= Highest Rating
remembered for its way-out Martian monsters, The
Angry Red Planet is low-budget '50s style sci-fi cheese
only in living color. It was produced by Sidney Pink and scripted
by Ib Melchior, the duo responsible for the giant-lizard-run-amuck-in-Denmark
saga Reptilicus (1961). In
this case Melchior also directed.
There are no opening credits to the film, not even the title.
The rocket bearing the first manned expedition to Mars, thought
lost weeks earlier as it approached that distant world, is detected
near Earth. Unable to establish voice contact with the crew,
ground control eventually engages the ship's robot guidance
system to bring it in for a landing at an air base in the Nevada
desert. (Thus we're treated to a prolonged control room sequence
padded to the gills with stock footage.) Only two of the four-member
crew are found alive inside: Dr. Iris Ryan (Hayden), flame-haired
female scientist, and Col. Tom O'Bannion (Mohr), the mission's
commander. Dr. Ryan is in a state of catatonic shock; O'Bannion
lies unconscious, his arm covered by a weird, parasitic green
slime that seems to be devouring him alive. The dead body of
a third crewmember, Prof. Getell, is discovered aboard the ship
but the fourth, communications expert Sam Jacobs, is missing.
Military authorities begin going through records of the voyage
for clues as to what happened but are frustrated when the tapes
keep coming up blank, as if erased. Doctors treating O'Bannion
hold out little hope of saving him unless they're able to learn
more. They also speculate on the strange alien disease possibly
spreading and infecting others. Dr. Ryan will have to be shaken
from her amnesia in order to tell what she knows. She is the
only witness, O'Bannion's
Ryan is revived with drugs to tell the tale, which is shown
via flashback. We get to see life aboard the spaceship and meet
the other characters during the initial voyage out. Les Treymane
(The War of the Worlds,
The Slime People)
plays Prof. Getell, the straitlaced egghead who designed the
Mars rocket (and sports a Three Musketeers goatee). Wisecracking
radioman Jacobs (Jack Kruschen) is a beefy "Regular Joe"
type from Brooklyn who's constantly hitting on Ryan in an amiable
form of Pre-Clarence Thomas sexual harassment. Then there's
Col. O'Bannion, all around smug bastard. Tanned
and kind of scrawny, he seems more lounge lizard than astronaut
as if he'd be more at home in Vegas partying with Dino and
Sammy than commanding an interplanetary space mission. He has
the annoying habit of addressing Dr. Ryan as "Irish" (instead
of by her name, Iris), which Ryan cheerfully tolerates along
with his flirting. When she playfully chides him about not using
"Iris" he smarmily replies, "When I call you
by name... you'll know it." We
had a harder time swallowing her attraction to this guy than
we did the cheesy spaceship set!
The ship finally touches down on the Red Planet and the
crew begins exploring. They discover a craggy, primordial landscape
obvious paintings bathed in a harsh, omnipresent reddish
light. (So this is "Dynamagic"? More about
that later.) They also encounter lifeforms which turn out to
be quite hostile. A Venus Fly Trap-like plant creature nearly
has Ryan for lunch; on the crew's next excursion they run into
the gigantic "Rat-Bat-Spider" monster for which the
flick is best known. (Actually just a marionette on strings,
the creature puppet has the body of a bat, the multiple legs
of an arachnid, and the face of a rat. As goofy as it obviously
is, somehow it works. Definitely nightmare fuel for little kids!)
Later the crew attempts to
cross a Martian lake in a small rubber dingy. From the boat
they spot a city on an island, with skyscrapers a half-mile
high. ("Those buildings just didn't grow... they were made!"
exclaims O'Bannion in another choice bit of dialog.) The attempt
to reach the island is abruptly thwarted by the appearance of
an battleship-sized, blob-like amoebae creature from beneath
the lake's surface, coming right at them. As the four haul ass
back to the rocket the huge leviathan its ping pong ball eyes
rotating 'round and 'round hilariously emerges from the lake
to grind across the landscape in pursuit.
Is some intelligent Martian mind controlling the beast?
Has the Earth crew triggered a defensive response by the beings
inhabiting the city? Is this where Jacobs and the professor
met their fates? How did O'Bannion become infected with the
Martian parasite? "Irish" wraps it all up of course, but you'll
have to see this spine-tingling (NOT!) space adventure to find
out for yourself. Why spoil it for ya?
Angry Red Planet is a pretty
bad film but undeniably fun. The monsters are silly, the special
effects laughable, the dialog pure cornball. (Jacobs develops
a Freudian thing for his monster-repelling sonic gun, dubbing
it "Cleo".) The crew's jumpsuits look like a janitor's uniform.
The gimmick used to sell the picture the
so-called Dynamagic process
used in the "exterior" shots of Mars
coloring all the frames a bright, hazy shade of red to help
disguise the super-cheesy special effects and matte paintings.
Paul Dunlap's music score, except for an entertainingly kitschy
"jazz lounge in space" number that plays over the
end credits, is lifted in its entirety from
And, cardboard as their characters are, the actors keep wonderfully
straight faces throughout. Mohr, Tremayne and Kruschen (also
in War of the Worlds) are all pros,
regardless of material. Spunky Nora Hayden gives an awkward
performance but she's rather appealing. There's a nice, surprisingly
pro-feminist touch at the end, too, when it's the woman
that saves the day instead of the top-billed "hero".
Usually in movies like this the gals, regardless of their PhDs,
end up making sandwiches and coffee for
the guys when not screaming in terror.
Midnite Movie release from MGM, The
Angry Red Planet is presented in fullscreen (1.33:1) format,
boasting a vibrantly colorful transfer befitting the subject matter.
(Maybe a bit too vibrant!) Print damage is occasionally evident
but overall the film looks terrific for its age. The Digital Mono
audio track is faultlessly clean. Optional French and Spanish
subtitles are provided. Typical of this budget-priced DVD line,
the only extra included is the theatrical trailer. Also typical
is the attractive and colorful packaging artwork.