Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Angry Red Planet

By Steve D. Stones

The interesting gimmick used to sell this film was a process known as Cinemagic in which a red colored filter is used with scenes depicting shots on Mars. However, the scenes using Cinemagic look pink instead of red, which seems very appropriate, considering one  of the producers and screenwriters of the film is named Sidney Pink. I’m not sure if this was intentional or strictly coincidental, but it certainly adds to the cult interest of the film.

Three male crew members and one-woman scientist, played by Nora Hayden, lead an expedition to Mars – The Angry Red Planet. Upon landing on Mars, the crew discovers that their ship has become incapacitated and cannot leave the planet. This fact is further reinforced when the crew later witnesses a Martian peeking through the ship’s window. The Martian issues a warning to the crew that they cannot return to earth.

The four-crew members travel outside the ship to explore the planet. A creature looking part plant life and part octopus attacks Hayden. The head crew member Colonel Tom O’Bannion, played by serial star Gerald Mohr, rescues Hayden by chopping the tentacles of the creature with a machete. The creature was operated by one of the munchkins from The Wizard of Oz.

The crew takes a second trip outside the ship and is attacked this time by a giant rat-bat-spider creature. This sequence in the film is the one which gives it it’s strange cult following. The rat-bat-spider would later appear on the 1982 album cover of Walk Among Us by The Misfits.

The strangest creature is saved for last when the crew paddles across a Martian lake in a raft and discover an abandoned city. A giant blob with a spinning eyeball on top emerges from the lake and chases after the crew as they desperately attempt to row back to shore. The blob looks as if it could pass for a Sunday dinner rump roast.

Producer and screenwriter Sidney Pink went on to work on another sci-fi cult favorite – Journey To The Seventh Planet, starring John Agar in 1962. Director Ib Melchoir also went on to work on other cult classics, such as The Time Travelers, Reptilicus, Robinson Crusoe On Mars and several episodes of The Outer Limits TV show. For more information on the life and work of Melchoir, I recommend the book Ib Melchoir – Man of Imagination by Robert Skotak, published in 2000.

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