Archive for the ‘Mars’ Tag

The Outer Limits: The Invisible Enemy (1964)   7 comments


The rocket M-1 lands on Mars. Its crew of two congratulate each other on a flawless landing and a start to their alien expedition.

“Phew! We made it. It’s all smooth sailing now.”

Lieutenant Bowman (Anthony Costello) admonishes Captain Thomas (Michael Mikler) to “stay in touch at all times.” With that, Thomas heads to the surface of the planet to check the place out. Seconds later we hear a bloodcurdling scream and Bowman runs out of the capsule to rescue his comrade. Soon another scream pierces the silence, then nothing. Since communications are delayed by three and a half minutes, we get to hear the entire exchange again as ground control listens to the two doomed men.


Cut to three years later. It’s 2014 and the four-man M-2 land on Mars to explore and to find out what happened to the M-1. I can’t help thinking about the old joke. Q: “Why does the new Navy sail on glass-bottomed boats?” A: “To look for the old Navy.” Anyway, Major Merritt (Adam West) leads the M-2 and orders Captain Lazzari (Peter Marko) and Lieutenant Johnson (Robert DoQui) to go out and do some exploring. He too orders the men to stay in contact with the ship at all times. There are screams and men not staying in contact with the ship and bazookas and pretty soon, it’s a two man expedition.

“This looks friendly.”

Merritt and Captain Buckley (Rudy Solari) are ordered by their bosses on the ground to stay put and, you guessed it, stay in contact at all times. Merritt’s had a tough mission, so he takes a nap. This gives Buckley the ideal opportunity to, um, tool outside and not stay in contact and stuff. You see, Buckley has a theory (ahem ahem) and he’s just itching to try it out. Merritt wakes up to find Buckley gone (no comment) so he blows off his orders to go look for the captain. Martian hijinks ensue.

adam chat
“You didn’t even leave a note.”

I don’t want to give away the entire plot here, but I will say this is the only television show, film, or toothpaste commercial that scared me as a kid. The episode aired first on Halloween 1964. I watched it and most of the Outer Limits episodes as reruns in the 1970s. I remember sitting, mesmerized, on the floor watching the famous opening segment narrated by Vic Perrin. “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. we are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image; make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to The Outer Limits.” Yes! I’m ready, Vic!

Isn’t that the coolest?

As much as I enjoy The Twilight Zone and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, I’ve always considered The Outer Limits darker, edgier, and weirder. Like Serling’s and Hitchcock’s shows, Outer Limits starred a ton of film and television actors I knew. Robert Culp, David McCallum, Martin Landau, Bruce Dern, James Shigeta, Vera Miles, Ivan Dixon, Ted Knight, and Leonard Nimoy all starred in episodes.

adam west
…and Adam West!

Written for the magazine Imaginative Tales in 1955 by Jerry Sohl, The Invisible Enemy went through a few rewrites before filming began. Director Byron Haskin (Arsenic and Old Lace, War of the Worlds), producer Ben Brady, and the fabulously named Seeleg Lester also touched up the script.

So far I’ve mentioned everything but the thing that really scared me as a kid. It was a combination of the ominous music by Harry Lubin, cinematography by Kenneth Peach, who worked on the original King Kong, and special effects by Pat Dinga, who also worked on Bride of the Monster. The creatures in The Invisible Enemy were downright scary. They looked something like this.

open mouth outer
See! I told you.

piranha shark

These sand-loving piranha sharks move fast and have a great roar. They don’t seem to displace much of their odd, sparkly quicksand either which makes them hard to see coming. They’re also smart and a tiny bit territorial. This is their crap end of the universe and they’ll be damned if any buttoned-up astronaut types are going to swim in their pool. “Batman Shmatman!”, quoth the evil fish dudes. Well, maybe they don’t actually say that, but it’s implied.

“Dammit! I should have brought my utility belt.”

I love The Invisible Enemy for the cool story, well-done effects, original creatures, and because it brings back great memories of sitting, cross-legged on my living room floor getting scared. Fun stuff.

I wrote this for the Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon hosted by the lovely and talented Terence Towles Canote on his blog @mercurie80

Fun idea, Terry!


The Angry Red Planet (1960)   Leave a comment


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

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