terrific cast is reason enough to hail this film's laser-disc
debut. Think of it: Arthur Franz, Tom Conway, Dick Foran,
Bob Steele, Brett Halsey, Joi Lansing -- only ace producer
Alex Gordon (She Creature, Voodoo Woman) could have
assembled this gallery of genre-film stalwarts. The woolly,
alien cyclops is another enhancement, as is the ultra-simple,
atmospheric design of the spaceship's interior. All-in-all,
a must-see, B-movie experience!
Atomic War Bride (1960)
This Is Not a Test (1961)
A note to our readers who think of Teenage Monster
and Hot Rod Gang as "obscurities": You don't know
curio-cinema until you've broached these offerings. Only
the title-heavy tag-team of Image Entertainment and Something
Weird Video could unearth these jagged gems. Billed as "2
Super Science Thrillers From the World of Tomorrow," this
revealing double-bill kicks off with the 1960 Yugoslavian
oddity, Atomic War Bride, starring, produced and
directed by people with lots of consonants in their names.
It opens with a wedding, but in lieu of bells, the ceremony
is buzzed by enemy planes. The ominous call to nuclear war
curtails the honeymoon as the bridegroom is mobilized by
the military before an "I do" can even pass his lips. The
would-be hubby opposes the conflict, and comes within a
whisker of being executed for his pacifism. It's a strange,
harsh little flick, bearing hardly a trace of Hollywood
influence. Perhaps the best way to describe it is as "Yugoslavian,"
and leave it at that. It really is something you need to
see for yourself.
Far more interesting
is the 1961 American cheapie, This Is Not A Test.
There's no budget to speak of, and that's the interesting
part. A bunch of unknowns and amateurs (I'll confess I know
virtually nothing about anyone involved) pooled their resources
and dared to tackle a then-controversial topic -- nuclear
holocaust -- with the most meager finances. In fact, the
austerity ensures a bleakness that works in the film's favor.
They could have made a nudie, a gore flick or a surf documentary,
but chose instead to address the degeneration of man's nature
in the face of imminent, inescapable death. It ain't high
art, by any means, but the effort shows. Interestingly,
the movie is decidedly apolitical, and it's giving nothing
away to reveal that the film is a total downer (it's about
nuclear attack, for Pete's sake!). These are decidedly non-Hollywood,
uncommercial choices. Seamon Glass plays a highway cop who
gets the red alert over his patrol car radio. He sets up
a roadblock on a mountain road and the folks he forces to
the curb constitute a cross-section of humanity (a cuckold
husband, a hep cat, an old-timer and his granddaughter,
even an escaped looney) who gradually reveal their baser
proclivities and virtues as the end approaches. One or two
of the cast appear to possess fundamental acting abilities,
but Glass, whose role is central, seems never even to have
watched a movie, much less acted in one. (In fact, he appeared
in bit parts in numerous high-profile films including Spartacus
and Deliverance.) This unaffectedness actually
helps in some scenes, lending just a bit of documentary-like
grit. For the most part, the performances are amateurish,
the continuity is tenuous (one character mysteriously disappears
in longshot and reappears in closeup in the cab of a truck)
and the dialogue is priceless ("If the world really is ending,
and me and my chick want to end it standing in front of
a bar, it's nobody's business!").
Also a part of
this Atom-age nostalgia package are six similarly themed
short subjects, including You Can Beat The A Bomb,
and the infamous Duck and Cover starring everyone's
favorite nuclear survivor, Bert the Turtle.
of the 50-ft. Woman (1958)
most notorious of her many low-rent films proudly showcases
Allison Hayes' large body of work. Scenes of the sky-high
Hayes strutting her stuff while wrapped in a linen tarpaulin
are certainly worth the price of admission. Toss in precocious
Yvette Vickers as the town tart, a big, bald translucent
alien and Ronald Stein's rollicking honky-tonk score and
you've got untoppable B movie entertainment. Nathan Juran
directs under the alias Nathan Hertz, managing to add just
a bit of filmic zip to an otherwise embarrassing assignment.
(Hertz/Juran lingers just a little too long on those gigantic,
crusty, papier mache hands). The always-watchable Allison
Hayes approaches her part with a sultry vigor the production
of Yucca Flats (1961)
proof that Ed Wood DID NOT make the worst films of all time.
From Anthony Cardoza and Coleman Francis, longtime dwellers
on the cult-movie fringe, this quasi-nuclear horror stars
Wood stock player Tor Johnson as a Soviet scientist caught
in an H-bomb blast. He survives, and stumbles pitifully
through 57 minutes of grainy, silent footage that purports
to tell an indecipherable story. The loony narration contains
laughable ruminations that have nothing to do with what's
happening on screen. To wit: "Flag on the moon!"
and "A man runs, someone shoots at him ... progress."
funny papers pre-eminent spaceman, Buck Rogers, preceded
his swashbuckling counterpart, Flash Gordon into
print by several years. As far as the silver screen was
concerned however, Buck was a late bloomer. The serial bearing
his name debuted in 1939, three years after Buster Crabbe
became one with Flash Gordon in the minds of moviegoers.
Who else to play Buck but a proven heroic commodity like
Crabbe? Buck Rogers starring Buster as the Rip Van
Winkle-like hero is not as good as Flash Gordon,
conspicuously in the absence of Charles Middleton as Ming,
the Merciless, one of filmdom's most enjoyably villainous
portrayals. But, directed by the venerable serial team of
Ford Beebe and Saul Goodkind, it packs more than enough
entertainment into its 12 chapters to satisfy any discriminating
The Cosmic Man (1958)
The Day the Earth Stood Still, remove the budget,
the script, the atmosphere and the stars and what do you
get? ... The Cosmic Man. Wearing its heart on its
frayed sleeve, this paper thin, no-budget message thriller
features John Carradine and his booming baritone as an ambassador
from another world whose mission of peace is misunderstood.
Further damaging the enjoyment of this cheap but earnest
film is the fact that it was thought lost for many years.
Its reputation as a missing sci fi classic snowballed, and
it invariably disappointed fans upon its rediscovery.
the best-remembered of the spate of British sci fi films
starring beefy American Forrest Tucker, this applaudably
moody, albeit lurid item slithers into a fresh video release.
(How many shockers of the same vintage feature a decapitation
in their opening seconds?) Based on The Trollenberg Terror,
a popular British teleplay, the film features Janet Munro
as a timid telepath who teams with Tucker to forestall the
ocular invasion. The isolated Alpine setting is suitably
forlorn and Tucker, squeezing this film into a foreign foray
that included The Cosmic Monsters and The Abominable
Snowman is grouchily appealing. The tentacled eyeballs
are kitchily intriguing if a tad clumsily handled.
husband Dean Parkin vanishes atop a barren Mexican mesa,
shrieker par excellence Gloria Talbott conscripts Lon Chaney
and James Craig to aid in the search. Tragically, hubby
has been transformed into a bald giant with a face melted
by radiation. And this is one of Bert I. Gordon's BETTER
lost for decades, this pioneering special effects extravaganza
has been rescued from obscurity by the folks at Englewood
Entertainment. The only print of this American film known
to survive is a European copy dubbed in Italian (with English
subtitles). That makes for slow-going during the film's
early exposition. But once that mountainous tidal wave makes
sauce of the Big Apple, contemporary viewers will be impressed
by what these trail-blazing effects-meisters were capable
of 70-some years ago.
First Spaceship On Venus (1960)
sober attempt at intelligent sci fi may be tough sledding
for American baby-boomers reared on giant spiders and rampaging
lizards. Based on a novel by one of Europe's premier fantasy
writers, Stanislaw Lem, this East German/Polish co-production
deserves kudos for endeavoring to feature minorities. Black,
Asian and female astonauts are showcased prominently. Unfortunately,
awkward dubbing and muddled storytelling undermine the film's
credibilty. It's most striking attractions are sets and
effects that greatly resemble the impressionistic science
fiction paperback art -- particularly that of Richard Powers
-- on newsstands at the time of the movie's release.
Flight to Mars (1951)
A juicy color
print of this early entry in the outer space sweepstakes
is once again available. Featuring a hearty assemblage
of comfortable B film faces -- Cameron Mitchell, Arthur
Franz, Marguerite Chapman, Virginia Huston -- this flick
is a glowing example of the sincere space naivete that
lends so greatly to the charm of sci fi films of this
vintage. When a flack-jacketed troop of explorers lands
on the red planet, they encounter conniving Morris Ankrum
and his Martian minions, outfitted in the same crayola-colored
flight suits from Destination Moon. Their civilization
is dying and escape earthward is their final recourse.
A great deal of fun despite the fact that nothing much
really seems to occur.
The Giant Behemoth (1959)
on video in the wake of Spielberg's anxiously-awaited Jurassic
Park sequel, this weak entry in the rampaging dinosaur
chronology is likely to make few waves. The historical importance
of the film rests on the credentials of its director, Eugene
Lourie, a former art director who helmed three of the best
remembered giant lizard flicks -- Beast From 20,000 Fathoms
(1953), Gorgo (1961) and The Giant Behemoth.
The latter two are British-made and their rushed special
effects don't hold a candle to Ray Harryhausen's groundbreaking
Beast. Crusty Gene Evans is the token American tossed
into a cast rounded out by Andre Morell and Leigh Madison.
an eminently watchable cast, and a truly offbeat animated
menace, this strangely engrossing slice of sci fi has been
re-released on video. Shock film stalwart Jeff Morrow (The
Giant Claw, This Island Earth, The Creature Walks Among
Us) is on hand to combat the energy-guzzling alien titan,
but John Emery nearly steals the show with a sly performance
as a possessed professor. Kronos itself (himself?)
is rather unique to low-budget sci fi. The gigantic robot
is little more than a stack of boxes with an antenna plume,
and his animated ramblings are far from convincing. But
his very inhumanity coupled with the burbling, futuristic
sounds he emits make for an enjoyably foreboding presence.
Ten bucks to anyone who really understands the scientific
theory postulated by Morrow that leads to the monster's
die-hard Hammer completists will rejoice at the letterbox
release of this, one of the studios more dubious offerings.
Not to be confused with George Pal's equally confounding
Atlantis: The Lost Continent, the sunken civilization
featured in this filmic misfire is a platoon of Spanish
conquistadors ensconced for centuries in an undersea kingdom
inhabited by giant crabs and humongous men 'o war. Eric
Porter and Hildegard Knef are among the hapless cruisers
who tumble to the Spaniard's predicament. While credibility
is rarely an issue when viewing films concerned with mythical
civilizations, situations herein are never less than farcical,
and most assuredly not scary.
Missile to the Moon (1959)
Cunha maintains it was Astor Pictures that suggested he
remake their notorious schlock masterpiece Cat-Women
of the Moon. Cunha's film may not be intrinsically
better, but it is every bit as fascinating. Missile
to the Moon is a genuine melting pot of the B movie
cliches we've come to love -- cardboard rockets, giant
spider puppets, leering juvenile delinquents, lumpy, shambling
rock men and a bevy of slinky beauties living on a manless
world. And what a cast -- Richard Travis, Cathy Downs,
Tommy Cook, Nina Bara, Gary Clarke, Leslie Parrish. Anyone
looking for credibility will be sorely disappointed. Anyone
looking for a good time will wear this tape out.
Navy vs. the Night Monsters
A glowing example
of a film that was made ten years too late, this groaner
is made watchable by an eclectic cast of TV and B film
vets who should have known better. Anthony Eisley and
Bobby Van take turns being irksome, and Billy Gray, beloved
as Bud on Father Knows Best, has his arm ripped
off by an acid-spurting, walking weed. The film also signifies
the start of phase two in the career of bleached bombshell
Mamie Van Doren. As a top-heavy nurse, she's swapped her
slinky teen apparel for Navy issue whites, her trademark
flaxen locks cut into contemporary modish bangs. The night
monsters themselves, leathery plants that move at a snail's
pace, aren't much to speak of, their shock value stymied
by the film's equally leaden pacing.
From Space (1953)
curiously mordant sci fi exercise was the work of W.
Lee Wilder, who directed such moribund grade Z outings
as Snow Creature, Man Without a Body and Killers
From Space. Lee Wilder's stubbornly humorless approach
to film making stands in marked contrast to that of
his brother Billy who, during roughly the same period,
snatched up a closetful of Oscars fro comic classics
like The Apartment and Some Like it Hot. Phantom
is arguably Lee's best film, enhanced somewhat by location
shooting at the Griffith Observatory. The film's one
memorable quality stems from Wilders relentlessly poker-faced
storytelling -- which is kind of creepy in itself.
Project Moon Base (1953)
For purely historical
reasons, this one makes the cut. For decades, this film
fell into what many believe was deserved obscurity. Laughably
cheap and ludicrously acted, it was originally pitched
as a TV series and is most enjoyable when viewed as a
companion to Rocky Jones, Tom Corbett or Captain
Video. Set in the future (1970), its novel touches
don't quite redeem its inadequacies, but are noteworthy.
The commanding officer is a woman (Donna Martell) as is
the President of the United States. These sociological
breakthroughs are undermined, however, when General Hayden
(I Dream of Jeannie) Rorke threatens to spank the
female colonel for insubordination.
Quatermass and the Pit (1967)
Arguably the best
British sci fi film ever is now available in letterbox
format, retaining its original widescreen integrity. Released
in the U.S. as Five Million Years to Earth (whatever
that means) it easily qualifies as one of the most intriguingly
and intricately plotted science fiction films -- Prof.
Quatermass (Andrew Kier) discovers the remnants of an
alien civilization beneath the London Underground, protected
by an unrelenting evil force. The best of the Quatermass
series (and its predecessors were quite good in their
way) an able cast is sparked by Hammer maiden Barbara
of Outer Space (1958)
well-deserved reputation as a camp classic precedes
the "official" video release of this hastily
cobbled tale of a female space rebellion. Kitsch icon
Zsa Zsa Gabor leads the fractious faction of Venusian
females. It seems the women of Venus have long ago elinamated
any need for men, and the forced landing of Eric (Rawhide)
Fleming and his quizzical crew tends to undermine their
steely celibacy. Director Ed Bernds (World Without
End, Valley of the Dragons and numerous Three Stooges
shorts) annexed sets, costumes and various bits of previous
films to fashion this farrago. Zsa Zsa, in slit gown
and Rodeo Drive coiffure is the only woman on Venus
with a Hungarian accent.
Satan Bug (1965)
Anhalt and James (Shogun) Clavell scripted this
cautionary saga exploiting the potential dangers of
biochemical research. All samples of a horrifically
toxic serum vanish from a secret government lab and
the thief proceeds to wipe out a portion of Key West
as a demonstration of his new-found power. George (Route
66) Maharis is called upon to crack the case. This
quintessential 60s pot boiler, crammed with garish colors
and zippy crane shots, was directed by John (Magnificent
Seven, Great Escape, Gunfight at O.K. Corral) Sturges,
whose films are known for their careful building of
suspense. The exposition may be a trifle slow for some
tastes, but a top-flight cast (Dana Andrews, Anne Francis)
keep things interesting with canny Richard Basehart
delivering the script's best lines -- "I am psychotic,
but I'm not stupid."
A top-notch cast
sparks this thriller from director John Frankenheimer
(The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days In May).
A beleaguered businessman (John Randolph) gets a frightening
new lease on life when he's transformed into Rock Hudson
and begins encountering wrenching emotional conflicts
at every turn. Brilliantly photographed by James Wong
Howe, the final scene still packs a wallop. Character
veterans Will Geer and Jeff Corey enhance the ambience
immeasurably. The video re-release is a European cut containing
several previously excised moments of nudity and whatnot.
Too darn long,
but pretty darn good.
Playmate Mara Corday aids Leo G. Carroll in the lab
as he conducts a series of growth experiments. John
Agar blows through town in time to tackle the horrific
result of Carroll's quackery, a man-eating spider the
size of a house. Young Clint Eastwood, his sneering
kisser nearly obscured by a flight mask appears as an
Air Force pilot.
a 1960s TV staple, this simply awful genre-bending fiasco
will once more be available in a crisp video print.
The film's uneasy combination of western and sci fi
themes is enough to provoke a few unintentional laughs.
Couple that with a "teenage" monster portrayed
by a forty-something stuntman and any wisp of credibility
flies right out the window. Saddest of all is the presence
of Anne Gwynne, once one of Universal's most promising
contractees, capping her career with this decidedly
dubious film. The plot scarcely bears recounting --
the shaggy, simple-minded monster, Charlie, is manipulated
by a calculating coquette into terrorizing the countryside.
Unknown Terror (1958)
Powers is a distraught wife scouring the steamy jungle
for her lost brother. Beyond a snazzy calypso number,
nothing much seems to happen in this curiously mordant
film. When at last we glimpse the titular man-eating fungi,
it's hard to imagine why the native populace is so terrified
of what looks to be nothing more than soap suds.
When Worlds Collide (1952)
Pal's disaster classic features beautiful Barbara Rush
in a showy role. Hardware, jargon and fabulous effects
are the dominant elements, but Rush was able to sharpen
her screaming skills for her appearance in It Came
From Outer Space.
of the Prehistoric Planet (1965)
Agar, once the dean of dubious cinema, had begun a slide
into relative obscurity by 1965. The following year
he starred in Larry Buchanan's indefensible Zontar,
the Thing From Venus. Having brought some measure
of respectability to any number of inadequate films,
it's sad to see him wander wearily amidst the ultra-cheap
sets that pass for the Prehistoric Planet. Even
sadder is sleepy Wendell Corey, mumbling his way through
a thankless role as a starship commander. And keep an
eye out for Adam Roarke, The Rockford Files'
Stuart Margolin and Merry Anders of The Hypnotic
Eye. Only the most devoted B movie maniacs will
see the film through to its 'twist' ending.
World Without End (1956)
A fistful of late-fifties
Allied Artists shockers are at last "officially"
available on video. Arguably foremost among them is World
Without End, a dystopic future, time travel tale with
a modicum of energy and a dose of cheap, gutsy gore. The
film chronicles a wayward space flight carrying a squad
of intrepid airmen to a future earth where nuclear mutants
live above ground, while the terrified beautiful people
dwell below. (Sound familiar?) Covetous female eyes are
soon cast upon Rod Taylor and Hugh Marlowe, manly vestiges
of the planet's fabled past. No stranger to low-finance
film making, director Edward Bernds cut his choppers on
Three Stooges shorts, and had little trouble churning
out myriad films of markedly microscopic budget -- Queen
of Outer Space, Valley of the Dragons and High
School Hellcats to name but a few.