The Angry Red Planet: Sci-Fi Cult Classic & Proof of Life on Mars

The Angry Red Planet
Looks pretty angry, doesn’t it?

In 2020 we’re hoping to cover more old films from the golden age of Hollywood. And we’re starting off with this crazy gem from 1960 with a bat-rat-spider-crab monster. Good, eh?

Angry Red Planet

CineMagic, you say? Ib Melchior (1917-2015) was the Danish-American writer and director behind this extravaganza.

He had a speciality in low budget sci-fi flicks, which is where this $200,000 monstrosity came from.

As you’ll notice from the poster, it features a bat-rat-spider-crab monster. Yes, we’re going to bang on about that quite a lot.

The plot is pretty mental. Mission control on Earth is busy monitoring MR-1 (a Mars rocketship) after its return from the red planet.

They’re surprised to see it crop up, having long presumed the ship was lost to the ages.

Once back on Earth, they find only two survivors:

  1. Dr. Iris Ryan (Naura Hayden)
  2. Colonel Tom O’Bannion (Gerald Mohr)

The latter has a weird right arm that has transmogrified into a green, alien growth. Nice!

In a state of shock, Dr. Ryan recounts the tales of horror and woe on that there Mars, a naughty red planet with angry things on it.

At this point the film cuts to the crew’s adventure on the planet.

That includes part of the trek up there. Did you know that space travel is a really great opportunity to flirt with women?

As this suave SOB proves with the utmost gentlemanly attributes.

So after some cheesy lines to the attractive redhead lady, we’re back on track with the whole Mars thing.

We must say, Mars gets a bit of a bad rep in this one. The very moment they’re on the planet, it’s nuts. Dr. Ryan is straight-up attacked by a carnivorous plant.

Thankfully, heroic Chief Warrant Officer Jacobs (Jack Kruschen) murders the plant to death with his freeze-ray thingy. Take that, Mars!

Oh yes, and he calls his gun Cleo. For some reason (potentially insane?).

Whilst bumbling about further, Dr. Ryan then hacks at a structure with her blade. This turns out to be a vast bat-rat-spider-crab monstrosity.

Thoroughly aggravated, it starts attacking the Earthlings. And it’s kind of justified, no? The woman was hacking at it.

Cleo saves the day there and the bat-rat-spider-crab thing beats it.

Colonel O’Bannion then leads the crew further across Mars, where they spot a city-like thing off in the distance.

They all try to cross a lake to reach it, but (you guessed it) are assaulted by a giant monster a bit like an amoeba.

Sadly, Cleo can’t save the day as Chief Warrant Officer Jacobs is murdered to death.

Colonel O’Bannion is also infected by the crazy bastard, so the three survivors decide to leg it as Mars is just a bit unpleasant.

They get back to the ship and take off, during which time Professor Gettel (Les Tremayne) cops it due to the velocity of the ascent.

Cut back to the two survivors on Earth and O’Bannion’s arm is turned back to normal. He’s cured!

Fantastic news! That means he can get back to flirting with Dr. Ryan!

Technicians also work out on Mars the aliens let the Earthlings leave the planet so they could deliver a message to humanity.

That message? If the humans ever return to the red planet, the aliens will retaliate by destroying the place.

Cripes. That really is one angry red planet, eh?

Anyway, the film is very much of its era. The practical effects are nifty (and somewhat hilarious by modern standards).

The acting is a bit forced and wooden. Dr. Ryan’s main use amongst the crew? Screaming hysterically upon sight of various monsters. That and being flirted at—remember, always flirt with female astronauts.

So, yes, it’s a daft film. There’s no denying that. But also good fun—most notably in the form of the bat-rat-spider-crab.

That thing alone was surely worth the admittance fee back in 1960.

Production

In the 1950s knowledge of Mars was still somewhat limited—human beings hadn’t even visited the Moon yet.

And Mars was a mysterious neighbour with a red hue. Just what the bloody hell was going on up there?!

That opened the door for B movie sci-fi concepts like this.

Director Ib Melchior picked the draft screenplay up from Sidney Pink. The writer liked the idea of CineMagic, a filming process that merged drawings with live action.

Everyone was a bit disappointed with that bit, as it was supposed to be a 3D type look. But it still looks pretty alarming anyway.

CineMagic is also responsible for the red glow for the scenes on Mars. This also helped to lower production costs, as well as produce that lifelike red glow of what it’s really like up there.

Filming took place in sunny California in September of 1959 and it launched a year later. And it met with decidedly mixed reviews.

These days, love for the film is limited to a cult following who appreciate the “so bad it’s good” factor (see The Disaster Artist for more on that).

On Rotten Tomatoes it has a fantastic 0% rating.

Sure, the script and acting are far from convincing. But, to be fair, the technology of the day didn’t really allow for much fancier effects.

And that bat-rat-spider-crab is a work of genius! Man, that thing would make for a great pet.

Oh, and finally…

Bachelors the world over can learn a lot from that gorgeous hunk. Men… get flirting!

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