director Ib Melchior
After watching Queen of Outer Space (1958) which transpired on Venus, I was struck by the notion of further exploration of our solar system in Ib Melchior’s The Angry Red Planet.
Comparatively, it’s miles ahead of Queen of Outer Space‘s full-on sexism. They even have a woman on the crew of this spacecraft, the first to strike out ever for the planet Mars. It’s hardly enlightened, but far less abject.
As many have noted, the best thing about the film are the “CineMagic” techniques, the special effects that take place on the surface of the planet. Essentially, the shots are solarised (in which the print or negative reverses dark/light by flash exposure of light), tinted red, and set against strangely animated drawings and puppets. The effects might be cheap and the drawings unconvincing, but they are undeniably cool, particularly the giant Rat-Bat-Spider I mentioned before and who appears prominently on the poster for the film.
The bulk of the story is told in drug-induced flashbacks, through the memories of Dr. Iris Ryan (Naura Hayden), who struggles to recount what happened on the first flight to Mars and why she and one other crew member who has a parasitic infection are the only survivors.
Apparently, CineMagic was a bust after a second attempt at it in The Three Stooges in Orbit (1959), which is kind of a shame. A lot of crappier effects abounded in many films and had nowhere as unique a presence, despite the weird and somewhat limited art direction. For my money, it works well, here. There isn’t anything like it that I know of.
You have me at Rat-Bat-Spider. And there I’ll stay.