Zontar: The Thing from Venus (1966 TV Movie)
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The whole film revolves around the home made "high power" radio set constructed by a misunderstood rocket scientist who intercepts the progressive jazz stylings + personal communications from Zontar, a three eyed cave dwelling goon from Venus who has come to the Earth to show us what a real communist revolution & takeover would amount to even without George Soros funding it. People are brainwashed, shot, strangled, and forced to wear inoperative wrist watches. None of the cars work, nobody can bathe or call their friends without the OK of Zontar in his cave, and only a chosen few are allowed amenities of life such as operating handguns and pretty young wives with pert breasts -- Ample reasons why the Soviet Union finally caved in once Russian men got their hands on Hustler Magazine. I mention the pert breasts because Mr. Buchanan appears to have made a career out of casting pretty would-be actresses in his movies based upon how much we would like to watch them remove their sweaters on camera, and once again he fits the bill here. There is something said to leaving it to the imagination.
Former Mr. Shriley Temple & John Wayne "Yes Man" John Agar actually looks credible as the rocket scientist hero of the film, who proves his dedication to mankind by first riding a bicycle on camera while wearing a suit, and then shooting his wife. So much for the pert breasts. Agar is famous for having been married to a former child mega star and appearing in a host of atrocious B horror/sci fi hybrids but here he actually manages to get some acting in, and by golly if he isn't more convincing than Mr. Cruise in the film mentioned above. I can believe John Agar would indeed be very concerned about a global takeover by a malevolent being from Venus bent on world supremacy, but I could not believe for one second that Tom Cruise was actually a mechanic from New Jersey and fathered children. I could see him having a cat, but not a job.
Back to ZONTAR though, what impressed me the most about this film was that the cast looked like they were totally committed to the project, and the main action consisted of a series of increasingly hysterical discussion scenes set in and around these Naugahyde and wood paneled 1960's track homes that people apparently allowed them to film inside of. Some of the conversations were sweeping in their epic scope of pitting mankind against the cruel, impartial and uncaring Cosmos, and nobody delivered a line that was meant to be anything less than movingly emotional or terrifyingly profound -- They talk like the Superfriends. Viewers who obsess over minutia like the phoney looking monster, the bizarre flying stuffed owl and amusing sight of John Agar riding a bicycle are missing the point of the film, which is that for questions on the mysteries of the Universe we would best be advised to look inward, lest we mistakenly gaze into the sun and be blinded. This movie was not just a low budget ripoff, but a warning, and I don't think it was heeded for one second. We are still doomed.
9/10 for making people think about it, even if what they think isn't very much.
The film is at it's most surreal though when John Agar trades in his cavalry mount for a bicycle, tooling around town in a business suit. His character is Dr. Curt Taylor, who gives it his all in trying to prevent Zontar's domination of earth, eight people at a time. But do you think he really had to kill his wife when she became a Zontar zombie? Gee, maybe he could have figured something else out before the picture ended.
It's amazing how sequestered every small town is in these types of flicks, the outside world is never heard from so it can lend a hand. At least The General (Neil Fletcher) makes mention of a Communist conspiracy to remind today's viewer of what was on a lot of people's minds back in the '50's and '60's. Can you believe that was so long ago?
Give Zontar credit though. He combines vacation plans with thoughts of global domination, preferring a locale noted for it's hot springs, with a bit of spelunking thrown in as well in the underground caves. Seems to me though he could have been more consistent with turning mechanical devices on and off at will. I guess he just didn't see that sting gun with the plutonium ruby crystal coming - too bad.
Hey, don't blink. Right in the middle of all the fun is a quick flash of a woman in a bikini for no apparent reason. It's one of the endearing scenes that make Zontar a blast, even if you don't believe in hyperspace hypnotism.
I recognized the familiar plot right away and later found out it it was a TV remake of 'It Conquered the World'. In this film John Agar played the role Peter Graves did in the earlier film. Poor John Agar, he went from being married to Shirley Temple and co-staring in classic John Ford Westerns ('Fort Apache', 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon') to starring in low budget made for TV B-films like this later in his life.
I had to laugh when Dr. Taylor (the Hero-John Agar) realized his wife was possessed by Zontar's mind control implant. He wasted no time in killing his beloved wife. Presumeably for her own good !. Geesh, would it have hurt to tie her up and TRY at least a little to see if there was a way to cure her? Who knows, maybe if he destroyed Zontar she would have returned to her normal lovable self. Or maybe he was looking for an excuse to get rid of her? (boohahaha) - "But judge, I had to kill her, she was controlled by Zontar a thing from Venus" -LOL.
There were a lot of little reminders in here of a number of other sci-fi films including 'Invaders from Mars' (the neck implants that control even loved ones) and 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' (humans replaced by aliens). But strangely enough it also reminded me of an old Dick VanDyke show episode. The one where Danny Thomas is an alien trying to conquer the earth and Laura Petrie (Dick's TV wife) is taken over and has a craving for walnuts :^D. I had to wonder if this TV movie and that episode came out about the same time.
There were some really silly lines of dialog to enjoy, like at the end where the narrator says how they learned that "Man is the greatest creature in the Universe"-gosh I hope not. Another funny scene was when the heroes car wouldn't run because all power to machines had been stopped, even a garden hose shouldn't work. Yet in the distance behind them you can see two cars driving by !
I also like the human traitor's outspoken wife and the way she charged into that cave to single-handedly try and destroy Zontar for making a fool out of her man. Evidently all housewives in the 60s kept pistols in the car glove compartment for just such an occasion. Sigourney Weaver has nothing on this lady, Go get um, Girl ! To bad she was ahead of her time and destined to fail by 60s sexist standards.
Oh and the FX when the laser weapon was used were funny too. It looked like a film negative or something flashed on the screen when they used it.
It wasn't a "good" film by any means, yet it was enjoyable at times.
I fail to see how John Agar was not nominated for an Academy Award for his work in Zontar. Agar's body of work in sci-fi movies is a monumental achievement in the history of cinema. Like many of history's great masters and works of art, Agar and achievements like Zontar are overlooked for centuries before they are appreciated. I think it will be many centuries before Zontar, The Thing From Venus is fully appreciated. 10/10
Mind controlling parasites were much more convincingly portrayed in later films like, "The Puppet Masters", and the whole "body snatcher" concept was already ten years old. The movie still conveyed the creature, not so much as an alien, but rather as a terrorist planing a plot to blow up the President. Tapping this, gives this cheesy production, subliminal bite. The writing was better then I expected. The dialog was for the most part concise, with the nonsense mixed with the sublime. ( I saw a funny boid. Indeed !)
Now then, go ahead and laugh at the funny looking monster, if only they had CGI, they cudda been a contenda!
I am a "bad movie junkie"--I love watching grade-z horror and sci-fi films of the 50s and 60s, so it's natural I'd watch ZONTAR. However, even for a bad movie, this one is really, really bad--B-A-D, bad!! Most of the reason for this is that it was apparently directed by a monkey, as it got the absolute worst performances from everyone. Rarely will you hear and see more robotic acting--with many "actors" clearly having difficulty reading their cue cards!! Keith, the idiot who works for Zontar and is the key actor is particularly inept. His delivery is just bizarre--like he's reading and has no idea what the context is--with no emotion or conviction. The General ain't much better--as, once again, he's clearly reading from a script and it's badly dubbed over his actions on several occasions. It's sad when perhaps the best acting is done by John Agar--the uncrowned King of Bad Films. He overacts and yells some of his lines, but at least he had emotion and energy--some things that few others in the film showed. The only other emotional actor is Keith's wife, who seems to think she's playing Ophelia from "Hamlet"--as she makes little soliloquies and behaves as if she's stark raving mad! As for the rest of the film, the plot has been done better many other times (especially in INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and an episode of "SCTV"), the sets are cheap, the "monsters" look like stuffed owls and the entire project has the look of a film made for YouTube by 12 year-olds! The only reason to watch this film is if you LIKE bad movies and want to laugh and marvel at the total ineptness of the film. Also, try watching Peter Graves in IT CONQUERED THE WORLD. ZONTAR is a remake of this earlier film, but it, too, is pretty silly stuff--and you have to see the monster to believe it!!