Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Cosmic Man!

The Cosmic Man from 1959 is a vintage sci-fi knock-off of the much more esteemed The Day the Earth Stood Still, but that doesn't mean that this little cheapie doesn't have some distinctive charms of its own.
Among the two strongest things working in the favor of this science fiction flick are the fine acting jobs turned in by John Carradine and Bruce (formerly Herman Brix) Bennett. Any movie that sports not only a former Dracula but also a former (and arguably best) Tarzan can't be all bad. And this movie is far from that.

Cosmic Carradine in disguise
The story is pretty simple. A giant alien orb appears in a relatively remote California canyon and is quickly surrounded by the military while it hovers a few feet above the ground imperious to harm. From that intergalactic sphere there emerges "the Cosmic Man" (actually called that in the story several times) who wanders the countryside raising a ruckus, scaring half-naked girls, and making the military even more resolute to take firm action.

Bennett thinks hard about the problem
Actually the "Cosmic Man" (Carradine) is benign and shows up here and there, sometimes in disguise, to comment on the action and to slightly miss talking to Dr.Karl Sorenson (Bennett) who argues consistently for restraint and understanding when it comes to the alien. (I'm guessing Carradine never shot at the same time as Bennett since they don't share any scenes together exactly.) Very much in the tradition of The Day the Earth Stood Still, the Cosmic Man evokes a Christ-like quality when he heals the precocious Ken (Scotty Morrow), the crippled son  of obligatory love interest Kathy Grant (Angela Greene) who happens to own the Grant Lodge where much of the action centers.

The alien orb hovers as the cast looks on helplessly
A lot of the time of this movie is taken up with conversation, often by Sorenson, a scientist and former military man, who seeks peaceful solutions since his days as a researcher helping to develop the atomic bomb. In these post-war days, his guilt over that creation informs his approach, in spite of the fact it throws him into conflict with the military, often personified by Colonel Mathews (Paul Langton). Also on hand is the spritely Lyn Osborn (Space Partol and Invasion of the Saucer Men) as a slight-comedy relief sergeant named Gray. Tragically Osborn died soon after shooting this movie.

The Cosmic Man is a movie that never gets off simmer, though it approaches a boil once and again. Just when you think it's going to bubble over, it slows down and the talking sets in again. That sounds more critical than I mean. I found I enjoyed this movie, it had some decent banter and the ideas weren't unimportant. Despite its lack of budget this movie doesn't shirk a desire to talk about some important things, and that's just how we might as people respond to changing the world around us. In 1959 this was pretty heady stuff, but then again when is it not.

This is the first of three reviews from the DVD set Watch the Skies from Image Entertainment.

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  1. Full disclosure that I may be missing the joke (probably am - I often do) but, though they both played Tarzan, Lex Barker and Bruce Bennett were two different people.

    1. You are not missing the joke. I f#*ked up. I thought Lex Barker for some reason when should've said Herman Brix. I'll fix it right up. Thanks for letting me know.

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