1954 was a banner year for great science-fiction films such as CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS, THEM!, TARGET EARTH and Japan's epic GODZILLA. Unfortunately this effort doesn't measure up but it does have some amusing moments and is good for unintentional laughs.
Alpha Video has given us numerous releases featuring wildly surreal cover art but as always, the print quality is lackluster, spotty and ridden with terrible contrast. The best thing about Alpha releases is the price (well under $10) but it would be criminal to charge more for their product. Perhaps the day will come when Alpha will invest more in obtaining better prints (or not duping other video company's releases as a friend of this reviewer suspects), even if the end result is a higher cost to us all.
This opus and ROBOT MONSTER were famous for having been shot in Bronson Caverns (located in the Los Feliz section of Hollywood) which doubles as a place referred to as Soledad Flats, Nevada. Considering the caverns are home to a group of aliens with Ping-Pong ball eyes in outrageous jumpsuits (not to mention inhabited by gigantic tarantulas, cockroaches, grasshoppers, horned toads and lizards of every variety), it's too hysterical for description! These aliens intend to take over our fair planet with these prehistoric-sized buggers.
Peter Graves essays the role of Dr. Doug Martin whose plane crash lands in the area. He is discovered bearing an odd surgical scar over his heart and taken to an airbase some distance away. Under the effect of sodium amethol he recounts his otherworldly encounters to a group of scientists who believe he's gone completely nuts. His alien abduction tale is believed by one young physician, though. He sets out to free the world of all the beasties and aliens and succeeds in a memorable mushroom cloud finish, vaporizing the aforementioned antagonists while looking on with his wife and associates who come out perfectly unscathed. Graves would go on to thesp about in better fare such as NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) and Roger Corman's 50s masterpiece, IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956).
Nostalgia buffs will recall the make-up by the late Harry Thomas who achieved better results in FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER (1958), FROM HELL IT CAME (1957), THE UNEARTHLY (1957) VOODOO WOMAN (1957), and Ed Wood's legendary PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959). Thomas had been an assistant to Jack Pierce and William Tuttle and was a dear man right to the end, dying in near-obscurity in an apartment in Hollywood.
This effort was directed by W. Lee Wilder, brother of Billy Wilder! Pursuing a far different career than his celebrated brother, he also directed a number of other genre titles including FRIGHT (1956), BLUEBEARD'S TEN HONEYMOONS (1960) and THE OMEGANS (1968).
The film is 71 minutes in duration, was filmed in black and white, and has five chapter stops with no extras. Devotees of 50s drive-in magic will probably go for this but one shouldn't expect much. (Christopher Dietrich)
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