|Alien Attack Collection |
(Corinth Films, 2012)
Cat Women of the Moon,
directed by Arthur Hilton (1953)
Missile to the Moon,
directed by Richard Cunha (1958)
The Brain from Planet Arous,
directed by Nathan Juran (1957)
The Day It Came to Earth,
directed by Harry Thomason (1973)
If you are, as I am, a fan of bad movies, movies so terrible that their camp value is off the charts, movies that stink up the room so much that the actors who worked in them don't list them on their resumes, movies whose very badness causes you to marvel, whose attempts at suspense leave you laughing out loud, then, wow, has Corinth Films got a package for you.
Alien Attack Collection gathers in one package three science fiction films from the '50s and one from the '70s that is set in the '50s. All of these movies were made on budgets that were less than what a Spielberg production spends on a day's lunch and all are, in their own weird way, wonderful.
Cat Women of the Moon stars an actor whose very name became a punch line in a thousand jokes about bad acting, Sonny Tufts, and a bunch of other actors who had seen better days in their careers: Victor Jory, Marie Windsor and Douglas Fowley. In this one, from 1953, Tufts, looking as if he wanted to be somewhere else, leads an expedition to the moon were they discover a race of women who wear black tights, who want to take over their spaceship and go to Earth because the moon is losing its oxygen. At this point, I know what you're thinking and can assure you that it is best not to ask. Windsor, the only woman in their crew, is telepathically controlled by the cat women, whereas Victor Jory, the astronaut who smuggled a pistol to the moon, wants to shoot everyone. And, oh, there's giant spiders, too. Watching this movie, you learn many valuable things, such as when you're fighting a spider the size of a Dodge Caravan, you can defeat it by sort of lazily waving a rubber bladed knife in its direction. You can also kill a cat woman by touching her on the skull with a rock. Cat Women on the Moon is senseless and wonderful, as are the other movies in this set.
Missile to the Moon is a loose remake of Cat Women, only this time, the astronauts are private scientists (along with two juvenile delinquents who escaped from jail and hid out in the moon missile -- again, it's best not ask) who take off for the moon in order to keep the Army from taking over their moon launch experiment. The head scientist, who is actually a member of the cat women's race, dies before they reach the moon and so is unable to put his evil scheme into effect. The surviving members of the merry band make it to the moon, where they encounter rock monsters and the same giant spiders who terrorized the crew in Cat Women. They also encounter cat women, who are in the midst of a political struggle. The earthlings have to fight their way back to their spaceship and back to Earth.
The Brain from Planet Arous, a 1957 feature, stars Shirley Temple's ex-husband, John Agar, who gets taken over by the brain from the title, a semi-transparent brain the size of a Dodge Caravan stacked on top of a Plymouth Voyager. The brain has escaped from its home planet and intends to take over the whole Earth, but mostly it causes Agar to grimace like he has a bad stomachache and then things blow up. A second brain, the good brain, comes down to capture the one that has captured Agar, but this brain also needs a body so it occupies -- I am not making this up -- Agar's dog. Let me repeat: I am not making this up. The plan is that the good brain, the one in the dog, will recapture the bad brain when it leaves Agar's body to recharge. It seems the bad brain has a vulnerable spot, called the Fissure of Orlando. Eventually, the brain is captured, Agar stops grimacing and a good time was had by all.
Which brings us to the last movie, the only one in color, and the only one that does not feature washed-up veteran actors holding their stomachs in, 1979's The Day It Came to Earth, which stars actors who call themselves names like Wink Roberts and Delight De Bruine. Tom Hanks' wife, Rita Wilson, has the second female lead and as she goes through her paces in this movie, you know she is not thinking that one day she'll work for Nora Ephron in some of the most wonderful romantic comedies of our times, like Sleepless in Seattle. The Day It Came to Earth also features as the veteran scientist 1950s comedian George Gobel, who does not bother to hold his stomach in and seems to think he's in a comedy.
In this one, a couple of gangsters dump the body of one of their associates in a lake, which is then hit by a meteor, which reanimates the dead gangster's body, turning him into a chain-dragging zombie who kills his killers and then shambles around gathering up loose pieces of the meteor and annoying people. The cast of the movie looks suitably frightened and runs around screaming. The highlight of the movie is the moment when Robert Ginnaven as detective Lt. Kelly describes the monster they are trying to catch as a "geological, gaseous goon" or, for short, a Gegagoo, with a straight face.
The movie was directed by Harry Thomason who did better when he went into TV and did Designing Women. These movies were all originally designed to be the second features at the drive-ins that peppered the country at the time of their release and were not taken seriously as anything but a way to generate a couple of bucks. Did the filmmakers realize they were actually making camp classics that would delight generations of audiences for years and years to come? Probably not. Camp is one of those happy accidents and can't be contrived. These movies all have a magic that was unplanned and are enjoyable in spite of themselves.
Michael Scott Cain
2 February 2013
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