The Angry Red Planet

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The Angry Red Planet
Angry Red Planet.jpg
Theatrical release poster, 1959
Directed byIb Melchior
Produced bySidney W. Pink
Norman Maurer
Screenplay bySidney W. Pink
Ib Melchior
Based onOriginal story by Sidney W. Pink
StarringGerald Mohr
Naura Hayden
Jack Kruschen
Les Tremayne
Music byPaul Dunlap
CinematographyStanley Cortez
Edited byIvan J. Hoffman
Production
company
Sino Productions
Distributed bySino Productions (originally)
American International Pictures
Release date
September, 1960[1]
Running time
83-87 minutes[2][3]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
BudgetUS$200,000[4]

The Angry Red Planet (also called Invasion of Mars and Journey to Planet Four) is a 1960[5][6] science fiction film starring Gerald Mohr and directed by Ib Melchior. Melchior reportedly had an initial production budget of only $200,000 and was given just nine days to film it.[4][7] Such financial and time constraints necessitated the use of "CineMagic”, a film-processing technique that combined hand-drawn animations with live-action footage. The relatively inexpensive process was used for all scenes depicting the surface of Mars. While CineMagic proved unsatisfactory for creating visually believable special effects for The Angry Red Planet, producer Norman Maurer did reuse the process in 1962, although to a lesser extent, in the film comedy The Three Stooges in Orbit.[8] American International Pictures (AIP) released the film as a double feature in September, 1960 with Beyond the Time Barrier in some areas[9].

Plot[edit]

As the film opens, mission control personnel on Earth are monitoring the rocketship MR-1 (“Mars Rocket 1”) as it approaches Earth orbit. Personnel are surprised to see the ship on their monitors, for they believed the vehicle had become lost or destroyed in space. Now the first manned expedition to the “Red Planet” has suddenly reappeared. Ground technicians are unable, though, to make contact with anyone on MR-1, so they guide the rocket by remote control to a safe Earth landing. Only two survivors of the original four-person crew are found in the ship: Dr. Iris Ryan (Naura Hayden) and Colonel Tom O’Bannion (Gerald Mohr), whose entire right arm is covered with a strange green alien growth. The MR-1’s mission to Mars is then recounted by Dr. Ryan as she also helps to find a cure for Colonel O’Bannion's badly infected arm. In her debriefing, she reports in detail the crew’s experiences while traveling to the Red Planet and exploring its surface. She describes their expedition in retrospect, as if it were currently happening.

After MR-1 reaches Mars and its crew explores the planet’s surface, Dr. Ryan is attacked by a carnivorous plant, one that Chief Warrant Officer Jacobs kills with his freeze-ray, which he calls “Cleo”. The crew then encounters an immense bat-rat-spider creature, at first mistaking its legs for trees. That creature is blinded and repelled as well by Jacobs, who again uses his raygun. When the crew returns to their ship, they realize their radio signals are being blocked and the MR-1 is unable to leave Mars due to a mysterious force field. O'Bannion next leads the crew to a Martian lake, where a city with high, impressive structures is visible on the other side, far in the distance. Crossing the water in an inflatable raft, they are stopped by a giant amoeba-like creature with a single spinning eye. The creature kills Jacobs and infects O’Bannion’s arm. The three survivors then return to the MR-1 and manage this time to lift off from the planet since the force field has somehow been deactivated. Unfortunately, Professor Gettell, the MR-1’s designer, dies of an apparent heart attack caused by the extreme stresses of the ascent.

Once the MR-1 returns to Earth, O’Bannion’s infected arm is cured by medical staff using electric shocks. Mission control technicians also examine the MR-1’s data recorders from the expedition and find a recording of an alien voice, which announces that the ship’s crew were allowed to leave Mars so they could deliver a message to their home planet. The voice then states that “we of Mars” have been observing human development on Earth for many thousands of years and have determined that Earthlings’ technology has far outpaced their progress in cultural advancement. The alien then accuses humankind of invading Mars, warning that if future expeditions ever return to the Red Planet, the Earth would be destroyed in retaliation.

Cast[edit]

  • Gerald Mohr as Colonel Thomas O’Bannion
  • Naura Hayden as Dr. Iris “Irish” Ryan
  • Les Tremayne as Professor Theodore Gettell
  • Jack Kruschen as Chief Warrant Officer Sam Jacobs
  • Paul Hahn as Major General George Treegar
  • J. Edward McKinley as Professor Paul Weiner
  • Tom Daly as Dr. Frank Gordon
  • Don Lamond as TV Newscaster/Martian Voice
  • Edward Innes as Brigadier General Alan Prescott
  • Gordon Barnes as Major Lyman Ross
  • Jack Haddock a Lt. Colonel Davis
  • Brandy Bryan as Nurse Hayes
  • Joan Fitzpatrick as Nurse Dixon
  • Arline Hunter as Joan
  • Alean Hamilton as Joan’s Friend

Production[edit]

  • The Angry Red Plant began as “The Planet Mars”, a treatment written by Sidney Pink about a space voyage to Earth’s mysterious neighbor. “‘It was written on my kitchen table’”, Pink said in an interview a few years before his death in 2002. “‘My kids were my critics, they’d tell me what was good and what just fell flat!’”[10] Pink gave his treatment to Melchior after meeting him at a party. Melchior believed the project had potential, so he offered to help write the screenplay if Pink allowed him to direct the film. While Melchior worked on establishing a working script, Pink met Maurer, who was developing “CineMagic”, a “revolutionary” filming process for creating special effects by combining hand-drawn images with live action. However, it soon became apparent the process would not be able to deliver what had been promised with respect to the quality of its effects.[11] “‘The damn Cinemagic didn’t work like it should,’” Pink recalled. “‘It was supposed to be sort of a 3-D effect. What we came up with was great anyway!’”[10]
  • The production budget for The Angry Red Planet may have actually been significantly higher than the $200,000 cited by most film references and in some reviews and articles in recent years. In its online catalog, the American Film Institute refers to a contemporary report in “HR” (The Hollywood Reporter) that announced an increase in allotted funding for the project more than double the frequently given figure. “As noted in a HR news item,” states AFI, “just prior to the start of production, the film’s budget was raised from $250,000 to $500,000.”[2]
  • Comments made by producer Sid Pink on the eve of filming The Angry Red Planet provide some evidence regarding how little money was spent to design and build sets for the production. In an interview for a news item by Associated Press reporter and writer James Bacon, one published on September 7, 1959, Pink is quoted about the extreme cost-cutting effectiveness of using the new process CineMagic. “‘Our set for the planet Mars’”, he said, “‘cost us a couple of hundred dollars instead of the thousands we had estimated.’”[12] He also estimates that the movie “‘will be made at half the original cost’”.[12] Pink may have being overly optimistic about costs in the heady days prior to filming, or perhaps he was marketing CineMagic to future potential customers; but his statements still confirm that Invasion of Mars—the film’s working title before its release—was a low-budget project. The “meager” $200,000 production budget cited for The Angry Red Planet may therefore be a credible ballpark figure.
  • Filming for The Angry Red Planet began on September 9, 1959, at Hal Roach Studios in Culver City, California, only a month after Melchior and Pink completed their final draft of the screenplay.[2][11]

Release[edit]

American International Pictures (AIP) released the film as a double feature in September, 1960 on a double bill with Circus of Horrors in some areas, and with Beyond the Time Barrier in other regions[13]. It was the first of several movies Melchior made for the independent film studio and distributor.[14] According Sydney Pink, he had trouble working with AIP, more specifically with the “notorious” Samuel Z. Arkoff.[10] “‘Neither of us trusted the other’”, Pink said in a 2005 interview about the release of The Angry Red Planet, “‘which worked out well because I wouldn't touch him with a ten foot pole.’”[10] He then added, “‘Jimmy Nicholson was the brains of that operation. With Arkoff, you never got a straight count.’”[10]

Reception[edit]

The Angry Red Planet received mixed reviews upon its release. Eugene Archer, film critic for The New York Times, gave the production a negative review, criticizing its depiction of the planet Mars, likening it to “a cardboard illustration from Flash Gordon”.[15] Yet, certainly not all the newspaper and trade-paper reviewers in 1959 and early 1960 were critical of the film in general or, in particular, CineMagic's deficiencies in simulating the terrain, fictitious plant life, and monstrous creatures on Mars. The reviewer for Motion Picture Daily, Samuel D. Berns, was enthusiastic about the production, calling it “a stimulating experience in suspense and intrigue.”[3] Berns also described CineMagic as “a well-conceived optical effect for dramatic impact”, an aspect of the film that he predicted would draw “big gross business” to the boxoffice.[3] He complimented too both forms of filming presented in The Angry Red Planet, as well as its music:

Everything seen or experienced outside the space ship on Mars is depicted in the Cinemagic process to symbolize a concept of nature on another planet. The rest of the film's action and background is printed in the normal fashion.

...Stanley Cortez delivered an expert job of camerawork, in marking the debut of the new Eastman 5250 Color, bringing into sharp focus the soft, effective color tones of the film. Paul Dunlap’s music contributed its share of mounting interest and suspense in the subject matter for the producers Sid Pink and Norman Maurer.[3]

In a much more recent assessment of The Angry Red Planet, in December 2001, Glenn Erickson of DVD Talk criticized the film’s flat direction, dull script and overuse of stock footage.[16] Erickson did faintly compliment the film for at least coloring scenes of Mars’ surface with a red tinge, which in his opinion gave the sequences “a credibly alien look”.[16] Later, Leonard Maltin in the 2014 edition of his popular movie guide judged the film to be average, awarding it two out of four stars.[17] Reviewer Bruce Eder of AllMovie, however, in 2011 praised the film:

Danish-born director/screenwriter Ib Melchior brings a surprisingly light, deft touch to the proceedings, allowing the actors a chance to have fun with their roles—especially Gerald Mohr, still looking and sounding a bit like Humphrey Bogart, as the stalwart mission commander, and Jack Kruschen as the good-humored technician in the crew—without losing sight of the adventure and the story line, and meshing it all seamlessly with the special effects-driven sequences.[18]

Home media[edit]

A digital copy of The Angry Red Planet was first released by MGM on Region 1 DVD in 2001.[16] A decade later, MGM released the film again on a single disc but as part of a multi-feature Midnite Movies collection, which also included The Man from Planet X (1951), Morons from Outer Space (1985), and Alien from L.A. (1988). The Angry Red Planet was released yet again in 2013 by Gaiam International on Sci-Fi Classics, another four-movie compilation on a single disc. The other three films on that disc are The Man from Planet X, Beyond the Time Barrier (1960), and The Time Travelers (1964).[19]

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Warren, Bill (1986). "Keep Watching The Skies Volume 2". McFarland & Co., Inc. ISBN 0-89950-170-2. Page 734
  2. ^ a b c The American Film Institute (AFI) cites the “Duration” or running time of the film in minutes at “83 or 85”. “The Angry Red Planet (1960)”, film details, AFI, Los Angeles, California. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d In its review of The Angry Red Planet in 1959, Motion Picture Daily times the film at “87 minutes”. Berns Samuel D. (1959). "Review: The Angry Red Planet", Motion Picture Daily (New York, N.Y.), November 30, 1959, page 5. Internet Archive, San Francisco, California. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  4. ^ a b “The Angry Red Planet (1960)”, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Turner Broadcasting System, a subsidiary of Time Warner, Inc., New York, N.Y. Retrieved September 16, 2018.
  5. ^ Warren, Bill (1986). "Keep Watching The Skies Volume 2". McFarland & Co., Inc. ISBN 0-89950-170-2. Page 730
  6. ^ http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/67403/The-Angry-Red-Planet/
  7. ^ Distributed to theaters in late November and December in 1959, The Angry Red Planet is listed by some motion-picture references as a 1959 film; by others [such as by the American Film Institute (AFI) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM)] as a 1960 production. Such discrepancies are usually attributable to some references identifying a “late-in-the-year” film like The Angry Red Planet by its release date, while others cite the film’s official (usually later) copyright date. According to AFI, the copyright date for The Angry Red Planet (No. LP20393) is January 21, 1960.
  8. ^ Wingrove, David. Science Fiction Film Source Book (Longman Group Limited, 1985).
  9. ^ Warren, Bill (1986). "Keep Watching The Skies Volume 2". McFarland & Co., Inc. ISBN 0-89950-170-2. Page 734
  10. ^ a b c d e Hayes, David C. (2005). “The Last Interview of Sid Pink” Wayback Machine (web.archive.org), interview from the Yahoo Contributor Network, March 31, 2005. Retrieved September 16, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Mark McGee, Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures McFarland, p 161-168
  12. ^ a b Bacon, James (1959). “New Picture Process Made: The Latest Is Called The Cinemagic”, The Florence Times (Florence, Alabama), September 7, 1959, section 2, page 3, column 2. Archives of Google News (news.google.com). Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  13. ^ Warren, Bill (1986). "Keep Watching The Skies Volume 2". McFarland & Co., Inc. ISBN 0-89950-170-2. Page 734
  14. ^ Gary A. Smith, The American International Pictures Video Guide, McFarland 2009 p 14
  15. ^ Archer, Eugene. The New York Times, film review, May 5, 1960. Last accessed: February 21, 2011.
  16. ^ a b c Erickson, Glenn. "DVD Savant Review: The Angry Red Planet". DVD Talk.com. Glenn Erickson. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  17. ^ Leonard Maltin (2013). Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide: 2014 Edition : the Modern Era. Plume Books. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-14-218055-6.
  18. ^ Eder, Bruce. The Angry Red Planet at AllMovie. Last accessed: February 21, 2011.
  19. ^ "The Angry Red Planet (1959) - Ib Melchior". Allmovie.com. AllMovie. Retrieved 11 January 2016.

External links[edit]