Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Space Probe Taurus with the Wizard of Mars monster

Space Probe Taurus, 1965, American Independent, B&W, 73 minutes. Directed by Leonard Katzman. Starring Francine York as Dr. Lisa Wayne, James B. Brown as Colonel Hank Stevens, Baynes Barron as Dr. John Andros and Russ Bender as Dr. Paul Martin. Schlock-Meter rating:4 stars out of 10.

AIP had high hopes for Space Probe Taurus. Initially planned as a theatrical release, a sequel was in pre-development while the futuristic sci-fi was being filmed. After Leonard Katzman (son of 40s cheapie mogul Sam Katzman) finished the film, AIP execs watched the film. Plans for a theater release were scrapped. The sequel was put on the shelf permanently, and Space Probe Taurus was quickly sold to television. It was a smart move. Space Probe Taurus is so corny although it has a fun goofiness. There is less than 7 or 8 minutes of action in the entire film. The actors talk and talk and talk and talk and still talk. Whenever our stars meet any space monsters (and they're pretty pathetic) the action never rises higher than a Buster Crabbe serial. The sets and FXs are awful. A talented high school class could do a better job. The script is cliche-ridden with stock characters (feminist lady scientist, gruff chauvinist commandeer who will win over the girl, money-grubbing wise-cracking crewman who will of course die, and elderly scientist egghead).

The plot: It's supposed to be roughly around the year 2000, although everyone looks and acts like its the 1960s. Memo to filmmakers: When attempting a futuristic fantasy, try to have space exploration equipment that post dates 1960. Hope 1, a state-of-the-art space ship, is off on a journey to probe the universe. The search is for a planet that humans may one day colonize. The spaceship and its journey through outer space are accomplished with childish FXs that would embarrass any four-year-old Star Wars fan. It's obvious the ship is a 12-inch model and outer space looks like a blackboard with shiny stuff attached to it. Meteorites resemble toasted marshmallows. Yet, for some reason, as I have mentioned, it's goofy fun.

Before our heroes find the planet they are looking for, they intrude on a space station run by a lone alien with a face full of granola. When the alien understandably attacks the U.S. space soldiers they quickly kill him and blow up his ship. That is probably the best scene in the film! The "Space Monster," by the way, is also in the ultra-cheapie film "The Wizard of Mars." Eventually, our boring heroes, after a lot of talk and a definitely-uncool-in-2000 Me Tarzan, You Jane romance between Colonel Stevens (Brown) and Dr. Lisa Wayne (York), find an inhabitable planet. The wisecracking Dr. Andros (Barron) loses his life battling another alien, and our heroes, as they return home, name the planet Andros 1, in his memory.

Notes: Director Leonard Katzman rebounded from this mediocre effort to be a huge success in television. He created, among other hits, Wild Wild West, Walker Texas Ranger and Dallas. Like many independent films, Space Probe Taurus has had other titles, including First Woman Into Space, Flight Beyond the Sun, Space Monster and Voyage Into the Sun. American Movie Classics aired the film twice during the month of April 2002. If one searches enough, Space Probe Taurus can generally be bought via the Internet

-- Doug Gibson

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