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Carl Benton Reid
An American reporter smells a story when he is stranded in an Iron Curtain country where the local dictator is using gamma rays to transform children into mutated henchmen. Written by
Marty McKee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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Extremely bizarre science-fiction film from Columbia has Paul Douglas and Leslie Phillips playing American and British journalists who accidentally wind up in a small European town, which seems to be ran by a strange scientist. After a slow start the journalist soon learn that the scientist is doing experiments with a gamma ray, which he's using to try and create geniuses. Of course, whenever the experiments fail he ends up with ghouls who will do all his evil deeds. I don't think anyone in their right mind would put THE GAMMA PEOPLE on any sort of "Best of.." list but you could possibly find it on several "WTF" lists. This is without question one of the strangest films to come from the 1950s because not only does it try to capture the horror/sci-fi genre but it also mixes in some very strange comedy as well as some political undertones. All of this stuff thrown into one screenplay just leaves the viewer scratching his head because it's impossible to really figure out what's going on or what the filmmakers were trying to do. The screenplay itself is a mess as it's all over the map and what's worse is the horrid bits of comedy that are thrown in. At times it almost seems like you're watching a spoof of a horror movie but then you get more ghoulish activity that reminds you that this is supposed to be a horror film. Speaking of ghouls, the monsters here are downright silly and it's doubtful the youngest viewers in the world would be remotely scared of them. Not for a single second are any of them scary and that silly walk they do makes one want to laugh more than anything else. With this strange blend of genres you're almost looking at a horrid movie but what saves it from the "so bad it's horrible" file are the strong performances and the fact that it's rather well-made. When I say well-made I do mean on a technical level because the direction holds the material about as well as one could hope and the cinematography is also quite nice. I'm not sure how much they had to pay Douglas to appear in this film but he does a very good job in the lead and plays it straight throughout. Phillips is also very good in his role as is Eva Bartok who plays an assistant who finally gets some courage to fight back. THE GAMMA PEOPLE has pretty much been forgotten over the years but it's certainly an interesting little experiment. It certainly doesn't work but fans of the genre will want to check it out just to see how strange it actually is.
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