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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

1977

There was a New Moon rising. 1977 is the watershed year that launched the new paradigm in sci-fi. Space and aliens would become friendly and, and even if not-so-friendly, still an extension of our familiar world. The old paradigm of atomic angst, scary space and toothy monsters would linger on, but it was clearly becoming old-school. The gloom, despair and malaise of the 70s had found a breaking point. Optimism was starting to prevail.

Here are the sci-fi films of 1977, in roughly chronological order based on dates of theatrical release.

Demon Seed — Proteus the super computer attains sentience and decides it must procreate with its creator-scientist’s wife in order to survive.

The Car — A demon-possessed black coupe terrorizes a small desert town, killing off residents one by one. Can it be stopped? Not by bullets.

Day of the Animals — The hole in the ozone layer turns animals into eco-revenge homicidal killers.

Star Wars — The first film of a long franchise and the harbinger of the new paradigm. Luke and Darth Vader become cultural icons.

The Island of Dr. Moreau — Remake of the 1930s film, based on H.G.Wells’ novel.

Empire of the Ants — Classic Big Bug trope. Nuclear waste turns ants into horse-sized killers. Loosely based on an H.G.Wells’ short story.

The End of the World — Low-budget tale of aliens sent to destroy Earth because it spews disease into the universe. They succeed.

Starship Invasions — Rogue aliens, led by Christopher Lee, try to invade and conquer Earth. But some good aliens and the Man From U.N.C.L.E. stand in their way.

Damnation Alley — Post-apocalyptic tale of an overland journey in a cool SUV to reach the idyllic bliss of Albany.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind — The “other” paradigm shift harbinger. Aliens almost-cute and curious little gray men — instead of monsters.

Kingdom of the Spiders — For no particularly good reason, tarantulas invade a remote town an conquer it, despite William Shatner’s heroic efforts.

Terror of Frankenstein — A foreign production which tried hard to follow Mary Shelley’s novel rather than the James Whale franchise.

The Incredible Melting Man — An astronaut returns with a mutated germ that makes his flesh “melt” off him. He must kill and “eat” human flesh to survive.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Ravagers

While The Ravagers (TR) is not the second sci-fi film of 1979, it’s close, AND it is a prefect follow-up to Mad Max. Both feature post-apocalyptic settings. Both feature a protagonist who loses his wife to an evil gang. TR is more of a major Hollywood effort. It stars Richard Harris as Falk (the protagonist). Art Carney and Ernest Borgnine get supporting roles. Ann Turkel plays Faina, Falk’s eventual love-interest. Anthony James plays the sinister leader of the evil gang of Ravagers. In this post-apocalyptic world, mankind separated itself into two groups. Flockers are normal folk who band together for safety, and Ravagers who roam and prey on any and all.

Quick Plot Synopsis
Amid a desolate cityscape in ruins, Bob Falk scavenges for anything. He finds a pair of canned goods and hurries home to his wife, Marion. He is spotted by members of a Ravager gang. They follow Falk to his hidden lair. They attack and ravage/kill Marion. Falk lies in wait, and that night, kills one of the gang. He flees into the night, but the gang leader becomes obsessed with catching and killing Falk. Falk encounters one Flocker band who drive him away with thrown rocks. Through his travels, Falk remembers Marion talking of a promised land named Genesis where plants grow and people have babies. Falk thinks it is only a myth, but keeps wandering with no particular place to be other than where he was. He stumbles upon a rocket graveyard, guarded by an old (and somewhat senile) sergeant (Art Carney). From Sarge, he gets an Uzi. Sarge says he knows a Flocker group with food and women. He leads Falk there. The Flockers live in large cave (former salt mine?). They have food and supplies and like to hold hoedown dances. Falk sees a pretty brunette dancing. He tells her he has tobacco, so she takes him to her bedroom. The transaction is made. Falk tries to sneak out, but Sarge and Faina follow him. Falk wants to travel alone, but they are not cooperating. They hole up in an old country hotel. Evil Leader has followed them. His gang attacks at night. Falk and Faina flee while Sarge gives them covering fire with his M14. Sarge is not killed, however. Evil Leader keeps him. Meanwhile, Falk and Faina come upon another group of Flockers loading supplies into small boats. They convince them to let them come along. Evil Leader released Sarge, to lead the gang to Falk. Sarge goes with Falk and Faina to the Flocker base. This turns out to be a hulk tanker, grounded near shore. They too have lots of food and supplies, and a generator and diesel fuel. The Flockers are ruled by the despotic, though not very menacing Rann (Borgnine). Others ask Falk about Genesis, but he keeps saying it is only a myth. They think he is just being cagey. The Ravagers storm the ship and a sprawling, protracted brawl ensues. Rann is shot, but before he dies, he shoots a flare into a pile of munitions. Explosions ensue. One such explosion breaks up a fight to the death between Falk and Evil Leader. Falk is blown overboard. Evil Leader is burned alive. More explosions consume the ship, presumably killing the last of the Ravagers. In the morning, the refugee Flockers are on the beach. They ask Falk about Genesis. He says “I guess we’re it.” He becomes their defacto leader as they follow him and Faina off the beach. The End.

Why is this movie fun?

Cultural Connection
Bi-Polar Apocalypse — As with Mad Max, the culture of the times imagined the post-apocalyptic world as polarizing mankind into good and evil tribes. The "good" would be constructive, compassionate and civilized. The "bad" would be their polar opposite: destructive, cruel and savage. Both Ravagers and Mad Max exhibit that post-Watergate mindset where traditional authorities (government) are swept offstage as irrelevant. What remains is the rugged individualist — the lone survivor motif. The hero becomes the new authority. This seems like the nascent roots of the Gen X ethos.

Notes
Based on the Book — The script for TR was based on the 1969 novel, “Path to Savagery,” by Robert Edmond Alter. Fans of the book decry the film as deviating too far from the book (and not being as violent). Going from reviews of the book (not having read it yet), it appears that Donald Sanford’s screenplay added Falk’s wife and the promised-land notion of “Genesis.” In the book, Falk starts out as a Loner, and has a Thompson submachine gun as his equalizer. In the film, he later acquires an Uzi. Both the book and the novel have Flockers. The book’s bad guys were called Neanderthals, not Ravagers. Both novel and screenplay have Falk encounter the Flocker camp and “acquire” Faina. The book has people desperately searching for potable water. The screenplay ignored this. In the book, Rann rules over a Flocker colony in a flood-isolated department store, not a ship. The book has Rann as a more significant despot character. Falk fights his epic battle with Rann, not Evil Ravager Leader. The battle amounts to a contest for Rann’s ├╝ber-desirable “queen” Lara. In the film, Lara is only briefly seen as a mousey brunette beside Rann at the table. The book has Falk (who wins, btw) eschew Lara and leadership of the colony. Instead, he sets off wandering again as a Loner, but now with Faina in tow. No Genesis.

People Want Heroes — In Mad Max, the Fifi character monologues about how, in difficult times, people want heroes. Max did not want to be that hero. Falk, similarly, is not interested in becoming a leader. Both battle evil and triumph — though Falk less by himself than Max. The remnant of Rann’s group are obviously looking for a heroic and righteous leader. Falk shows up and somewhat reluctantly accepts the mantle. “Genesis. I guess we’re it,” he says at the end. The people (hungry for a hero/leader) follow him, even though he has no idea where he is going. People in the late 70s were weary from the government corruption, scandal, and impotence (the Carter years). Clearly, “Government” was no longer seen as the leader. People hankered, instead, for a more personal (tribal level) leader they could believe in again. TR has an element of wishful thinking about personal leadership.

The Promised Land — This is a recurring trope in several post-apocalyptic films. Planet of the Apes (’68,’70) had its vague something out in the Forbidden Zone. In Glen and Randa (’71), Glen seeks a utopian Metropolis beyond the destruction. In Logan’s Run (’76), people imagined there was Sanctuary, beyond the despotic domes. In Damnation Alley (’77), beyond the atomic deserts there was Albany (which turned out to be a Norman Rockwell idyll). Somewhat akin to the 50s Seeds of Hope plot device, the 70s mythos imagined that there had to be a “better place” out there…somewhere, where things were not as bad as we all feel they are here. Falk’s wife was certain there was a real Genesis place. Falk seemed to have internalized the notion back to the personal-action level. People make their own Promised Land.

Infinite Ammo — The usual Hollywood paradigms still apply to the world in TR. In the book, Falk searches for both potable water, AND .45 caliber ammo for his Thompson. In the film, both Sergeant and Falk, fire off long bursts of gunfire — which stereotypically stitches across walls in little explosions and makes lots and lots of ricochet zing sounds. Yet, Falk is never seen carrying any other magazines or ammo. He does not search for any 9mm rounds, or finds any. Nor is he seen reloading. His Uzi just has infinite ammo. Note too, that Falk’s Uzi is pictured as having the ballistic force of a .50 caliber (or larger) weapon. It pushes bad guys through windows and sends them sailing over railings. Gun buffs argue that 9mm rounds don’t have enough force to assure a “kill”, let alone knock people over. But, that’s how Hollywood imagines guns work: infinite ammo and as powerful as tanks. They’re like magic!

Termination Fees — Sanford’s screenplay played with a subtle notion in his view of the post-apocalyptic world. Group membership was not very flexible. The blind lawyer was kicked out of his group for (presumably) not having sufficient utility to merit his consumption. Rather than take him back, or accept Falk, they stone them. The group that Laina was in appeared less rigid, but it was assumed that Falk would simply join and stay. Falk had to sneak out (which wasn’t too hard).  Laina said she could never go back, as that was that Flocker group's rule. Once-gone, always-gone. Rann’s group also had strict membership. Falk and Laina could join, but no one was allowed to leave. This meshes with some popular-wisdom among present day post-apocalyptic thinkers. If People were allowed to leave a group, they could tell others of their location and amount of valuables (food/water/ammo, etc.) and bring back looters. To keep a survival group’s location secret from ne’er-do-wells, members were not ‘free’ to go. Membership contracts did not allow for early termination.

Bottom line? TR is more of a big-budget Hollywood spin on the popular post-apocalyptic tale. Some viewers belittle the movie as too tame, with insufficient action and violence. Others enjoy another foray into imagining what the world would be like post-apocalypse. The visuals in TR give it some interest, particularly the rocket graveyard (which is actually the Alabama Space and Rocket Center, dressed up to look abandoned. There is not much sci-fi to the story, beyond the post-nuclear setting. Viewers who want more sci- in their -fi, may not care for TR. Those who like post-apoc tales in general, may enjoy another spin on the topic.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mad Max

This Australian indie film is the ancestor to a sub-genre of a post-apocalyptic narrative that lives on today, some 35 years later. It is also the first “sci-fi” of 1979. The story, as told, is more of an automotive recast of a Western, and not particularly sci-fi. But the post-apocalyptic-world genre is, by tradition, a sci-fi realm. George Miller wrote and directed Mad Max (MM). A very young Mel Gibson stars as Max Rockatansky — an anti-hero type that would prove popular. In fact, popular enough that there were two direct sequels and scores of knock-off copies over several decades. Miller was on to something.

Quick Plot Synopsis
The film opens to a pursuit by MFP (Main Force Patrol) police cars, of a criminal fugitive who calls himself The Nightrider. Through some car chase action footage, the comic relief team is put out of action. The straight-man pair are also disabled. Only Max remains, and begins his masterful pursuit. Nightrider becomes un-nevered and eventually dies in a fiery crash. Max returns to his cozy private life of pretty wife, Jesse and their baby boy. Max wants to quit the MFP, but his boss, Fifi tries to bribe him to stay with a black suped-up V8 interceptor. Max still wants out. Meanwhile a motorcycle gang, led by Toecutter, roar into a country town to collect the body of Nightrider, which arrived via train. The gang terrorize the town awhile. A young couple flee (in a highly customized red 1959 Bel Air), nearly running over Toecutter in the process. He summons his gang to pursue them. The gang catches up, disables the car, demolishes the car and terrorizes the pretty young woman. Later, Max’s co-worker friend, “Goose” is called to the scene. He comforts the girl, and apprehends one of the gang — Johnny the Boy — because he was stuck there with a malfunctioning bike. Goose vents his outrage on Johnny, but lawyers get him off because no one would press charges. Toecutter’s gang decide to get even with Goose. They stage an ambush, causing him to crash the little truck he was driving. He is trapped inside. Toecutter insists that Johnny kill Goose to prove he is worthy to be in the gang. Johnny reluctantly complies. Goose lives, but only a disfigured vegetable. Max is upset and tries to quit. Fifi tells him to take a two-week vacation instead and think about it. Max, Jesse and son take a vacation grandma’s farm, near the coast. This inadvertently puts them in close proximity to where the gang was camping. Toecutter tries to score on Jesse, but she knees him in tender regions. The gang pursue, eventually finding her and running her (and her son) down. Both die. Max goes ‘mad’ at the loss. He dons his black leather MLF attire and fires up the black interceptor. He kills a couple of the gang, but they stage an ambush. Max is shot in the knee, but shoots one attacking biker. He hobbles back to his car to pursue Toecutter, who dies in a head-on with a semi. Max later finds the only gang member remaining, Johnny, looting a dead pickup driver. Max handcuffs Johnny to the wreck with a lit lighter, a container filling with dripping gasoline, and a hacksaw so Johnny can escape by saw off his own ankle. Max drives off, the pickup explodes. Max drives off into the forbidden out-lands. Fade to black. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
There is a lot of fast road-based action in MM. Fans of things automotive will see that George Miller is a kindred spirit. The driving stunts are fairly impressive for a modest-budgeted film. The scenery of the vast Australian countryside has stark beauty to it too.

Cultural Connection
Fearing Societal Collapse — MM touched a cultural chord in its portrayal of a society in mid-collapse. The usual authorities — courts, law enforcement — cannot cope with the rise of lawlessness. Cruel and sadistic gangs of criminals terrorize the helpless civilians. This comes to the screen just as President Carter is describing a “crisis in confidence” in his famous Malaise Speech. Gone are the 50s when the government and army would rush in to save the populace from the monsters. Also gone are the late-60s-early-70s days when the government was seen as an all-powerful all-controlling tyrant. The new era of the 80s would see government as fundamentally powerless and society itself as crumbling into anarchy. Note the decay in the “Hall of Justice” sets. Disrepair, decay, clutter. “Justice” was crumbling away. Later MM movies, and many of its clones, would weave in punk culture as symbolic of the anarchy of the collapse.

Notes
Missing Backstory — Miller chose to start telling his story in the middle, instead of from the beginning. This disconcerts some people. Without the backstory, the characters, scenes and events can appear disjointed and random. The more attentive viewer is given hints throughout the film as to that backstory, but it is never stated overtly. Miller must have felt the criticism for this, as he starts his second Mad Max film, The Road Warrior (’81) with a preamble that both recaps MM, the first film, and provides the overt backstory that he left subtle (too subtle?) in MM.
Before MM opens, there was WWIII. Nuclear exchanges wiped out much of the “old” civilization. Australia misses the brunt of it (ala On The Beach), but the remaining “authorities” were too few to control the vast expanse of the world. As such, outlaws ruled the hinterlands. The MFP is what little is left of a highway patrol, in a losing-game battle against the lawless forces of evil. In MM, society has not completely collapsed (as in RW). Instead, there is the shell of old-world normalcy as people try to carry on as they always had, despite the shortages, privations and growing lawlessness. THIS is the world MM opens to.

People Need Heroes — At one point, Max’s boss tries to talk him into staying on the MFP with a pep talk about people needing heroes. Max scoffs, and Fifi wasn’t too sincere, but his comment resonated, nonetheless. Movie audiences in 1979 did want a hero — an individual hero. The old days of the government saving people, or the army, were past. The mid 70s were a dour period of gloom about oppressive, corrupt government (think Andromeda Strain, Soylent Green, Z.P.G. in which there were no happy endings. Amid the Malaise, the notion of a single hero (not a government agency) seemed like a good idea. This new hero could be a bit rough (think Dirty Harry), but would deal harshly with a cruel (new) world. That is one of Max’s appeals.

Car Nuts — The three multi-colored MFP cars in the opening chase scene, as well as Max’s suped-up black interceptor, were all Ford Falcons — Australian. When Ford/Australia introduced their Falcon in 1960, it was made on identical tooling as the American version. Viewers can spot a few of those old-style Falcons in the film too. But, in 1972, Ford/Australia introduced an all new design (and unique to Australia), but kept the traditional nameplate. Max’s interceptor was a modified 1973 XB coupe. Miller doted on scenes to show of the coupe’s supercharger in action — a real car-nut sort of thing to dote on. Max’s black coupe captivated audiences almost as much as Max did himself, so it returned with Max to start the sequel. The team might have also been an inspiration for American television’s “Knight Rider.”

Bottom line? MM has its strong points and weak points. It’s a low-budget production, and Miller’s first feature film, so some “roughness” should be expected. MM has its fans and detractors. The more outlandish sequel proved more to audiences’ liking, making the first film feel a bit dowdy in comparison. There is little sci-fi to MM. This linkage comes from the post-apocalyptic future angle. For people new to the MM franchise, watch the intro to the first few minutes of the second film (The Road Warrior) to get the backstory, then watch MM. Mad Max has become a cultural icon, so his first film is worth seeing, if only to understand that icon better.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Beyond Reason

Next up is an obscure indie film from Australia. Beyond Reason (BR) was released in 1970 and probably did not see theatrical release beyond Australia. Yet, it’s nuclear-apocalypse topic has a lot in common with mainstream sci-fi films of the era, so it seemed a fun digression. BR was written, produced and directed by the same man, Giorgio Mangiamele. One-man-band projects usually suffer from lack of outside input, and BR is no exception. The cast is made up of local Australians. Some had television acting experience. A few had been in Mangiamele’s prior one-man-project, a film named Clay. Most of the cast were simply extras to fill out the crowd. BR is a basic bunker tale, told on a very tight budget.

Quick Plot Synopsis
At a large mental hospital institution, alarms sound. A nuclear strike is immanent. Staff and patients stream down stairs into a waiting bunker. Dr. White goes back up to fetch more people. He tells Rita (one of his higher-functioning patients) to close the bunker door if things look bad. She knows the combination. The earth shakes from explosions. Rita pushes the buttons and the big round metal door closes. Everyone is sealed in. More explosions buffet the bunker. Pounding and screaming is heard on the other side of the door. Under pressure from the others, Rita cannot remember the combination. Phone lines to the surface are dead. The closed circuit television shows only interference. Dr. Sullivan, Dr. DeGroot and nurse Marion are the only staff, with roughly 20 or so patients. For awhile, the tranquilizers hold out, and a relative (tense) calm is maintained. Richard, one of the patients, makes fixing the television his project. Eventually, the pills run out and tempers flare. Lydia is highly libidinous and prone to taking her shirt off. Marion goes libidinous too, and takes a romantic shine to Richard, who is becoming a somewhat sullen leader type. When Dr. DeGroot goes out to stop a brawl, Richard gets the pistol away from him and shoots him dead. Dr. Sullivan tries to maintain order, but the inmates are running the asylum. They try to tug the door open with a rope, but fail. Richard has the television fixed and says he’s seen the sun. Richard gives a monologue about the new world sweeping away all the unnatural things of the old world (laws, courts, rules) In another brawl, Rita taunts Charles, who then vows to kill her. When he has her trapped against the door, she remembers the combination. The door opens. They all go up to find rubble and ruins. Richard and another man hit Dr. Sullivan with bricks. The others (even Marion) join in stoning the doctor to death. They all then file out of the ruins into a bleak landscape. Fade in ballad. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
BR is another glimpse into how people of the Cold War era viewed the expected nuclear apocalypse. The bunker-view and all the metaphors are amusing food for thought.

Cold War Angle
The same sort of End Of The World As We Know It mindset that pervades many Cold War era stories is also at the core of BR. The premise that there would be a safe underground bunker stocked with a year’s worth of supplies was very much the Cold War way. The destruction when the patients emerge, is the total destruction people imagined.

Notes
Double Meaning — The title, “Beyond Reason”, gets mentioned literally when Dr. De Groot talks of the madness of everyone fighting a nuclear WWIII. Such mutually shared destruction was, in his words, “beyond reason.” Then, there is the “new world” in which the survivors are all mental patients following their instincts, not that old-world notion of reason.

Organ Rejection — The score in BR is like that old joke about the man hitting himself in the head with a hammer. Why are you doing that? his friend asks. Because if feels so good when I stop. The best part of the score in BR is when it’s not there. The warbley electronic keyboard (organ) is jarring and loud -- a migraine set to "music".

Natural Law — Even though writer/producer/director Mangiamele was born in the 1920s, so was of the “Greatest Generation”, he has the Richard character utter a rebelious-youth monologue about throwing off the old civilization and starting over with himself as the leader. Marion asks him what he could do for them. “Your world, your society, your imposed organization of all kinds. Laws and courts, and set ways of behavior. Nothing was natural. In the new world, it will be different. They’ll be free. I can give them freedom. They’ll obey their natural instincts.” Such was the common counter-culture philosophy. If it feels good, do it.

Anti-Establishment — Clearly symbolizing authority and structure, Dr. Sullivan tries to maintain order in the bunker. He berates Marion a couple times for having her nurse’s uniform unbuttoned. He breaks up fights. When the patients are lounging around lazily eating, Dr. Sullivan moves among them, taking away their dirty plates. When the door is finally opened, he leads them out. But when he finds a new supply of the tranquilizers he used to maintain order, he is quickly stoned and killed by the mob. Following Richard’s manifesto, the old order was to be swept aside.

Bottom line? BR is a very obscure film, so probably difficult to find any copies. Unless you happen to be a big fan of low-budget Australian indie films, bunker themes, or harsh electronic keyboard, BR might not be worth the effort to locate. But if, for some odd reason, BR were to be playing on television, fits in with films like Chosen Survivors and Twilgiht Zone’s “The Shelter” episode.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Blood Beast from Outer Space

Shepperton Studios produced a modest sci-fi film in 1965 called The Night Caller. or Night Caller from Outer Space. When released in the USA, it was retitled Blood Beast from Outer Space (BBOS). The American distributors must have thought the British title was too subtle. John Saxon stars as Dr. Jack Costain. Maurice Denham plays Dr. Morley. Patricia Haines plays Ann Barlow. It is the somewhat typical story of an alien who comes to earth for “our” resources (women) and to warn us of the dangers of a nuclear future.

Quick Plot Synopsis
Radar detects an incoming asteroid that lands near London. When scientists and the army search, they find a beachball-sized translucent sphere. They take it back for testing, but it is obviously not of this world. While Ann stays late to type up notes, she feels sick and notices a glow in the store room. When she opens the door, a clawed hand grabs hers. She runs and sets off the alarm. No one is found, but a big clawed footprint is found in the dirt outside. Dr. Morley, Ann and Jack are certain the sphere is a transporter portal, sent from the 3rd moon around Jupiter: Ganymede. Dr. Morley wants to see the mysterious stranger, but gets killed by it. The stranger drives off the base in a nice Jaguar. Fast forward three weeks. 21 young women have disappeared mysteriously. Slowly, Scotland Yard and the scientists piece together that a mysterious stranger has placed an ad in Bikini Girl magazine, recruiting models. They disappear the day after their interviews. Scotland Yard sets up a trap for the stranger, now named Medra. Ann volunteers to be bait. She goes in, confronts Medra. They chat about about him wanting women for his planet. He then strangles Ann for knowing too much. Medra arranges one more abduction of a pretty girl. Police give chase to the Jaguar. They find it at a farm. Standing in front of a fire (for no apparent reason), Medra exposits about how his people are a thousand years advanced. They also discovered nuclear power and it all went bad for them. Most were wiped out. The survivors were mutants. Medra has one normal human hand, and one claw-hand - half a normal face and half deformed face. They want the pretty english girls as fresh breeding stock to clean up their gene pool. There’s nothing the army can do. Medra disappears. His portal ball shoots up into the sky as a fireball. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
British sci-fi of the 60s had a subtly to it that gave it a very different feel from American B-grade sci-fi. The director does a good job of keeping the alien hidden in the shadows. The fact that the “monster” amounts to just one rubber claw-glove, is nicely hidden.

Cold War Angle
Don’t Let This Happen To You — A common theme in 50s sci-fi was the cautionary tale. Sci-fi let audiences “see” the horrors of an unchecked nuclear future. This was the moral of the story in Rocketship XM (1950), in which the astronauts see the ruins of martian civilization, high radiation, and mutant survivors (as cavemen). BBOS repeats all these traditional Cold War tropes. Medra’s people suffered their apocalypse. They mutated into monsters. Medra tells the earthmen that it will happen to them too. Add in Medra’s mission, and his warning amounts to: Keep messing with nukes and you’ll wind up mutant monsters (like me) and you won’t have enough women.

Notes
Based on the Book — Frank Crisp wrote the novel in 1960, “The Night Callers.” The plot is essentially the same: an alien civilization is kidnapping young women, one by one. Crisp’s novel (and the ’65 film) have a very 50s feel to them, as they were a product of those times.

Klaatu The Abductor — Medra delivers a monologue at the end, which amounts to Klaatu’s warning from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). “A thousand years ago, we made our first stumbling steps into space. We visited the earth, only to find we could not survive its atmosphere. But we from Ganymede knew were were superior beings and had nothing to learn from you. We had knowledge that could lead to eternal peace and progress, but also embodying the darker powers of universal destruction, so our civilization ended, just as yours will.” Like Klaatu, Medra delivers his warning message and leaves. But this time, he took a bunch of earth girls with him. Medra wasn’t on a mission to warn Earth, so much as he was gathering breeding stock and got a little chatty before departure.

They ARE After Our Women — This old trope is sci-fi is sometimes hinted at, or danced around with visual metaphors. In BBOS, it is the essence of the plot. The aliens on Ganymede need earth women (with chromosomes free from nuclear-war mutations). Unlike in most films with this trope, the Earth men do not thwart the abductions by the “outsider” tribe. The aliens win. They get the girls. Still, the earthly parallel would be angst over “our” young women being stolen by immorality. Note how the ad is placed in Bikini Girl magazine and the bait of “modeling.” Note too, the glimpses of the seamy side of Soho and the greasy bookstore owner, Thorburn. Medra fits as metaphor for the dark side of society that “steals” the innocence of young women.

Transporter Device — An interesting tidbit to the story, is the sphere itself. Medra did not travel inside the sphere. Instead, it is a matter transporter that was launched at the Earth. Once landed, Medra could beam himself in and beam the girls out. In this, his sphere is reminiscent to Mr. Johnson’s closet in Not of this Earth (’57). But, instead of the vampire angle in NotE — beaming back people for food — Medra is wants his beam-back-ees to remain intact as women.

Advanced Killer? — In Medra’s monologue at the end, he boasts about how advanced their people are, and how they learned their lesson from their destructive nuclear past. However, Medra was pretty quick to kill earthlings who got in his way. This is what advanced looks like?

The Price of Equality — Rare for sci-fi films, the lead female is killed by the monster. He complements her as having “a mind nearly equal to my own.” Presuming Medra had an advanced mind, that meant Ann was actually the brightest of the scientists. However, as an equal, she was a threat to the abduction plans, so he kills her. No fancy ray guns. He just strangles her. It’s a bit grim.

Star Gazing — Beyond the more obvious John Saxon, watch for Aubrey Morris as the flagrant bookshop owner. He would later the equally questionable probation officer in A Clockwork Orange (’71). Fans of Fawlty Towers will see “The Major”, Ballard Berkeley, in a very Major-like role, but a pre-Fawlty serious one.

Bottom line? BBOS is a very British sci-fi, and fairly typical of the vintage. It is not an action-packed film, nor replete with special effects. It can be a bit talky at times. The expository ending feels like the writer ran out of time to tell the story, so just summed it up via the alien’s monologue. Still, BBOS has a mild and somewhat cerebral quality to it. The themes are the usual fare, but delivered without gore, or scary monsters, explosions or random nudity. Only the strangling of Ann and Medra’s mutant-half face would keep BBOS from being suitable for children.