Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Angry Red Planet!

The Angry Red Planet is a tempting diversion, hopelessly mired in cliches it hopes to attract viewers with its promise of "Cinemagic", a peculiar visual technique which makes the world of Mars appear all red and weird like it was part of a blacklight poster or something. Despite this, despite the story being the product of Sid Pink, the man who would in two years time give the world Reptilicus, despite the involvement of Norman Maurer, a man who straddled the the worlds of the Three Stooges and comics often in partnership with legend Joe Kubert, this is a movie which can hold its own despite its flaws.

Hayden, Mohr and Tremayne
The story presents the usual crew: Colonel Thomas O'Bannion (Gerald Mohr who would one day voice Reed Richards in Hanna-Barbera's Fantastic Four cartoon), Professor Theodore Getell (Les Tremayne, veteran character actor and future "Mentor" on Filmation's Shazam), Sam Jacobs (Jack Kruschen, an amiable red-shirt), and Dr.Iris Ryan (Naura Hayden whose lush red hair seems almost a metaphor for Mars itself). 

Kruschen Reads a Pulp
The yarn begins at the end when the MR-1 returns to Earth but with only two survivors, Dr.Ryan and one injured man who remains unidentified through most of the story as we learn from Ryan's tortured memories about a mission which went reasonably smoothly until landing on a Mars filled with man-eating plants, giant bat-crab mutants, flesh-eating giant ameobas and sprawling Martian cities. These threats prove too much for the heroes who after several dangerous days of exploration try to leave and find they are trapped by intelligent forces beyond their understanding. Eventually after some of their number die they are released with a dire warning never to return.

The flashback structure of the story gives it some mild suspense, though it seems pretty obvious who the surviving male crew member is all along. One of the goofier aspects of the movie is the purile characterizations of many of the players who seem content to fill cliched roles with little complaint. Despite her technical training Ryan plays the helpless woman needing the manly hero O'Bannion to come to her aid multiple times. Getell does what scientists are supposed to do, and little else alas.  

The Angry Red Planet is a movie without the moxie to be more than a chirpy sci-fi cliche, and that's a shame because with a just a bit more ambition it could've been something a little more intriguing.

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  1. Naura Hayden died last August...maybe. A number of Facebook sources reported it saying the info came directly from her husband. I ran it on my blog as I had met her a number of times in connection with her books. A few other forums and boards picked it up as well and yet none of the major sites has been updated even now to include her passing nor have I been able to find a newspaper obit online. So is she or isn't she?

    1. Strange that. It was interesting to read your post on her and discover her interesting later life post Angry Red Planet. My favorite moments in that movie might be when Gerald Mohr radiating that old-fashioned masculine sexism so often seen in movies tries to put the spell on her and she seems all too willing. It stands in such contrast to what we know might happen in such an actual scenario where folks have little time for such nonsense.

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