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The Angry Red Planet (1960)   Leave a comment

Angry-Red-Planet

The Angry Red Planet begins at mission control. The brass has just gotten around to retrieving the long missing MR-1 rocket. They last heard from the ship and its crew of four as it orbited Mars. They want the rocket back because it’s full of data. Since they assume the crew died ages ago—the dears, they bring the rocket back expecting an ugly surprise when they open her doors. Apparently it’s a snap to bring a rocket back from Mars. You just throw out a grappling hook and tow her home. Of course there are survivors and as they recuperate in the hospital, they tell their tale.

We meet the crew via flashback in their living room sized control center. They lounge on board sans breathing apparatus, make hokey remarks, and pose for the camera while eating canned goods on China. Les Tremayne as Professor Gettel, sports a pointy devil beard and buttons his top button so he’s the smart one. Colonel O’Bannion (Gerard Mohr) wears his jumpsuit unbuttoned to his waist and leers at Dr. Iris Ryan (Nora Hayden) a lot so he’s the hunky one. Sam (Jack Kruschen) has a beer belly and no title so he acts as comic relief.

The ship lands on Mars and, wearing their protective cotton/poly jumpsuits, the foursome go out to meet the neighbors. Dr. Ryan’s botanist/zoologist attempts to classify the various flora as they traipse through the Mars jungle. The flora don’t take kindly to classification though and that’s when the fun begins. I should note that the Mars scenes were filmed using Woody Allen’s red light bulb from Annie Hall and have an unexposed negative quality to them. It made the planet’s surface eerie, but also made my eyes burn. After a run-in with some large vegetables, the gang head back to the ship where they talk a bit and we see an exciting montage of people cleaning things and putting them in drawers.

Since they met with plant-based rebellion the last time, the travelers leave the ship for the second time with all the trepidation and preparedness of an expedition to the largest ball of twine. At least they bring machetes and a boat. Yup. They row across a vast Martian lake after testing the water, of course. The professor checks it for radiation and Iris swishes her hands in it so we know it’s safe. On the lake, they run into more Martian hostiles and a genuinely weird creature that makes this all worthwhile. Despite tons of inaccuracies and dialogue like, “The hell with radiation!  Let’s go!” The Angry Red Planet is entertaining as Hell. I love the idea that a space agency chose a female botanist for a landmark flight and she got attacked by a plant. I also loved that they brought a boat. This film had odd and original effects, a cool monster, and fun mint jelly-based injuries. It was worth watching if only to see another example of what filmmakers thought space travel would become. Ib Melchior directed just six films and this is a goodie.

angry monster
Ratbatspider

Queen of Blood (1966)   3 comments

Queen of Blood

An alien spacecraft sends a distress call to Earth moments before crash landing on Mars. Since it’s 1990 and the United States has a cadre of rockets at the ready for such an emergency, we send one up to see what all the fuss is about.

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“Have you tried wearing it down?”

A crew of five, including John Saxon and DENNIS HOPPER, flies up to Mars to save the day. They find one survivor, a female in a catsuit with a weird tulip hairdo and green skin.

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“Sure! Let’s bring her on board. What can happen?”

They decide to bring the alien on their spaceship because that always works out well. Before you can say, “Have you seen my cat?” Tulip Head gets hungry.

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“Perhaps a soupçon of O positive before bed?”

Dennis Hopper…let me repeat that, DENNIS HOPPER tries to feed the alien but she won’t eat the weird Soylent Green-like astronaut food offered her. Later we find out why. Her tastes run to liquid nourishment and no one in the crew is safe from her snacking. Instead of killing her or jettisoning her into space, they tie her loosely and try to stay awake.

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“Is there a Dunkin’ Donuts around here?”

As you might have guessed, she gets out and let’s just say, her efforts leave a few empty bunks in the crew’s quarters.  They still don’t kill her though because science (Basil Rathbone!) needs to study her and, oh crap, she laid eggs.

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“Game over, man.”

Director, Curtis Harrington made some nifty films for American International Pictures like Night Tide and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. He also wrote Queen of Blood and a number of other screenplays. You don’t have to look too closely to find connections between this film and a couple later, more famous science fiction favorites. This is a fun one.

jonesy-alien
“Put. The alien. Back.”

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