Wednesday, September 12, 2018

mooncup.

A few years back I was commissioned to draw a comic sequel to the fantastic Robot Monster for a now defunct space-based magazine and recently came across the first draft of the art for it (you can see it in all it's glory here).



It was this find that made me realise that I'd not actually sat and watched any  50s sci-fi for what seemed like forever so with that in mind I dived into the DVD slushpile and pulled out the first thing that came to hand....


The Man From Planet X (1951).
Dir: Edgar G. Ulmer
Robert Clarke, Margaret Field, Raymond Bond, William Schallert as Dr. Mears
Roy Engel, Charles Davis, Gilbert Fallman, David Ormont, June Jeffery and Franklyn Farnum.


To think - a fantastic gnome like you had to hurdle out of space to put this power in my hands. Well, now that we've made contact, I'm gonna tear out every secret you've got!


Famed astronomer Professor Billy Elliot (Bond who bizarrely also played an astronomer in Flight to Mars - did he own his own telescope?) is excited to discover a new planet that just happens to be hurtling thru space toward the Earth.

Exactly as planets don't.

Although there's no evidence that the two planets will actually collide (that'll be a totally different movie) “Planet X,” as Elliot has so originally named it, will come close enough to cause a wee bit of bad weather and maybe a few tremors and the like.

Probably.

Using 'the science' Elliot works out that the closest the mysterious planet will come to Earth is the small island of Bury just off the coast of Scotland - which is in England near Paris, Europe for all our American readers.


"What did you do with the trumpet you found buried in your garden?" "I root it oot.”"

And with that the professor alongside his foxy - in a kinda part-time librarian way - daughter, Enid (Sally Field's mum Margaret - no really) heads off to the island to await its arrival.

Enter - roughly and from behind -  an old friend of the professors, the American journalist and general stud-muffin John Lawrence (Clarke from The Hideous Sun Demon),who's been invited along to cover the story.

But what he's going to cover it in we're never told.

Anyway it seems that the pair met during 'the war' when Elliot was working as a meteorologist, supplying Lawrence's 8th Air Force squad with information regarding the weather conditions they could expect during their bombing missions, which is way more back story than either of them deserve.

Arriving at/on the island John is met by Enid, giving us plenty of time for that old "Oh you were just a child last time I saw you but I'd shag you now!" type chat you used to get in movies before the pair drive up to the old keep the professor has taken over in order to start this alien visitor plot good and proper.

When they - finally - get there (after a wee bit more of what passed for flirty bantz in the 50s) Lawrence is surprised to find another scientist, the creepy Dr. Ray Mears (Tobor The Great and Trouble With Tribbles star Schallert) ingratiating himself with the professor, no-one actually admits why he's such a bad man or what he's done but the lank hair, sinister beard and ill-fitting suit mark him out as a bad yin and the character most likely to abuse an alien during the course of the story.

Ah things were so much simpler back then.


"Please don't jump we've just let all the water out"


With John visibly seething at Mears very presence Enid decides to take him up the moors to calm him down so away they trot.
Yup, the films pace could be generously described as leisurely.
And it's while out on the moors that the pair come across a strange metallic object that looks suspiciously like a toilet roll rocket painted silver embedded in the side of a nearby paper-mache rock.
With it only being about 30 inches long and weighing just a few pounds (you can see Enid is impressed by the way she's licking her lips)  John gingerly pockets it and the pair hurry back to the keep where an obviously excited Dr. Mears’s sweats in anticipation of the profits he'll make as soon as he:
A. Figures out what the fuck it's made of.
and
B. How to make it himself.
As Mears gently strokes the cylinder as he coos away to himself, Elliot sits stroking his chin and surmises that the object must be of extraterrestrial origin and has arrived on Earth from the rapidly approaching Planet X. 
Enid on the other hand just stares at it whilst crossing and uncrossing her legs, the heavy woolen skirt she's wearing gently brushing against her milky smooth calves.
"Look at the dog!"
 John, realising that he's left his re-usable sheath back at the hotel makes his excuses and gets ready to leave hoping that the cool night air may calm his amour but Enid has other ideas and offers him a lift in her car, accidentally brushing his leg with his lilly white fingers everytime she grabs for the gear stick.

Probably.
Stiffly - in more ways than one, phnarr - saying their goodnights Enid begins the lonely drive back to the keep but on the way she gets a burst tire, well her car does, I mean she doesn't have any wheels for one thing so has to walk the rest of the way.
It's not too far tho' seeing as the whole thing is totally studio bound.

Well I say studio bound but I'm pretty sure it was shot in someone's shed.
"Get in the back of my car and let me bite you!"



On the way, she sees a strange glow out on the moors, which on closer inspection appears to be emanating from what looks like a giant menstrual cup (painted silver obviously) with cardboard fins attached.

Stealthily sneaking toward it (well as stealthily as you can be when you try to walk across polystyrene in heels), Enid moves ever closer before peering into the window coming face to face with a midget in an old lady mask wearing a fishbowl on its head.

Or it might actually be a very tiny old lady.

Wearing a fishbowl on her head obviously.

 Who can truly say?*

Scared shitless Enid hurries back to her father (and Dr. Mears) to tell them all about it and her father excitedly grabs his jacket to go look for himself.

Unfortunately as he's peering at it from behind a rock the alien turns on his secret weapon (cunningly disguise as a high wattage porch light) - a mysterious  ray that hypnotizes people into obeying his every will.

The fact that he chose to shine it on an old, balding man rather than the narrow-hipped vixen that is Enid says more about the alien creature than I ever can.

Luckily for the professor - and humanity - spaceman X totally fails to give him any orders so the pair just shrug and head home leaving a very sweaty Mears hiding in a bush rubbing his hands together.

The next morn, John arrives to find the professor chomping at the bit to get back to the alien ship to try and find the pilot and to this end the pair hurry off across the moors.

Again.

Luckily for them - and us - the pilot (whom we shall refer to as Mr X from now on) is actually present this time, cutting a dashing figure as he flails around outside his spaceship gingerly pointing at a bathtap attached to his suit before falling over.

Which is a kinda unique way of revealing yourself it must be said.


Mooooooooooooooooooonhead.


 John, being a strong man, easily helps the little invader turn the tap on his breathing equipment and a grateful Mr X gives them a wacky thumbs up before following them home for tea and biscuits.

Tho' seeing as it's Scotland it's more likely to be a deep fried pizza, some Irn Bru and a yeast infection.

Attempting, rather unsuccessfully, to communicate with him thru' the medium of interpretive dance Mears hits upon the idea (as opposed to hitting on wee boys) of using geometry and maths to communicate with him and lo the rest of the gang trundle off for more biscuits and leave him to it.

Unfortunately for everyone involved Mears is a bit of a mentalist and no sooner have they left than he's making Mr X hit himself in the face and drawing pictures of cocks on his nice shiny space helmet in order to learn his 'secrets' and become rich.

Because that's how it works.

Obviously Mr X is a wee bit upset by this so decides to feign sleepiness, wait till Edin turns up to check on him then kidnap her.

No doubt in order to use his hypno-ray to make her dance wearing only a teatowel.

Just me then?

With Mears admitting to being a bit bad and in light of Enid's disappearance John gets set to head into town to inform the local police but as he goes to leave the town constable, the potato-like Tommy McSporran (Zombies of the Stratosphere star Engel) drunkenly bursts in demanding to see the professor.

And some crumpets.

It seems that over the last few nights that a couple of the local farmers have gone missing too so it must all be the fault of the foreigners that have recently arrived.

Luckily John manages to convince him that it is in fact a totally different type of alien by taking him across the moors and showing him the spaceship, thereby totally ending what ever drama this scene may have been building to almost immediately.
Meanwhile Mr X has been busy, firstly re-hypnotizing the professor before doing the same to Mears and a dozen or so townsfolk in order to have them build a wall around his spaceship to protect it from attack.

Sounds legit.

With the clock counting down to Planet X's arrival (and to rationing ending too possibly) John and Tommy must race against time to stop Mr X from doing whatever it is he has planned (because it's obviously bad) and rescue the townsfolk.




From the golden age of sci-fi and Edgar G Ulmer - the director of such classics as the Lugosi/Karloff caper The Black Cat and the little seen The Amazing Transparent Man (I thank you) - comes a threadbare tale of extra-terrestrial terror that's actually quite high on concept if not on budget, winning it's place in cinematic history not for being a good film but for being in all probability the first alien invasion film ever released.

And because of that we should be a wee bit kinder.

So let's not mention how none of it makes any sense storywise, I mean early on Mr X asks our heroes for help and only turns mental when Mears attacks him (which is fair enough) tho' as the film heads toward its climax everyone decides out of the blue that the wee fella is the scout for an invasion force and should be wiped out.

And no, having your female lead looking wistfully into the middle asserting her belief that Mr X was just misunderstood doesn't make this any better.

Even tho' she's wearing a kilt.


"Hello Dave?"


Talking of kilts I'd love to know what American audiences made of its 'exotic' locations, tho' thinking about it  they probably all came away with the idea that 'The Scotchland' is a place completely made up of painted scenery where everyone speaks in a mix of farcical French accents and Unwinese.

But most likely they'd be under the impression that it only exists in someones shed.

Which if I'm honest is scarily close to the truth.

"Are you the farmer?"



Whilst never as arse-numbingly boring as that other genre first, the terrifyingly tedious Dr. Blood's Coffin (it's considerably shorter for one thing) The Man From Planet X actually has a fair bit about it to enjoy, especially if like me you decide to view it when drunk.

And if that's not a recommendation I don't know what is.








































* Rumour has it that the alien was (terrifyingly) portrayed by either actor Pat Goldin,  an actor best known for Jiggs and Maggie in Court (1948), Jiggs and Maggie in Society (1947) and Bringing Up Father (1946) or the ex-vaudeville performer Billy Curtis.

"Can you get me a Drifter?"


Popular opinion it must be said goes with Goldin as it turns out that Curtis was about 6' 4" or something.

Bizarrely tho' when interviewed (by my Nan) about the film in the early 80s star Robert Clarke could only recall that the actor was 'Jewish'.

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