, Carruthers and Eric Royce are having a chess match. One deck below, Joe Kienholz (Thom Carney), is on duty, and hears something below decks. He investigates, and as he’s searching below, he’s savagely murdered by the creature. Carruthers hears him scream, but no one else does. Carruthers investigates, and soon, the rest of the crew is wondering where Kienholz is on the ship. They begin to search, and the next victim is Gino Finelli (Richard Hervey). As he’s smoking a cigarette, the creature attacks him. The others, especially his brother, Bob (Richard Benedict), are getting apprehensive. They discover Klienholz’s body, as it was stuffed in the duct-work. Van Heusen calls for all hands on deck, and everyone comes to help investigate. They realize that someone has to go up in there to search for Gino, so Major John Purdue (Robert Bice) goes in, because he knows the layout best. Within minutes, he finds Gino, who’s on the brink of death. Seconds later, he’s attacked by the creature, but manages to get off a few rounds, and escape death.

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The crew now realizes that Carruthers wasn’t blowing smoke, so they formulate a plan to attach grenades to all the openings for the duct work, so when the creatures attempts to open one, it will blow him to kingdom come. They wait and the ladies, Ann Anderson (Shirley Smith) and Mary attend to Major Purdue’s injuries. They also look at the body of the fist victim, and remark that every bone in his body is broken, but that isn’t what killed him. What’s left of the crew tries to theorize what this creature is, and why it’s on a murderous rampage.

One by one, the crew begins to disappear and it seems that none of their conventional weapons can even remotely stop this creature. When the rocket ship arrives on Earth, will anyone still be alive to warn the others? Watch this classic to find out!

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OK, here are my thoughts:

When you watch this film, and see all the elements that are in more modern-day sci-fi flicks, you’ll be blown away. I mentioned Alien (1979), because that one has the biggest thank you to give to this film, but there are others that followed this template as well. Of course, this film also some elements that probably stem from films like Forbidden Planet (1956), which were big hits just a couple of years earlier. The cast did a great job at portraying ultimate fear, and the monster, for its time, was outstanding!

The musical arrangements were also good, and really helped set the tone for the more ominous scenes. The special effects were on par with those of the age in cinema, which is to say that they were decent, but didn’t blow you away. Honestly, Marshall Thompson and Dabbs Greer seemed to really be the most convincing, and really have you believing that the film takes place in space. Put this one on your bucket list if you haven’t already seen this one, because you’ll definitely be glad you did after viewing this classic!

Click here for trailer!

Cinema Sunday: The Fly (1958)

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Title: The Fly

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Writer: James Clavell (Screenplay), original story by George Langelaan

Director: Kurt Neumann

Producer: Kurt Neumann

Starring: Al Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall

Release: August 1958

MPAA: Approved

OK, so, I know this film isn’t exactly in the same sub-genre as the three previous films I reviewed this month, BUT it does have a monster that kind of fits the bill. Oh, and it has Vincent Price, so it’s automatically worth watching. Even though Price isn’t the main character in this film, his presence is enough to vault this movie into the awesome category!

Without giving too much away, this film features a gruesome beginning, and then the rest is in flashback. A couple of twists at the ens definitely make this film one I’ll never forget. Well, at least the famous line from one particular scene! Alright, let us journey back in time to 1958…

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The movie begins with a night watchman, as he’s making his rounds at an electronics factory. He hears a piece of equipment being operated, and heads in the general direction to investigate. As he opens a door, a young woman (Patricia Owens) looks at him, then dashes off through the back door. The man discovers that she was apparently operating an industrial press, and there’s a man squished underneath it! The next scene shows the same woman, making a phone call to the owner of the factory, Francois Delambre (Vincent Price), claiming that she’s killed her husband, who happens to be Francois’s brother. At first he thinks it’s a joke, but then she reiterates what she’s done, and he quickly calls an inspector friend of his, Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall) to help him out of this situation.

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The inspector shows up with the coroner and few other policemen. They see that Mrs. Delambre wasn’t just telling some crazy story, as we see a body, half squished under the press. Francois is shocked, and tells them that his brother had a big scar on his left leg, so they can identify the body (the head and left arm are underneath the press). The scar is found and Francois is grief-stricken. They then travel to the home of Mrs. Delambre, to question her about the nights events. She tells them that she activated the press, and exactly how she did it, showing that it very well could’ve been her. The Inspector asks her why she did it, and she tells him that she can’t answer that question. He asks another question, and again, she refuses to answer. He then tells Francois and the doctor to give them a moment alone. He questions her further on the events at the factory, but she’s still very mysterious about her motive. She does get rattled when a fly enters the room, and the inspector notices this immediately.

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The inspector decides on the advice of the doctor, to let her rest, and see if her mind improves (they think her insane). He and Francois then check out his lab, and see that it has been wrecked for some reason. Francois can’t believe it, because his brother was always so careful with the equipment. The inspector then asks Francois if his brother ever used animals in his experiments, and Francois tells him no. He then asks about insects, and Francois pauses for a moment, then tells the inspector that his brother wouldn’t even hurt a fly.

A few days later, the police have sent in a “nurse” to keep an eye on Helene. Everything seems to be fine, until a fly enters the room. Helene is very agitated, and the nurse tells her to not worry, because she’ll kill it. Just as she swats it with a newspaper, Helene screams out in agony, and smashes her breakfast tray. She crumples to the floor, sobbing. The nurse puts her back in bed, and calls the doctor. They can’t understand the situation, and Francois wants to speak with her. The doctor asks Francois if he’s in love with Helene, and he says yes. he admits to loving her, but not interfering with his brother. The doctor tells Francois that he’ll recommend to the police that Helene is guilty, by reason of insanity. At dinner, Francois talks with Phillipe (Helene’s son), and the boy tells Francois that his mother was looking for a specific fly, one with a white head. The boy says that she asked him to look for it the day his father disappeared. Francois stiffens, and realizes that something rather heinous is afoot.

Francois then goes to Helene’s house to speak with her and after some prodding, she relents and tells him the story of what really happened to her husband…

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The two men sit and listen to her story. She tells them that a few months ago, her husband, Andre (Al Hedison), was working on a secret project, but invited his wife into the lab to see the results of his latest experiment. He’s invented a molecular/matter displacement device, but not yet perfected it. He demonstrates it by using a plate with writing on the bottom of it. He turns on the machine, and it transfers the plate from one cabinet, across the room to another. Helene is fascinated but thinks it’s a trick. He assures her it isn’t, and they both are very excited. She looks at the bottom of the plate though, and the writing is backwards. He realizes this is a stumbling block, and immediately works on perfecting the process.

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A few weeks later, he thinks he’s done just that, but wants to test something else, something living. He uses the family cat, but with varying results. The cat is placed in the cabinet, but doesn’t make it to the other one. He hears the cat crying out, but we never see where it ended up. Days later, Andre bursts out of his lab, claiming success. He takes Helene to the ballet to celebrate, then home to see his latest accomplishment. He puts some champagne in the machine, and transfers it to the other cabinet without any problems. Next, he uses the little boy’s pet guinea pig, and at first, Helene is upset, and doesn’t want him to do it. He convinces her it will be fine, and then he shows her it is, and transfers the animal. He does tell her about the cat, and she makes him promise to not use animals anymore.

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A few weeks later, Francois is coming over for lunch, and Andre is ready to unveil his new invention. Helene and Francois head downstairs to the lab, but there’s a note on the door, saying that he wont be up for lunch. At that moment, Phillipe runs in and calls to his mother. He tells her that he’s caught a fly, and not just any fly, but one with a white head, and a white leg. She tells him to run along, not thinking anything of the boy’s exuberance. The boy then releases the fly, and walks away sad about the situation. Later, the maid tells Helene that Andre didn’t eat his supper, and Helene wonders why not. She goes downstairs to investigate, and calls to Andre. he doesn’t answer, and she’s perplexed. She sees a note that was slipped under the door, and reads that he’s had a terrible accident. He asks for some milk, and she gets it, and the note also says to leave the milk on his desk, but not to bother him. It says that he’s looking for a fly, but not just any fly, but one with a white head!

 

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Will Andre be able to reverse the horror that he’s created? I hope you’re not in the mood for a happy ending…

OK, here are my thoughts:

If there’s anyone out there that hasn’t seen this flick yet, please, do yourself a favor and check this out. The three main players in this film are fantastic, and never waver in their performances. Of course, Price really commands the scenes he’s a part of, but he’s more of a secondary character in this one. You can’t honestly find anything wrong with this film. The acting, sets, music, everything, is top-notch here. The make-up is nothing short of brilliant for the 1950’s, and we have Ben Nye (RIP) to thank for that. Just incredible work by that man.

Even fans of newer films of this genre will appreciate this one.It would be impossible to not like this film, because of its simplicity, but over abundance of great moments that will never leave your mind after watching it. Do yourself a favor, check out Netflix or grab this one in a DVD bin at a Big Box store. it’s well worth whatever they’re asking, trust me! The fact that the film has a beautiful leading lady doesn’t hurt either!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Black Scorpion (1957)

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Title: The Black Scorpion

Distributor: Warner Bros.

Writers: Robert Blees, David Duncan

Director: Edward Ludwig

Producers: Jack Dietz, Jack Melford

Starring: Richard Denning, Mara Corday, Carlos Rivas, Mario Navarro

Released: October 1957

MPAA: PG

 

Continuing on with my giant bug/creatures theme, there’s no way you can have one without including this gem! Not only does it have solid actors, but it has one of the most beloved, and talented people to ever work in the film industry, Willis O’Brien! To say that this man was an innovator wouldn’t be giving him half of the credit he deserves. He was one of the best and earliest to use stop-motion animation, as you saw in the 1933 classic, King Kong. He had a young understudy later in his career you may have heard of…Ray Harryhausen! The two worked together on Mighty Joe Young (1949), and Ray’s career took off after that film. O’Brien’s career started to slow down though, but he still had enough in the tank to lend his genius to this movie!

This film is one that has a few Mexican actors in it, but it was filmed in Mexico, so it made total sense, unlike some movies of the times that are supposed to be taking place in a foreign country, yet all the actors are clearly Caucasian. Another interesting fact about this movie is that you don’t get the typical “radiation” answer for the rampaging creature(s) either. Alright, let us now proceed to the film.

 

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The movie begins with a volcano exploding, and subsequent earthquakes, that shake a rural area of Mexico, causing all sorts of destruction and mayhem. A narrator tells us that this has been going on for a long time in this area, and that it is getting worse. We next see the opening credits roll, followed by two men in Jeep, making their way towards the Mexican rural area that has been affected by the volcano. The two men, Geologists,  Dr. Hank Scott (Richard Denning), and Dr. Arturo Ramos (Carlos Rivas), remark about how desolate and empty the area looks. At one point, they stop and ask directions from a couple of telephone company workers. As they forge on, they hear a strange noise, that scares both men, but they move on towards the volcano.

 

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Eventually, they come upon a home (or business of some kind), and look around to ask for some water. They find a police car, that looks like its been ripped apart by something incredible. They hear a call come across the radio, and they answer it, telling the police on the other end that there’s been an accident, and that the policeman is nowhere to be found. As the two men walk around, they hear a rattlesnake, and investigate. They soon realize that it’s no snake, but rather a baby shaking a rattle. Hank picks up the baby (after pointing and waving his gun around in its face a few times), and they both get in the Jeep, and head for the nearest village. As they get ready to leave, something catches Arturo’s eye, and the two men make a hideous discovery. They find the policeman, dead, and his face looks as if he’s seen a ghost. They go back to the police car, and tell the other cops that they found the one officer, and that he’s dead, and that his gun was empty.

 

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The next day, they arrive at the village and are greeted by Father Delgado, who’s keeping track of the village until the government arrives to help. They have a meal together, and the priest talks about the locals, their situation, and the disappearance of some of the villagers. The following morning, the duo set out to see the volcano, even though the military warns them not to go to the site. As they near the site, Hank uses the binoculars to and spots a beautiful woman riding a horse. She falls off, and the two men go to help her out. They find out her name is Teresa Alvarez (Mara Corday), and that her family has lived here for many years (yet, she has a terrible accent). As Teresa cleans up, Arturo finds some Obsidian, but she couldn’t care less.

 

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Back at the village, hank and Arturo visit the local doctor/mad scientist guy, Dr. Delacruz  (Pascual García Peña). he’s doing an autopsy on the dead cop, and finds out that he died from some poison. he then shows them a plaster cast of a footprint that is absolutely huge, but not very recognizable. Teresa rounds up a few dozen villagers to help with the relief effort, and then she brings them to her home. After a meal, Arturo shows them something he’s found inside the Obsidian. There’s a scorpion inside it, and they break it open, and it’s still alive! Arturo wants to investigate why this happened, but Hank only wants to investigate Teresa. He’s just about ready to put the moves on her, when her telephone rings. She answers it, the telephone repair man who gave Hank and Arturo directions earlier, tells her that the line is fixed now. Just as he’s ready to hang up, he and the other two repair guys hear a bone-chilling shriek. Before they can even react, a giant scorpion emerges from the shadows, and devours both of them! It even picks up a car, and throws it down an embankment.

 

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The creature then makes its way to Teresa’s home, and the villagers, Hank, and Arturo try to stop it but their pistols and rifles are useless against the giant beast. They round everyone up, and head for the village in fear of the creature. The volcano erupts, and another earthquake devastates a few homes in the area. The couple of military guys that are present also attempt to shoot the creature, but once again, bullets prove to be ineffective. Night ends, and the creature retreats. The next morning, another official from the government shows up. Dr. Velasco (Carlos Muzquiz), and he theorizes that this creature has been kept alive, living under the volcano for centuries. The team sets out on an expedition to find the creatures lair. They do just that, and then Arturo and Hank descend into the cave, using a crane.

 

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Once they arrive in the depths of the cave, Arturo and Hank witness wonders never seen before by mankind. A giant worm, that looks prehistoric, then a spider the size of a Volkswagen appears, and nearly kills a little boy who stowed away with them. Initially, Dr. Velasco believes that they can use poison gas on the scorpion, but they eventually go a different route. Back down in the cave, Hank and Arturo see that there are more scorpions down there, and that they just haven’t fully matured yet. Then, suddenly, the big daddy shows up and tries to kill both of them! They barely escape, but then formulate a plan that they hope will work!

 

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Can Hank and Arturo solve the puzzle of how to stop the behemoth? Or will it destroy Mexico City in its next rampage? You must check it out to find the answers!

OK, here are my thoughts:

This is no exaggeration, when I say that Richard Denning (Creature from the Black Lagoon), Carlos Rivas, and Mara Corday (image below) are all great in this flick! Of course, you get your moments of the time where the “helpless” woman needs the men to come and save her, but overall, it was still a pretty good performance by these three lead actors. I felt that the little boy was more annoying than endearing, but he’s really inconsequential to the story anyway, so it doesn’t matter. There isn’t a lot of cigarette smoking in this one, which is astonishing actually.

 

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The crown jewel of this film though, is without a doubt, the stop motion work by Willis O’Brien. When the scorpion is crawling around, killing or terrorizing people, it looks fantastic. It does look fairly cheap up close (the face shots), but it was a very low-budget movie, so you have to give it a break. Seriously though, this is the best film so far of the movies I reviewed this month. It really is a strong film for one of this genre and budget. Richard Denning is one tough customer, and Mara Corday is absolutely gorgeous in this one!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Tarantula (1955)

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Title: Tarantula

Distributor: Universal Studios

Writers: Robert M. Fresco, Martin Berkeley (screenplay), story by Jack Arnold

Director: Jack Arnold

Producer: William Alland

Starring: John Agar, Mara Corday, Lewis G. Carroll, Clint Eastwood

Released: December 14th, 1955

MPAA: Approved

 

After showcasing one great director (Bert I. Gordon) from the sci-fi genre last week, I couldn’t help but gravitate to his counterpart, Jack Arnold, this week! The giant bug/animal craze started with THEM! in 1954, and really hit its stride the following year with last week’s film, and this one. Of course, what would a sci-fi movie be without a leading action hero? Not so great, and that’s why we have none other than B-movie legend, John Agar, to save the day in this movie!

The quality of this film is better than the Gordon film, but probably had a bigger budget as well. And let’s not forget you have a better cast, and that makes a huge difference. The movie follows the typical plot lines of the times, but definitely has some cool moments. OK, let’s get right down to it!

 

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The film begins with a man (in his PJ’s) wandering around the desert of Arizona. We eventually see that he’s been mutated from something, and really bloated looking. He falls to the ground, and seemingly dies. The scene then switches to a plane landing, and a doctor, Matt Hastings (John Agar – 2nd image below), steps out, and tells the technician to check the plane. The doc then checks in at his office…that’s in the local hotel (yeah, don’t ask). He then receives a call from Sheriff Andrews (Nestor Paiva – 2nd image below), and heads out to see him. Once he arrives at his office, the sheriff explains that they need to check out a body that found along the highway earlier in the day. The sheriff can’t explain what’s wrong, because he doesn’t know what happened to the man and he needs Doctor Hastings to examine the body.

 

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Once they arrive at the coroner’s office, they talk with doctor that was working with the deceased man. Professor Deemer (Lewis G. Carroll), seems distraught about his friend’s death, but also troubled about something. They theorize that the man died from Acromegaly but that’s typically a disease that takes years to process, and this man was seen days earlier, with no signs of the disease. Later, Professor Deemer retreats to his lab, and we see why he was anxious when the others were questioning him about his assistant. He’s been using a secret formula on animals, that increases their size exponentially! The last one we see is a giant Tarantula (about the size of a medium dog)!

 

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The next day, Professor Deemer is at it again, but a figure shambles in through the back door. It’s another man who looks like he has the same disease, but this one has some life left in him yet. He creeps up behind the Professor and attempts to murder him. As they struggle, the glass gets smashed to some of the cases, and the tarantula escapes! The disfigured man chokes him out, then injects him with the serum. A fire breaks out, and it looks as if the Professor is doomed, but then he wakes up (conveniently), and escapes the flames. He then finds the body of the man outside, slumped over, dead. He buries him out in the backyard, and we see the shadow of a spider the size of an elephant.

 

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Dr. Hastings has a conversation with the sheriff, and attempts to convince him that Professor Deemer might be up to shenanigans. He’s not very responsive at first, but he does ponder his next move. Outside, a bus arrives, and a beautiful lady steps off, and heads into the hotel to ask for a cab. You see, Stephanie Clayton (Mara Corday – image below), has come to town to aid Professor Deemer in his experiments. Since Dr. Hastings is heading out that way to question Deemer, he gives “Steve” a ride to his place. Once they arrive, a local newspaper reporter is there and taking pictures. This angers Deemer, and he tells him to hit the road.

 

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As Steve and Professor Deemer begin their work, over time, she notices that his face begins to be deformed. The serum is finally getting to him, and he eventually succumbs to the same fate as the others. As the story moves on, large animals are found with the absolutely nothing left but bones! They’ve been sucked dry of all living tissue. Hastings finds some fluid near the bones, and eventually finds that it’s spider venom. He then surmises that Deemer’s new formula must be mutating animals, and that a giant spider is the culprit for the dead animals and destroyed homes.

 

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Can Mr. B-Movie, John Agar stop the giant beast? Or will a barely recognizable Clint Eastwood (image below) have to get the job done? Watch the film to find out!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

This is one that I first watched with my son a few years ago, and loved from the very first minute. Maybe it has some sentimental value to me, and that raises it up slightly, but Agar and Carroll are fantastic in this film. This is actually one of the few films from this era that doesn’t use atomic radiation as a MacGuffin. There are a couple of moments of absolute hilarity, where blatant sexism occurs, but again, this was 1955. Plenty of cigarette smoking as well. I think Agar must have owned stock in R. J. Reynolds.

The sets were pretty good for the time, and the desert shots definitely stood out. Of course, the special effects leave a lot to be desired in this day and age, but for back then, they were pretty cool. Even now I can imagine little kids in a downtown movie theater, screaming their heads off when the tarantula attacks. Watch these films with a lens of nostalgia, and you’ll definitely enjoy them. Thanks to people like Jack Arnold, we’ll always have these classic “B” movies to give us laughter, and good times!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: Earth vs The Spider (1958)

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Title: Earth vs The Spider

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writers: George Worthington Yates, László Görög, (Bert I. Gordon)

Director: Bert I. Gordon

Producer:  Bert I. Gordon

Starring: Ed Kemmer, June Kenney, Eugene Persson, Gene Roth

Released:  September 1958

MPAA:  Approved

 

It’s a new year, so I figured I’d better start a new theme. What better than giant monsters/insects? None, of course, and if you’re a fan of these movies like I am, you know that they hold a special place in cinema because they were birthed during the greatest decade for sci-fi, the 1950s! Whether it’s AIP, Warner Bros., or Universal, it doesn’t matter. Most of these films had a similar plot, but they all have something different that sets them apart from each other.

When you have names like Bert I. Gordon and Samuel Z. Arkoff involved in a film, you know that odds are, it’s gonna be a good one! Both men have a long history in the film business, but thrived when involved with sci-fi/horror. Gordon is known for his giant monster films, and Arkoff for everything AIP! Mostly for me though, Arkoff is known for being the producer of Blacula! Well, that’s all for now, let’s get to the movie!

 

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The film opens with a man driving a car down the highway. He’s suddenly accosted by something, and the car smashes into the rail. The next day, another young man, Mike Simpson (Eugene Persson), darts across the street, to meet up with a beautiful girl, Carol (June Kenney) he’s sweet on. He gives her a gift, but she’s reluctant to open it. Something’s wrong, and she tells him that she’s worried because her dad didn’t come home last night. Mike tells her not to be worried, because it isn’t the first time this happened. Carol gets infuriated, and throws the present in his face, and heads into their high school. In science class, Mike passes Carol a note, and she forgives him for his remarks earlier.

 

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Still terribly worried about her father’s absence, the two set out to find him. As they drive down the road out-of-town, they see something on the side of the road. As they stop to investigate, they find a rope-like string. It’s very sticky, almost like the silk from a spider! As they search the immediate area, they discover his car, over the railing and in a ditch. They remark that the wreck is very close to a cave that the locals say is haunted. Mike tells Carol to wait outside, and he’ll check it out. They’ve theorized that her father would’ve survived the accident, and might have sought out shelter there last night.

 

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As Mike goes inside, Carol is frightened, so she comes with him. They make their way deeper into the cave, and as they do, they discover the bones of a few dead human beings! As they get even more scared, they hear a sound emanating from deeper inside the cavern. They move towards the sound, and fall into a giant spider web! They attempt to escape, and as they do, a giant spider moves in for the kill. They manage to squirm enough to fall through the big gaps between the webs tendrils, and escape. Of course, they rush back into town and tell people, but no one believes them. They think they’re just a couple of “crazy kids.” Mike and Carol go to their science teacher, Mr. Kingman (Ed Kemmer)and he calls the sheriff. He convinces the sheriff to at least investigate the disappearance of Carol’s father, so they gather some volunteers, and head into the cave.

Once inside the cave, the sheriff makes jokes about the teenagers, but after a few minutes, they find the corpse of Carol’s father, and a few sets of bones, as well. They point him in the direction of the giant web, and the sheriff almost falls into it. He tells the deputy to get the pest control guy that’s waiting outside. He comes in with a hose, and begins to spray DDT all over the cave. Within seconds, you hear that eerie sound again, and the spider appears! It goes on a rampage, and actually kills one of the sheriff’s men! Between the bullets and the DDT, the creature finally falls. Mr. Kingman convinces the sheriff that the spider needs to be brought to the surface, and he says he’ll allow it.

 

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An undetermined amount of time later, and the spider is on display at the local school, and reporters from all over are there to take pictures. One of the reporters makes a smart remark and the next thing you know, the spider kicks him, knocking him over. Everybody recoils in fear, but Mr. Kingman tells them it was just a muscular contraction. Meanwhile, Mike is working at his father’s movie theater, and Carol calls him, begging him to come and pick her up. She believes that she lost her bracelet while in the cave, and since it was a present from her father, she must have it back. Meanwhile, over at the school, Mike’s friend, Joe, and his band-mates try to enter the area where the spider is being kept, so they can practice for the “big dance” tomorrow night. They find it locked, but convince the janitor to open it for them.

 

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As the bad begins to rehearse, some other kids come in, and basically start to party…in the middle of a school day. Back at the cave, Mike and Carol are searching for her missing bracelet. No one in town knows where there are, and this is going to be a problem later in the film. As the band gets louder and louder, the spider begins to move. Within minutes, it starts to go wild, and bust its way out of the gymnasium. The janitor, Hugo, calls Mr. Kingman to tell him about the spider, but he gets killed before he can give the “gory” details. The spider begins to go on a rampage throughout the town, killing anyone that gets in its way, and destroying property everywhere!

Will the townspeople find a way to stop the menacing giant? Or will it be the end of mankind?!?! Watch to find out!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

I wasn’t born in the decade that this movie was made, but one can only imagine the daily life back then, and having interrupted by something crazy like this. Heck, even in this day and age it would be something pretty tough to deal with, at least for a time. Sure, you could eventually nuke it or something crazy like that, but in a populated area, it would pose some problems. The actors in the film are pretty solid, and definitely are convincing for the most part. Eugene Persson and June Kenney make a good “couple,” and mesh well together. Ed Kemmer does a good job as the scientist/school teacher. His interactions with the kids is spot on, and between he and the sheriff, Gene Roth. Speaking of the sheriff, I thought he was one of the best. His cynical attitude towards the kids was excellent, and definitely a good snapshot of the times.

As far as the spider goes, for the technology of the times, Bert I. Gordon did a fine job. He mostly used a real spider, with up-close shots to make it look like it was a huge spider, and not a normal sized one. Other times they used rear projection to get the desired effects of the spider terrorizing people. It did seem in a couple of scenes, that they used a giant puppet, but not very often. The sets were OK, and looked mostly believable, but you could see that some miniatures were used in the town. This is the last big monster movie Bert I. Gordon did for a few years, but he definitely owns the title of B movie big monster king!

Watch the trailer !