Monday, May 9, 2022

angry birds.

Got a shitload of new movies to catch up on so why oh why do I keep going back to stuff like this instead?

The Angry Red Planet (AKA Invasion of Mars, Journey to Planet Four 1960).
Dir: Ib Melchior.
Cast: Gerald Mohr, Naura Hayden, Jack Kruschen, Les Tremayne and a hamster on stilts.

"You know, I can't say that I recommend spacesuits for beautiful young dolls. What happened to all your lovely curves?"

It's the brightly coloured (very) early 60s and the great men - and women who make the coffee - at space mission control are busy monitoring Mars Rocket 1 as it returns to Earth following the first manned expedition around Uranus.

Only joking, it's really been to Mars.

Obviously, I mean the clue is in the name.

It appears that everyone thought the rocket had been destroyed or lost (probably down the back of a huge Martian sofa) so is pretty surprised when it turns up on the monitors heading back to Earth so, although the highly qualified and slick haired technicians are unable to make contact with anyone onboard, they decide to fly the rocket by remote control back to base.

So far so talky with a chance of military stock footage.

When the rocket finally lands everyone is shocked to discover that of the four person crew only two have survived and one of them - the hunkyily horse-toothed Col. Tom O'Bannion (the voice of not only Reed Richards in the 1967 Fantastic Four cartoon series but also Green Lantern in the 1968 Aquaman show, Mohr) - has a massive green bogie stuck to his arm.

Luckily for those viewers not turned on by snot the other survivor is the chisel-chinned, shapely redhead Dr. Iris Ryan (Hayden, author of the best selling How to Satisfy a Woman Every Time) who, as is the way in 60s sci-fi, stumbles out of the rocket before screaming and then collapsing into someone's arms.

After a sweet cup of tea and a gently slap she regains her composure enough to report the full terrifying story of what happened on Mars.

As well as (in arse numbing in detail) the banal and slightly sexist - thanks lug-headed Chief Warrant Officer Jacobs with your sweaty sausage fingers constantly grabbing for poor Iris - trip to the planet that will make up a large part of the film's running time.

But for the sake of brevity (and sanity) let's skip that bit and head straight to the aforementioned angry red planet.

You're welcome.

Fake news.

You see it appears that Mars’ atmosphere contains a strongly ionized layer (or is it treacle?) that's impenetrable to radio waves which means that the crew have no way of contacting Earth, luckily they have loads of old tape reels lying about so they can at least record the audio of everything that's going on ("Oh look! it's a red rock! - Oh look it's another red rock!" etc.) and with that  decide to go out and explore anyway.

I mean what could go wrong?

Well almost everything.

For a start Mars' atmospheric density is so low that it muffles every sound and making it impossible to hear unless everyone is really shouty (it'd suit your dad then) and the atmosphere is so ionized as to make everything look like it's been coloured in with felt pens.

Tho' that may just be a useful film-making gimmick to hide the fact that most of the backgrounds, plants, building etc. are actually crude child's drawings.

Add to that, the Martian 'jungle' (OK 3 pot plants and a bush) is teeming with giant, tentacled, man eating (well Iris grabbing) plants that look like fannies.

Actually the last bit doesn't sound too bad if I'm honest.

Unfortunately (for the viewer) Jacobs (Kruschen from shed loads of stuff) has a special 'freeze ray' rifle that disables the killer plant before it can tear any of Iris' clothes off.

And with that they all head back to the rocket for tea and biscuits and a lecture on space stuff from resident egg-head Professor Theodore Gettell (Tremayne, the voice of God in the 1985 series Greatest Adventure Stories from Bible).

But Gettell's lecture is interrupted by Iris' screams (again) when she notices a three-eyed ball-head beast looking in thru a porthole.

Putting it down to female hysteria the crew call it a night and go to bed.

Your mum yesterday.

Up bright and early for a second day of exciting space exploration, O'Bannion is caught short whilst digging up weeds and sneaks off for a sly piss against a nearby tree which, it turns out, isn't a tree at all but the - by now soaking wet - leg of a 40 foot tall hamster/bat/spider thing.

Which is unexpected.

As the beast tries to crush Gattell who's conveniently placed himself between 2 rocks, Jacobs fires his freeze ray at the beast but to no avail until that is he aims at its face and turns its eyes to ice.

Or something.

Suffice to say it totters away screaming never to be seen again.

Unless you're a fan of top pop shockers Misfits obviously as the beast surprisingly turned up on the cover of their 1982 debut full-length album (Misfits) Walk Among Us alongside some shoddily photocopied flying saucers.

They can walk where they want, it's the constant mooth shite-in that bothers me.

 After wiping himself down and zipping back up O'Bannion decides that what they all need is a seaside picnic to cheer themselves up so to this end the group head over to the sandy shores of a nearby lake filled with what seems to be vinegar and piss.

A wee bit like Saltcoats then.

Unfortunately O'Bannion realises that he's left the rubber dinghy in his other jacket so promises that they can come back for a paddle the next day.

So the crew excitedly head back for an early night in preparation for some holiday style fun.

Naura Hayden: Tunnel or funnel?

Unfortunately Dr. Gattell has other ideas, you see he's convinced that, with all the killer fanny plants, pissy lakes and giant rodents, it's way too dangerous to stay on Mars for the full five day mission and that they should all go home and O'Bannion realising that he'll have more chance scoring with Iris if he plies her with cheap booze agrees so everyone straps themselves in and prepares for take-off.

After a splutter and a wobble reminiscent of your Mum on Christmas Eve the rocket just sits there as the crew look at each other in a confused manner.

Or it may be constipation.

Who knows?

Pulling a set square from his pocket, Gattell oohs and aahs over the control panel before informing the crew that they are being held in place by some kind of force field and that the ships engines would need to be more than 100 - maybe 102 - times more powerful to escape.

And on that bombshell they all decide to head back to the beach in the vain hope that Iris has packed a space bikini.

"Ooh Vic....I've fallen".

The next morning our merry band head off to the shore, unpack the dinghy and set off across the lake where - after what seems like hours of inane chat and paddling - spot an island in the distance with a huge skyscraper (or at least a fairly well sketched picture of one -  at its centre.

Excited at the prospect of finding intelligent life on Mars (obviously the crew don't count) our heroes begin paddling ever faster but their journey is interrupted when a giant boggle-eyed cabbage bursts out of the water and blocks their path.

With the stench of rotting foot and PVA glue filling the air - and with the film fast approaching its climax - the astronauts have no choice but to paddle back to shore for  if not their very lives then at least to save their careers.

But the creature has other ideas as it follows them ashore with a massive plop  first eating the raft and then scoffing poor Jacobs whole.

And you'd think it'd spit that bit out.

Things go from bad to worse tho' as O'Bannion is infected by the creatures spores as he attempts to grab the fiver he's owed from Jacob's dead body, leaving Gattell and Iris to hot-wire the spaceships hull in the hope of electrifying the massive cabbage to death.

"Is it in yet?"

 With O'Bannion confined to his bunk - his wanking hand rendered useless and poor Gattell mid heart attack it's left to Iris to save the day but just as she's about to take off a booming voice is heard over the rocket's intercom.

It seems that three-eyed thing that Iris saw earlier was - in fact - the official spokesman for the Martian hive-mind and he has an important message for all humanity.

And with that Iris promptly faints.

"Spice Girls number one for Christmas.....MONSTA!"

A slow dissolve takes us back to a tea drinking Iris as she finishes her fantastic tale and a gaggle of science types look wistfully at each other has they decide what to do next and figure out what the message from Mars actually was.

Women eh?

Luckily the whole thing about electrocuting the cabbage was useful in treating O'Bannion's infected arm and when he regains consciousness he remembers that he'd left the tapes recording in the hope of catching Iris having a fiddle whilst the others were sleeping so the whole Martian message should be there.


Excitedly the team head over to the rocket, press play on the tape machine and await the aliens words of wisdom......

Or is it a dire warning?

From director Ib Melchior (who, as a writer, gave us the classic story that inspired Death Race 2000 as well as being the true creator of Lost in Space and providing the English language script for Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires) and from a story outlined on a napkin by producer Sidney Pink comes this (fairly) wacky and (sometimes) wild Mars based masterpiece that's featured special effects and cinematography are quite possibly more recognizable than the film itself, thanks in part to the utterly bizarre - and often hallucinatory camerawork of the great Stanley Cortez  - probably better known for his work on The Magnificent Ambersons, Night of the Hunter, The Naked Kiss and Shock Corridor who decided - after a few ales probably - to film the Martian exteriors using an experimental process called Cinemagic - a technique where black and white film is hand tinted giving the film a strange almost  3-D quality.

Luckily it also covers up cardboard sets and hand drawn monsters so everyone's a winner really.

Except when you're watching in high definition obviously when those cost-cutting techniques look oh so painfully obvious:

My advice is get screamingly drunk first.

Talking of being half-cut the cast are fairly enjoyable and do not bad with what they're given, which in the cases of  Gerald Mohr and Jack Kruschen appears to be lessons in seduction from Harvey Weinstein seeing as they spend most of the journey to Mars either pawing at poor Naura Hayden or commenting on her 'terrific pins and curves' whilst - in the case of Mohr - showing off way too much old man chest resplendent with greying tufts of hair.

Well it'll keep your Gran happy if nothing else.

Naura Hayden: pins and curves.

And whilst the film's direction might be flatter than a pancake and the script dull as dishwater it does have a saving grace in the aforementioned giant hamster beast which is as terrifying today as it was to a 6 year old boy furtively gazing at it in an old copy of Famous Monsters magazine.

Which probably says more about me than the movie.


Sort of.

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