In this week’s Throwback Thursday, ScienceFiction.com’s weekly column that celebrates great science fiction from the past, we take a look at the campy yet entertaining B-movie ‘The Angry Red Planet’.
‘The Angry Red Planet’ (1959) was directed by Ib Melchior, a novelist, short-story writer and filmmaker known for ‘Robinson Crusoe on Mars’. He also wrote the short story, ‘The Racer’ which was adapted into the phenomenal ‘Death Race 2000’ (1975) and the equally phenomenal ‘Death Race’ (2008) starring Jason Statham. ‘The Angry Red Planet’ stars Gerald Mohr, Naura Hayden, Jack Kruschen and Les Tremayne.
We open on the apprehensive blue planet (Earth) where the thought-to-have-been-lost rocketship MR-1 returns. MR-1 was the first manned mission to Mars, but, as you will soon assume, things did not go so swimmingly. Only two out of four astronauts have survived, Dr. Iris Ryan (Hayden) and Col. Tom O’Bannion (Mohr). Mohr arrives unconscious, with a green Martian parasite attached to his arm. Ryan arrives like any 1950’s heroine, feeble.
However, Ryan musters the strength to recount what happened on Mars. Boy, were Earthlings uninvited! We flashback to the start of the journey where we meet the crew on board and endure some of the worst cinematic flirting between Ryan and O’Bannion. It’s hilarious to say the least.
MR-1 finally lands on planet Mars, and Ryan looks out the window to see a 3-eyed Martian. Naturally, she faints. She is a 1950’s woman after all! (And she wouldn’t dare leave the rocketship without her purse!)
Despite Ryan’s sighting, the crew decides to go exploring anyway. They run into a bunch of frightening creatures, including a giant carnivorous plant, a legitimately scary bat-rat-spider and a monstrous blob-like amoeba with a spinning eye. Does the crew make it out alive? What happens to the other two astronauts? What will happen to O’Bannion?
To say the very least, ‘The Angry Red Planet’ is not a masterpiece. That’s what is so great about it. Melchior only had 10 days to shoot the film and a budget of $200,000. It’s lack of budget prompted the use of CineMagic, in which a black-and-white film negative is reversed so some areas of the image appear positive. This helped achieve the red-effect for all the scenes that took place on Mars. This was a money-saving procedure as it allowed Melchior to shoot in back-and-white which was cheaper at the time.
However, if you’re the type who enjoys watching and commenting on not-so-great flicks, ‘The Angry Red Planet’ is definitely one you should watch. The characters react illogically at times, the acting is over-the-top, and it looks cheaply produced. What more could you ask for?