Film (1959; vt Invasion of Mars). American International/Sino Films. Directed by Ib Melchior. Written by Melchior and Sidney W Pink; story by Pink. Starring Gerald Mohr, Naura Hayden, Les Tremayne, Jack Kruschen. 83 minutes. Colour.
The first manned expedition to Mars returns to Earth with two crew members dead; a third, Colonel Tom O'Bannion (Mohr) clinging to life while afflicted by a mysterious ailment; and the fourth, Dr Iris Ryan (Hayden), traumatized and suffering from Amnesia. When she regains her memory, she describes how the crew landed on Mars and promptly encountered a succession of horrible Monsters – a carnivorous plant, a gigantic spider with a bat's face, and an amoeba-like sea monster that threatened their Spaceship, brought about the deaths of crewmen Jacobs (Kruschen) and Gettell (Tremayne), and infected O'Bannion with a strange disease. Also lurking about and observing the proceedings were humanoid but hideous Martians, who activated a Force Field to immobilize their spaceship. The Martians eventually allowed the ship to depart so that its surviving crew members could deliver a recorded message to Earth, which Ryan, the recovering O'Bannion, and other officials finally listen to; predictably, the enlightened Martians sternly warn that the primitive humans must never return to Mars, or Earth will be annihilated, an odd but not uncommon example of an Alien race's purportedly advanced moral code.
For the most part, this silly film is nothing more than a guilty pleasure for viewers who, as a respite from intelligent, thought-provoking sf movies, feel a temporary craving for colourful nonsense. Yet if for nothing else, one must admire director Melchior and his regular partner, screenwriter Pink, for striving to make their film seem distinctly imaginative, in ways ranging from its peculiar frame story to their unique visualization of Mars: the astronauts' scenes on the Martian surface are tinted a garish red, and the backgrounds mix actual sets and obvious artwork in a manner that makes this Mars look uniquely surreal and genuinely alien. It is a movie that one remembers when others of a similar ilk are long forgotten. [GW]
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