Monday, November 22, 2010

Carradine as ... The Wizard of Mars

I really love this 1963 David Hewitt ultra-low budget space opera. I'll say right off that one of the aliens in this film is the same "Space Monster" from the Leonard Katzman schlock-fare also called Space Probe Taurus.

Ripped off from L. Frank Baum's famous tale, The Wizard of Oz, here is the Wikipedia description of 85-minute, color "The Wizard of Mars":

The title character is portrayed by John Carradine, who gives a lengthy monologue as a projection near the end of the film. The film centers on four astronauts--Steve (Roger Gentry), "Doc" (Vic McGee), Charlie (Jerry Rannow), and of course, Dorothy (Eve Bernhardt), shown aboard ship wearing Silver Shoes--who dream they are struck by a storm and encounter the Horrors of the Red Planet (one of the film's video retitlings), and eventually follow a "Golden Road" to the Ancient City where they encounter the title character, who is the collective consciousness of all Martians.

It's that crazy. The characters are wonderful stock space opera fare: The older mentor astronaut. The sexy woman astronaut who eventually gets the hots for the stud, leader astronaut. And, of course, there's the wisecracking astronaut. There is Hewitt's signature of touch of foamy, wavy fire waves that he has used in other films. I particularly like a strange creature -- guided by offscreen hands -- that menace the astronauts while they row in a Martian canal. The creature looks like a low-rent Tingler!

The space fare is low budget and I love the asteroid showers! This is a fun film. I first became aware of it while watching Something Weird OnDemand trailers. I found it on an old VHS that was titled Horrors of the Red Planet and said Lon Chaney Jr. was in it? WRONG. I later learned that Wizard of Mars was shopped as "Alien Massacre" along with Hewitt's schlocky "Gallery of Horrors," which features Chaney Jr. Such is the life of low-budget sci-fi being peddled in the early days of VHS and even Beta!

It became almost an obsession to find this film with its original title, and Plan 9 Crunch finally did, and old 80s VHS release had it. Carradine s wonderfully bizarre spouting nonsensical dialogue as "The Wizard." Of course it's all a dream. That really doesn't make sense, but again, the film really doesn't make sense. I loved it. Watch it as a double-feature with "Space Monster" or Hewitt's better "Journey to the Center of Time." You won't be disappointed.
-- Doug Gibson

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