Friday, September 12, 2014


This is one of the earliest of the 50’s "docudrama" science-fiction space travel films, with the first half chronicling in a relatively realistic fashion a trip to Mars, albeit by five people who wear street clothes and smoke cigarettes in the spaceship. There's a love triangle between engineer Arthur Franz, his longtime assistant Virginia Huston, and cocky reporter Cameron Mitchell, and scientist John Litel spends a fair amount of the trip philosophizing. Once they get to the red planet, the film turns as fanciful as Jules Verne or Flash Gordon when they discover friendly Martians (who look just like earthlings) dressed in colorful Teletubby outfits. Our crew is taken to the large underground city where the population thrives thanks to a mineral (which, unknown to the earthlings, is now in short supply, threatening the Martians continued survival as the surface is too inhospitable for long-term living). The Martians agree to help the earthlings fix their damaged ship so they can return home, but they secretly plot to take the ship over for themselves and move their population to Earth. The mini-skirted Alita (Marguerite Chapman, pictured with Franz) falls in love with Franz (leaving Huston and Mitchell free to flirt to their hearts' desires), tells him about the Martians' plans, and helps the earthlings try to escape. The best thing about this B-movie from Monogram is the color, which really helps hide the low budget; the planet and the city look good, though the scenes of the rocket in space and the meteor shower they go through look very primitive. The Martian women dress like catwomen, in poiny-shouldered tops and fabulous shoes that are a cross between a high-heel and a go-go boot. The name Alita is a nod to a famous silent Russian film, Aelita, Queen of Mars, which was itself based on a work by Leo Tolstoy, which means one could make a "six degrees" thing between Tolstoy and the Teletubbies. [DVD]

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