Outer Space Jitters

Tagged: Film

Short US film (1957). Columbia Pictures. Directed by Jules White. Written by Jack White. Cast included Emil Sitka, Gene Roth, Philip Van Zandt, Dan Blocker, Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Joe Besser. 17 minutes. Black and white.

The Three Stooges (at the time Howard, Fine and Besser), have landed on Venus with Professor Jones (Sitka) and promptly discover that the Venusians are planning to conquer Earth with legions of Zombies. (Dan Blocker, the future star of the western series Bonanza [1959-1973], can be observed as one of the zombies.) After being diverted by women charged with electricity and menaced by a zombie, the Three Stooges disable the device that creates zombies and appear to have saved the day; but audiences then learn that all of this is only a bedtime story they are telling to babies. Still, when the regular babysitter arrives, she looks exactly like the Venusian zombies, suggesting that their account is not entirely fictional.

Although the Three Stooges interact with sinister Martians in The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962), they never travelled to Mars, always preferring Venus: here, in their earlier short Space Ship Sappy (1957), and in their first feature film Have Rocket, Will Travel (1959). This may simply be because, even in the 1950s, it was becoming apparent that visitors to Mars would need to wear spacesuits (see Spacesuit Films), while filmmakers could still posit that Venus possessed an Earthlike atmosphere, enabling the Three Stooges to quickly dispense with spacesuits and carry on with their usual comic business without the encumbrance of wearing bulky garments. This short film is yet another example of the common tendency to import tropes from horror (see Horror in SF) into science fiction settings, including Zombies, Vampires, and demons (see Gods and Demons), as observed in such films as Queen of Blood (1966) and Doom: Annihilation (2019). One also wonders why, in contrast to the Martians who are often depicted as benevolent, the Venusians in films are generally sinister, perhaps because both their planet and their inhabitants are regularly portrayed as almost identical to Earth and its fallible residents. [GW]

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