Saturday, February 22, 2020

A Quick Look: DESTINATION INNER SPACE (1966 - color)

   For a movie with such a cool monster, good pix from DESTINATION INNER SPACE are sure hard to come by! The film itself is essentially a remake of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD set in an undersea research facility. The Navy sends a trouble-shooter to a remote sea lab when an underwater flying saucer begins making it's presence known. When the saucer settles down long enough for the scientists to check it out, an alien capsule is taken back to the lab where it begins to grow larger and larger... The cast is filled with familiar faces and voices, including Scott Brady, Gary Merrill, Sheree North, Wende Wagner, Mike Road, and James Hong. Frustratingly, the film is mighty obscure. The single "official" DVD release is a soft, blurry print with faded color (the print that surfaced on TV back in the 90's was gorgeous, so this is doubly disappointing). Also worth noting is Paul Dunlap's rousing score, largely re-recordings of his themes from THE ANGRY RED PLANET and I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF. Man, I sure miss these 60's underwater movies!

Sunday, February 9, 2020

A Quick Look: THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953 - color)

   Released in 1953, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS was the first (and remains the best) cinematic adaptation of H.G. Wells' famous novel. I'm sure you've seen it, but it's always worth another look. A meteor crashes down in rural California, which turns out to be the flaming vanguard of an invasion from Mars! The film is filled with nice little human details, like a deputy bumming a cigarette without asking for it, a dog lapping up spilled cream from an abandoned ice cream cart, a boy running over to retrieve the rubber ball of a small girl during the exodus from Los Angeles, and so on. Terrific dialog from start to finish. Hauntingly beautiful Technicolor photography highlights Oscar-winning special effects. Most genre pictures of the 50's were B pictures, but THE WAR OF THE WORLDS joins a smaller number of color A productions. Producer George Pal tried to pitch a television series spinoff in the early 70's. The late 80's saw a Canadian sequel series emerge (fairly intriguing show at times, but it's a completely different animal). The film's achievements and all-around swellness have been discussed for decades, but this is one of those rare cases where all the praise is justified.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A Quick Look: AT THE EARTH'S CORE (1976 - color)

   AT THE EARTH'S CORE was the second Amicus/AIP co-production based upon the works of Burroughs and starring Doug McClure. This time Doug is joined by Hammer favorites Peter Cushing and Caroline Munro. It's the turn of the century and an industrialist and a scientist team up to construct a massive drilling machine that will explore the regions beneath the Earth's crust. What they find is a prehistoric world where humans are slaves to intelligent pterodactyls! Sheer fun and kiddie matinee adventure, the film remains a favorite with many. Some beautiful sets and effects on display, though the bulk of the monsters (and there are plenty) have been criticized as being Mupppet-like. They aren't that bad, of course, but it's also fair to say they aren't the best dinosaurs ever put on the screen. Still, it's hard to imagine a kid not loving the experience to pieces!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Quick Look: CRACK IN THE WORLD (1964 - color)

   CRACK IN THE WORLD came before the disaster cycle, and has been said to fit more comfortably within the 50's science-gone-awry genre. An attempt to release geothermal energy by use of a subterranean atomic missile results in a cataclysmic redirection of energy that causes an ever-growing split in the planet's crust. It threatens to encircle the globe if not stopped. Dana Andrews stars, and I've been a fan of his since way back. Janette Scott and Kieron Moore co-star, having recently been paired in THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS as well. Although an American picture, it often feels like a British film, useful in helping to ground it's fantastic story. Some amazing miniature effects on display. The film is part soap opera, but it's pretty gripping.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A Quick Look: GHIDRAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1965 - color)

   GHIDRAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER was a real milestone in the genre, bringing together the major monster stars from earlier films to take on a new menace that was to become a fixture of future films. When a fiery meteor crashes to earth, it coincides with the arrival of a prophetess who bears a striking resemblance a recently-assassinated Princess. Enemy agents come after her and a cop tries to protect her, although his job isn't made any easier by his reporter sister! Meanwhile, the prophecies predict the return of Godzilla and Rodan to Japan, as well as new terror Ghidrah. Mothra is brought in to organize the earth monsters against this new menace from space! Ghidrah would return for the next film, MONSTER ZERO, and again as the main heavy in DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND would be his last showy bit in the original run. The monster team-up idea, likely patterned after the old Universal Frankenstein films of the 40's, became something of a staple of the Godzilla series afterward. Ultimately, it became sort of like watching sporting events and seeing which old pro was going to be brought onto the field.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Busy work on Cartoon Cuties...

   Issue 3 and two volumes of prose stories are due for publication early this year. I can now color my own pages, so I've dived into issue 4. Of course, I'll let you know when these books become available, but it's looking like a very productive year for the franchise, praise God!