HoliDANGER #9: The Angry Red Planet (1959)
The DANGER: The many denizens of Mars! A gigantic bat rodent with tree sized spider legs! Tentacled carnivorous plants, capable of eating astronauts whole! Mountainous, cycloptic amoeba which roam the land and sea! Three eyed beings of advanced intelligence, with a civilization technologically superior to our own, and able to destroy Earth!
Ib Melchior, the director of The Angry Red Planet, contributed to the creation of two films I already love, Death Race 2000 (1975) and Robinson Crusoe On Mars (1964). With this film, the streak continues. I had no idea beforehand that the movie was full of such wonderful, practical effects monsters - an easy way to my heart. From the rotating, single eye of the giant amoeba, to the snarling, comic book like face of the bat spider, they possess low budget charm, character, and originality. The bat spider attack in particular features a glorious integration of the miniature beast with an on set, full scale version of its claw. When I watch these kinds of movies, this is exactly what I want to see, and here it's delivered tenfold.
The movie sets up a mystery from the outset, its story beginning with a tense recovery of the vessel that sent our heroes to Mars. The lone conscious survivor recounts the fate of the mission, and the bulk of the film is this account. We as viewers wait to see what befell her crewmates, and why the only other survivor has a dangerous, expanding alien growth on his arm.
All of the sequences on the surface of Mars itself are photographed in some process that drenches everything in a hallucinatory shade of red (the film's poster proclaims it as "Cinemagic"). It gives the footage an otherworldly quality, and helps to disguise the seams between the effects, scenic illustrations, and the live actors. Everything is absorbed into the red stew.
In many ways, The Angry Red Planet is a quintessential 50's space monster movie. It hits all of the right notes, and has some great filmmaking choices. It's a thrill to visit this angry world, and be reminded of why great sci fi escapism doesn't need a giant budget to be successful.