TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Classic 1950s science fiction flick is based on the equally classic novel by H.G. Wells. It has a meteorite crashing into the California mountains near a small rural town. Scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) is nearby and heads there to investigate. When he arrives, he meets pretty Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson), who joins him and soon they discover that the meteorite is actually a spacecraft with a trio of hostile Martian war machines inside. With more of these craft landing all over the world, the military surround the Martians in hopes of stopping them. The Martian technology is too advanced and our most modern weapons…most modern for 1953, that is…are no match for the invaders. As the Martians begin a wave of global destruction, Forrester and Sylvia begin a desperate attempt to find some way to stop them, before the planet falls to this seemingly indestructible enemy.

Film is directed by Byron Haskin for legendary producer George Pal. The screenplay is by Barré Lyndon based on H.G.Wells’ 1898 novel. The film takes some liberties with Wells’ book, such as with the design of the Martians and their weaponry, but most by way of simply updating the story to the 1950s and moving it to the United States. The basic tale is still there. It’s the original Independence Day and is a far superior movie, aging much better over a longer period of time. The SPFX may seem antiquated by today’s CGI heavy standards, but the wire-work, models and visual FX were quite impressive for the time and still have impact even today. The sound effects and Leith Stevens’ epic score are also very effective and add atmosphere. The battle sequences are intense and Barry and Robinson make a very good hero and heroine and have nice on-screen chemistry. The film is filled with gung-ho military types and strong religious overtones, as was typical of films of this era. It is very strong dramatically, even a bit scary in some of the earlier sequences, and has some pretty devastating scenes of city destruction and the panic and terror of the citizens within. It is simply a great movie and tells a lot of story and accomplishes a lot in it’s economic 85 minutes without ever feeling overcrowded, or it’s main characters shortchanged.

Overall, this is simply a great flick that still resonates almost 70 years later. The SPFX were impressive at the time and are still powerful today, even if the techniques have become outdated and antiquated. The Martians and their war machines are made scary and the film is populated with some fun characters that are stereotypical of this era of science fiction films. The leads are endearing and well performed and the narration from Sir Cedric Hardwicke adds atmosphere and dramatic intensity. A classic movie that has aged far better than a lot of more contemporary films with similar premises. War of the Worlds is currently available on a wonderfully restored blu-ray special edition from the Criterion Collection.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 (out of 4) Martian war machines.

**************************************************

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE DEADLY MANTIS (1957)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

THE DEADLY MANTIS (1957)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Giant insect movies were quite popular in the 50s and The Deadly Mantis is among the best. While many of the giant pests were the result of atomic testing, this six legged critter is a prehistoric insect melted out of the polar ice caps by the effects of an erupting volcano. Once free, the hungry beast snacks on military personnel and Eskimo natives on it’s way to warmer climates. The giant insect is pursued by scientists and the military as it stops for snacks in Canada, Maryland, Washington D.C. and even battles the U. S. Air Force over Newark, N.J.! This all leading to a finale confrontation in the Big Apple inside the Lincoln Tunnel (dubbed The Manhattan Tunnel for the film).

Fun flick is directed by Nathan H. Juran, who also directed classics like 20 Million Miles to Earth and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, from a story and script by William Alland and Martin Berkeley. Juran takes the material very seriously, as does his cast, and it helps make the silly scenario very entertaining. The pace is brisk, with a lot of action, the traditional romantic sub-plot and the usual drama and humor, evenly mixed by Juran. There are some cheesy SPFX and stock footage as the military wages war on the mantis, but there is also a very impressive animatronic mantis puppet that is very effective when mixed with miniatures and given a monstrous roar by the sound FX folks. The acting is decent for this kind of movie and that helps the cheesy dialogue and silly science work well enough to keep us from laughing at the wrong times…though we nostalgically now do anyway.

This is one of the best giant bug movies from this era. A Universal picture, The Deadly Mantis takes it’s silly subject very seriously and is surprisingly well made, probably the result of being a major studio film. The cast take the material as seriously as the director and it maintains the illusion that we should be concerned about a massive prehistoric insect eating it’s way across the United States. A fun and very entertaining 50s science fiction epic. Charming cast includes, William Hopper as the handsome Dr. Ned Jackson, Craig Stevens as smooth military officer Col. Joe Parkman and Alix Talton as sexy journalist/photographer/love interest Marge Blaine.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) mantis.

 

 

 

 

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

1957 was a busy year for producer/director Roger Corman and this is another of his cult classics. This flick finds a group of scientists and navy men going to a deserted island to study the effects of H-bomb test fallout. One of the side effects of the nuclear dusting is some of the crabs have mutated to giants the size of Cadillacs and with the power to absorb the minds of their human food. Can this group survive as the colossal crabs decimate their number and steal their brains?

Giant mutated crabs would have been enough for most filmmakers during the 50s nuclear age cinema, but Corman had to give them the ability to absorb and use peoples minds, too. The sheer audacity of it alone may explain why this was a big hit for the producer. This was another movie Corman directed from a script by frequent collaborator Charles B. Griffith and once again he takes his subject matter seriously even though our main attractions are giant talking, brain sucking crabs. Corman gives this one a fairly fast pace, it is legitimately spooky at times and has a healthy does of intensity. The serious tone from both director and his cast…including future “Professor” from Gilliagan’s Island, Russell Johnson…helps the audience take our crustacean bad guys more seriously. As for the creatures, they actually don’t look that bad considering this is a low budget film and Corman keeps them hidden till the last act. As silly as the plot may sound, this is actually a decent horror flick despite the outrageous plot elements and Corman’s thrifty style makes good use of minimal sets and outdoor locations. There is also a bit of a charming cheese factor, but it’s a lot better than one might think and about the best a talking giant crab movie may ever get. One of Corman’s better low budget black and white efforts.

I was very amused by this one upon the revisit. It wasn’t as silly as it could have been and Corman took his audacious plot and ran with it. By the time we meet our villains they have been given enough of a threat factor to make them work, despite they are talking paper mache crabs. A fun and surprisingly effective atom age monster movie from Roger Corman.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 crabs pre-atomic mutation.

 

 

 

 

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953) and THE GIANT BEHEMOTH (1959)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

double feature_TBFTTF_TGB
This segment of Tomb Of Nostalgia takes the form of a double feature I watched this weekend…two personal favorite, old-school monster flicks!


bars

beast from 20000 fathoms

bars

THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

One of the all time great 1950’s creature features directed by Eugène Lourié with another classic monster from SPFX master Ray Harryhausen. Flick is based on a Ray Bradbury short story titled The Fog Horn and features genre favorite Kenneth Tobey. The story starts with an atomic bomb test in the Arctic which frees a prehistoric dinosaur from it’s icy grave. The creature wreaks havoc all down the coast as it heads toward NYC and a showdown with the military. Adding to the already aggressive nature of the beast is that it carries a bacteria in it’s blood that is unknown to today’s medicine and is quite lethal. Can it be stopped!?

Beast is the first of Lourié’s three classic monster movies (The Giant Behemoth and Gorgo being the others) and is directed in his serious and intense tone. The cast all take their roles seriously, too and it helps make this monster movie the classic it is. Obviously, the FX from Harryhausen are top notch and the Rhedosaurus is one of his most famous creations. Climax in New York is still thrilling even by today’s standards and is far better then the 1998 American Godzilla which was more a remake of this film then it was of the Japanese monster icon.
MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: Keep you eyes peeled for the army sharp shooter at the climax played by a then unknown Lee Van Cleef.

-MonsterZero NJ

4 Rhedosaurus.

beast rating

 

plus

giant behemoth

bars

THE GIANT BEHEMOTH (1959)

Basically a retread of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms but set in England. Behemoth also has the same director, Eugène Lourié, who brings a serious tone to the proceedings as with his other monster movies. It is his taking the material seriously and having his cast do the same that makes this as effective as it is. The difference between this and Beast is this creature is dying from the radiation poisoning received from atomic tests, making it twice as vicious and it’s ability to emit radioactive waves from it’s body like an electric eel, make it twice as lethal. The effects of it’s radioactive condition on some of the characters is quite disturbing, even for a film of this era. A giant monster movie with a bit of a nasty edge. The FX are delivered, this time, with contributions from the great Willis O’Brian (King Kong) and there is some nice intensity as this creature, driven mad with pain, rampages through the streets of London destroying and killing anything in it’s path. Nostalgic charm is ever present with the combination of stop motion animation and black and white photography. Also amusing to watch London get leveled, giving New York and Tokyo a much needed break, although the ominous ending may suggest that break may not be a long one. Well done and intense monster movie. For my Eugène Lourié’s third giant monster flick, Gorgo click HERE.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 behemoths

behemoth rating

bars