The Wizard of Mars
|The Wizard of Mars|
|Directed by||David L. Hewitt|
David L. Hewitt|
Gary R. Heacock
Armando Busick (story)|
David L. Hewitt
|Music by||Frank A. Coe|
|Edited by||Tom Graeff|
|Distributed by||American General Pictures Inc.|
The Wizard of Mars is a 1965 low budget science fiction film takeoff of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz co-written and directed by stage magician David L. Hewitt. The title character is portrayed by John Carradine, who gives a lengthy monologue as a projection near the end of the film. The film centers on four astronauts—Steve (Roger Gentry), "Doc" (Vic McGee), Charlie (Jerry Rannow), and Dorothy (Eve Bernhardt), shown aboard ship wearing Silver Shoes—who dream they are struck by a storm and encounter the Horrors of the Red Planet (one of the film's video retitlings), and eventually follow a "Golden Road" to the Ancient City where they encounter the title character, who is the group mind of all Martians.
In 1975, Steve, "Doc", Charlie, and Dorothy are astronauts on a spacecraft approaching Mars. Following a scheduled cutoff of communications, they encounter and collide with something in orbit around Mars. They are forced to jettison the main stage and land in the control section. They leave in pressure suits, taking with them some essentials, such as inflatable boats and paddles, with a rifle. They paddle down a canal, being attacked by water creatures, and eventually enter a cave system. The cave comes to an end near a lava flow, and they are forced to leave the boats and edge around a lava lake, eventually finding a passage to the surface, just before the volcano erupts in a lava fountain. They think they hear the signal of the main stage, but it turns out to be from an automated biolab, sent to determine the habitability of Mars. Charlie becomes hysterical and shoots the lab, inadvertently revealing that it has enough oxygen left to replenish their dwindling oxygen supplies. A sandstorm blows in and they take shelter in the lee of the lab. The sandstorm uncovers a stone road, which they follow to an abandoned stone city. The city proves to have a breathable atmosphere, which enables them to remove their suits. Exploring, they discover two charred outlines beside a cutting torch near a wall with a partially cut hole and later a column with a hole in it. The column proves to be hollow and a nearby one turns out to conceal a desiccated Martian, with a transparent braincase. Mental communication between it and Steve guides him to a hall, which contains a projection of a head. It reveals that it represents the collective consciousness of all Martians. They were an old race, who once ruled a good part of the galaxy, but who retreated to Mars to ponder. To give themselves time to think, they took their city out of time, in an eternal present. Eventually they discovered that they had a further destiny, but could not reverse the process, being then incapable of physical effort. The city had been previously entered by other sentient aliens, who thought to plunder, instead of help. It directs them to a sphere, which must be replaced in the mechanism, in order for time to begin moving forward once again. X drops the sphere, revealing a model of the city. They return to where the others have been cutting a hole in the wall and complete the task. Behind the wall is a giant metal pendulum. Charlie, with help from Steve manages to replace the sphere in the clockwork above the pendulum. The pendulum begins to swing once again. They escape as the city begins to crumble, eventually fading away. They eventually collapse by the stone road and vanish. They reappear in their spacecraft in orbit, dirty and exhausted, where only two minutes have passed.
David L. Hewitt had previously co-written the screenplay of The Time Travelers and had turned a 33-minute-long Monsters Crash the Pajama Party into part of an interactive stage show. Hewitt met a group of vending machine operators who wanted to produce films with Hewitt convincing them that science fiction had potential. Their company American General Pictures' first full-length film The Wizard of Mars was made using an optical printer for special effects and was filmed for $33,000 in Great Basin National Park and Fallon, Nevada. The mask of the title character was made by Don Post and reused in Space Probe Taurus. Jerry Rannow claims the producer of the film still owes him $500.
The film was first acquired for television viewing with the film cut to 78 minutes. Hewitt reacquired the work for a stage show presentation with a variety of special effects used on the audience.
In the early 1980s, the film was released on videotape under its original title, by NTA Home Video (an imprint of Republic Pictures). It was released as Horrors of the Red Planet in 1988 by Genesis Home Video and later by Burbank Video and Star Classics Home Video. The latter two editions topped the cast list (as given on the cover) with Lon Chaney, Jr., who did not appear in this film but did appear in Hewitt's Doctor Terror's Gallery of Horrors with Carradine, Gentry, and McGee. Also in the early 1980s, Regal Video Inc. released both of these films in identical packaging under the title Alien Massacre. Both films were retitled on-screen, which left Carradine's screen credit "John Carradine as" just before the title, incomplete.