Here’s the plot of this B-grade science fiction flick from the fifties. The second manned mission to Mars rescues the sole survivor of the first and plans to return him to Earth for trial for murdering his crew in order to survive on meager supplies until rescue arrived. Unknown to them, a creature, a Martian, had slipped aboard and begins hunting the crew for food, using ventilation tunnels to hide and store his prey. Sound familiar? I’ve often wondered if this one was an inspiration for Dan O’Bannon when he was writing his ALIEN script.
It ranks with my favorites, though from my more adult perspective, it wasn’t a very good film. Inaccuracies and stupidities the young kid didn’t know, and probably wouldn’t have cared about if he did, fill this film.
Marshall Thompson portray Carruthers, the suspected murderer that is the first expedition’s only survivor. Kim Spaulding is Van Heusen, the second’s leader and a man who seems to have it in for Carruthers. Ann Doran and Dabbs Greer play Mary and Eric Royce, the doctor and the second in command. Shirley Patterson is Ann Anderson , a woman who’s role is never clearly defined, except she seems to have a budding relationship with Van Heusen. That is until she meets Carruthers. Which may explain Van Heusen’s antipathy toward the commander.
All sorts of bad science here.
External shots of the ship show it moving up, stars down. But when a crew member looks out a portal, they move left to right, then stop suddenly. As space suited crew exit the airlock, standing when the doors open, they are obviously climbing a ladder to get onto a flat surface. The technique used is the same as the Batman series where the two superheroes are climbing the walls of a building(camera on it’s side to make it appear to be going up). On the subject of space suits, when they put them on the flaps are tucked neatly down into the necks of the suit, no sorts of fastenings. And no face plates. There are supposed to be of course, but one scene shows an actor scratching his nose as they leave the ship. The final solution they arrived at was to open all doors to space to suffocate the creature is a drawn out affair instead of the explosive decompression that would really happen.
And finally, this was a rescue operation to a dead planet. So why were they loaded down with weapons. In the battles with the creature, they used handguns(I’m no expert, but they looked like Mike Hammer’s favorite weapon, a 1911 Colt automatic), hand grenades, gas grenades(made of glass, but in an unsecured box in a cabinet), and a bazooka(used twice in a few seconds, but never reloaded). Think about that. A space ship where it was important to maintain the integrity of the hull, using grenades and a bazooka, never mind the bullets that were flying around. Why would they even be loaded for bear like that on a scientific/rescue mission?
Finally the creature. Ray “Crash” Corrigan wore the rubber suit. The head had to be redesigned when it didn’t fit well. Corrigan’s chin was visible and made to appear as the creature’s tongue. The bug-eyes(a usual feature of a Paul Blaisdell creature suit) were removed so Corrigan’s could be seen.
The script was by Jerome Bixby, a well respected SF writer, but it’s low budget and six days shooting didn’t help.
For more overlooked movies, as always, go check out Todd Mason over at his blog, SWEET FREEDOM,