Robot Monster, the gloriously stupid movie from screenwriter Wyott Ordung and director Phil Tucker, is legendary amongst shitty movie fans. And it’s for one single reason. This is the monster:
It’s a robot, but it doesn’t look like any robot that viewers know. Shot in a matter of days for somewhere around $16,000, there wasn’t enough time or money for the crew to come up with a decent robot costume. According to the internet, so it must be true, Tucker hired a friend of his, George Barrows, to play the robot, partly because he had a gorilla suit they could use. This has the smack of apocrypha, but it’s the type of guerilla filmmaking (heh-heh) I love. Whether this story be truth or fiction, what ended up on the screen cannot be denied. That is one of the most ridiculous movie monsters there has ever been. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: Robot Monster”
Today’s flick, an aliens-in-the-desert sci-fi cheapie, is about as thin as one of these 1950s flicks can get. It features barely more than three locations, and one of those is a hole in the ground. But it is notable for being the first 3D picture that Universal released, if the internet is to be believed.
It is possible to make a decent movie with a miniscule budget. But it takes, at least, a decent filmmaker to do so. W. Lee Wilder, unlike his brother, Billy, was no decent filmmaker. W. Lee Wilder, if Phantom from Space is any indication, was a corpse propped up in a chair.
Released in the spring of 1953, Phantom from Space looks super cheap. There are special effects in the opening scene showing a UFO descend upon the San Fernando Valley. It’s about the least convincing effect I’ve ever seen in a movie, and this reviewer has seen a lot of bad special effects. The effects in this flick are as bad as early Bert I. Gordon flicks. The only effect that really works is a floating space helmet, but that’s getting slightly ahead of things. There is a plot that needs explaining.
The aforementioned UFO has traveled all the way from Barrow, Alaska, to Los Angeles, and disrupted radio signals along its path. Now that it’s settled down in the valley, the Federal Communications Commission (that’s right — the heroes of this film are agents from the FCC) sends out units to track it down, as it remains a source of disruption. Meanwhile, reports begin coming in of a man in a spacesuit attacking and killing people at random. Witnesses report that there was no head visible inside the spacesuit. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: Phantom from Space”
What a gloriously stupid movie. Invaders from Mars, from screenwriter Richard Blake and director William Cameron Menzies, is a rather prototypical example of the films featured in this month’s Horrorshow. It’s cheap from the first frame to the last, and lacks self-awareness. What do I mean by that? The filmmakers took a look at how the bad guys were costumed — in skin-tight green fleece onesies — and decided that was acceptable. Seriously, that is what passes for aliens in this flick. But that’s not all. They also have faces painted green to match, with gigantic prosthetic noses and snow goggles. Tall men were cast in the roles, and Menzies had them run around the set like toddlers with arms held unmoving at their sides. It’s so silly that it becomes part of what makes this film memorable. Continue reading “It Came from the ’50s: Invaders from Mars (1953)”
Project Moonbase, the 1953 film from Lippert Pictures, is among the worst movies I’ve ever seen. That wouldn’t be surprising considering it’s from the Lippert stable, but this flick was written by Robert A. Heinlein, who used to hoover up Hugo Awards for his writing. Indeed, Heinlein threw in some smart stuff, but I’m not letting him off the hook for the rest of the garbage in this screenplay. Lest Heinlein take all the blame, Richard Talmadge was in the director’s chair, and he contributed much to this film’s failure.
It’s the future! 1970! Humankind is on its way to conquering the stars. But first, it must conquer the moon. An orbital mission of the moon is launched. Its objective is to survey the surface of the moon to locate suitable sites for a base. Leading the mission is Donna Martell as Colonel Briteis (pronounced ‘bright eyes’). Her second in command is Major Bill Moore (Ross Ford). Rounding out the crew is Dr. Wernher (Larry Johns), who is in charge of the actual surveying, as Briteis and Moore’s primary roles are as pilots.
Briteis may be commanding the mission, but this is a b-movie from the 1950s. While the filmmakers took the progressive step of making a woman the mission commander, they couldn’t quite escape the gender roles of the day. Briteis is whiny and emotional, and passes responsibility down to Major Moore with ease whenever it’s time for a man to make a decision. I’ve written many times in reviews about how it’s folly to impose changing social mores on the past, but this flick is outrageous. What a relic. Continue reading “Shitty Movie Sundays: Project Moonbase”
The October Horrorshow Giant Monstershow continues. Half b-movie, half decent monster flick, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms is a typical example of 1950s giant monster fare. Coming from 1953, the film was directed by Eugène Lourié, and is based, in an extended fashion, on The Fog Horn, a short story by Ray Bradbury. Continue reading “Giant Monstershow: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms”
Monsters, devil worshippers, demons, ghosts, sadomasochistic inter-dimensional travelers...it can get to be too much. It’s time for the Horrorshow to take a step back from all the gore and scary stuff and spend some time with some nice, wholesome alien invaders.
From 1953 and adapted from the famous HG Wells story, The War of the Worlds is not the first alien invasion flick, but it is prototypical. A mass surprise invasion by alien beings in possession of unstoppable destructive power threatens to overwhelm the world. The situation is dire, the entire world mere days or hours from being conquered. But, against the odds, and due to providence, luck, good old-fashioned American ingenuity, or a thorough lack of understanding of the laws of nature on the part of the aliens and the screenwriters, the invaders are vanquished. And I mean vanquished. No alien invaders ever just get beat, or end up slogging into insurgency warfare (with the notable exceptions of V and Falling Skies, but that’s on TV). Aliens in these flicks get wiped out, in total, usually in a matter of minutes. The denouement in these films, The War of the Worlds included, can feel a bit rushed. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: The War of the Worlds (1953)”