The Angry Red Planet (1960)

Rating: *
Review Date: 8/31/20
Cast: Gerald Mohr, Nora Hayden, Les Tremayne, Jack Kruschen

"Shall we go out and claim the planet in the name of Brooklyn?"

A manned probe to Mars that was thought to be lost shows up on Earth's tracking systems. It fails to respond, but the Earth scientists are able to fly it home remotely. Dr Iris Ryan (Nora Hayden) and Col. Tom O'Bannion (Gerald Mohr) are the only suvivors onboard, although O'Bannion is unconscious due to an alien infection on his arm. The ship's data tapes are blank and the traumatized Dr. Ryan has blocked the horrifying events on Mars out of her memory, so the doctors use drugs to force her to recount what happened. There was definitely life on Mars, and they weren't too happy about having visitors.

This low budget production is awful in every regard, and while the visual effects are terrible, the cringe-worthy dialog is even worse. Col. O'Bannion is a lascivious and misogynistic jerk who has the hots for Iris and has trouble keeping his shirt buttoned up. In true American fashion, the first thing he does when he steps foot on Mars is shoot something and stand proudly beside it. What a brave display of manliness! No wonder the Martians want to kick him off their planet. Similarly, the ship's wise-cracking engineer (Jack Kruschen) seems to have an unhealthy relationship with his gun, which he repeatedly kisses and lovingly refers to as "Cleopatra." The crew encounters a handful of strange creatures including a giant venus fly-trap that resembles a gaping vagina, a short three-eyed Martian man, an enormous one-eyed amoeba that looks like a flounder, and the film's iconic 40' tall bat-rat-spider-crab thing.

The shots on the Martian surface were filmed in "Cinemagic," which is basically just overexposed stock with a red filter. Many of the backgrounds are laughably unconvincing paintings that look like they belong in a cartoon. Curiously, about half of the interior shots of the ship show the planet having a blue sky rather than a red one. The crew's space helmets are missing face plates, and their super weapon only emits sound, which is exceedingly lame. The acting is pretty wooden, although I blame most of that on the terrible dialog. Only Les Tremayne seems to take anything seriously, while the rest of the crew cracks jokes and wrestles with their hormones. Tremayne's character is listed as Theodore Gettell on IMDb, but I swear it sounds like Theodore Geisel in the movie, which definitely caught my attention. Despite the awful writing, I did appreciate the film's final sentiment: "Men of Earth, your civilization has not progressed beyond destruction, war and violence against yourselves and others. Do as you will to your own and to your planet, but remember this warning: Do not return to Mars. We can and will destroy you."