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The Angry Red Planet
(1960)

Angry? Red? Sounds like another sci-fi communist scare to me! Actually, there isn’t one mention of the Red Menace in the movie. Instead, writers Sid Pink and Ib Melchior weave a wild tale about four astronauts who bring back a warning from Mars! What makes this movie so enjoyable is that all four characters are hysterically stereotyped. Most sci-fi
b-movies have stereotypical characters such as the scientist, the general, etc., but these characters are wonderfully over the top.

First you have Tom, the pistol-packin’ pilot. This guy isn’t just the macho leading man -- he’s a lounge lizard! The hairs on this guy’s chest outnumber the stars in space. He’s got more moves than U-Haul! (OK, I’ll stop.) Then there’s Iris, the red-headed, doe-eyed biologist. I believe she’s the only female astronaut in history to take a break from her experiments to splash on a little perfume! Sammy is the chubby, funny one. He’s a poor man’s Lou Costello who’s so annoying that you might cheer when he meets his demise. Last and definitely least, there’s Professor Gatelle, the brainy, humorless scientist, who, when he hears other people joking, just smiles and waits until it blows over like a bad rain storm.

The crew flies aboard the MR1 which is believed to have crashed on Mars during a landing attempt. Military brass discuss how to bring it back to Earth intact. "That's a tall order, George!" says one general. A tall order indeed. Undaunted, they hurry to Nevada in hopes of returning the rocket by REMOTE CONTROL. (Having seen a few of these b-movies now, I've learned the potential for remote control is limitless.)

The colonel gives the order of "final countdown" to the grainy, stock footage technicians. It works! The rocket ship is returning to Earth! Even the front page of the phony newspaper, The Washington Telegraph, reads:
"Mars Rocket Due Tonight". While the phony newspaper, The Washington Express, dares ask the question: "Is Mars Rocket Crew Alive?" The world doesn't wait long because soon the MR1 descends to Earth backwards, landing on its engines. An emergency team is dispatched and checks the ship for radiation. Suddenly, the rocket ship door opens and a staggered Dr. Iris Ryan appears. Of course, the first thing the colonel says is, "Look...the GIRL! (rather than "the biologist"). They find another member of the crew still alive with green slime on his arm. He is rushed away in an ambulance. Iris, without an examination, rides to the hospital in the back of a jeep! Perhaps one day this great military base will have more than one ambulance.

Meanwhile, the ship's tapes, containing priceless Martian information, have been mysteriously erased by some unknown magnetic force! The doctor, rather than get all the information he can from Iris, the only conscious astronaut, has given her sedatives to "keep her quiet." Yeah. Good plan. Later, the doctor realizes the only one with any information is “the girl.” Who is in charge of this operation?!

When they finally question the girl...I mean...Dr. Ryan, she begins to tell the tale and we, the viewers, are brought up to speed! According to Iris' recollection, the crew had been enjoying smooth sailing until they looked out their window and saw a cartoon meteor hurtling towards them! They were able to avoid it, but what a close call!

I wish I knew more about space travel. For instance, when the commander tells the engineer to record something, he replies, "I'm putting it on auxiliary tape, sir." Shouldn't you just put it on tape, before going to auxiliary tape? What the heck IS auxiliary tape? The tape used when all the regular recording tape breaks down?!

Anyway, after living 47 fascinating days aboard a rocket, featuring everything from typing papers in a large office to putting on perfume, they finally land on Mars. Tom throws Sam's space suit at him, chastising, "I told you not to leave this thing lying around! Iris tripped over it and dropped a tray of test tubes!" (Stupid "GIRL.") After stepping onto the surface of Mars, Tom commands, "Check your oxygen gauge!" This seems kind of pointless since they're all wearing crash helmets with no face protection. It's around this time that Sam, armed with a pistol, gives the command to shoot first and ask questions later. Ah, scientific exploration. Sam takes a moment to test his ultrasonic freeze gun on some local vegetation. It works like a charm. But later, when Iris is attacked by the tentacles of a giant Venus Flytrap, It's not the freeze gun that saves her. Nor is it the pistol, which Tom carelessly waves in people's faces as he talks. Instead, Tom whips out a MACHETE that he's managed to conceal in his space suit! He chops off the plant's foam rubber arms!

Haphazard experiments continue when Iris finds an usual tree and tries to cut off a sample for analysis. The tree is actually the leg of a 40-foot rat that walks on crab legs that are attached to wires (Oh...you're not supposed to see the wires). The monster is affectionately known to sci-fi fans as the "batratspidercrab". Sam's freeze gun doesn't affect it. He fires again and again, yelling, "I'm giving her all she's got!" Tom yells, "Aim for the eyes...blind it!" Sam does just that, damaging another rare Martian life form. They may as well rename their ship the Exxon Valdez.

Back on the ship, they wisely decide to cut the mission short and return to Earth, feeling they've gathered enough data and screwed up enough native wildlife. Unfortunately, they're not able to lift off, due to some sort of force field controlled by an unknown presence. Feeling the situation is growing more dangerous, they do the logical thing -- they cross a Martian lake in a raft! It's from this raft that Tom looks through his binoculars and spots a drawing of a city ... um ... I mean ... a city. Suddenly, the water begins to churn and they're faced with a giant amoebae that looks like a cross between a whale and a cabbage.

They reach land, but the creature advances (a cool, giant eyeball swirling atop its head) and chases them through the dense vegetation! They reach the ship, but the monster's got the wisecracking Sammy in its clutches! Hurray! It digests him in its semi-transparent belly! Then the creature wraps itself around the entire ship! Tom has some of the alien's slime on his sleeve and it eats through his cheap jumpsuit, nearly injuring his arm.

Tom decides the only way to drive the creature away, is to send millions of volts of electricity through the outer hull of the ship. When he asks Professor Gatelle if it can be done, he whines, "Well...it'll take a lot of rewiring..." Gee, if you've got nothing better to do, maybe you could save us from the giant monster eating the ship!

The electrocution works and the monster is quickly reduced to goo. Then, their radio picks up a warning from the Martians! It says, "We give you this warning. Listen carefully and remember..." then the crew is rendered unconscious. When they come to, Iris is fine, but Gatelle dies sitting in a chair with a little fake Captain Kirk blood at the corner of his mouth (The funny thing is, when Iris returns a little later, Gatelle isn't in the chair anymore. In fact, due to an editing error in the movie, he's never seen or heard from again. Even at the beginning of the film they say there's only two people on board when there should be three! Don't you love b-movies?).

Iris finds Tom in his bunk with alien slime on his arm just as the ship is sent back to earth by remote control. Recuperated, Iris makes an important discovery, (even for a girl): The slime, when shocked with mild current, will transfer itself from Tom to a nearby tissue sample. Hey, nice going ... Dr. Ryan.

When Tom is up and around again, Iris pays him a visit. Government brass ( I love saying “government brass”) barge in on their visit and share the entire Martian message with them. The message tells us they' ve been monitoring Earth since we came from the primordial slime (That must've been some boring monitoring). Although humans have harnessed the power of the atom, we're still like spoiled, emotional children. "They" allowed the crew to return from Mars unharmed on the condition that we spread the word: Do not return to Mars or we will be destroyed!

So what did the U.S. just do in real life? Land an unmanned craft on Mars! Sigh. We're idiots! We're doomed idiots!

Comment on this review

Marionette monsters, astronauts on Mars packin' heat and a main character who's mistakenly edited out of the movie! This one's a gem!


Tom: "I remember when I got my first dog. I loved that dog. I wanted him to sleep in my room, but my parents wouldn't allow it. I used to go downstairs every night just to make sure he was still there."
Iris: "And then you were sure?"
Tom: "Yes. And soon everyone will be just as sure about space travel as I was with my dog."



Prof: “Come on Sam, let's get some rest.”
Sam: “O.K. professor... I dig!”




Tom: "Y'know, Irish, you're the first scientist I've met with really lovely, long red hair!"
Iris: "And your the first pilot I've ever “gone to Mars with.” But listen – my name's "Iris" not "Irish." I never know if you're calling me by name or nationality!"
Tom: (Seductive look) "When I call you by name...you'll know it!"




Sam to Iris: Y'know, I can't say I recommend space suits for
beautiful young dolls. What happened to all your lovely curves?



After landing on Mars...
Sam: "Well...should we go out and claim Mars in the name of Brooklyn?"