Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Angry Red Planet

... also known as the movie with the BatRatSpiderCrab. You know the BatRatSpiderCrab? From the cover of Walk Among Us? The Misfits album? The best Misfits album?
"20 Eyes?" "Astro Zombies?" Jeez... Anyway, that's not the only important thing about The Angry Red Planet. It's also been held up as a fine example of how low budgets and untested ideas can make films better rather than worse. The Angry Red Planet was made in 10 days for $200,000. This meant that, rather than buying the best fake monster 1959 had to offer, they designed this truly disconcerting animated creature. It also meant that, having no money for fancy locations or props, they had to use "Cinemagic" and thus wound up with the Mars scenes in a bizarre, red-tinted, semi-solarized effect.

Both things turned out to improve the film and make it unique. Other than that it's just another cheapo Cold War-era space flick with sets that look like old IBM offices (with semi-sized mainframes) and proof that wince-inducing chauvinism even applied to female astronauts.

"Hey, let's chow!"
"Coming up!" 
"You know, I can't say that I recommend spacesuits for beautiful young dolls. 
What happened to all your lovely curves?" 

The Angry Red Planet opens with a rocket crashing in the desert and accompanying extravaganza of stock footage. A bunch of guys in hazmat suits and fedoras (apparently a fedora also protects against radiation) find two dead guys, an unconscious guy with a bunch of spreading green slime on his arm and a catatonic redhead. (Must've been quite a party.) All the tapes have been erased, so no one knows what happened, what the slime is, why those guys are dead or how it all went wrong. The only way to illuminate this otherwise totally "boring, routine" trip to Mars  is to get redhead to snap out of it. And so the flashbacks begin...
So, here we have our crew: Bearded Science Guy, Blue-Collar Schlub, Dr. Redhead, and Colonel Rock Chesthair, whose spacesuits are unbuttoned halfway to the navel, the better to show off his manly pelt. Also: Behold, the slick technology of future space travel!

"Well? Shall we go out and claim the planet in the name of Brooklyn?"

And so the "rocket" lands on "Mars." Dr. Redhead sees a monster in the window and screams. The boys disregard her as a "hysterical female" and she agrees. We now are given to understand that, despite the blase attitude, it's the first trip to this unknown world. Regardless, mankind's first trip to Mars will entail less caution than used when camping in the backyard. Everyone goes outside to creepy red space landscape; Dr.  Redhead wanders off by herself and is almost immediately attacked by a giant monster space vagina. Fortunately, Col. Douche Manpelt comes to the rescue.
Yup, just walk right into the carnivorous plant. And, for an encore, take a machete to some 'tree" that turns out to be BatRatSpiderCrab legs. Because you didn't look up. Seriously, if this was the best NASA had to offer, it's a good thing we curtailed space travel. We're talking about a bunch of  "scientists" that make Shaggy from Scooby-Doo look like Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Ummm... no, but I can make a martini.

They manage to hold off the BatRatSpiderCrab with the help of Blue Collar Schlub's freeze ray. Then the Four Stooges (Fun fact: The only other use of "Cinemagic" was in The Three Stooges in Orbit.) flee through the hostile red atmosphere and manage not to get eaten on their way back to the ship. Once there, they discover that the kooky Martian atmosphere blocks radio waves and, thus, they have no way to contact Earth and a meteor that crossed their path earlier has damaged a number of instruments.
Regardless, Col. Butch Fuzzypecs ain't even thinking about turning back. They are staying the full five days, dammit! In fact, they're gonna get on a little rubber raft and make their way across a giant still lake to a hallucinatory city. Another brilliant damn decision. I mean, given how many times during this movie they've been attacked by giant monsters and barely survived... what could possibly go wrong?
As you can imagine, they run into more monsters and those monsters start kicking some serious human ass. Col. Macho Mann and Dr. Redhead manage to return home, but with a creeping green slime and carrying one of those ominous messages superior alien races like to lay on earthlings.
The Angry Red Planet is a little annoying with that ham-handed "Look, its that little woman thinkin' she's all science-y" stuff we saw in Queen of Outer Space. It think it's some kind of overcompensation for the idea of women doctors and scientists, even in a future fantasy world. (Archaic and antiquated i know, but also part of the 2014 Republican platform.) In other realistically-set movies of the era -- Butterfield 8, His Kind of Woman, to name two that will link you back to my site -- you don't hear the constant reminders that women are emotional and not good at thinking stuff.
Still, The Angry Red Planet has what you want in a 50's sci-fi flick: Cheesy "space" sets, wooden dialogue, a bachelor-pad soundtrack and, of course, monsters.

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