War of the Satellites

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War of the Satellites
Directed by Roger Corman
Starring Richard Devon
Distributed by Allied Artists
Release dates
  • May 18, 1958 (1958-05-18)
Running time 72 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $70,000 (estimated)

War of the Satellites is a 1958 black and white sci-fi film directed by Roger Corman rapidly conceived, filmed and released to exploit the Sputnik satellite.

An "unknown force" declares war against planet Earth when the United Nations disobeys warnings to cease and desist in its attempts at assembling the first satellite in the atmosphere.

Synopsis

Members of the United Nations space program are dismayed by the inexplicable annihilation of a manned satellite. The satellite is the tenth in the Sigma Project to be destroyed after coming into contact with a mysterious space barrier. At the control center, U.N. representative Mr. Akad demands that the project, which has yielded limited results, be terminated because of the loss of money and lives. Soon after, a young teenage couple witnesses the landing of a small missile-like object which they turn over to authorities. After examining the capsule, the U.N. calls a meeting and reads aloud a message from the capsule that proclaims to be from the Masters of the Spiral Nebula Ghana, aliens displeased by Earth's repeated attempts to explore space. Calling humans a "disease," the aliens declare they will set up a quarantine to protect the universe.

In response, Mr. Hodgekiss, the United States representative, gives a rousing speech asserting that no other life force has the right to thwart mankind's ambitions, and the continuation of the Sigma Project is enthusiastically approved. After the meeting, the head of Sigma Project, Dr. Van Ponder, tells reporters that he suspects that the message is a fake, but nevertheless announces his plan to lead the next satellite mission. In private, Van Ponder reveals to colleagues and mission crew members, astronomer David Boyer and researcher Sybil Carrington, that the capsule has defied all analysis and its origins remain unknown. Over the next several weeks, preparations for the next mission proceed. One evening, Hodgekiss summons Van Ponder to a U.N. meeting, but while driving there, Van Ponder's car is attacked by a mysterious ball of light which drives him off the road.

At the U.N., as Akad leads another diatribe against the project, Hodgekiss receives notification of Van Ponder's death. The council is stunned, however, when moments later, Van Ponder arrives at the meeting. Unknown to the council, aliens have assumed the form of Van Ponder to infiltrate the project. Later, alone in Hodgekiss' office, Van Ponder splits into two separate replicas of the scientist to extend his ability to impede Sigma. Back at the research center, David asks Van Ponder to reconsider Sybil's inclusion in the mission because he fears for her safety. As Van Ponder refuses, the men are interrupted by news that a large number of natural disasters have occurred worldwide. Speculation arises in the press that the disasters may be part of the U. N.'s strange warning from outer space. Van Ponder then suggests to Hodgekiss that in light of the events, they should call a halt to Sigma. After Hodgekiss reluctantly agrees, Van Ponder writes a letter to be read at the U. N. declaring the end of space exploration. David volunteers to present the letter, but at the council meeting makes an impassioned declaration that the Sigma Project will continue despite the alien intervention.

Some days after, while chatting with Van Ponder in a lab, David is disconcerted to notice the scientist has identical markings on each arm, which prompts him to investigate Van Ponder's wrecked car. Meanwhile, while meeting with astronomical engineer John Compo at the lab, Van Ponder fails to notice that his hand is being burned by a torch. While John races for a doctor, Van Ponder heals the wound. When John arrives with Dr. Howard Lazar, Van Ponder's hand is intact, and when John insists that Van Ponder was severely injured, Howard suggests he has been working too hard.

After David finds Van Ponder's demolished car, he realizes that no one could have survived the accident. David then contacts Sybil, only to learn that the Sigma launch has been moved forward and is to occur in a few hours. David hurries to the launch site, but realizes that he will be unable to speak with Sybil until after the launch. As preparations continue for lift-off, Van Ponder is unsettled to note that John is part of the crew. Later, while hurrying to his post, David is shocked to see Van Ponder replicate himself.

After the successful launch of the satellite, Van Ponder corners John in a small control room, paralyzes him so that he cannot escape, and then reveals that he is an alien. He explains that the warning from space came from powerful beings with the ability to transform energy into matter and back again. Van Ponder offers to transform John if he will help him, but when John adamantly refuses, Van Ponder kills him.

After Sybil enters the control room and finds them, Van Ponder explains that John did not survive the ship's rapid acceleration process. While Van Ponder arranges a funeral service for John, David tells Sybil that Van Ponder is an alien, but Sybil refuses to believe him. Later, when David asks Howard about John's death, the doctor asserts that John was completely healthy. After David tells Howard that Van Ponder murdered John because he uncovered something Van Ponder was trying to conceal, Howard agrees to examine Van Ponder. Before meeting with Howard, Van Ponder creates a heart for himself, then is startled by his sudden surge of emotion for Sybil. While Sybil meets David to report Van Ponder's unusual behavior, Van Ponder murders Howard, then announces to the crew that he suspects David of having killed John. Just before his arrest, David, unaware of Howard's death, pleads with Sybil to seek protection with the doctor.

Going in search of Howard, Sybil spots Van Ponder and takes refuge from him in the solar radiation room. Van Ponder follows her, but when he hears an announcement that David has escaped his guards, Van Ponder replicates himself in front of Sybil. While one replica goes after David, the other attempts to seduce Sybil. As the satellite nears the space barrier, the pilots are confused by Van Ponder's order to head toward it. David confronts one of the Van Ponder replicas and wounds him with a gunshot. After a fierce brawl, David finally shoots Van Ponder to death, after which the replica with Sybil also collapses and dies. David then orders the satellite to detonate a radiation blast which should catapult them through the barrier. David rescues Sybil from the radiation room just before the blast. David's plan succeeds and the Sigma satellite reports to Earth control that the universe lies before them.


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