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When viewing "Zombies of the Stratosphere " out of the context of the 1950's, it can be said that the serial falls short of avg. standards, but that said, if you have a Sat. afternoon to spend with your son, and conditions warrant you from going outside, then get out the popcorn, warm up the VCR, and pop in this adventure!!! While evil Martians(Zombies) plot to knock the Earth out of its orbit, with an Atomic(Hydrogen) bomb, Larry Martin and friends , outwit and out hustle, this dedicated group of Evil Doers, with 11 Chapters of car crashing , boat chasing, robot fighting, cliff hangers, that may amuse the over 35 crowd, and could delight younger viewers, whose Fantasy of Flight, is fulfilled, from those of us that are gravity challenged !!! Even the Female leads fight , and are not intimidated by the Outer Space villains !!! While the plot is so-so , this serial is very nostalgic , of a time when the future held so much promise, and the Universe, that was so close, still held so much mystery !!! Get the COLOR version, much more depth !!! Watch the landings onto the Spaceships, by flying humans, needs a little work !!! Enjoy !!!
The story/scenario for "Zombies of the Stratsophere" was originally
written to be used as the fourth episode ( of the eventual twelve) of
the Republic-produced "Commando Cody- Sky King of the Universe"
syndicated television 1951-52 production season series. The studio unit
that was doing the television series, under Associate Producer Franklin
Adreon, was also doing the serials (for theatre distribution) and after
the first three "Commando Cody" TV episodes were completed, then
started production on "Zombies of the Stratosphere" prior to finishing
the remaining nine Cody-TV episodes. On April 10, 1952, Adreon sent a
memo to all Republic Pictures Corporation departments advising that
certain character names in production number 133 (internal house number
for the upcoming serial) have been changed as follows: Commando Cody
becomes Larry Martin; Joan Gilbert becomes Sue Davis; Ted Richards
becomes Bob Wilson; Mr. Henderson becomes Mr. Steele and Hank becomes
"Zombies" utilized stock footage from various Republic serials, features and one western; all of the 17 flying sequences of the airborn-wired dummy came straight from "King of the Rocket Men.", and the uranium-smuggling airplane sequence was lifted from the Roy Rogers western, "Bells of Coronado," which is why Clifton Young (as Ross)and Henry Rowland (Plane Heavy)show up in this serial. Larry Martin's space ship was recycled from "Radar Men from the Moon", while the Martians flew a new model (created for "Zombies")that featured a transparent bubble-gum turret housing a ray cannon atop the fuselage.
Republic contract-player Roy Barcroft is not seen in the serial but his voice was heard on the radio (chapters 1 and 11) and as dubs for Ross (chapter 4)and Tarner (chapter 7.) There was a fabricated "Introducing Leonard Nimoy" added to the opening cast-sheet when this film was colorized in the '90's, a bit of revisionism catering to Trekkies. Republic Pictures Corporation itself did not pass out "Introducing" credits to players listed ninth in the cast.
Filming started on April 4, 1952 and was completed on May 1, 1952. The budget (expected filming cost of the production) was $172,838 and the finished negative cost came in at $176,357, or slightly four thousand dollars over budget. These were the real numbers and, of course, do not fit the revisionist definitions of budget currently employed by some websites.
This one (so to speak) is for lovers of the old Republic Serials, those
incredibly silly (by modern standards) episodic films that kept our
parents or grandparents coming back to the Saturday matinée week after
week. Produced on budgets not much larger than Ed Wood ever had, and on
sets sometimes recycled from film to film, they still offered a weekly
dose of action and adventure in the days when those terms were not
synonymous with earth-splitting explosions, computerized special
effects, and "I'll be back." The plots were straightforward; of course,
most a/a genre films are simple of plot even today, but there is
something about these old cans of cheeze that satisfies more than
constant viewings of "Terminatorsaur" and "Predatalienator". The goods
guys wear white hats (so to speak) and smell good; the bad guys wear
black hats and stink of cigarette smoke; and the simplicity of the 'fex
are lovely in themselves. Yeah, things still blow up and burn down, but
that is still a function of a/a films, I guess. The logic is, bigger
isn't always better, and the serials prove the point.
In this Saturday-morning peanut-gallery special, the plan is for the aliens to blow up Earth, so that Mars can take its orbital place and get warm. Out to foil them is Larry, a "security agent," armed only with a .45 and a miraculous suit that lets him fly through the air just by twisting knobs (and jumping on a hidden trampoline for the initial takeoff). Can he stop the terrible zombies from completing their dastardly scheme before the train runs off the track, he gets burned in a raging inferno, or the movie runs out of reels? Return to the theater next week for the next exciting chapter...or just keep playing the tape. Get plenty of popcorn, settle in for a Saturday with the kids to introduce them to what film really was like, and keep your eyes open for Leonard Nimoy, sans ears and "Live Long and Prosper", in an early film appearance!
One of the best-remembered of the serials, as well as one of the last ones (Republic stopped producing them in the mid-Fifties or so; check a specialist film-history Web site). Warmly recommended to all, unless you have no tolerance for cheesy sci-fi. I only hope it comes out on DVD eventually, and with Nimoy to comment on it or do a special feature!
Okay, so this is corny to the max. But I get a kick out of this stuff
I can't figure out why they called this "Zombies" as there aren't any zombies (except maybe the robot built by the guys from Mars). Zombies aren't even mentioned except in the last episode.
I do know most everybody in the cast had to get wet at some time or other in this production. They had the entrance to the bad guys hideout go thru an underwater tunnel. Sorta goofy eh!. Speaking of goofy---Larry Martin's rocket pack never fired (although he flew in it a lot---maybe it's invisible rocket blast).
The story is really simple: Guys from Mars want to set off a big H-bomb to deflect Earth out of its orbit so they can put Mars where the Earth was---to warm it up more I guess. They go thru all sorts of contortions to get materials for this project with Larry Martin foiling them at every stage. Lots of cars, boats, trains get wrecked in the process too---Usually at the end of each chapter. Many gunfights occur, along with the usual hokey fist fights in which everyone involved gets up and walks off with no bruises, blood, or even rumpled clothing.
Oh yeah. Mr. Spock was in this, but he didn't do much of anything except say "Yes, sir" to the big shot Martian goon. I think he attacked Larry Martin a couple of times in the underwater passage. Or maybe it was the other goon. It was sorta hard to tell with the goofy, sparkly costumes on that covered most of their heads.
Luckily I didn't have to buy this as I downloaded it from that www.archive.org site (I think all their movies are copyright expired or something so it's legal to download from there). Actually a friend referred me to that site saying "This stuff is your style." I think I'm getting a bad rep here! But I do watch a lot of this old, corny stuff. It amuses me and that's what I watch movies for.
Don't dis this too bad as it's good for a laugh or two. Outlandish costumes and goofy electronic gear will make you chuckle.
I didn't see any zombies in this movie (outside of the viewer....), but I did see Leonard Nimoy in one of his first screen credits. This serial style program which centers on the exploits of a rocket powered hero is a horrible movie, at least by modern standards, but it's so bad, it's funny and although I gave it only a 2 rating, it's campiness could almost make this one a cult classic! One of the funniest things is the control panel on our hero's chest. To go up, he rotates a knob to a spot labeled "up". To go left - you guessed it, he rotates the knob to a spot labeled "left". At the end of each scene, our hero is left in an impossible situation, only to have a slightly different take on that scene showing how he got out of it at the start of the next scene. Pretty funny! We sure hope he saves the damsel in distress and the Earth from those nasty Martians and the future Vulcan.
Solid followup to RADAR MEN, this fast-paced Republic serial pits federal agent Larry Martin against Martians hell-bent n blowing the Earth out of the solar system and into oblivion. Larry often dons the rocket suit to fight them, so we get lots of shots of him flying, and these scenes are quite realistic. The special effects team rigged a dummy on a wire and flew the thing several feet above the ground. The only catch is, Larry's not exactly a superhero and manages to get beat up and knocked out several times by his much tougher opponents. Also, he's a lousy shot with a handgun. So's everyone else, for that matter. No one ever gets shot. Also, everyone -- good guys and bad guys -- wear the same suits and fedoras, and they're all thin as rails, so at times it is hard to tell who's who. When they fight, they almost never lose their hats, the better to hide the stuntmen. Only the Martians are dressed differently. They wear what appear to be costumes from some old King Arthur movie. And they're green, of course. The amazing physical stunt work was handled by three of Hollywood's best stuntmen. It's wise not to watch this all in one sitting, by the way. Too much repetition of the flying scenes. There is a condensed, non-serial version from 1958, if you prefer. Regardless of what you're heard about colorization, make sure to watch this in computerized color. And watch for a young Leonard Nimoy as Martian No. 2.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*Spoiler/plot- Zombies of the Stratosphere, 1952. Martians land on
Earth and work with outlaws to used atomic methods to take control of
the planet for Mars. Govt agents fight to stop the takeover.
*Special Stars- Judd Holdren, Lane Bradford, Leonard Nimoy
*Theme- The Martians always have a need to take over Earth.
*Trivia/location/goofs- Early Leonard Nimoy camera appearance acting as a Martian 'henchman'. Many outdoor scenes shot at the Iverson Movie Ranch and rock formation called 'Garden of the Gods'. There are 'colorized' versions out in release. Not s enjoyable as original 'black and white'.
*Emotion- A enjoyable theatrical serial of the era with it's campy-ness and corny drama intact. You still can suspend your belief in this science fiction dramas. Well worth your effort to see this saga and you'l get to see what Spielberg and Lucas experienced while young that would influence their filmmaking genius today.
Around 1990 Television NZ screened a colourised feature of this serial. I've never seen any reference to it elsewhere. It ran about 100 minutes. Considering how bad some colourisations can be this one was quite good, being very similar to Eastmancolour in the tones but without the saturation.
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