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Category Archives: Movie Reviews 1955

From IMDb:  (Note: I usually take the film description from the DVD/VHS case. However, in this instance, the DVD case is so full of inaccuracies that I thought I’d avoid confusion and use a plot synopsis from IMDb. – MM) Weird events in the life of atomic scientist Cal Meacham (Rex Reason) culminate in an invitation from the strange-looking Exeter (Jeff Morrow) to work at a secret lab in Georgia, supposedly for the cause of world peace. Other scientists are already there, including the gorgeous Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue). They quickly discover there’s more to Exeter than meets the eye. Is he benevolent? It may take an interstellar journey to find out.

Mark says: This Island Earth is one of my favorite science fiction films of the 1950s, and in fact, of all time. It has everything a B movie enthusiast could want, starting with a stellar cast.

Rex Reason (The Creature Walks Among Us) is Dr. Cal Meacham, a capable scientist with a sonorous voice that commands authority. This is my favorite role for Mr. Reason, and unquestionably the role for which he is most remembered. Faith Domergue (It Came from Beneath the Sea, Cult of the Cobra) plays fellow scientist and love interest, Ruth Adams. Ms. Domergue is ideal as the sensuous genius. Finally, Jeff Morrow (Kronos, The Giant Claw) is Exeter, the alien agent on mission from the distant planet, Metaluna. Ironically, Exeter exhibits more human qualities and pathos than our hero, Dr. Meacham. Morrow is a veteran of 1950s B movies, and though I’m not always impressed with his performances, he really shines here as a human sympathizer from outer space.

In smaller roles, Robert Nichols (The Thing from Another World) is Meacham’s assistant, Joe Wilson. Joe’s attitude towards his boss can be characterized as “adoring.”  This aspect was picked up by Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996), with some humorous results. Lance Fuller (The She-Creature, Voodoo Woman) is Brack, Exeter’s assistant, who is less than sympathetic to the human cause. The Monitor of Metaluna is played by Douglas Spencer, who I most fondly remember as Scotty in 1951’s The Thing from Another World. Rounding out the cast is Russell Johnson (Attack of the Crab Monsters, It Came from Outer Space) as Steve Carlson, one of the few people at the alien compound who has not been subjected to the Metalunan “Thought Transformer.”

Besides a great cast, This Island Earth features some stunning visuals and special effects, enhanced with vivid color created by the three-strip Technicolor process. Though simple by today’s standards, the creative matte paintings, colorful sets, and miniatures are some of the best of the era. We are also treated to a cool flying saucer and lots of impressive explosions. For me, the limited technology lends to a heightened sense of fantasy, and I would argue that these effects stand up even today.

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cotc04a

From the DVD case: Vengeance is sworn against six American G.I.’s after they witness a clandestine ceremony worshipping beautiful women who can change into serpents.

Mark says:  Tom Markel can’t catch a break.  During his last day of service he and his buddies crash a snake cult ritual resulting in a curse upon the gang and the sudden death (cobra bite) of one of his pals.  After returning to the states, he loses his girl to his best friend and roommate, Paul.  The very same night he meets the woman of his dreams who, it is eventually revealed,  transforms into a cobra at will and is methodically knocking off his friends one by one.  The brutalities of war must have paled in comparison.

It is difficult to watch Cult of the Cobra without being put in mind of Val Lewton’s Cat People, released thirteen years prior.  We have the haunted, alluring woman, in this case Faith Domergue in the role of Lisa Moya, who has the ability to transform into a deadly creature and who fears she’ll harm or kill the man she loves;  we have an American leading man, Marshall Thompson (Fiend Without A Face, It! The Terror from Beyond Space) playing Tom Markel, who tries desperately to understand his girlfriend’s hesitancy towards passion; and we have the “other woman,” Kathleen Hughes (It Came from Outer Space) as Julia who stirs jealousy in our shapeshifting friend.

What Cult of the Cobra lacks is the artistry of Cat People.  There is no ambiguity as to who or what the killer is, a prime source of suspense in Val Lewton’s productions.  Although Cult of the Cobra attempts to use some of Lewton’s techniques (i.e. the false scare often termed “the bus”), it just can’t seem to pull them off in a convincing manner.  The suspense created is almost negligible.

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From the DVD case: The action is wet and wild in this sci-fi thriller that pits man – and woman – against a giant octopus. Submarine commander Pete Mathews (Kenneth Tobey) and scientists Lesley Joyce (Faith Domergue) and John Carter (Donald Curtis) battle an angry sea monster driven from the depths of the ocean by an H-bomb explosion. In search of non-contaminated food, this tentacled tyrant counts among its victims a fishing trawler and its passengers, a family sunning at the beach, several San Francisco skyscrapers and even the Golden Gate Bridge! A daring attempt by the scientists to destroy the monster while saving themselves is a gripping finale to this aquatic adventure. The riveting special effects were created by Ray Harryhausen. (1955, b&w)

Mark says: I love a good giant monster picture. And if that monster happens to be a giant octopus animated by stop-motion master, Ray Harryhausen (The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers), well, that’s all the better.

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Bride of the Monster 1955

From the video case: Legendary horror icon Bela Lugosi stars as Dr. Eric Vornoff, who with Lobo (Tor Johnson), a crazed man-beast servant, is conducting flesh-burning radiation experiments on humans in an attempt to create a legion of atomic super-men.

Mark says: I have to admit a certain fascination with the films of Ed Wood. They’re more than schlocky; they’re windows into the mind of a very unusual writer/director.

Bride of the Monster is not quite as bizarre as Wood’s masterpiece, Plan 9 from Outer Space, but it is still full of strange dialog and peculiar characters. And let’s not forget the ridiculous storyline. Of course, these are the elements that make an Ed Wood film so entertaining.

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From the video case: Biochemist Leo G. Carroll has a plan to feed the world by using a growth formula on plants and animals. But instead he creates a spider of mammoth proportions with an appetite to match!

Feeding off cattle and humans, this towering tarantula has the people of Desert Rock, Arizona, running for their lives. Can this horrible creature be stopped? Or will the world succumb to this over-sized arachnid? Starring John Agar as the good doctor and Mara Corday as a student, and potential victim, of this science experiment gone awry! (1955, b&w)

Mark says: I’ve always been a sucker for big bug flicks, and this is one of my favorites. Strong direction by Jack Arnold (Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Incredible Shrinking Man) is enhanced by the B-movie star power of John Agar (Invisible Invaders, The Brain from Planet Arous), Mara Corday (The Black Scorpion), and Leo G. Carroll who plays crotchety Prof. Gerald Deemer.

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