Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952)
Hello, everybody. For today's movie, Nate and I decided to explore classic B-movie fare: a movie called Zombies of the Stratosphere. This movie was cut down from a 12-part serial made by Republic in 1952. Its main claim to lasting fame is the presence of Leonard Nimoy in one of his first movie roles. Actually, the version we're going to review appears to be only about half of the entire serial, with an abrupt ending tacked on. It runs about 93 minutes, and I think that'll probably be long enough for us to see all the zombies of the stratosphere that we want. Somewhere along the line this version has been colorized, too. Now, I'm not one of those purists who can't abide colorized movies. Certainly, colorizing a black-and-white visual masterpiece like Ikarie XB-1 would be criminal. But for a cheap, quickly-shot old black-and-white movie with cardboard sets like this one, the color really improves it.
A lot of Republic's serials had sci-if elements, we might have to review some others in the future.
Unlike Godzilla movies, which tend to make you wait forever before you get to see Godzilla, this one shows you the zombies right away. The zombies appear in the first scene, with olive-green skin, wearing purple leotards, sitting in bright yellow chairs in a green cabin inside a hot-pink rocket ship. Yes, whoever colorized this movie wasn't stingy with the colors. Actually, although I called their craft a rocket ship, from the white plume (and the occasional sparks) coming out it its rear exhaust, I'd say it was jet-propelled, or possibly steam-powered. It's quite small, though, it could be a small shuttlecraft, not an interplanetary vessel.
These Martians need an interior decorator, stat!
We don't get to see the zombies for very long, as almost immediately we shift to a combination radio room/office/laboratory containing three men and a woman, all civilians, judging by their 1952 street clothing. Of course that's an ashtray front and center on the desk. This was 1952, after all. Hey, when was the last time you saw an ashtray in somebody's office? There's no clue to tell us who these people are, but the woman is operating the radio, which seems a little odd for a civilian woman in 1952. Did the filmmakers consider this to be a logical extension of the contemporary job of switchboard operator, at that time considered a woman's job? We waste no time with introductions, as the radio announces the presence of the strange craft. The woman sitting at the radio asks if there's time to intercept it with a rocket, but it seems that it's moving too fast. After a little discussion, the man who seems to be the boss sends a dark-haired man out to investigate, after mentioning that the dark-haired man has mostly worked in the "interplanetary zone," which suggests that space travel is common and that alien visitors to Earth may not be unknown.
Only girls can turn knobs.
The dark-haired man is Larry Martin, and it appears that he's not planning to take a car, or even an airplane, to intercept the alien ship. He's just put on his "flying suit," which looks like a leather jacket to me, when somebody radios in that the craft has disappeared from the radar over some nearby hills. Deducing that this means the aliens have landed, Larry dons what looks something like a welder's helmet and dashes out the door, revealing that there are two cylinders strapped to his back. What is he planning to do? People who have watched this kind of serial before probably already know, but I'm surprised to see him adjust a couple of controls strapped to his chest, then raise his arms and leap into the air, flying horizontally with arms extended in front of him. His flying controls are quite simple: three dials, one for up and down, one for on and off, and one for fast and slow. They're all clearly labeled in very large letters, probably not so much for Larry's convenience as for that of the audience, who were mostly too young to be able to read very well.
Hope he doesn't hit any birds.
Yes, like Jet Jaguar, and not only that, but his protective helmet looks a lot like Jet Jaguar's head, although Jet Jaguar's head is pointier. Is it possible that Toho based Jet Jaguar on the hero of this movie? Godzilla vs. Megalon was made in 1973, before the days of VCRs, let alone DVD players, at a time when once a movie was out of the theaters, you'd probably never see it again unless it happened to pop up on TV. Somebody at Toho might well have thought that nobody would remember the main character from a low-budget American serial made a generation ago. Then again, maybe all the serial heroes of the 1950s flew that way, has anybody seen enough old science-fiction serials to know?
Of course, Jet Jaguar hung with a better crowd.
The zombies have indeed landed, and just as they get out of their spacecraft, two human men drive up in a large truck. The colorizer has been hard at work again -- one of the men is wearing a sage-green suit, and the other a dark teal suit. One informs the chief alien that their ship was picked up on radar, but how does he know? Could there be a spy at whatever organization Larry Martin belongs to? The Chief tells the men that in that case they need to unload their cargo quickly and get away before they're found, and they start loading boxes into the truck. The aliens speak perfect English and seem to be familiar with the two men, and I think their ship is made of plywood, now I can see it up close. The closeup also shows that in addition to being hot pink, it's decorated with a cheerful yellow circle with a couple of lightning bolts coming out of it, and there's some sort of small gun in a clear turret on top.
Full size prop, though.
Larry Martin is coming their way, but two of the aliens drive off with the men while the third flies off in the spaceship. Larry's not flying very fast, and he knows he can't catch up with the ship, so he decides to check out the landing site. He calls his boss on the radio attached to his belt to report this, and he addresses his boss as Bob, a note of informality which pretty much confirms that this organization, whatever it is, isn't connected to the military. Larry spots the truck on the road, and somehow he just knows it's connected to the alien spaceship, so he comes in for a landing on the top. The bad guys make the reasonable enough assumption that whoever just landed on top of their truck can't be friendly, so they drive under some trees to try to knock him off. This works, and Larry lands in the dusty road. The bad guy in the back of the truck takes a couple of shots at Larry, but as is the case for most serial villains, he's a bad shot and misses.
Love the simple composition of this shot, don't know why.
The aliens and the bad guys end up at a very nice-looking big house, but this is not a social call. They walk into a room fitted up like a chemistry lab, with a man in it doing something with some glassware. Folks, I think we may have a mad scientist here! It seems that the scientist wasn't expecting a green-skinned being in a purple leotard, so the being introduces himself as "Marex, from the planet Mars." He also feels the need, unfortunately all too common in alien invaders, to throw in a remark about how much more advanced the Martians are than us dumb humans. It seems the bad guys are some sort of assistants to the scientist, who most impolitely doesn't tell the alien his name in return. Marex informs the scientist that he's going to need the scientist's help, and it sounds like an order, not a request.
Great ivy-encrusted Colonial columns.
You're probably wondering why somebody who can afford to live in a house like that one is going to help a green-skinned man in a garish leotard, but he's not going to have much of a choice. Somehow Marex has found out that the scientist has been selling atomic secrets to a foreign government, and if he doesn't help, Marex is going to rat him out. The project isn't a small one, either. It seems that the Martians have decided that their planet is too far from the sun, and they've come to the conclusion that life on Mars will be much more pleasant if the climate's warmer. Since the daytime highs where I live have been below freezing recently, I've come to the same conclusion myself, but unlike me, the Martians don't just sit around and complain about it. They've figured out a way to set off H-bombs on Earth to knock the Earth out of orbit so Mars can step in and take Earth's place. The scientist realizes that of course this will destroy all life on Earth, but the Martians have graciously offered to take him to Mars with them. The Martians have planned this carefully, it seems. Marex writes out a list of things for the scientist to get, and the list takes up no more than a small pad of paper.
Marex also orders a salami on rye from the craft services table.
This is obviously far from the first trip the Martians have made to Earth, and they've already got their headquarters set up in a cave. Marex dispatches the two bad guys to hijack a train full of uranium that's coming through shortly. In the midst of this action, Larry Martin hasn't just been sitting around twiddling his thumbs. He's back at Headquarters, making plans to track down the truck. How is he going to do this? Well, it seems that before he fell off, he managed to fix a small radio transmitter on its roof, so he's going to follow the signal from that.
Hold on, Larry!
Larry finds the truck with no trouble, and it's parked right outside the cave entrance. Fortunately for him, the Martians didn't bother to post any sentries, so he's able to walk in and look around. He finds the charred remnants of the map the Martian used to show the bad guys where to go to intercept the train carrying the uranium (they burned the map because they felt it was too incriminating). Once back at Headquarters, Larry looks at the map under infrared light and is able to read it. (Does anybody know if this really works? I have no idea.) Larry dispatches the radio woman and another man to go to a couple of places on the map and check for signs of trouble. The radio woman is careful to put on a hat and gloves before stepping out in public, and the men all wear hats, too.
Typical Hollywood "mine" set, suspiciously open and well-lit.
I'm going to stop right here and comment on something which you've probably noticed, besides the fact that the zombies aren't zombies at all. Yes, the force that's going to destroy our fair planet consists of three humans and three Martians, and the force that combats this menace is made up of three (American) men and a woman who are members of some sort of unspecified but non-military organization. It's not even clear what connection, if any, it has to the American government. Normally I'd come down hard on a movie for this, but it started out as a low-budget serial, and low-budget serials always had small casts, and anyway I kinda like this movie because it's not boring, so forget it. That doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to give it a free pass on other problems, though.
But the Martians do have snazzy pink rocketships, that's got to count for something.
But back to the action. Bob, who must be a lead-from-the-front kind of boss, arrives at the Peralta railroad station (the movie was set in California), just in time to see the two bad guys climbing onto the train. He climbs right on himself, and he and the bad guys fight on the roof while Larry and the woman (so far unidentified, although from the cast list on IMDb, I think her name is Sue Davis), find out where the train is going from the stationmaster, who seems to be the only railroad employee there.
Can't be moving that fast, their hats never move.
I expect Larry to fly off to catch up to the train, but instead he hops into a sort of mini-tank (!) that's parked right by the station office. I assume something was cut out here when the serial was made into a movie, unless in this alternate universe, Larry's organization has stashed small tanks in strategic locations so they'll be readily available in case of need. Oh, wait, no, the stationmaster mentions that it was delivered there for a farmer, who's planning to take it home and use it as a tractor (!!!) I know the Government sold all sorts of military equipment cheap after World War II, does anybody know if farmers really did buy war-surplus tanks to use as tractors? Also, Larry seems to be having a much easier time driving it than I'd expect, based on what I've been told about how WWII-era tanks were operated. But we need to get back to the action, otherwise there might not be any land to farm, just icy, frozen wasteland...Two more bad guys have appeared on the roof of the train car, and poor Bob is quickly overcome and handcuffed to the wheel that controls the brakes. Fortunately Larry is in hot pursuit of the train, for there's more at stake here than just Bob's life. One of the things the stationmaster told Larry was that if the train kept on its course, it would hit a passenger train. Larry in fact is in much hotter pursuit than is probably possibly in a tracked vehicle driving over unpaved ground, and as matter of fact if you look closely, its tracks don't actually seem to be moving. However, not to worry about the passenger train, because somebody at the Gomez railroad station dashes out to switch the freight train onto another track (and doesn't seem to notice that there's a man handcuffed to the wheel atop the lone freight car).
Wow, that's a lot of spray-painted cardboard.
However again, do worry about Larry and Bob. Larry has just jumped on the train car and released Bob when the camera moves ahead to show us that the track ahead has a large section missing. The train duly derails, and with that, Chapter One ends. I know I mentioned that this movie was originally a serial, and for some reason when it was made into a movie, the frames identifying the chapters were left in. Possibly so it could be easily broken into a serial again if need be? Anyway, this seems like a good place to stop, so I'll turn the review over to Nate.
Stock footage train, how disappointing.
Thanks, Pam, I'll see how things work out for our intrepid heroes. First off, let me say that I really don't mind the colorization, I think it enhances the viewing experience greatly, especially a movie like this one that's really little more than an animated comic book. Myself, I never understood the fuss about colorizing old movies, it's not like you can't watch the original versions in gloriously scratchy, blurry black-and-white if you want to (if, say, you're a beret-wearing Berkeley film snob). And why is the problem always with changing the image quality? DVD releasers have been cleaning up audio tracks for thirty years, often adding in new sound effects and music cues and even whole lines of ADR dialogue, and no one ever seems to throw up their hands and run around screaming. But splash a little color on Shirley Temple's dress and heads start combusting.
Actually still from our movie, doesn't color improve everything?
Anyway, the color is not the main problem I have with this film, it's what the plot does to my logical mind that bothers me. There's an industry term known as "suspension of disbelief" that simply does not apply to Zombies of the Stratosphere. All movies, to a certain extent, only work when the audience suspends their disbelief in the fantastical long enough to accept what's happening on the screen could really happen in the movie's fictional universe. That's why it seems pretty normal that no one can tell Clark Kent is Superman and why Dan Humphrey can actually be Gossip Girl. In our movie, however, the SofD factor is off the chart. And it's not the aliens themselves (I believe!) nor the jetpacks or the rockets (pace of technology in the '50s was unreal) that makes me angry. It's the idea, hammered into us in every scene, that the US Government would simply not care about aliens invading Southern California and stealing bomb-making components for no good end. It seems as if Bob, Larry, and Secretary Sue are the entire American government, just the three of them, with their tiny office and their shabby, shared sedan.
You'd think they'd have better funding if they were the sole defenders of the nation.
Ok, I stand corrected, Bob, Larry, and Secretary Sue are not actually the entire US government. There's also Pilot Guy Dick and his rocketship, which Larry occasionally enlists to help him get from here to there and back when cars and trains are simply too boring. I assume that this is a military rocketship, though that assumption is based solely on the ship's marking-free olive-drab paint scheme, though it might be owned by some semi-private civilian organization for all we can tell (same goes for Larry' whole chain of command, as Pam pointed out). Pilot Guy Dick has his soft cap cocked back on his head like some hot rod jalopy-driving hooligan and I want to punch him.
So Larry and Pilot Guy Dick fly around the hills east of Los Angeles looking for a reported unidentified alien rocket (a job that really should be preformed by 250 USAF interceptors, to beat a dead horse). They catch the Martian rocket taking off from a rural lakeside and give chase. The Martian pilot notes them coming and mans the top turret like he's Luke fighting off Tie fighters. The prop gun was apparently built long before they vacuformed the plexiglass turret because it's way too big and the poor actor has to crunch himself in there like a pretzel in order to look like he's shooting the gun. But it works (firing WWI-vintage explosive projectiles, not the expected lazer zippy rays) and Pilot Guy Dick's fancy rocketship has to retire to base with some hull damage.
That's not ergonomically designed.
Then Larry goe...wait, maybe that's Bob. No, it's Larry, right? Seriously I can't tell Bob and Larry apart, they look exactly the same in all the important ways. Both are tall, thin, short-haired white guys who wear tailored suits and ties all the time, they even have the same gait and inflection in their voice. Only when Larry puts on the rocket pack do they look different and that doesn't happen that often. For that matter, neither can I readily tell any of the other male characters in this entire movie apart. Bad guys, good guys, nameless background extra, to a one they're all medium-height 30-year old Caucasian men with greasy hair, Fedora hats and Windsor knot ties, they even all wear the same brown suede shoes. No ethnic diversity here, as well, lily white all the way (really, LA in '52?). Even the aliens are indistinguishable between each other, and the heavy face-paint and goofyass balaclava hoods only make it harder to tell them apart. After a while I begin to wonder if they only had three extras on the payroll and they just had them wear different clothes to play different roles.
Seriously, who are you people?
The only exception to this everyone-looks-alike problem is the movie's sole female character, Secretary Sue with her bulletproof torpedo bra and June Cleaver heels. All movie long I was watching carefully to see which dude she was hooking up with. Was it tech-savvy, leather-wearing, rocket-packing Larry? Or was it book-smart, button-down, in-charge Bob who got her nylons all bunchy? Was there going to be a scene where Secretary Sue was in danger and her beau would wade through hell and Martians to save her before clutching her to him in one of those ridiculous 1950's face-mawing kisses? The short answer is "nope". If Secretary Sue is attached to either Bob or Larry, you sure can't tell it by the film stock. She might as well be their sister for all the romantic spark, and I for one am bummed because this movie could really use some swoon factor.
If I were her, I'd pick Bob, he's less likely to die in a horrible flaming jetpack accident.
Speaking of a lack of depth, you can't help but look at Larry, with or without the insane, leg-melting jet pack, and wonder what he does on his days off. Or maybe he doesn't have days off? Does he have a family? Kids? A mortgage payment and a collection of Cuban cigar boxes? I'm curious because Larry has virtually zero character development at all. He's just "in the office" all the time, always clean-shaven and tucked-in, never hungry, never tired, never late to pick his daughter up from ballet practice, never sick, never anything more than "in the office, ready for duty". The same can be said for Bob and Secretary Sue, neither are more than impeccably dressed cardboard cut-outs driving cars, answering phones, and shooting guns. They have no backstories, no emotional arcs, no hobbies, no bad days, just nothing. I want to know who is ironing Bob's shirts. I want to see the dowdy ranch-style bungalow in Tarzana where Larry drinks his scotch after a long day of fighting off alien invaders. And, despite my better judgment, I really want to follow Secretary Sue home to her mom's house where she still lives because Bob pays her minimum wage and she's still writing checks for that worthless liberal arts degree. It's just that I really want to care about these people, and I'll never care what happens to them, what peril they're in, what heroic deeds they accomplish, unless I feel like I really know them, if even a little bit. You got to have an "audience connection" to your protagonists, no matter the genre, you really do.
Can't help but notice that there are extremely few (if any) close-ups of character's faces. Most every (or all?) shots are medium-distance, wonder why that is?
Anyway, I'm digressing again. Chapter Two concludes with a thrilling open-top speedboat chase across a choppy lake at night. Will Larry go over the dam to his death? No, he's fine, relax. He jumps out in time and swims to shore, and then goes home and takes a shower, changes clothes, and makes it back to the office by second coffee break. Either that or Larry keeps like fifteen changes of clothes at the office so he's always pressed and groomed soon after every near-death experience.
Lots of back-projection screen work in this movie.
Bob and Larry then muddle around a bit, following leads and getting into random fisticuffs with trigger-happy ruffians. Eventually they end up off the California shore in a small boat (guessing they filmed all this water location stuff at the same time, save on the trip out of the city limits). The "unnamed country" (Mother Russia) that the treasonous doctor was selling his secrets to has arranged to drop off supplies via a submarine. Bob and Larry figure this out and contact the US Navy who swarms the coastline with every thing that floats and carries a gun...oh, wait, no they don't. They just chase after it by themselves because apparently the US military has the day off.
Who needs the military when you have this guy in his Studebaker?
Chapter Three's cliffhanger sees Larry plunging off a cliff to his death in the back of a panel truck, formerly driven by henchmen goons who fled from the docks. Ah, but he managed to jump out just in time (of course he did) and all is well. Too bad there's not a single policeman in the entire state of California who could possibly help out with chasing down these criminals and spies in their slowly moving cargo trucks on public highways. Nor do there ever seem to be any private citizens anywhere around at any time. It's like all of Southern California has been depopulated, everyone relocated to Tucson or somewhere, leaving the empty streets to alien-aligned thugs and square-jawed jetpack heroes.
Brave stuntman on a zipline!
And, good lord, this poor guy Larry sure gets shot at/beat up/almost-murdered a lot. Too bad none of this movie makes a lick of sense, it really does have a lot of (senseless) action scenes. You can argue that you have to overlook any plot holes because this is a "kids' show", though I'm of the mind that these early serials, seeing as how they were usually shown before for-adults movies, were really made for all audiences. Besides, there's way, way too much violence for a kiddie show, or at least as labeled today. And yes, in the 1950s there was a lot more in the way of violence and death in children's entertainment than you'd ever see now, but it was never graphic or bloody in any way. Remember when Spielberg digitally changed the cops' pistols to flashlights in E.T and the universe lost its collective mind? There's not enough processing power in all the computers in all the world to digitally erase all the guns in this movie.
Let's make that pistol a foot-long cold cut trio from Subway, shall we?
Ok, so we've had trains, tanks, cars, trucks, rockets, boats, submarines, and even horse-drawn wagons. What we haven't had yet are plain vanilla airplanes, so it's no surprise that Larry intercepts (via rocket pack) the bad guys trying to tranship some pilfered uranium in an old Lockheed courier plane. A few well-chucked grenades and the plane is grounded, though most of the bad guys escape again. From this encounter Larry learns that there's an old abandoned mine nearby where he deduces the aliens are building an atomic bomb to destroy Western Civilization (and perhaps the rest of the world, too). So he calls in the US Army, which rolls in with an entire division of tanks and artillery...ok, fine, no tanks, just Larry and Bob riding in to save the day again. Did I mention, "suspension of disbelief"? After some more punching and kicking and biting, Chapter Four ends with Larry crashing to his grisly death in a runaway ore car like a poor man's Temple of Doom. Tough way to die.
Where's Short Round when you need him?
Wait, my bad, he jumped out just in the nick of time, imagine the odds. Anyway, the Martians, and I can't believe I'm saying this, have now run out of money to buy stuff for their bombs and are forced to rob banks. Yep, clearly this screenplay was originally written sans galaxy-traveling aliens, probably featuring actual borscht-eating Communist paratroopers, and later the Martians were superglued into the script to piggyback on that Roswell thing all the cool kids were talking about. But so many movies from this era show similar scifi-shoehorning traits, so it's hard to give them too much grief over it. I should note here that, despite the green skin and zap-zap ray guns, these "aliens" are clearly stand-ins for the real, immediate danger in 1952. Yes, commies, and yes, I'm still anti-commie. In 1952, if you recall (and you don't), all guns were pointed towards the frozen East, where Uncle Joe was still very much alive and building tanks by the thousands. The dangers of WWIII coming much sooner than anyone really wanted were all too frighteningly real, even more so since at that time American GIs were battling Soviet-backed commie Norks in Korea and no one was sure if it would spread to the rest of the world. It was only natural then that the movies would reflect this national anxiety, and we here at MMT have reviewed quite a few of them already. When you see Marex from Mars, I see Mikhail from Moscow.
Joe was everywhere in the 1950s.
Remember that the aliens' nefarious, if scientifically implausible, plan is to use our god-given uranium against us, also a timely reminder of how mysterious the splitting atom was in 1952. In an era long before wikipedia and Federation of American Scientists newsletters, only a tiny, tiny fraction of the American public had any idea at all just what damage and horror a nuclear bomb could actually cause. If you weren't one of the (un)lucky few to be involved in recovery efforts in occupied Japan or be directly associated with the nascent bomb testing programs in the High Deserts, you could be excused for truthfully thinking that a few atomic bombs could really vaporize the entire planet Earth. The Quisling scientist, willing to sell out his nation (and to a lesser extent the entire human race, so hints the movie) to a "foreign power", is also a broadly-painted caricature of the frothing media circus that was the Rosenbergs and McCarthy and all that Better Dead Than Red insanity. When we see this traitorous scientist we are to hiss and stab at him, as he's given our secrets and our security up to the highest bidder, be it from behind the Iron Curtain or from beyond the Van Allen Belt.
Anyway, the Martians, still dressed in their Renaissance Faire knockoff tunics, go to a local sheet metal shop and weld up a fabulously riveted steampunky robot. Seriously. And the robot robs some banks in broad daylight and gets away, even though it's slower than a three-legged turtle and is eight-feet tall and shiny metal. Angelinos must have been so used to crazy stuff by then that they just paid no attention to robots hauling bags of money down the street. Maybe they thought it was a movie prop (harhar).
Perhaps it should have brought a bigger bag.
Larry gives chase back to the mine, where he confronts the fireaxe-swinging Bender-esque bipedal robot in an epic man-on-metal duel to the bitter end. Sadly, as Chapter Five comes to a close, our dashing hero Larry is knocked out cold, helpless to parry the robot's last coupe de grace axe blow to the face. If only he had come with some backup, or maybe a bazooka, or even one of those P-38 can openers you could get at the Five&Ten store for a penny back then. But wait! Larry recovers from his concussion just in time to dodge the axe and then manages to disable the metal monster with surprisingly little effort. He then takes the robot back to his office for examination. Wait, what? How did he get the robot back to his office? Surely, if he could call in a truck to haul the robot away, that same truck could bring some dynamite to seal up the mine? I'm over-thinking this.
Oops, he broke their robot.
So, to convolute things more, the Martians send a few Fedora-wearing flunkies to fix the robot late that night, so that the next day they can regain radio control of it and use it to slaughter Larry and his cohorts. This sets up a (surely unintentionally) hilarious action scene where Bob and Larry tussle with the robot in the tight confines of the office, while Secretary Sue unloads a revolver at it at close range, with nary a thought about ricocheting bullet fragments. To step out of the movie for a second, my body aches vicariously for the poor stuntman inside the robot suit, flailing around blind in a metal can under blazing hot studio lights while two 200-pound grown men push and shove him around. Guy didn't even get a line in the credits (must not have been a union man).
Their chair-fu is strong.
Chapter Six ends mercifully soon, with Larry once again dead. This time he's scuba diving down into the flooded mine (solo, of course) when he's blow up by a strategically placed booby trap, leaving nothing but a shredded, waterlogged corpse to be devoured by cave worms and wolves. Pam, I suppose that now that Larry is a goner the Martians are able to complete their devilish plan to explode our fair blue marble? Tell us, how does atomic devastation taste?
At least he took his hat off.
I bet atomic devastation tastes really bad, Nate, but we're going to have to wait a while to find out. Despite the laws of probability, Larry Martin is alive and unharmed. This time there's no attempt to explain how he survived. Bob fishes him out of the pool, and they discuss what to do next. They're going to explore the mine further, but they're confident that they scared the bad guys away for good. However, unbeknownst to them, the radio is turned on and broadcasting their conversation to the two Martians, Marex and his assistant Narab. We haven't gotten a good look at Narab's face yet, but if you look closely, you can tell that he's played by Leonard Nimoy, the only actor in this movie who went on to fame.
Larry just likes wearing metal things.
Marex and Narab look knowingly at each other, then Marex radios Dr. Harding and tells him to arrange to have all the bomb materials sent to the mine. Dr. Harding in turn radios "X-71." Is it really a good idea to have discussions like this on the radio, where they can be picked up? We next see the bad guys unloading containers from a small boat and carrying them off. Meanwhile, back at the good guys' headquarters, they're talking about a widespread radio disturbance that happened early in the morning, and they say it had to have been caused by somebody bringing a large amount of radioactive material into the area. Really? Are there no other possible explanations? (I'm not a radio expert, but anybody who is, please feel free to comment.) But they don't want to jump to the conclusion that it was necessarily the same bad guys who brought it in, so Larry suits up, grabs a small radiation detector, and flies off over the harbor to check for radioactivity. So flying men are common enough that no one at a large harbor will notice him?
Everyone must be too busy staring at their iPhones to look up.
He finds a spot of high radioactivity in the middle of the harbor, where there are no ships, and he assumes that there must be a submarine there. Larry and Bob decide that the best thing to do is wait until dark and take out a small boat loaded with depth charges. Sue asks if she can come too, but she's assigned to patrol the dock with a Geiger counter. You know, Sue's being treated with a surprising amount of respect for a woman in 1952. True, it's clear she's the most junior of the good guys, but she's still treated as an almost-equal partner, not just clerical help. Once everyone's properly attired (the men in their suits and hats, Sue in a narrow-skirted green suit with a white hat, gloves, and string of pearls), they set forth for the docks.
Sue looks better in green.
Larry and Bob take out a small boat, and once they detect a large mass underwater, they start tossing depth charges overboard without bothering to find out anything about it. As a matter of fact it is a submarine, but there's no clue as to what nationality it is. Since the Captain speaks with an American accent, I just hope it wasn't one of ours. And if it wasn't one of ours, is Larry and Bob's America at war with whichever country it's from? And even if they are, can Larry and Bob start dropping depth charges in a crowded harbor willy-nilly? (Although you certainly can't tell from the action, which makes it look as though Larry's boat is the only surface ship in the harbor, we were treated to some stock footage showing a big harbor well-filled with many large ships.) Apparently they can, because they look quite proud of themselves as they head back to shore.
Rooskie sub! Sink it!
But all is not well there. Sue's been spotted and captured by the bad guys. I'm guessing a respectably-dressed woman carrying a Geiger counter was pretty easy to single out, since the part of the harbor we've seen is fairly rundown. The bad guys tie Sue to an anchor and hide, then jump Larry and Bob as they walk by. Larry and Bob seem to be getting the best of it, but as one of the bad guys is knocked down, he shoves Sue's anchor into the water. Sue is a real trouper -- she doesn't so much as whimper as she's pulled underwater, although I think a yell for help would be appropriate here. She goes under fast, leaving only a few bubbles on the surface, and it doesn't look as though anybody noticed. Worst of all, her hat comes off! Is this the end of Sue? No, just as Larry finishes punching out the bad guys, he spots the bubbles, dives in, and in less time than it takes to tell, cuts Sue loose from the anchor and gives her a push toward the surface (Larry cops a feel as he does this). Bob appears to have been knocked out, but his hat's still in place as he picks himself up and runs to help Larry and Sue. However, the bad guys seize the opportunity to drive off with whatever was unloaded from the submarine.
Her hair! No!
Everybody must have made it back in one piece, because the next scene opens with everybody back at the good guys' headquarters. Who knows how Sue brought herself to go out in public without a hat? We can always tell where we're at, because the entrance to the good guys' headquarters looks different than the entrance to Dr. Harding's house, although if you look closely, it's quite possible they're both doors to the same building, and I suspect that both the bad guys' and the good guys' rooms were actually college chemistry labs. Now we find out that Larry, Bob, Sue, and Mr. Steel (their boss who pops in periodically) aren't the only Americans available to combat this menace, whatever it is. (It's not mentioned by name, but we know it's the Dirty Commies!) Larry tells Mr. Steel that he's got men with Geiger counters stationed on all the main highways so if the truck goes by, they'll detect it.
HQ has some nice shrubberies.
It may be too late, though, because we next see Dr. Harding radioing Marex with the news that although they got most of the material the sub brought in, they had to leave one drum on the dock. Marex isn't happy, but he says he can work around it while Dr. Harding gets more uranium so they can finish the bomb. Dr. Harding's made a plan: he's going to hijack a truckload of uranium coming from a warehouse. A crooked security guard distracts the truck driver long enough for one of the bad guys, the one in the sage-green suit, to climb in back. The guard waits for the truck to get to an isolated spot, then he orders the truck driver out of the cab at gunpoint and drives off with the truck. Since most of the audience was probably little kids, they had no way of knowing that weapons-grade uranium, in 1952 or now, is not stored in a warehouse and shipped in a delivery truck like bags of potatoes. Take my word for it, it's not.
Love the rear-opening suicide doors on those old 1940s trucks.
Back at the good guys' headquarters, Larry has just been informed by telephone that a radioactive truck was just spotted "on Highway 40, outside of Kelso." A quick look at Google Maps shows that there's now an Interstate 40, which probably didn't exist in 1952, that runs about 10 or 15 miles away from an itty-bitty place called Kelso Depot, which is in the middle of the Mojave National Preserve. This is a desert area near the California/Arizona border, so the bad guys seem to be heading away from the coast. Where is Marex's cave, anyway? Larry's office seems to be near the coast, since it didn't take him and the others long to drive to the harbor. Anyway, Larry gets his flying suit on and jets off, leaving Sue in the office to man the radio while Bob follows along in a car. By the way, I have to admire the way Larry keeps a straight face when he pulls on that ridiculous helmet and flies off. Judd Holdren, the actor who plays Larry, also spent some time playing Commando Cody, a similar character in movies also made by Republic, so he had plenty of time to practice. It takes Larry and Bob only minutes to catch up with the truck, which suggests that either Larry and Bob's car is capable of supersonic speed, or that somebody was playing fast and loose with California geography. When you look at the scenery Bob's car is passing and that Larry's flying over, I can tell it's the latter: the area isn't the most verdant in the world, being grassy with only a few trees, but it certainly isn't the Mojave Desert, either.
Flowering dogwood blossoms? Not in the Mojave.
But back to the action. The back of the truck is open, and Larry flies in to confront the bad guy. Unfortunately the bad guy gets the drop on Larry, takes his gun away, and ties him up. Bob's closing in fast, when the bad guy in the back of the truck spots him and shoots out one of his tires, sending Bob and the car off the road, or nearly. This time the car goes off a cliff but Bob jumps out just before it goes over, and it isn't even the end of a chapter. (His hat stays on.) What's going to happen to Larry now?
They film a dozen different scenes in this same truck bed, just move the boxes around.
He may not have his gun, but he still has his brain. The bad guys stop at a gas station to make a phone call (!) to Dr. Harding, who says to take Larry to the good guys' headquarters and “use" him to get in, a really stupid idea, if you ask me. Two men walking into the headquarters of an organization founded to fight off interplanetary threats to the United States?) But Larry's managed to turn his radio on, and Sue overhears the bad guys making their plan, so Sue gets a pistol and is waiting for them. The bad guys march Larry in without seeing anybody else (so this group that's the protector of American freedom doesn't even post guards at their headquarters?), and Sue draws her gun, but one of the bad guys shoots it out of her hand! Silly girl, and she thinks she can keep up with the boys? Still, Larry got himself captured and tied up, so who is he to talk? However, she doesn't give up but picks up something heavy, maybe the ashtray, and throws it at one of the bad guys, distracting him. And although she can't knock him out, she keeps him busy fighting her until he pushes her down. Neither one of the actors was putting much into the fight, I guess audiences in 1952 weren't ready to see a man punching a woman nor, Heaven forbid, vice versa. Larry's not doing too well himself, he's pushed into a wall covered with dials, and he collapses in a shower of sparks. I can't tell what caused all the sparks, maybe it was his flying cylinders hitting the metal. The bad guys run off with a metal box, presumably the uranium, but from the way they're carrying it effortlessly it can't possibly be (uranium is heavier than lead, and a box that size full of uranium would be very heavy). Sue and Larry are left lying on the floor.
As with all movies from this era, everyone "shoots from the hip".
Larry and Sue are picking themselves up, while in Dr. Harding's lair, he and Marex are congratulating themselves on now having enough uranium for the bomb. However, the detonator happens to be back on "the island" where the Martians set up their headquarters, and they'll have to get that before they can make their bomb. Dr. Harding has to ask Marex if the detonator is radioactive, which is a strange question, since the great bomb expert ought to know that it is. I suppose most of the audience wouldn't know that it contains radioactive material unless the question was asked, so I guess that's why he did it. They also want to swap the truck they stole for another truck, since the stolen truck is now radioactive (which would happen only if the containers of radioactive material were leaking, in which case they'd likely have radioactive material on themselves and should know that, but they don't). They're aware that Larry has men with Geiger counters stationed along the main roads, so they don't want to transport anything by road, and it seems that Larry still has his rocket, so transporting anything in the Martian shuttlecraft is also out. Fortunately Marex has a plan: He'll use his spaceship to bomb Larry's rocket and destroy it before it can take off. Dr. Harding conveniently has some small bombs already made and has them handy in his house (!), so Marex is going to take them and drop them on the rocket. Folks, do not move in next door to a mad scientist!
I hope his neighborhood is zoned for hazardous materials manufacturing.
Meanwhile, Larry and Sue have recovered, and Bob's come back. Larry's going to fly off, find the truck, and plant a small radiotransmitter in it. He finds the bad guys just as they've got most of their cargo moved to the new truck, and he's just put the transmitter inside when they spot him. Some gunshots are exchanged, but the bad guys manage to drive off in the new truck without checking to see if Larry did anything to it, and also without several of their precious boxes. Larry flies off back to headquarters, where the radio signal is shortly picked up, and Larry and Bob go off to intercept the truck, carrying the bulky signal receiver with them. Um, wouldn't it have been easier if Larry flew behind the truck and radioed Bob and Sue and presumably all the other unseen members of Larry's group, whatever it is, so they could all assist? And why is Larry now out of his flying gear and riding with Bob in a car? Couldn't Bob bring Sue along if he needed help operating the receiver, while Larry flew overhead and kept in touch with them by radio?
Sue's really good at the radio stuff.
But anyway, the signal is leading them back to that small dock we've seen before, and which is so not that big harbor we've seen stock footage of, when calamity strikes. The bad guys are unloading their cargo into a small speedboat when they finally spot the transmitter. One of them drives off in the truck, but it's too late, Larry and Bob are already driving up to the dock. The other bad guy heads out to sea in the speedboat, and this is when Larry's flying gear would come in handy. Have the good guys been foiled? Not to worry, there's another speedboat conveniently tied up to the dock, and Larry and Bob follow the bad guy in it. More shots are exchanged, and the bad guy loses his gun, but Larry's out of bullets. Are you on the edge of your seat yet? It gets even more thrilling when Bob and Larry pull up beside the bad guy and Larry leaps aboard (and is obviously on a soundstage with the ocean supplied by back projection). Larry and the bad guy, or more accurately two unknown stuntmen, wrestle aboard the boat, which now is on real water, and the bad guy knocks out Larry (more back projection here). It's looking bad for Larry already, and his situation gets even worse when the submarine surfaces right in front of the boat! Apparently the speedboat's engine can be turned on but not off, because the bad guy throws himself overboard, not even bothering to turn the boat away from his ally. The speedboat crashes into the sub and explodes. So Larry's dead, the uranium is lost, and the movie's over.
I should mention that all 12 chapters have these really lame pulpy, Mickey Spillane-type titles.
Oops, no it isn't. The next chapter opens with Larry throwing himself overboard in the nick of time, and just before he jumps we can see that the boat's steering wheel is broken. Where Bob was during all of this I do not know, but the next scene opens with Larry, Bob, and Sue back at headquarters. Larry is bone dry. He's also pretty pleased, since he just got a phone call from the owner of an electronics shop. It seems two men were in there, asking for some special tools. The owner told them to come back in an hour, which gives Larry and Bob just enough time to get there. (The movie goes to a lot of trouble to make it look as though the action is taking place over a lot of territory, but it's obvious that in reality it was all filmed in or near a small town in California, maybe nowhere near the ocean. That "harbor" could actually be the dock on a lake.) Larry and Bob duly intercept the two bad guys, but instead of shooting it out with them, they elect to follow them in their car. Rather surprisingly, the bad guys don't go to Dr. Harding's house, but instead go to a building identified as "City Sheet Metal Works." The bad guys are loading something into the car, but Larry and Bob carelessly let themselves be seen, and then they and the bad guys do shoot it out. As Nate pointed out, there's a surprising amount of gunfire for a kids' movie, or maybe not so surprising considering that those kids were used to watching Westerns and Roy Rogers' gun with its inexhaustible supply of bullets.
Maybe if you two tools would try and aim when you shoot the bad guys wouldn't always escape.
The bad guys eventually jump into their car and zoom off, and Larry's of the opinion they've got too much of a start to make it worthwhile trying to chase them. The bad guys make it back to Dr. Harding's house all right, but there's a bigger problem: Marex and Dr. Harding suspect that Larry will be even more on the lookout for the Martian spaceship, which the bad guys need to bring the detonator from the island, so now they really need to bomb Larry's rocket, which of course sustained some damage from the Martians earlier. Have you been following all this? It's looking bad for the bad guys and good for the good guys, but as luck would have it, Dr. Harding has just developed a gas gun with which Marex plans to take out Larry, and a ray gun that fires a shell big enough to destroy Larry's rocket. Narab is notified to fire up the spaceship, and he sets off. Back at the good guys' headquarters, Larry is suiting up. His rocket has already taken off, but when he catches up to it, he lands on it in mid-air (!!!) I don't have enough words to describe my reaction to this, but I'm sure everybody who's reading this already knows it's impossible. As you may have guessed, it's obvious the rocket wasn't moving at all but back projection gave the impression it was. Even so, Judd Holdren almost didn't make it on. Pilot Guy Dick is at the controls again and doesn't seem at all surprised to see Larry come in. Oh, and look! The crew sits in office chairs!
Best look at the rocket, pretty Flash Gordon-y, no?
So Larry and Dick are trucking along, peering at the controls and trying to spot the bad guys. Unfortunately the bad guys are a little ahead of them. They've got either the ray gun or the gas gun, I'm not sure which, set up in the back of the truck, which fortunately happens to be parked in the rocket's flight path. I wonder again, are they being tipped off by a spy in Larry's group? How did they know exactly where the rocket was going to fly? Never mind. It must have been the gas gun, because it shoots something into the cabin that emits a lot of smoke (although I don't see any holes in the rocket). Larry and Dick are overcome and collapse. And of course they're not dead. Larry slaps another flying helmet on Dick's head. I guess it's supposed to protect him against the gas, although with no filters or supplied air it really wouldn't do much. Then Larry grabs a fire extinguisher and sprays it on the grenade or whatever it is! It's a remarkable fire extinguisher, because it immediately not only stops the device from emitting smoke, it also clears away all the smoke. Dick is instantly all right and resumes piloting the rocket.
Fire extinguisher...of the future!
After nearly shooting down Larry's rocket, the bad guys deliver the detonator to Marex, who's in his cave. I assume something was cut here when the serial was made into a movie, since we never saw the Martian ship deliver the detonator. But the important thing is that the Martians now have the detonator. Do they have uranium? Let's see, the sub originally brought in some, but one drum was left on the dock so they didn't have enough to make the bombs, then they hijacked that shipment, but a lot of it was lost when they put in on the speedboat that ended up crashing into the sub. I'm not sure that they do have enough, but Marex has stopped talking about "bombs" and is now saying he's going to make one bomb, so maybe he has only enough uranium for one. Will this be enough to knock Earth out of its orbit? Marex thinks it is. He assures the bad guys that he'll be able to take them, Dr. Harding, and all the men on the island back to Mars with them, but unless they have something bigger than that puny little rocket ship they've been tooling around in, I don't see how. Maybe Marex is lying to them and is planning to leave them to their fate on a dying Earth.
More talking, so much talking in this movie.
What is Larry going to do now? Well, they still have the robot, which is odd because Larry told Sue earlier to take it apart, and they've just realized it contains a transmitter that's beaming a visual signal back to the bad guys' headquarters. Larry suits up yet again, takes a small hand-held detector with him (which looks exactly like the one he used to detect radiation from the uranium earlier) and flies off, following the signal to Dr. Harding's house. Larry's surprised to find out that Dr. Harding is connected to all of this. It takes some thought, but as far as I can recall, none of the good guys has ever seen Dr. Harding in connection with the other bad guys. I don't see how Larry knew that this was Dr. Harding's house, though, unless Dr. Harding is so famous that everybody in the area knows where he lives.
How did Bob get that huge robot in the backseat of his car?
Larry's concerned that he won't be able to prove that Dr. Harding is in cahoots with the Martians and the bad guys, but he thinks that the robot, coupled with the presence of the control panel in Dr. Harding's house, will do it. However, for some reason he thinks it's necessary to have the robot at Dr. Harding's house, so he radios Bob and asks him to bring the robot there. Larry gets in with no trouble, and he finds Dr. Harding and the bad guys getting ready to leave. Dr. Harding claims the bad guys broke in to steal his designs, and although Larry certainly knows better, he turns his back on Dr. Harding to frisk the men. This is of course a bad idea, since Dr. Harding seizes the opportunity to throw something at Larry, knocking him out. Dr. Harding and the bad guys run out, but Bob is on his way with the robot in the back seat, and apparently the robot is not only transmitting, he's receiving, because Bob hears the bad guys discussing their escape plans. They're going to take diving gear so they can go through the underwater tunnel to the cave. Bob reaches Dr. Harding's house, and by the time he gets to the lab, Larry's picking himself up. He may have been beaten up enough for a while, because once he hears that Bob has the robot, he grabs the control panel, intending to make the robot do the fighting. I assume the control panel is battery-operated. Stopping only to pick up an air tank and diving gear the bad guys have considerately left there, they head off to the cave.
Larry strikes a pose.
Larry and Bob make it to the cave with no trouble, and they get the robot out and ready to go. I might have been wrong about the control panel being battery-operated, because it has a long cord trailing off it. I guess it's possible they have it plugged into the cigarette lighter, although the cord seems to be coming from the back seat. The two bad guys are lounging at the mouth of the cave, but the robot chases them off. He's a remarkable robot, because his right arm can emit a flame, which he uses to drive the bad guys off the cliff. He has a remarkable control panel, too, because Larry and Bob can control him completely even though they can't see him at all.
Ah, so that's where Iron Man got that from...
Once the two bad guys are disposed of (and where's the rest of the bad guys' gang, anyway?), Larry puts on the diving apparatus and climbs down the ladder, looking for the concealed entrance to the cave. But just as Bob overheard the bad guys through the robot, the bad guys overhear Larry telling Bob what he's going to do. I looked at this sequence twice, and I absolutely do not see anything Larry or Bob have that could be transmitting radio waves, let alone through rock. Larry and Bob left the control box in the car, and they don't seem to be carrying any sort of radio. But onward. Larry does find the entrance, which is a slab of rock that pulls open. I'm not sure why it was necessary for the bad guys to go to so much trouble to hide the entrance, they surely couldn't be expecting very many people to swim around underwater in hopes of coming across an entrance to something interesting. Marex has dispatched Narab to find Larry and take care of him, so Narab goes underwater, too (and has trouble pulling out the extendable metal ladder he needs to get into the water, it's sticking). Martians may really be superior to humans, because Narab doesn't seem to need an air supply to dive. Alas, we puny humans do, and when Narab finds Larry, he cuts Larry's air hose and leaves him there.
Murky in there, but dramatic!
But luckily we humans are pretty awesome, too. Larry holds his air hose together until he can get back to Bob, at which time he finally shows a little sense, realizes he really can't deal with Martian invaders single-handed, and tells Bob to call the Army to send troops equipped with diving gear. Larry and Bob will keep them bottled up until the Army arrives (although how does he know that this is the only exit?) Bob runs out to the car to radio Mr. Steel, but as you may recall, there's some kind of transmitter somewhere that's transmitting their voices to the Martians, so they and Dr. Harding know what's going on. Marex has mentioned that the bomb will explode in two hours, so somebody had better move fast. Dr. Harding wants to disable the bomb and give himself up, but Marex disagrees and uses a very Earthly revolver to express his opinion. (Do the Martians not have hand-held weapons of their own?) Dr. Harding falls down and may be dead, but there's no blood.
Harding does his Oscar-bait death scene.
Bob returns with the bad news that it'll be an hour before the Army can get there, and Marex and Narab aren't going to let the time go to waste. (By the way, what happened to the third Martian? We haven't seen him since the beginning of the movie.) You may recall the gas bomb the bad guys shot into Larry's rocket just a little while ago. Marex and Narab have more, and they've swum through the water and are sneaking up the ladder into the cave where Larry and Bob are. The transmitter must be one-way only, since Larry and Bob don't seem to have heard the argument or the gunshots. Also, Larry and Bob don't seem to have reasoned that if they can get in through the water-filled tunnel, the Martians can get out through it, and they're just sitting back chilling when Marex hurls a gas bomb into the cave. Although Larry and Bob take a couple of shots at the Martians, the gas drives them out of the cave in short order. Marex has enough gas bombs with him to keep Larry and Bob away while he and Narab drive off in the bad guys' car. Narab seems to be a good driver for an extraterrestrial.
Larry and Bob run from the gas like little schoolgirls.
Although the Martians don't have much of a start, Larry decides to fly after them rather than drive. They reach their spaceship, concealed (inadequately) with some brush, but Larry shows up just after they've taken off. Since Larry was able to catch and board his own rocket in midair, I expected him to climb on board this one, go inside, and punch out Marex and Narab. However, instead he shows a little bit of common sense. He radios Sue to send Dick in his own rocket, which he will board in mid-air. Dick arrives instantly, Larry climbs inside (the original boarding sequence seems to have been reused here), and they fly off after the Martian spacecraft.
Might try some camouflage netting next time.
The third Martian must have been living inside the spacecraft all this time, because he's sitting in the third seat now. Larry's rocket catches up to them quickly, and we find out that it's equipped with a ray gun when it fires on the Martian ship. For some reason the Martians don't use their turret gun. We also learn that the bright-yellow plastic chairs the Martians sit in aren't secured to the deck in any way, since one chair nearly falls over and a second one actually does when the Martian ship lurches. The Martian ship is going down, but Larry decides that the ground below is too rough to land his rocket on, so he sends Dick back to the base, wherever that is, and flies down by himself to confront the Martians, showing that his burst of common sense earlier was short-lived. Fortunately for him, the Martians are pretty well done up. Narab manages to stagger out of the ship, but when Larry gets there, he tells him that the others are dead. Narab also warns him about the bomb. Narab generously tells Larry how to get in, and Larry trustingly flies off, leaving Narab and the Martian ship alone there, and not even bothering to radio Sue to tell her what's happened. It doesn't seem to have occurred to Larry that a) Narab could be lying and the other Martians are fine; b), in any case, Narab is still alive, and it's possible the Martian ship is still flyable; c) he has no way of knowing that the cave isn't booby-trapped, or that more allies of the Martians haven't shown up.
Nimoy's voice is quite distinctive, instantly recognizable even if you didn't see his face.
I see that there's only two minutes left of this movie, so I'm not surprised that Larry manages to reach the mine, find the underwater entrance to the cave the bomb's in, and disarm the bomb in less time than it took me to type this sentence. Back at the good guys' headquarters, Mr. Steel informs Larry, Bob, and Sue that the documents found in Dr. Harding's office showed what the Martians were up to. Oddly, he refers to them as "zombies" -- surely the documents, or Narab himself, could have told them they were Martians? So everything's fine and they can pat themselves on the back -- except, as Larry says ominously, there are more "zombies" on other planets, just waiting to do something dreadful to our fair planet. Constant vigilance is needed! (And more funding for Larry's organization, of course. No, he doesn't say that out loud.)
Oiy, that's a poor prop.
Remember when I said earlier that I sort of liked this movie? Well, I've changed my mind. Like Teletubbies, this serial appears to have been originally designed to appeal to small children. This is what kids imagine what being a detective is like, and one of the ways it appealed to children was that they could go outside after each episode was over and play a reasonable facsimile of it. There's little real suspense, all of the situations are resolved almost immediately. There didn't seem to be any effort to make the science real, and this is disrespectful of its audience, something I really hate about a movie. Don't talk down to your audience! And what was Larry's organization supposed to be doing, with its rocket ship and all? Was it intended to fight off invaders from outer space? I'll be fair and say that probably some of its problems were due to cutting a serial originally 167 minutes long down to 93 minutes. From its Wikipedia description, it looks as though the first chapter was left almost intact, but the other chapters were cut down by about half, which couldn't have improved it any. The full-length serial still exists, and Amazon.com sells it on DVD. Unfortunately Netflix doesn't have it, so I won't be watching it in the near future. If I ever get a copy, I may make some changes to this review.
It just occurred to me. "Marex" -- from "Marx"? Probably. Nate, what did you think of these brave protectors of our way of life?
Their expense accounts for company-approved dress code suits need some CBO auditing.
Well Pam, for just being two dudes and a girl in heels, I'd say they did a bang-up job of defending us from threats both domestic and external. Of course it didn't hurt that the Martians and their human allies were some of the stupidest, ill-prepared, comically illogical invaders ever seen. Larry and Co didn't so much as win the battle as the Martians lost it, if you know what I mean.
As I was watching this movie it also struck me just how much gunplay there was for a "kiddie movie", so I went back and paid attention and counted bullets. Throughout the course of this movie the good guys fired 49 bullets but only 1 connected (maybe, hard to tell). The bad guys were even worse, firing 62 bullets and not even grazing anyone (not counting the traitor scientist being killed). That's a lot of blanks and a lot of ringing ears on set, and this was just in the cut-down 93 minute version we watched, the full serial must have doubled those numbers. I also noticed that everyone, good or bad, had the exact same model of short-barreled revolver, must have been something the studio bought in bulk.
And finally, I'd like to mention that this is MMT's first "multi-media review", as I've made a little Sculpey clay figurine of Larry with his jetpack and a refreshing bottle of Cocoa Cola. I just started trying to teach myself how to sculpt (maddeningly difficult) so the quality is crappy, but it sorta looks like Larry...
Written in February 2013 by Nathan Decker and Pam Burda.
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