Gamma People, The

Tagged: Film

Film (1956). Warwick Film Productions/Columbia Pictures (US)/Columbia Pictures Corporation (UK). Produced by John Gossage. Directed by John Gilling. Written by Gilling and Gossage from a story by Robert Aldrich and Louis Pollock. Cast includes Eva Bartok, Michael Cirida, Paul Douglas, Pauline Drewett, Leslie Phillips and Walter Rilla. 79 minutes, cut to 76 minutes in some prints. Black and white.

American reporter Mike Wilson (Douglas) and his English photographer Howard (Phillips) are travelling by rail through central Europe when their passenger car becomes detached from the rest of the train, rolling down a side-track to halt in the tiny Eastern-bloc nation of Gudavia. They are prevented from leaving; it becomes apparent that something unusual is going on. Some Gudavian Children, such as Hedda (Drewett) and Hugo (Corida) are genius-level; others seem severely mentally handicapped. The Westerners visit the country's dictator Boronski (Rilla) in his large mansion overlooking the capital City and are shown around by his assistant Paula Wendt (Bartok). Boronski, they learn, is a Mad Scientist who is showering the country with intense gamma Rays from an installation in the mansion. Deciding that maybe this is wrong after all, Paula tries to help the journalists escape; they are quickly captured and themselves exposed to massive doses of gamma radiation, together with Hedda. But Hugo, apparently Paula's brother, is upset by these proceedings: he turns on Boronski and shoves him off a balcony. The gamma-ray Machine goes wild, destroying the mansion. With the machine no longer operating, the children's artificially-induced Intelligence vanishes, leaving them normal youngsters again. At the conclusion Paula, Wilson, Howard, Hedda, and Hugo escape Gudavia.

The Gamma People is a minor film which shows that fear and misunderstanding of radiation were widespread in the 1950s, even if strongest in the US. Early sequences of slapstick comedy are poorly matched with later melodrama. Bartok had previously appeared in the sf film Spaceways (1953). [GFi]

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