'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' (1956)

Disclaimer: Films listed here may be terrible, but they must have at least one scientifically interesting idea, however badly they may exploit that concept.


~Conquest of Space (1955)
Walter Brooke, Eric Fleming, Mickey Shaughnessy, Phil Foster, William Redfield, William Hopper, Benson Fong, Ross Martin, Vito Scotti, Michael Fox
C-81 mins.

"Before any of you accept, I should like to make it unmistakably clear that the dangers of this journey are above and beyond anything that the Space Corps or your own governments have any right to ask of you. I can give you confounded little reason for this attempt to reach Mars, and no assurance at all that it will even be successful. It’s my personal conviction that no one but an idiot would volunteer, and I shall strongly suspect the sanity of anyone who does. All right, we’ve all got it straight. Who wants to go?"
"The General wasn’t crazy, he was right! We asked for it! There’s a curse on this ship and everybody in it!"
"Baloney! You leave that stuff back on Earth. But it don’t operate past the thousand-mile limit. ‘Only God can make a tree.’ Okay? Where is it? Where’s the trees, and the flowers, and the grass? Where’s the water? You hear me? Where’s the water?!"

"Remind me next time to take the train."

Badly executed, if well-meaning, film about the first flight to Mars. Walter Brooke’s religious fanaticism and Mickey Shaughnessy’s overbearing Immortal Sergeant routine destabilize what could have been an engrossing story of humans invading the Red Planet for a change. Phil Foster’s clueless character makes the oil rig astronauts in Armageddon look like MENSA candidates. The FX vary in quality from sometimes brilliant to downright awful. A detailed synopsis (with SPOILERS) is here.

~Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, King Donovan, Carolyn Jones, Larry Gates, Jean Willes, Ralph Dumke, Virginia Christine, Dabbs Greer, Sam Peckinpah
BW-80 mins.

"I never knew fear until I kissed Becky."
"Love, desire, ambition, faith—without them, life’s so simple, believe me."
"I don’t want any part of it."
"You’re forgetting something, Miles."
"What’s that?"
"You have no choice."

"I don’t want to live in a world without love or grief or beauty; I’d rather die."
"Is this an example of your bedside manner, doctor?"
"No, ma’am. That comes later."

A perfectly realized nightmare, a thinking man’s horror film; once you accept the pods as real, you can’t help but be concerned for the characters. Long regarded as a statement on the then-current political situation, according to the writers, actors, and producers the movie was simply intended to entertain.

~Forbidden Planet (1956)
Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Jack Kelly, Warren Stevens, Richard Anderson, Earl Holliman, George Wallace, James Drury, James Best, Les Tremayne (narrator), Marvin Miller (voice of Robby), Frankie Darro (Robby the Robot)
C-98 mins.

"In the final decade of the 21st century, men and women in rocket ships landed on the moon. By 2200 AD they had reached the other planets of our solar system. Almost at once there followed the discovery of hyperdrive though which the speed of light was first attained and later greatly surpassed. And so at last mankind began the conquest and colonization of deep space."
"We’re all part monsters in our subconscious, so we have laws and religion."
"The total potential here must be nothing less than astronomical."
"Nothing less. The number 10 raised almost literally to the power of infinity."

"Where have you been? I’ve beamed and beamed."
"Sorry, miss. I was giving myself an oil-job."

"Nice planet you have here. High oxygen content."
"I seldom use it myself, sir. It promotes rust."

"Another one of them new worlds. No beer, no women, no pool parlors, nothin’. Nothin’ to do but throw rocks at tin cans, and we gotta bring our own tin cans."
"Anywhere in the galaxy this is a nightmare."
"If you do not speak English, I am at your disposal with 187 other languages along with their various dialects and sub-tongues."
"Yes, a single machine, a cube 20 miles on each side."
"In times long past, this planet was the home of a mighty, noble race of beings who called themselves the Krell. Ethically and technologically they were a million years ahead of humankind, for in unlocking the meaning of nature they had conquered even their baser selves, and when in the course of eons they had abolished sickness and insanity, crime and all injustice, they turned, still in high benevolence, upwards towards space. Then, having reached the heights, this all-but-divine race disappeared in a single night, and nothing was preserved above ground."
"Guilty! Guilty! My evil self is at that door, and I have no power to stop it!"

So much has been written about this film, the Titanic of ’50s sci-fi, that I don’t really have anything to add.

Some images from the film: here, here, here, here, and here.

To be continued.

Mike Gray