Killers From Space

It was the title that got me on this one, it sounded thrilling, but it was anything but. Not even Peter Graves could help this one.

The story starts off with a nuclear test in the desert, complete with soldiers, scientists, and top brass observing it from a distance with dark goggles. Also observing is scientist Peter Graves who is flying in a jet fighter around the site to take measurements. He and the pilot spot a bright light coming from the ground near where the bomb went off, so they fly in to investigate. The plane controls though freeze and it crashes, killing the pilot, and Peter Graves is found to be missing. Later, Peter Graves turns up at base with not a scratch except for a scar over his heart…he had been operated on!

Peter Graves and the chief bug-eye.

He is taken in for testing and after he acts pretty weird for a while the doctor decides to give him a truth serum. Under the serum he blurts out the truth of what happened. He explains he was taken underground by alien men with buggy eyes after the crash. He was dead, but they revived him by working on his heart and he was then as good as new. After waking up he found out that the aliens were from a planet where the sun was dying. The aliens had to adapt to less sunlight by growing buggy eyes so they could see better. They decided to find other planets to colonise so a bunch of them went to Earth and set up base underground in the nuke test area. There, they started to breed giant lizards, bugs, and other nasties which they would use to wipe out humanity. Peter Graves, being a scientist, figured out that they were getting power from a local power station to run their operation, and that if they lost that power things would overload. The chief bug-eye cottoned onto him so had the big chief alien up in the orbiting space station mesmerise Peter Graves via a television screen, then he was sent on his way to get info about the next nuclear test, which would be the last test they needed before world domination.

The truth serum didn’t convince the military brass, they thought Peter Graves was looney, so Peter Graves busted out of hospital, went to the power station and after a tense stand-off while holding an engineer at gunpoint, had the power turned off for ten seconds, which caused an almighty explosion in the bug-eyes underground lair, a huge nuclear mushroom cloud of an explosion…they were all toast. The end dialogue was: “Just as he said!”, “He blew them to pieces!”. Smiles all round then end titles.

The film was made in 1953 which was a busy year for nuke testing, 11 tests in all, and all above ground in Nevada. One test was even performed by firing a nuke from an artillery gun…scary stuff. The filmmakers did not seem to be making an anti-nuke film, they were just using it as a plot device.

The alien abduction, operation scar on Peter Graves chest, and brainwashing was interesting. Stories of actual people claiming alien abduction did not start until a year later.

As entertainment it was not much, there was a lot of talking but very little action, and no killing at all on the alien side of things. They just looked silly with their ping-pong ball eyes which must have been very uncomfortable to wear. It was good to see a 28 year old Peter Graves though, a fave actor of mine because of his role in the Airplane films, as well as the Mission Impossible TV series. It was a B-grade film though, so not much can be expected from it.

I have decided Peter must go into the MBMS Page of Fame, a most worthy actor.

It is time to watch a more modern film. I feel like an eighties film next.

Date watched: November 23rd
Score: 4/10
Film count 2018: 76

Wicked Woman

This 1953 low-budget film is about a tall blonde bad girl that rides into town on a bus from somewhere, gets a job at a bar, falls in love with the married owner, plots to run away to Mexico with him but her plan which involves fraud goes awry, and at the end of the film she is on another bus for Kansas to carry on her wickedness elsewhere.

The actress playing said blonde pretty much makes the whole film. Her name was Beverly Michaels and she played bad girls in a few films, but this one is her most well-known film. She was good at it too.

Also in the film as the bar owner was Richard Egan who was a familiar face. He had roles in many film and television roles.

Egan and Michaels

And another familiar face with an even more familiar voice was Percy Helton.

The film itself was decent and didn’t get boring. The last 15 minutes was very well done with the tension building up, but the ending was a bit of a cop-out as I was expecting the two fraudsters to go to the joint, but it was instead all neatly and happily ended with just the bad blonde moping out of town to carry on her bad ways somewhere else. But really, that is how it should have ended.

A pretty decent watch overall.

Date watched: November 22nd
Score: 6.6/10
Film count 2018: 74

The Man From Planet X

This is a 1951 independent science fiction film, and overall rather mediocre.

The story is about a roaming planet which astronomers named “Planet X” that was on a course for Earth. A news reporter following the story went to Scotland where the planet was supposed to be nearest to when it arrives. He meets an astronomer there, and his pretty daughter, and soon meets “The Man from Planet X”. At first the alien is friendly, but when a greedy scientist attacks the alien for his secrets things turn sour and the alien starts turning villagers into mindless zombies using a zombiefier, and prepares for the invasion of Earth by his fellow aliens who need a new planet to live on.

Most of the film was done on a set in Hollywood, and parts of the set were used in Ingrid Bergman’s “Joan of Arc”. It was shot in six days. Most of the film was just a lot of talk and very little alien action. The alien had a kind of ray gun, but we didn’t get to see him blast anyone with it, I presume the low budget for this film (US$41,000 or US$387,000 in today’s money) couldn’t allow for that. For a budget film though the acting was not bad. The Scottish actors had very thick accents, some of them were hard to understand at times.

The alien was a very bizarre looking dude. His face never changed and he made a kind of musical humming noise as communication, but we never found out what he was trying to say. His voice was the inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” for the alien spaceship sounds.

Planet X man gets bushwhacked

The guy in the alien suit was bit of a mystery himself. From Wikipedia:
Actor Pat Goldin and dwarf actor Billy Curtis have both been rumored to be the unknown actor who played the role of the alien space visitor in the film. However, Robert Clarke, who is frequently named as the source of the Pat Goldin rumor, never actually knew the name of the actor who played the role of the alien, nor did the other cast members, including Margaret Field and William Schallert. Furthermore, the unknown actor who played the alien role was noticeably taller than Billy Curtis. Cast member Robert Clarke recalls only that he was of Jewish origin, stood about five feet tall, and was once part of an acrobatic vaudeville act. Margaret Field and producer Jack Pollexfen later recalled only that he had complained about his uncomfortable costume and his low pay, while William Schallert remembered him only as a very small, interesting-looking middle-aged man who wasn’t much of an actor.

The pretty daughter was played by Margaret Field, mother of Sally Field who was five years old when this film was made. Margaret made only this and another film, but had many television roles.

William Schallert played the evil scientist.

Quite forgettable except for the weird-looking alien.

Date watched: November 17th
Score: 4/10
Film count 2018: 73

The Alligator People

I felt like watching a 1950’s horror flick last night, so after a quick search on YouTube I found this 74 minute, 1959 black and white film.

It is pretty standard horror fare, although horror is not really the word, but “nerve-shattering terror” is accurate, especially when you see some actors wrangling actual gators, and even the principal cast getting pretty close to them. The main actress got pretty close to some, but she bravely ignored them.

Beverly Garland was in the main role, you may remember her from films such as The Miami Story, It Conquered The World, Stark Fear, or Airport 1975. She also did a lot of television work in fine series such as Perry Mason, Rawhide, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, and Gunsmoke. She also had small parts in many other shows such as Magnum P.I., The Six Million Dollar Man, Remington Steele, Friends, and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. She deservedly has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Even though this was a budget horror, it was pretty well made, better than some other films of the day. The direction was fine and the camera work was good enough. They did cheap out on the alligator-man make-up which looked a bit silly.


Paul the alligator man, and Joyce

At the end of the film an experiment by a doctor to transmogrify Paul back into a normal man of course goes wrong when he gets an overdose of Cobalt 60, which has the opposite effect…


“Well, how do I look?”.

It all ends disastrously with a villain getting electrocuted, the doctor’s house exploding and killing everyone inside, the alligator man wrestling a (real) gator then drowning in quicksand, and Joyce ending up as a psychiatric patient with a story that no-one believes.

This is not essential viewing, but I found it entertaining enough.

Date watched: September 16th
Score: 6.5/10
Film count 2018: 59

Three Steps to the Gallows

I was able to fit in one more film yesterday, making it three films in one day. I randomly chose this 1953 British crime story on YouTube. This was titled “White Fire” in America.

It is the story of an American in London who tries to find his younger brother who works there. But, he finds out that his brother has been tried for murder, a murder he is innocent of, and he is going to be hanged unless big bro can solve the case.

The story though quickly becomes convoluted with so many people to keep track of, some of them are just names so it is hard to remember who is who unless you see their face. By the end I had given up trying to figure out how it all fit together, even when one character sums up the plot for the audience’s sake. I did watch this late at night though, so my concentration powers were a little dulled.

The acting was fine, nothing special, and it was good to see fifties London. At least four of the actors were American. I was reading somewhere that many American actors who couldn’t make it in America went to England in the fifties and were able to have a decent career there. The direction and cinematography were reasonable.

If the story was just a bit less complicated it could have been a lot better. The story that I could follow was quite engaging and fast-paced. There were some good action bits in it, mostly chases on foot, and a few fisticuffs.

Farewell, My Lovely was the best film of the day

Date watched: July 14th
Score: 6/10
Film count 2018: 43

Jail Bait

There is little to do on a very hot and humid Japanese summer’s afternoon except watch a good B-grade crime film with an electric fan by your side, so I chose this Ed Wood-directed film.

The story is about a young man who gets in with the wrong crowd, panics during a bungled heist and offs a night watchman. From there he feels guilt and with the help of his world-famous plastic surgeon father, prepares to turn himself in. But, the mastermind behind the heist is out to get him because he thinks he will also go to the joint. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that it makes the film worth the watch, even if it was a tad predictable, and it involves a face change.

So for an Ed Wood film this has a pretty coherent story, nothing spectacular, but it is a decent tale. The acting though is very Eddy, some of the actors are quite wooden, although the main cast do a pretty good job.

There was a very bizarre comedy/dance act scene in the film, it seemed very random. It involved a real act, a blackface performer (one of the last) by the name of Cotton Watts, and well, it is best if you just watch the actual scene here.

There was this scene (screenshot below) where I was wondering why Eddy wanted to have this guy show off his ripped chest as he put on a shirt. Turns out he was Steve Reeves, a bodybuilder in the day and this was his second appearance on film. He would go on to a successful film career, especially in Italian peplum films. Unlike most other films he was in, his actual voice was used, he was dubbed in the others.

Just changin’ my shirt, and lookin’ good.

The fellow who played the plastic surgeon, a Britisher by the name of Herbert Rawlinson, died from cancer aged 67 the night after shooting finished. His character was originally intended for Bela Lugosi, but Herbert was a good choice.

The young man was played by Clancy Malone who was an aspiring actor, and who delivered Eddy’s groceries. This was his only film.

The Cotton Watts scene was not filmed by Eddy, rather it was footage taken from one of Cotton’s shows. From Wikipedia:

The inclusion of the footage in this film probably reflects the sensibilities of the intended audience. Jail Bait was primarily released in areas of the Deep South, where blackface still held a nostalgic appeal.

This is not essential watching, but I liked it. Watch it here why don’t you?

Date watched: July 14th
Score: 6.5/10
Film count 2018: 41

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

This is a film that I chanced upon at my fave DVD rental place, and I decided I had to see because it is a well-known film, and it has The Kirkster.

It is based on an actual event that took place in Tombstone, Arizona, in 1881, and is considered to be the most famous gun fight of the American Wild West.

Burt Lancaster plated Wyatt Earp with The Kirkster as Doc Holliday, and also featured Lee Van Cleef, John Ireland, DeForest Kelley, and a very young Dennis Hopper.

The story mostly focussed on Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, and the simmering feud between them and the cowboy cattle-smuggling gangsters, and of course culminated in a shootout.

According to Wikipedia there were quite a lot of historical inaccuracies, including the gunfight itself which in the film was fought at medium range, but in reality was face-to-face. The actual fight lasted only thirty seconds, but in the film it was of course longer. There was also a love story between Wyatt and a lady gambler which was completely fabricated, probably to attract the female audience.

The highlight of this film was the story between Wyatt and Doc Holliday, both Burt and The Kirkster were fabs in their parts. Dennis Hopper too was great, even though his part was quite small. The rest of the cast held their own.

It is a two-hour film, which was perhaps a bit too long, but overall it was a standard but decent watch.

Date watched: December 2nd
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2017: 137