Being a shitty movie fan is most rewarding when some obscure piece of cinematic ineptitude turns out to be entertaining. It’s impossible to know beforehand how one will react to a shitty movie. Every entertaining shitty movie is an unexpected surprise — the reward that makes slogging through the muck worth it. Today’s ’50s flick is part of the muck.
Roger Corman was a better director than Bert I. Gordon. That’s obvious, of course. Roger Corman is a Hollywood legend, while Gordon is known only to us poor souls who like trash cinema. Corman’s reputation has been burnished by all the successful filmmakers that came through his stable, but he could trash it up with the worst of them. I mention Corman and Gordon in the same breath because today’s It Came from the 1950s entry is almost indistinguishable from the crap Gordon used to turn out. The only major difference is that Corman knew how to end a scene before things got too boring.
It Conquered the World was released in 1956, and was directed and produced by Corman from a screenplay by Lou Rusoff, who penned the execrable Phantom from 10,000 Leagues. This flick is miles better than Phantom, and it still stinks.
It stars Peter Graves as Dr. Paul Nelson, who works on a project launching America’s first satellites into orbit. One of his friends is Dr. Tom Anderson (Lee Van Cleef), a scientist disillusioned with the state of mankind. How fortunate for Dr. Anderson that he finds a friend in an alien being from Venus, one of the last of his race. The alien communicates with Anderson through a radio set in Anderson’s house. The alien is giving Anderson instructions to help pave the way for a Venusian takeover of Earth. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: It Conquered the World”
For today’s entry in It Came from the 1950s, we have a film that tries its best to resemble its poorer cousins, but the overall sheen of competence cannot be hidden.
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers comes to us via director Fred F. Sears and screenwriters Bernard Gordon and George Worthing Yates. Released in 1956, Saucers stars Hugh Marlowe and Joan Taylor as Russell and Carol Marvin. Russell is a scientist in charge of Project Skyhook, which is a series of unmanned research rockets launched into orbit. Carol is his wife and assistant. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: Earth vs. the Flying Saucers”
Universal had a hot property in The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and they understandably wanted to cash in on it some more. That led to a lazy sequel in Revenge of the Creature, and a silly mess in today’s ’50s flick, The Creature Walks Among Us.
Coming along a year after Revenge, in 1956, The Creature Walks Among Us is the first film in the series not to be directed by Jack Arnold. He had ambitions beyond directing b-flicks, if the internet is to be believed, so bowed out of the project. Directing duties were handled by John Sherwood, from a screenplay by Arthur A. Ross. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: The Creature Walks Among Us”
Regular readers know that we here at Missile Test love us some schlock. Especially the ’50s kind, with its cheap sets, hammy actors, ridiculous monsters, and short ties. At first glance, 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers would fit right in. But, this flick ain’t schlock. Oh, no.
American International Pictures specialized in crap, but even for AIP, this is a bad one. The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues is among the most tedious, least interesting films I’ve ever seen. It’s a monster flick that has more dialogue than a Merchant Ivory costume drama, and all of it is inane. There’s even a spy angle that does little more than stretch out the running time and subject us to more talking. And the monster? It’s a rubber suit, but it could just as well have been a statue for all the trouble Norma Hanson, who was in the suit, had moving around. Phantom is a direct challenge to a viewer’s attention span. If there is a smartphone within reach, I defy any viewer to watch this flick without picking it up. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues”
The folks at Universal Pictures must have been surprised when their 1954 schlock monster flick, Creature from the Black Lagoon, turned out to not only be good, but also a moneymaker. Turnaround was quicker back then, so just a year later producer William Alland and director Jack Arnold were able to premiere a sequel.
From a screenplay by Martin Berkeley, Revenge of the Creature follows another scientific expedition to the black lagoon. Nestor Paiva returns as Captain Lucas, the skipper of the boat the team takes. This sequence is brief. The creature is captured quickly and taken to the Ocean Harbor Oceanarium in Florida, to live out the rest of its days as the star attraction. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: Revenge of the Creature”
This isn’t W. Lee Wilder’s first film in this year’s Horrorshow, but I am getting sick of him in a way I never did with Bert I. Gordon during last year’s Horrorshow. Wilder’s films are no less tedious than Gordon’s, but unlike Gordon, Wilder showed no progress as a filmmaker. His films, in fact, seemed to grow more resistant to artistic growth with every one he made, and he still had eight more feature films to go before he called it quits.
The Snow Creature is an abominable snowman flick from 1954. Paul Langton plays botanist Dr. Frank Parrish, and Leslie Denison plays photographer and adventurer Peter Wells. The two of them lead a small expedition to the Himalayas to gather and study unknown plant species. With them are a Sherpa guide, Subra (Teru Shimada), and a group of porters.
One may notice that ‘Teru Shimada’ is not a Nepalese or Chinese name. It’s Japanese. In fact, all the Sherpas in this film were played by Japanese actors. They even speak their lines in Japanese. I wouldn’t categorize this as shitty filmmaking, but it’s definitely cheap, and perhaps lazy. I don’t imagine there were a whole lot of Sherpas available for a Hollywood casting call in the 1950s, but there has to be a better solution than just subbing one group of Asians for another and not caring if anyone notices. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: The Snow Creature”
This one is a classic. From 1954 comes Creature from the Black Lagoon. It’s the story of a newly-discovered species of humanoid fish and man’s efforts to hunt it down and kill it.
Directed by Jack Arnold from a screenplay by Harry Essex and Arthur A. Ross, Creature follows a small scientific expedition that sets off up the Amazon River in search of fossils.
The exhibition began at the behest of Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno), a geologist who discovered the fossilized remains of a hybrid fish/humanlike appendage. It’s a revolutionary scientific discovery. Maia needs support, however, to search for any further remains. He finds that support in Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning) and Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson), a pair of ichthyologists. Joining them on the expedition are another scientist, Dr. Edwin Thompson (Whit Bissell); Reeds’ assistant/fiancé Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams); boat skipper Captain Lucas (Nestor Paiva); and a gaggle of fodder for the monster. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: Creature from the Black Lagoon”
There’s something that must be gotten out of the way before getting to the review proper. This film features an early scene with an Air Force jet flying around. Its call sign is “Tar Baby 2.” Yep. Tar baby is one of those terms that the people who use it insist is not racist. But, come on. It’s a very evocative term. I bet it was evocative in 1954, when this film was released, as well. Whatever the context and whatever the time, hearing it will make a modern viewer’s head turn, and is yet another surprise look into grandpa’s casual bigotry that these old flicks provide. Anyway…
Killers from Space is producer/director W. Lee Wilder’s follow-up to the terrible Phantom from Space. At least this flick doesn’t have the FCC driving around trying to save humanity. In this flick, that responsibility falls to Peter Graves, as Dr. Douglas Martin. He’s on the aforementioned racism jet as it circles a nuclear test in Nevada. All of a sudden, the plane crashes. Martin is given up for dead, but later he comes stumbling into town in a tattered flight suit. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: Killers from Space”