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A germ warfare lab has had an accident. The first theory is that one of the nasty germs has gotten free and killed several scientists. The big fear is that a more virulent strain, named The Satan Bug because all life can be killed off by it should it escape, may have been stolen. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
When Barret first enters the vault, he dials top combination lock. The door has two locks requiring a second combination (held by another person) to open. This is common in high security, i.e. 'No-Lone' zones to prevent one person from accessing the area by themselves. See more »
A very watchable film and a fine distillation of Cold War paranoia -
Despite all its obvious flaws I've always really liked this film and having seen it again recently (and having still enjoyed it) I wondered why it still held its appeal.
Yes, the plot groans a bit (for instance, the Anne Francis character, though well-played, seems to serve no purpose - except as a poorly explained romantic interest), the characters are one dimensional (well it is a suspense film and you can always use your imagination), and some of the motivation is a bit suspect; but this film still generates a real tension and sense of terror. It's a well-imagined, claustrophobic world of neurotic scientists, a secret state, disillusioned spooks, and isolated top-secret labs. There are good performances (especially Jon Anderson, Ed Asner, Frank Sutton, Richard Basehart - despite dodgy Austrian accent - and George Maharis) and a superb, tense score by Jerry Goldsmith that keeps the fear and suspense palpable. The action too remains tight but down-played; it does move forward at a reasonable pace but the emphasis generally remains on the realistic and the prosaic. This lack of the spectacular may be more due to the small scale of the production but for me it fits perfectly to the claustrophobic style of the film and doesn't detract from the plausability of doomsday-virus-goes-missing plot line; this is key to why the films' appeal has remained strong - the story seems all too possible (and hence frightening), and it certainly is as possible today as it was 40 years ago.
There are two other stars of this film that deserve special mention. One is the desert - I think much of the the filming was done around Palm Springs in the Colorado Desert. It looks truly beautiful and other-worldly (well if you're from London it does) but also desolate and lonely. Its emptiness intensifies the sense of paranoia and isolation and serves as a subconscious reminder to the watcher of the apocalypse that the Satan Bug could unleash upon mankind... the other star is a small flask with a red seal that requires just 4 lbs of pressure to break it... if I had to compile a list of the scariest things in cinema I think I'd place that little flask pretty near the top.
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