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A Godzilla by any other name..., 29 April 2015

You know how it goes: if you've seen one Godzilla movie, you probably have seen all you need to see. And what that awkwardly written sentiment means is that these movies are pretty much the same each time out. Big difference? The ever-changing "other creature" that Godzilla must battle. Here, as the big guy Raids Again (!), he goes up against an unnamed angliosaur, which sort of looks like a downtrodden stegosaurus.

Godzilla is first spotted by a Japanese pilot named Tsukioka as the latter attempts the rescue of a fellow flier, Kobayashi, on a remote island in the Pacific. The two think they're all safe and sound when - suddenly! - they hear the resounding thunder of two mighty beasts fighting. Or, in this case, two well-worn plastic models, or perhaps a couple of guys in suits. It could have been either, frankly. At any rate, back in Japan, scientists explain that the original Godzilla, who was killed in the first film (don't act like you didn't know that), died as a result of an "oxygen destroyer"; sadly, the man who invented the device is also dead, and so are any plans. So that answers that. But does it? All's fine, with Godzilla still out in the ocean, minding his own beeswax, until he's rousted by the Japanese air fleet, which makes him head for the island nation. Directly for Osaka, of course, one of the few cities not affected by Godzilla #1. Godzilla wreaks havoc and kicks butt, and then the angliosaur - who they call Angilas, so I guess he wasn't unnamed after all - returns from the sea to battle Godzilla. Big fight ensues. Mass destruction. Lots of carnage.

Godzilla (who doesn't do any actual raiding)'s second movie was rushed into production, showing in theaters a scant six months after the first movie. Sometimes, it shows. The effects are comically bad, even by 1955 standards. The film's dubbed in English, so naturally the audio's a mismatch. The Godzilla suit that some poor guy has to wear is obviously a Godzilla suit - there are several shots in which the monster turns to a side but the suit doesn't. Perhaps a seamstress was needed on set. In other shots, a model was transparently used, as the monster has all of the physical range of poor Stephen Hawking. It's tough to get too excited about the action, but some of the flying scenes do hold up pretty well.

I needed so badly to see this Godzilla movie before I saw others, because of course one must see these things in order. Well, maybe not. Anyway, in this movie, the big fella is referred to as Gigantis. No, I'm not kidding. For reals, now. According to IMDb, this is either because Warner Brothers couldn't get permission to use the name (but it was okay to use in the title?) or because the producer of the American version wanted to give viewers the impression that this was an entirely new monster. Don't think he succeeded on that front.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Shallow, disappointing junk, 27 April 2015

Although interesting to look at, The Babadook is an appalling mess of a horror film, with irritating characters, a lack of genuine suspense, and a style that's more likely to evoke mild bemusement than sincere dread and terror.

The premise is a familiar one. Young Samuel (Noah Wiseman) is seemingly haunted by a spirit that no one else can see, and of course no one else believes said spirit exists, least of all his mother Amelia (Essie Davis), who's struggling with the sudden, violent death of her husband and sees Samuel's "ghost" as Samuel's way of dealing with his own grief.

Things kick into a higher gear when Samuel finds a book called The Babadook on his bookshelf. No kids' book this, The Babadook is about an out-to-get-you entity, complete with terrifying artwork and menacing words. It's so scary that Amelia can't stomach reading it all to Samuel. This ain't no ordinary book. The Babadook will come a-calling, first to the child in disguise and then to the kid's mother; then it'll just do it's haunting thing. The better to drive you insane, my dear.

Samuel begins to act out. I got the impression that he'd been having behavioral issues (likely stemming from his dad's death), but once the book arrives, those issues increase infinitely in intensity. He misbehaves in school, at the park, and at his cousin's party; at the latter, he pushes his obnoxious, teasing cousin out of a treehouse, which enrages his aunt. So much for family and understanding, right? Eventually, Amelia is able to secure some medication for Samuel to keep him calm, but soon the spectre of the Babadook is in her head, too.

A few points. First, even in recent memory there have been plenty of nobody-believes-I'm-being-haunted plots. Even with the children's book as a hook, this story is well worn indeed. But what really counts against it is that the kid is so over-the-top horrible from the beginning of the movie that it's nigh impossible to feel any real sympathy for him - until and unless the plot says it must be so. Samuel is, to put it bluntly, a real jerk. He's mean to everyone and disobeys his mom constantly.

Sure, we can explain this away by pointing to the dad's death (he died in an accident on the way to the hospital when Samuel was born) - but since he never knew his dad, it feels like the logic is twisting to suit a screenwriter's desperate needs. Samuel is so obnoxious that he spends about the first twenty minutes screaming "MOM" at the top of his lungs. I'm sure you parents out there can relate to how wonderfully appealing this sound is. It's so nice to be wanted.

When Amelia herself inevitably becomes haunted by the Babadook as well, things get progressively worse. She's angry! She's normal! She's loving! She's cruel! She's seeing things! She's experiencing reality! It's a whirlwind of lazy, lazy writing. And, true to the trope, no one believes Amelia's claims that Something is happening - not the school, which clearly doesn't care about Samuel's well being; not her sister, who doesn't stop to consider that Amelia may truly need her help; not the Child Services people, who drop in unannounced and have no idea why this person is cleaning the kitchen because of a hole in the wall that doesn't exist. No one cares. Maybe that's because everyone involved saw the first part of the film, in which neither mother nor son comes off as particularly sympathetic.

I got the impression that this movie merely needed a better director (than Jennifer Kent), writer (Kent), and actors (Davis and especially Wiseman). That's not asking too much, right? In the right hands, The Babadook would have been a stylish, Gothic psychological drama, but instead it's a run-of-the-mill plot sunk by aimless direction and a real lack of panache. There are just too many ludicrous scenes in this film to stomach. William Friedkin, of all people, claims that he's never seen a more terrifying film than this one; we can thus infer that Mr. Friedkin has never seen his own horror classic, The Exorcist.

Maleficent (2014)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Deep, dark, and delicious, 25 April 2015

One day a Disney exec wondered out loud about what would happen if they remade one of their classic animated films but told from the villain's point of view. His yes men thought it was a great idea, until one of them pointed out that if the villain was the main character, they'd have to find a way to make him or her more appealing, someone the kids could root for, rather than against. And that leads us to Maleficent, in which the baddie from Sleeping Beauty is not a simple conduit of pure evil but a glad fairy wronged by by a human lover who perseveres despite her negative nature.

For those of you not up on your Disney, Maleficent was the wicked fairy who placed a curse on the infant Aurora, the daughter of the king who'd once held Maleficent's heart. The curse stated that on her sixteenth birthday, Aurora would be pricked by a spindle of a spinning wheel and then fall into a deep slumber that could only be broken by true love's kiss. Much of that plot structure is intact here, but we get to witness it all through the eyes of the fairy herself, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie).

At the story's outset, Maleficent is a winged fairy at one with the land and her ethereal companions. She laughs, they laugh. She protects them from harm, they laugh. It's all very symbiotic. And then one day a young boy wanders into the moors that the fairies call home - a boy named Stefan. They laugh a lot together, too, and they become close friends over the years. Then, as a young man, Stefan hopes to be named successor to the king whose realm surrounds the moors (a king who is dying thanks to the injuries inflicted upon him by Maleficient after his army attacked); the king says that whoever can defeat Maleficient for him will be the new ruler. So, despite the many years of laughter and love, Stefan decides to betray Maleficent, and that's when stuff gets truly deliciously dark.

For kids who saw the '59 animated movie, Maleficent was indeed a forbidding character but still manageable thanks to the cartoon nature of the film. Jolie's Maleficent is a little more terrifying. I don't know if kids today are just more jaded, but I think if I were eight years old I'd find this particular evil fairy the stuff nightmares are made of. Maleficent has large horns emerging from the top of her head, deep-red lipstick, and wicked, wicked eyes. She's not one to be trifled with. She also has what your English teacher might describe as "verve." Or maybe you would, if you're British or pretentious, or both. Anyway, grown-up Maleficent not only wields very powerful magic, she's defiant, defensive, and scheming. Add to that the fact that she's been spurned, and you have a perfect storm for a whole lot of revenge being dished out.

Now, in contrast to Sleeping Beauty, in which we witnessed Aurora's adventures through the prism of three bumbling (but well-intentioned) pixies, this trip is more about character growth. Look, it's a Disney film, so good things are probably going to carry the day. But it's not as if the well-known fairy tale is being treated as gospel, either. Because of the shift in perspective, some tropes common to Disney animated films are tweaked just a tad.

Jolie is amazing in a dominating (naturally) performance. Elle Fanning, as the teenaged Aurora, is fine in an understated (and understandably underwritten) role. Sharlto Copely plays Stefan, who transforms from a kind romantic to a caricature of Howard Hughes by the time the denouement arrives. (He's still pretty good, though.) But Jolie is the only actor who matters here, and this is a tour de force for her. It's a fun, intense role for her, and she doesn't dilute her character's ferocity by vamping. The visual effects, though, help mask the fact that this is a one-woman show. All of this adds up to a really well done live-action reimagining of a Disney classic, which is not a phrase one would have expected to type even five years ago.

Cuts like a knife, 22 April 2015

Are you looking for a trashy, earthy junky film? Switchblade Sisters promises to be a highly exploitative movie about a gritty girl gang, and it more than delivers on that promise. All of the indulgences of 1970s cinema are on florid display, from the earthy violence to the big, unkempt hair to those stereotypically bullhorn-loud outfits. This is no subtle film - it's brash trash.

The plot's as straight as Cher's hair (then, anyway): the aforementioned gang, called the Dagger Debs (they're sort of the ladies' auxiliary of an all-male gang, the Daggers), harasses an innocent waif named Maggie. Maggie, though, kicks ass, so the girls decide (after the usual you-must-prove-yourself act) to accept her as their own. At least their leader, Lace (Robbie Lee) does. Her #1 cohort, Patch (Monica Gayle) has plenty of reservations about the new meat, probably because she's jealous about how much attention Maggie (Joanne Nail) is getting from Lace. And that might be because Patch wears - go on, guess - an eyepatch. Kind of makes her look badass, but I bet she's a little self conscious about it, too. Fun fact: Quentin Tarantino was such a huge fan of this film that he modeled the character of Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) in the Kill Bill movies after Patch.

Anyway, like even the most outrageous premises, one must not only suspend disbelief but expel it for the duration. All of the kids - who are indeed in their late teens or early twenties in real life - look like they're in their forties. Or maybe it's the hair. The Debs and the Daggers attend a high school where they rule the roost. I don't mean just stuff like taking nerds' lunch money. I mean gambling, prostitution, extortion, whatever it takes to get by, man. The principal, who's not really their pal despite his title, tells the head Dagger, Dominic (Asher Brauner) that Dom's chief gangster rival, Crabs (Chase Newhart) is transferring to the high school, and would Dom mind sharing a bit of the action? Ha, ha, it is to laugh, at both the proposition and Newhart's receding hairline. The Daggers try to play it cool but are attacked anyway by Crabs' gang. The big fight scene takes place in - no kidding - a roller skating rink, where members of both gangs zoom around the floor with the greatest of ease. That's when the good violence begins and things get messy, as in bloody, as in over the top.

It's hard to call this a terrible film, because it is exactly what it pretends to be. There's nothing highbrow about this production. Even some of the acting is pretty good, although there aren't any "names" among the cast. An Afterschool Special, this ain't. But would you believe, according to writer-director Jack Hill, this is actually loosely based on Othello? You can see the resemblance if you squint hard or have a terrific imagination. Switchblade Sisters has a rough-and-ready title, hot young women, lots of guns and knives and other implements of destruction, an insane fashion sense, and a whole lot of things getting smashed up. This is the paragon of drive-in movies, and if you don't know what those are, ask your grandfather.

Crank (2006)
Statham, even faster and furiouser., 21 April 2015

Crank is a riotous piece of work. It's devilish in its simplicity and delivers pretty much exactly what its title and premise promise - a high-octane bundle of testosterone, adrenaline, and nerves that dominate what should have been a wholly unmemorable action movie.

Face it, if this had come out in the 1980s, it'd have starred Steven Seagal and an army of indistinguishable villains and damsels. Instead it came out this century, and although Jason Statham is no Mel Gibson, he's also no Steven Seagal. Here, he's notorious hit man Chev Chelios, who's just been poisoned by a rival baddie with a designer drug that will kill him in about an hour - or less, if his heart rate slows down too much. So it's kind of like Speed, only with a heart instead of a bus. Kind of.

Chelios is targeted by a guy named Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo), who's taking revenge for Chelios's killing of a local mob chief. While Chelios is sleeping, Verona manages to sneak in and inject our hero with a Chinese synthetic. He then helpfully leaves a DVD that informs Chelios of his plight.

At the advice of his doctor (Dwight Yoakam), who's out of town, Chelios strives to keep his heart rate elevated. He takes cops on a chase through a mall, just like in The Blues Brothers! He parkours! He runs through a hospital! He steals a cop's motorcycle! He has public sex! He's insane! Amy Smart plays his girlfriend, Eve. Eve isn't terribly bright (she has no idea Chev is a hit man) and probably is afflicted by ADD, but she's nice and can be a little dangerous, too. Smart was a, uh, good choice to play the role. Thank goodness Tara Reid didn't get involved here.

The pace is frantic, with a lot of racing about on foot and in vehicles. There are slow-mo shots, rapid-fire shots, close-ups of ultra-violence and copious blood. Heck, compared with all of that, the sex scene in Chinatown is rather tame. And Chelios, with poison coursing through his veins, is in vehicular accidents and fistfights galore but keeps on ticking. Why? Because he's Chev Chelios, that's why.

Crank is a super-stylish homage to those 1980s action movies, and the stern acting by Statham - wisely letting the comic moments occur around him, rather than trying to actually instigate them - pushes this one over the top. In a good way. Awesome movie for the real action junkies among us.

Ink (2009/I)
Don't cry over spilled Ink, 20 April 2015

In the visually fascinating Ink, teams of good and evil supernatural beings fight over the soul of one very unlucky little girl. Although the aesthetics are definitely pleasing, there is a lack of character development and a sometimes inscrutable storyline. In all, though, this is an intriguing tale.

It all starts when a hulking, cloaked figure named Ink steals into young Emma's room one night and tries to make off with her, only to run into a small squadron of good guys called Storytellers. Ink gets away, but a small drum he uses to transmit a secret code (which allows him to return to a different realm.

Ink wants to use Emma (played with great verve by Quinn Hunchar) as a way to ingratiate himself with the Incubi, beings that directly provide mortals of the real world with nightmares (contrasted with the Storytellers, who furnish people with sweet dreams). Ink is under the belief that he can overcome his overwhelming guilt and shame by becoming an Incubus himself. He does not reckon with a Storyteller named Liev (Jessica Duffy), who willingly surrenders to Ink in order to save Emma.

But, lest you think this is something akin to kid-fantasy movies like Labyrinth and Willow, there's a deeper theme to all of this other than those of atonement and reconciliation. Everything is connected, a sentiment to which good-guy Jacob (Jeremy Make), a blind Pathfinder (his title is sort of explanatory), certainly subscribes. If you want to prevent a particular future, you must find an item in the sequence leading up to that future - and then break the flow of events.

For me, Ink was one of those movies that seemed to make little sense at first. Gradually, though, I began to grasp just how fraught with meaning it truly was. So many questions occurred: Why is Emma so important to everyone? Who is Liev, and what makes her so special? Why do Incubi wear those creepy electronic monitors over their faces? Why is Ink so grotesque? And then, like finally being able to fold a fitted sheet, the battle comes to a remarkably satisfying conclusion. We don't learn everything, but the light shed in the final scenes is highly gratifying. The viewer may slap his or her head, wondering why they didn't piece it all together earlier, but that's the beauty of the screenplay by Jamin Winans (who also directed). The only real debit is that the movie doesn't delve too deeply into the motives or emotions of any of the characters, even the leads. Ink seems to only scratch the surface of a very intriguing mythology, that of the beings who fight to wrest away our souls by way of our dreams.

Fulci, torture, Fulcure., 14 April 2015

Note: no ducklings were harmed in the making of this film. In fact, there are no ducklings; the title is figurative. What we have here is a fine mystery coated with a sleek veneer of horrific blood, from one of the Italian masters, Lucio Fulci.

In this movie, a series of child murders has a small town in a tizzy - they blame the local witch, but the constabulary believes someone else is behind the mayhem. A reporter named Martelli (Tomas Milian), with sharp eyes and keen insight, lends support to the police, who are uncharacteristically receptive to his opinions. In any event, though, the killer remains at large, even when the citizenry has run out of obvious culprits.

The local witch, Magiara (Florinda Bolkan), is seen creating three dolls out of clay and inserting multiple pins into them. Is she behind the murders? What about dim-witted handyman Guiseppe (Vito Passeri), who had been relentlessly mocked by three of the boys? What about cosmopolitan Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet), who's hiding out in the village thanks to drug charges she encountered in Milan? None of these three are paragons of Catholic behavior, and of course the Catholic Church is, shall we say, Almighty.

There be blood in this movie that's not about ducks at all, and that's what Fulci's known for, anyway. It'd be much more shocking if there were no gore, really. But although the blood is anything but subtle, it is parceled out as if there were a national shortage. (Come to think of it, there's always a shortage of blood, according to the Red Cross.) Not only that, but much of the bloody violence occurs late in the movie, as the mystery is wrapping up. And it's a pretty suspenseful, too, as long as you don't ponder the possible suspects too long.

Milian is very good, as are Bolkan and Irene Papas (as the mother of the village priest), although the fact that the version I saw was dubbed into English, rather than subtitled. But the words and the facial expressions seemed to match, so it was a darn good dubbing. There was occasional histrionic overacting, but overall this hit the mark.

Best adaptation, 10 April 2015

This version of John Steinbeck's classic novel is the best, and it's due in no small part to the strong performances of both Lon Chaney, Jr. and Burgess Meredith. Which isn't a sentence you hear often, is it? Funny side note - all those years of watching Looney Toons, and I never recognized the references to Lenny from this film.

Of Mice and Men is about to wandering workers, Lenny and George, played respectively by Chaney and Meredith. Lenny is the tall, lurking one with a bit of a mental disorder, and George is the short, prickly, protective one. They've been traveling together for some time, with the latter helping the former out of trouble when his simple nature betrays him.

Here, they've been hired on as farm hands, toting bales of hay while dreaming of someday owning their own ranch and breeding rabbits. The son of the ranch owner, Curley Jackson (Bob Steele) is a short man with a short temper who takes an instant dislike to the looming Lenny. One of the chief hands is named Slim (Charles Bickford), who's a nice, laid-back fella, kind of the polar opposite of Curley.

Most viewers probably read the book in English class and therefore already know the tragic ending. But, as luck would have it, some of us didn't. Either way, I won't go into detail about that portion of the plot except to note that the ever-mounting conflicts in the story center around Lenny's childlike mind and manner and that Curley's wife Mae (Betty Field) is no help in the easing-tensions department.

Director Lewis Milestone squeezes a lot of blood from Chaney and Meredith. It's not surprising that this role led to Chaney's getting several likable-monster roles (he'd appear in The Wolf Man a couple of years later). For Meredith, this was probably his best role until playing The Penguin in TV's Batman. But I can't say enough about their performances.

So should you read the book or see the movie? Yes. Yes, you should. And then, you should write a 400-word essay about how the two compare. Please submit them to me by April 30, 2015.

Good throwback horror, 7 April 2015

In 1956, the Universal horror series was a fading memory, and the Hammer horror series was just underway. The Black Sleep straddles the two eras very nicely, with a simple spooky plot set in an old castle with a mad scientist, and the cast is a real dream team.

Basil Rathbone plays Sir Joel Cadman, a doctor of some repute, who has invented a medicine called nind andhera, which puts the patient into such a deep slumber that he or she appears to be dead. Sir Joel does this in order to claim the corpse and operate on the person's brain. With these experiments, he hopes to find out how to cure his comatose wife's brain tumor. Got all that? The story begins with Sir Joel slipping the medicine to a convicted murder, a Dr. Gordon Ramsey (Herbert Rudley); when the man is discovered dead in his cell, a shifty-looking gypsy (Akim Tamiroff) claims the body and brings it to Sir Joel. But he doesn't wish to operate on Ramsey - he wishes for Ramsey to assist him. Even mad scientists need some help, you know.

Present at Sir Joel's castle/estate (complete with hidden entrances and staircases) are some interesting characters: Mungo (Lon Chaney, Jr.), who used to be a doctor but is now more of an Igor/Quasimodo hybrid; Casimir (Bela Lugosi), who's mute; Bohemond (John Carradine), who thinks he's a crusading knight; and a Mr. Curry (Tor Johnson), who has a connection of his own with Dr. Ramsey.

Watching Tamiroff's character Odo, I couldn't help but think he exhibited mannerisms similar to Peter Lorre. Sure enough, Lorre had been offered the role first, but ultimately the filmmakers couldn't meet his price tag.

Sure, there's no Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Cushing, or Christopher Lee, but that's still an impressive list. And the thing of it is, they all make this work. Rathbone is a great condescending, self-absorbed, driven science-type, and even though Lugosi and Chaney, Jr. don't speak (seriously), they own their scenes as well. This was actually Lugosi's final film, too; he was nominally in Edward D. Wood Jr.'s Plan 9 from Outer Space, but since he died during filming, archive footage and a stand-in were used instead. He and Tor Johnson had been in Bride of the Monster (Wood again) the previous year, and Lugosi and Rathbone had been in Son of Frankenstein back in 1939.

The Black Sleep is a terrific throwback to those dusty-castle movies, complete with monsters (hint - man is the real monster!), pseudo science, and a damsel in distress. See it for some old-school scares; see if for Tamiroff's comic relief; see it if you want to feel nostalgic for horror legends.

A sign of its times, 5 April 2015

Well, I'll give the film makers this much credit: the planet sure seems angry. And quite red, for that matter. This is fairly typical low-budget 1950s sci-fi right here, complete with shoddy effects and no more than a passing knowledge of science, or even the laws of physics. It's about a manned mission to Mars in which stuff goes wrong, which is a theme that shows up even in today's movies; here, it's told mainly in flashback by one of the survivors.

Rocketship MR-1 (you know, for Mars Rocket 1) blasts off with four crew members on board - Tom O'Bannion (Gerald Mohr), Iris Ryan (Naura Hayden), Theodore Gettell (Les Tremayne), and Sam Jacobs (Jack Kruschen). A couple of days later, they land on Mars. To put that in perspective, if the fastest spacecraft around today left while Mars and Earth were closest to each other, it would arrive at Mars in a little over a month. That's if it's an unmanned craft, as the human body can't take super-duper fast speeds. But, okay, this was 1959, so we'll just have to accept that the writers were spitballing some ideas and didn't care if they fudged some numbers.

Contact is lost a couple of months after departure from Earth, and suddenly the MR-1 is detected in orbit around Earth (yeah, I know); immediately, the science types spring into action and return the rocket to terra firma by remote control. Which is totally a thing, at least in science fiction. Anyway, Iris staggers out of the ship and is essentially in shock, while one of her crew mates is rushed to an operating table with some green thing on his arm. It's up to amnesiac Iris to fill in the blanks for the doctors, who for some reason need her to explain just what in tarnation happened before they can do anything.

This is where the flashback comes in, as Iris is hypnotized. We learn, in quick order, that the ship did land on Mars. Upon landing, the crew note only vegetation - no, as they said, life. Plants aren't life, people! And if someone from 2015 told this crew that plants are, indeed, life, the answer would be along the lines of "well, not REAL life!" Anyway, the plants are there, and they appear to be completely still. This unnerves everyone, particularly Iris, who as the lone female is prone to emotional outbursts, not like the manly and/or thoughtful men on board.

Much of the movie was shot in Cinemagic, a process that was supposed to simulate hand-drawn animation. It doesn't really work to that extent, but the scenes on Mars do have a very strong reddish hue to them. Seems appropriate. But here are a few other interesting bits that this laugher provided. 1) while the crew is on board their ship and looking out of the portholes, the sky changes from red to blue and back again between scenes. I'm not sure if the blue was supposed to mean daytime and the red was night, but even in 1959 people knew why the sky looks blue to us. 2) While on Mars, the crew encounters what they call a lake (although it's massive enough that "ocean" would have been the first thing to pop into my mind), so they come back later with a - wait for it - inflatable raft. Just the kind of thing you'd take onboard a spaceship that needs to be as lightweight as possible to escape Earth's gravitational pull. And then 3) about that gravity. The ship itself appears to have plenty of it, as no one's floating around. Understandable, since it would probably break the budget to turn on the antigravity in 1959. Mars also has plenty of it. In fact, it's the same gravity Earth has! Neat little coincidence.

But sure, this was 1959, and the extent of outer-space exploration was...what, Yuri Gagarin? We can let them slide on a lot of this science stuff. Science is for nerds, right? Let's see this crew take on the aliens! Which they do, and spoiler alert, the aliens aren't at all pleased we're on Mars. After a while, you can kind of see their point.

The Angry Red Planet is a relic of its era; it's light on facts, light on humor (other than the forced or stereotypical kinds), light on drama, and just plain light overall. Even the tone is light. I did get a kick out of the prehistoric Mission Control, which consisted of a bunch of people crowded around one terminal. Who knows how big the mountain was that housed the actual computer. Gerald Mohr, who plays the crew's commander, is sort of a poor man's Peter Graves and looks like a poor man's Humphery Bogart, which is why he was hired. Kruschen, who plays Sam the warrant officer (why?), is your garden variety comic relief. He's even from Brooklyn, which means he's got your back and just let him at those aliens! Tremayne, who had had a long, illustrious career in radio by this time, is the requisite "thoughtful scientist" on board; Iris is also a scientist, but everything she says is dismissed, because she's a woman.

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