Thursday, October 24, 2013


The first manned expedition to Mars loses radio contact with Earth before it lands. Two months later, the ship is discovered in orbit around the earth. Ground crews guide it in and of the original four astronauts, only two are alive. One of them (Gerald Mohr) is unconscious with a nasty green growth covering his arm. The other (Nora Hayden) is in shock. Soon, she recovers enough to slowly piece together what happened on Mars. The four (the other two were goateed scientist Les Tremayne and soldier/worker Jack Kruschen) get all buddy-buddy on the way to Mars and everything goes like clockwork until they land. Hayden gets hysterical when she thinks she sees a three-eyed monster through a window, but she recovers and the four go out exploring. They find a big octopus-like plant that tries to eat Hayden, a giant rat-spider-crab creature, and an oily lake across which they can see a futuristic-looking city of skyscrapers.  They head out on the lake only to run into a sea monster with one huge rotating eyeball. Racing back to the ship, Kruschen is caught by the amoeba-type beast and consumed whole. The rest get in the ship but the beast envelops it and they can't take off, at least until a disembodied voice broadcasts to the ship, warning them that because Earthlings are technologically adults but emotionally and spiritually children, they must leave and never return. On the way home, Tremayne dies of a heart attack, and Hayden discovers the green growth on Mohr, obtained when he made physical contact with the amoeba. Will earth doctors be able to save Mohr?

This is a very low-budget film with a gimmick: the Mars exteriors were shot in something called Cinemagic, nothing more than a solarized red filter making everything on the planet look shiny red, orange or yellow. It works, to a degree; the painted backdrops and cheap monsters look a little less painted and cheap. It works best on the rat-spider monster, which despite being a marionette, registers as menacing. The first half is slow—there are no crew conflicts except for the sniping between Mohr and Hayden which we know are the first steps toward romance—and Kruschen's comic relief feels strained. The last half works better, though things slow down again after the ship leaves the Martian surface. The acting is weak: Mohr (nicknamed Hairy Chest for obvious reasons by my co-viewer) and Tremayne are OK, but Hayden, though she's attractive, feels like she just dropped in from an amateur theater group. This movie doesn't have the best reputation, but it’s fun for a single viewing. [DVD]

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