Wednesday, August 26, 2009


(Above: Peter Graves talks it over with Bugsy "the Mutant" Alien; Below: Martian leader or mutant octopus? You decide.)

Horrendous Film Week continues with 
Invaders From Mars (1953) and Killers From Space (1954), two apocalyptic sci-fi thrillers that feature mutants.

Pronounced “mew-tantz.”

Bob Grant, an extremely crusty radio talk show host who dominated New York drive time for a couple of decades, used to call people he considered unsavory “mutants,” with the same exaggerated pronunciation. I always wondered where he got it from, and now I know.

Anyhoo, of these two “Invaders” is a better film technically, with good special effects and that newfangled thing called “color.”

And the chief Martian is just a head with tentacles, painted green, living in a bubble on a pedestal. The mutants are his henchmen.

When the Martian craft lands in a big sand pit, people start disappearing into it, only to reappear later as surly versions of their former selves, speaking in monotones and trying to sabotage the Free World.

Oh, and they have that thing in the back of the neck.

“Killers” stars a very young Peter Graves (who looks a great deal like my cousin Sam). He’s a scientist who gets kidnapped by the aliens, humanoids from the planet Alpha Delta whose sun burned out, forcing them to live in the dark and develop huge bulging eyes. They also wear ugly jumpsuits; it is not clear if the situation on Alpha Delta demanded such costumes, or it was what the wardrobe department had at hand.

Both films have a Cold War theme — in “Invaders,” like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” people are suddenly not what they seem. Your best friend could be a Commie - er, alien - and you’d never know it — until they march down Main Street in Anytown, U.S.A.

“Killers” presents a much more direct threat, and a cheerful view of the effects of nuclear explosions. (At the end, the cast watches the atomic coup de grace through a window. The shade obligingly blows about a bit to indicate the strength of the blast.)

We’ve got excellent mutants. A Martian leader who looks like a gilded octopus. Bulging eyes. Giant critters (in rear projection) chasing Peter Graves. Sack- suited FBI agents. Lots of pocket squares. Both are short. A terrific double feature.

Three coils.

Keeping It Irish

Ted Kennedy was a complicated guy, and certainly had his faults. But he kept things interesting. 

My tribute, in the form of a J. Press sack suit and an old campaign button which I am very glad I held on to.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blood Beasts, Bronson Canyon, and Babes

Spoiler! There is no girl in her underwear in this flick.
Spoiler! There is no girl in her underwear in this flick.

If there is a more photographed piece of real estate in moviedom than Bronson Canyon I'd like to know where it is. Roger Corman's team puts the famous cave to good use at the end of 1958's Night of the Blood Beast, when the brave scientists ignore the Cold War pleadings of the Blood Beast and get busy with the Molotov cocktails. (Molotov. Get it? Take that irony, you lousy Commie blood beast from space!)

An astronaut returns to earth in a thing the scientists insist on calling a "satellite," which I suppose it is, but really appears to be a large cigar tube.

He's dead, except he doesn't show any signs of being dead except just lying there, not saying anything. (It's not too different later, when the character returns to life.)

Hisd blood pressure is fine, but there's no respiration. And there's a big blobby thing in his blood eating all the regular red and white cells.

And then the power goes out and the scientists are stranded in the desert hills of...Florida.

Turns out there's a creature out there, and he's stuck a bunch of these little seahorse-looking critters into the astronaut.

Plus, in order for the creature to communicate with the earthlings, he is forced to adopt a strategy that ultimately proves unpopular — he rips the head off the senior scientist, the better to adopt human speech.

(Surely an advanced civilization that has been observing the Earth for hundreds of years would have developed the post card.)

There's a lot of Cold War guff about letting the monster explain itself, but not too much, and the gang get down to business when they burn the creature up at the famous Bronson Canyon cave.

The girl with the '80s hairdo realizes, too late, that the Blood Beast was hiding under the footbridge.
The girl with the '80s hairdo realizes, too late, that the Blood Beast was hiding under the footbridge.

We're talking internal space seahorse infestation; slimy creature in desperate need of a manicure; girl sporting 1950s foreshadowing of the kind of hair style popular with coeds in the mid-'80s; interplanetary cigar tube; Bronson Canyon.

Pleasantly short at 62 minutes. Three coils.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Esquire Goes With Yoot

Well, darn. 

I didn't make the final cut in Esquire's "Best-Dressed Real Man" contest.

A gaggle of callow youths did, including these two from New York.

Note that the first fellow has apparently grown a lot since he bought the suit. The second guy looks tremendously fussy, as if he arranges the paper clips in order of size and puts them in the proper compartment in his desk organizer next to the colored pencils which are sorted according to the spectrum, with the darkest colors on the left although maybe they could be set up by the color wheel which shows which colors complement which (but never ever match) and...

In fairness, it's hard to imagine Esquire giving the nod to a guy who buys most of his stuff at thrift shops. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Cinema - All Hail the Ro-Mans

Phil Tucker's Robot Monster (1953) is a far better bad movie than Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space.

More bubbles, for one thing.

The plot, for what it's worth: A family is on a picnic and the little boy gets conked with something and has a dream. It's post-apocalypse America, and only seven humans are still alive: the professor, his wife, the daughter, a stray hunky guy, and the little boy. Plus two men in a space station, who don't really figure into it.

The villains are the Ro-Men, robot monsters from another galaxy (similar to the present membership of the Democratic National Committee). They are easily identifiable, sporting gorilla suits with fake metal helmets (and antennas). It is a somewhat improbable combination for a robot monster, but the bubble machine that doubles as a communication device (and occasional Death Ray) distracts from the sartorial oxymoron.

Long story short, the Ro-Man on earth falls in love with the daughter and the brave family vanquishes him. And then the kid comes to and, by golly, it was just a dream.

We're talking cute girl in tight sweater in the middle of the apocalypse. Ro-Man in gorilla suit and unconvincing helmet. Excellent bubble machine (listed in credits). Rabbit ear antennae, the better to communicate with outer space. (Take that, stupid Federal Communications Commission.) Short.

I award Robot Monster four coils for bubbles and an air of cheerful Cold War nonsense today's auteurs would do well to study.