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 Inner Circle

This is a 1946 film-noir mystery starring a bunch of mostly unknown actors, except for William Frawley who appeared in a few well-known TV shows back in the fifties and sixties.

The story was about the moider of a gossip radio announcer (they didn’t call them DJ’s back then it seems), and a rather intricate plot in which the leading blond has appears to be covering up the murder when in fact she is actually trying to cover-up the fact that her sister involved in the murder (but innocent of course) which is not a good thing as their father is a congressman, so she first gets herself the job of secretary for a detective who just happened to be looking for one, then she gets the detective to investigate the crime and while doing so she hits him over the head at the scene of the yet-unreported crime. A fuzz chief arrives and immediately suspects the detective but the blond comes along and gives a convincing story to the fuzz chief that in fact the crime was perpetrated by a mysterious woman in black, but it was actually the blond with a mourning dress on because she was pretending to be the moider victim’s grieving wife, when in fact he was not married as the fuzz chief noted. From there the story goes on all sorts of tangents and soon we have a cast of potential moiderers.

“I didn’t moider nobody!”

It was all told in a jovial and humourous manner with plenty of one-liners and sassy jokes from the witty blond, who was the highlight of the cast. This is not Bogart level stuff, but it was nonetheless quite entertaining with decent acting. Unfortunately the quality of this film on YouTube was pretty bad.

The ending though was a bit weird and second rate. To find the moiderer the detective came up with a plan. He got all of the principal players to go to the scene of the crime where a live radio broadcast was already set up. An announcer starts the broadcast explaining that the moider will be solved by the detective, and each of the people involved in the crime will be reading from a script of the actual events. So they all go through the script and the detective gets the moiderer to unwittingly reveal himself. The moiderer though was not the character that the story had up to that point suspected, so that at least was good.

But, apart from the unconventional and rather contrived ending, this was a quite fun way to spend 57 minutes.

Date watched: November 10th
Score: 6.5/10
Film count 2018: 72

Heavy Metal Britannia

This is another of the Britannia series of documentaries, the previous one I watched was Synth Britannia, which I wrote about a couple of posts back.

In this we follow heavy metal from it’s very early beginnings in England with bands like Budgie, Deep Purple, and of course Black Sabbath. There are plenty of interviews with many people including Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Lemmy, and Ozzy. And there is plenty of interesting footage and photos.

I learned a few interesting things such as how the term “heavy metal” was coined by William H. Burroughs in his “Naked Lunch” book. Steppenwolf then used it in their song “Born To Be Wild”. However, to check the story on the interwebs I came up with this article which tells a different and not conclusive tale.

I also learned that it was Judas Priest who started the whole leather, gun belts, and plenty-of-studs look that defined how a heavy metal band should look. And I learned that many of these heavy metal chaps are quite nice fellows who just love what they do…always the best way to be. Rob Halford is a very likeable fellow, and Ozzy is just plain funny.

Rob Halford

Definitely a must-watch for metal fans, and an education for those who know little about one of the happiest forms of music there is (I can attest to that).

Date watched: October 28th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2018: 71

OMD – Souvenir

After watching the synth documentary I saw this in the recommended section on YouTube. It seems to originally have been a DVD-only release from 2007.

The story starts off with OMD about to perform in Dusseldorf at Night of the Proms, we see them backstage looking a bit nervous and getting ready to go on. They then go to the stage and the opening credits begin.

The story then goes back to their beginnings and through all of their albums, their breakup, their solo careers, then finally to their reformation. And of course we go back to Dusseldorf where we see part of the concert there.

It is all very well done and quite interesting, although this is really more for fans than casual observers. I wouldn’t say I am a fan, but I like some of their songs, so I found this quite watchable, and it is always good to learn about bands and how they go about making music. Both of them basically had no music training when they started OMD.

There were no interviews with other people around OMD, no managers, wives, or even other musicians, it was all told by a narrator and the two founding members themselves in their own words. Maybe it was done on a budget, but it all looked professionally done with no frills.

Yet another good music documentary, I may just watch another tonight…in fact I feel like learning more about Willie Nelson.

Date watched: October 28th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 70

Synth Britannia

This is a BBC documentary about the rise of synth music in Britain. It features band members from pioneering bands such as OMD, The Normal, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, New Order, and Throbbing Gristle, as well as Wolfgang Flür (ex-member of Kraftwerk).

Synth music was introduced to England because of Kraftwerk, and from there synth music battled to become accepted for quite some time until Gary Numan came along and after his big success with Cars the record companies started to notice (that they could make money).

I was surprised at just how much good synth equipment cost back in the early seventies, one particular synth machine was said to cost the same as a small house. A musician that was interviewed had to choose between buying a car to get his driver’s licence, or buying a synth, and of course he chose the synth and said to this day he still cannot drive. They were mostly poor musicians too, Depeche Mode said they had to carry their synths on the train to get to their first Top of the Pops performance…synths are very heavy of course. Depeche Mode are all filthy rich guys now.

The documentary itself was well made, true of any BBC documentary. The interviews were all interesting, and there was plenty of great archive footage. The story had a narrator, but it was mostly told by the musicians themselves.

The Golden Age of British synth ended in the 90’s due to over-commercialisation and the resurgence of guitar music. The final words in the film from Andy McCluskey of OMD sum it up quite well and amusingly (click on the link).

Electronic music these days is alive and well, I enjoy listening to The Chemical Brothers, Buck Futtons, Fatboy Slim, and Aphex Twin. Still, I have good memories of synth music in the 80’s, even if I wasn’t huge fan at the time.

Recommended watching if you like a bit of music history. It would also help if you are familiar with most of the bands.

Watch it here.

Date watched: October 27th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2018: 69

Beware of Mr. Baker

Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols is a radio DJ in Los Angeles and has his own weekday afternoon show. When he has an interview on the show, which is often, it is recorded on video and uploaded to YouTube. So today I watched a couple of them, the first with Simple Minds, and the second with Stewart Copeland of the Police. During Stewart’s interview he mentioned Ginger Baker, and how he was part of a documentary about the life and times of Ginger. I was intrigued so looked it up on YouTube, and was happy to find it there.

Ginger Baker was the drummer for Cream, and if you can believe any of the interviewees in the documentary, is the best drummer in the history of rock, or at least was as these days health and old age (he is 79) have prevented him from playing. It is very clear though that he was a brilliant drummer not only in rock but also in jazz which is what he was playing until a few years ago.

What is also clear is that he is a grumpy curmudgeon, quite wild, a troublemaker, terrible with money, and just a generally complicated character. The film starts off with him attacking the documentary director with his cane, causing a gash in his nose…all because the director said that he was off to interview other people about Ginger’s life, something that Ginger was not happy about at all. This Rolling Stone interview will give you a good idea of what he is like.

Jack, Ginger, and Eric.

In between the interviews, which were done at his then home in South Africa, there were the other interviews with such people as Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce (Cream’s bassist), Stewart Copeland, Nick Mason, Ginger’s son and two daughters, his ex-wives, various managers, and John Lydon (Ginger actually worked on PiL’s “Album” album).

There was also plenty of archive footage and photos from Ginger’s long and busy past. Apart from music he had a go at a cheap Hollywood action film (which looked quite bad), he was an avid polo player, he drove across the Sahara in a Range Rover, and lived in countries such as Nairobi, Italy, the U.S., and South Africa. He was also into the usual musician vices such as drinking and doing drugs.

The documentary itself is well told and made, I have no criticisms of it at all. There are some nifty animation sequences too. The director/writer/producer actually lived with Ginger in South Africa for a while and wrote a Rolling Stone article about him. He returned in 2010 with a film crew to make the documentary.

This is a must-watch for anyone who loves music, and for those who appreciate a well-made documentary, or both.

Date watched: October 27th
Score: 10/10
Film count 2018: 68

The Black Six

My blaxploitation-fest continues with this 1974 outlaw biker film.

As in the previous blaxploitation films I have been watching, there is an American Rugby connection with all six of the main actors being actual players back in the day. They all came from different teams such as the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers. Some of them did some other work in film or television, but this was really the high point of their silver screen fame. I must say though that they were all quite natural on screen, sometimes funny, but not quite up to Fred or Jim level.

The story starts out with the murder of a black American Rugby player by a honky biker gang. He was killed because his white girlfriend is also the sister of the leader of the honky gang, and he didn’t like that.

We then meet Bubba and the other members of The Black Six. Bubba is also the brother of the murdered player. The Black Six is a peace loving biker group who roam the countryside on their bikes, working and sleeping where ever they can. They find work on a farm stacking hay bales into the loft of a barn. It was quite funny as they were obviously throwing light wooden boxes with hay glued on the outside…

After finishing the work the nice farm lady invites them in for dinner where they have a good meal, and of course there is a lot of good-hearted banter and joking around. The lady pays them what little money she can, as times are tough, and she hopes they would drop by again someday when she has more money so they can fix the barn wall which needs repairing. They ask if they can sleep in the barn for the night, which she happily agrees to.

The next day the lady goes outside to see that the gang has left, and that the barn has been fixed! A postman comes up to her and says; “I just saw that bunch of Negroes ride out, I just what to make sure everything is all right, you know how they are!”, to which she replies, “Yes…I know how they are!” with a smile on her face.

Mrs. Perkins

This was the actress’ only film, but she did fine.

Bubba (played by Gene Washington of the San Francisco 49ers) finds out in a letter from his mother that his brother was slain, so he decides he must go home and find out what happened. The rest of the gang of course join him. They don’t want to bash heads, they just want to find out who did it, as the police don’t who know did it although they kind of did but they are afraid of the honky gang.

The rest of the story is really quite dull, but the ending is where things get weird. After finding out who did it the Black Six decide to go violent and end up wasting all of the honky white gang in a rumble in a field, quite viciously. Unbeknown to them another even more vicious gang (or motorcycle dudes as the poster says) was waiting nearby, they just wanted to join in on the fun. Part of their attack strategy was to throw lit flares at them. The Black Six picked up the flares and threw them back, so there was a lot of flare throwing which looked like fun. There were dozens of the flare-throwing gang, but the Black Six were doing a good job of wasting them too. The last remaining member of the original gang who fled the carnage at first is ordered by the other gang leader to do something about it, so he lights up a flare, places it in the open gas tank of his hog, then makes a banzai run for the Black Six. He does a jump in the air and explodes, causing all of the other hogs which were strewn about the battlefield to explode. Over the flames we see shots of each of the Black Six like thus…

“Bubba”

We then see this…

From Wikipedia:
Several of the football players were disappointed with elements in the original script, especially that the black motorcyclists would be killed in the end, despite the fact that they stood for truth, justice and the American way. As a result of their protests, an inconclusive ending was shot.

That explains the ending. There was however no sequel.

It was a very cheaply made film and didn’t really have much of a story. But, the six main characters were fun to watch and the actors playing them seemed to be enjoying themselves. The ending too, though bizarre, was a bit of fun. So, it was not too bad, but the Slaughter films are the best of the blaxploitation films I have watched in the last week or so.

Date watched: October 19th
Score: 5/10
Film count 2018: 67