Missile to the Moon (1958)

Have you already watched this movie? Well, maybe.

Missile to the Moon is an even lower-budget remake — is that possible? — of the low-budget film 1953 film Cat-Women of the Moon.

That movie had 3D going for it, but this one has much younger men in the heroic roles and an army of international beauty contest winners playing the moon maidens. But the dreaded moon spider? Yep. That’s the very same prop from the original film. It was originally built for the movie Tarantula, so here’s to Hollywood for being green years before anyone knew what recycling was.

This film was shot in the Vasquez Rocks, where all cheap films decide to show what the moon or an alien planet looks like. A red gel over the lens of the camera was the attempt to make the sky look different, yet no science was given to the script. How do people explode into flames when there’s no oxygen, after all?

Anyways, two escaped convicts named Gary (Tommy Cook, who is also in HIgh School Hellcats and would go on to write and produce Rollercoaster) and Lon (Gary Clarke, TV’s The Virginian) stowaway on a rocketship that Dirk Green is piloting back to his home satellite, the moon. He’s soon killed by a meteor storm, of course.

Also on board are hunky Steve Dayton and his fiancee June (Cathy Downs, The Amazing Colossal Man), who obviously had no idea what they were getting into. They all soon find themselves up against an underground empire of gorgeous moon women and their evil ruler, Lido (K. T. Stevens, who also shows up in They’re Playing With Fire).

Rock men. Giant spiders. Nina Bara, who was on TV’s Space Patrol. Leslie Parrish, who would go on to pretty much invent C-SPAN and remains an environmental activist. Laurie Mitchell, who plays a very similar role in Queen of Outer Space opposite Zsa Zsa Gabor. Marianne Gaba, the Playboy Playmate of the Month for September 1959, who also plays a robot in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. These are the menaces and maidens that our convicts must face on…the moon!

This was directed by Richard E. Cunha, whose Frankenstein’s Daughter made the other half of the double bill that this movie appeared on. It was written by H.E. Barrie, who was also behind She Demons and Girl in Room 13 (two other Cunha films), and Vincent Fotre, who wrote Baron Blood.

I have a weakness for movies where female societies have taken over the moon. I blame, of course, Amazon Women on the Moon.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi. There’s also two different Rifftrax versions: One has Mike Nelson and Fred Willard (Amazon Prime and Tubi) and the other has the original crew (Tubi).

The Hideous Sun Demon (1958)

Written, directed and produced by Robert Clarke — the only movie he’d write and direct, sadly, after a career of acting in movies like The Astounding She-Monster — this movie was inspired by the success of that film. After all, Clarke got five percent of She-Monster’s profits in addition to his salary. Although Clarke later admitted that the film was awful, it was a financial success for him and enabled this movie to happen.

With a crew that was made up of University of Southern California film students and a cast of friends and unknowns, this movie was made over twelve weekends with three cinematographers.

An unauthorized sequel, Don Glut’s Wrath of the Sun Demon (which features the real Sun Demon mask from Bob Burns’ collection) was produced in 1965. Two redubbed versions of the original film havealso  been released: Hideous Sun Demon: Special Edition and What’s Up, Hideous Sun Demon (AKA Revenge of the Sun Demon), the latter of which had Clarke’s blessing. Both Susan Tyrel and Jay Leno were involved with that movie.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this film is the claim that its amongst the first movies to use practical locations, which is common practice today.

Dr. Gilbert “Gil” McKenna (Clarke) falls unconscious after accidentally being exposed to radiation yet he has no burns nor damage to his body. However, when he’s in the sun, he transforms into a prehistoric reptile man, destroying all notions of both scientific evolution and religious Creationism.

Once he realizes that he can never go into the sun again, he does what you or I would do. He drinks himself blind drunk and gets involved with a girl at a bar and battles some toughs over her.

In the scene where the radio announcer is warning the public that the Sun Demon is loose, he then says, “I return to music by the King Sister.” Clarke was married to Alyce King of the singing King Sisters and Marilyn King wrote and performed “Strange Pursuit”, the song in the bar scene.

A $50,000 budget, helped by weekend camera rentals which were more affordable, and a $500 rubber suit has never gone so far as it does in this film.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi. You can also enjoy Rifftrax commentary over the film on Tubi.

PURE TERROR MONTH: Night of the Blood Beast (1958)

It’s hard to believe this forgotten—and to be honest, not very good—62-minute Roger Corman quickie shot in 1958 for a mere $68,000 over the course of seven days wound up in WGA arbitration, but it did: Writer Martin Varno disputed the writing credit given to Roger’s brother, Gene. Even harder to believe: Harold Jacob Smith, who worked on the film’s rewrites/dialogue doctoring, won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The Defiant Ones (1958). But, hey, look at what happened to James Cameron (Galaxy of Terror) and Ron Howard (Grand Theft Auto). (By the way: Don’t forget to read my “October 2019 Scarecrow Challenge” review of Ice Cream Man starring Ron’s brother, Clint.)

Damn this 27th galaxy to hell!

Starting out as a screenplay “Creature from Galaxy 27” and influenced by the Howard Hawks box-office smash, The Thing from Another World (1951), Night of the Blood Beast tells the story of the return of the first deep space astronaut—implanted with an alien embryo. Although astronaut John Corcoran’s body seems “dead,” it maintains a blood pressure and harbors strange, alien seahorse-like cells his blood stream that grow into a lizard-like fetus. Then the film goes off into a weird, homosexual subtext with the alien and Corcoran “protecting” each other.

Ah, a human male as a walking alien-baby incubator? I’ve seen this before. Well, besides the homosexual subtext, it does sound familiar, doesn’t it? Well, doesn’t it Dan O’Bannon?

Sadly, while Night of the Blood Beast is clearly an Alien antecedent, the film—because of its low-budget quality further stymied by the amateurish acting of TV series bit-players—goes unmentioned alongside the more formidable Alien precursors of Forbidden Planet, It! The Terror of Beyond Space, Queen of Blood, and, especially, Mario Bava’s Planet of Vampires. Well, doesn’t it, Dan O’ Bannon?

During its initial success, literary critics noted Alien’s similarities to the Agatha Christie tale, And Then There Were None (1939), and the short stories “Discord in Scarlet” and “The Black Destroyer” in A.E van Vogt’s collection, The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950), which could have possibly influenced Martin Varno’s storytelling. It certainly did influence—although he flat out denied it—O’ Bannon’s storytelling: so much so that 20th Century Fox settled with van Vogt out of court.

Speaking of familiar: B&S readers are familiar with Corman’s house of recycling: Stunt footage from Eat My Dust and Grand Theft Auto turned up in several of his ‘70s hicksploitation films . . . and how many times did we see Battle Beyond the Stars SFX shots reused? Thus, you’ve seen Night of the Blood Beast’s alien costume before: In Teenage Caveman (1958), which wrapped two weeks before Blood Beast began shooting. Some film reviewers describe it as “a bear crossed with a moldy parrot”—and they’re right! Is the costume as bad as Richard “Jaws” Kiel’s The Solarite—with the light bulb eyes—in Phantom Planet (1961)? Yep. And since when does an alien, only by monitoring Earth’s radio broadcasts, develop a dialect worthy of a Royal Shakespearean Company actor? Book this parrot for the CBS Evening News. He should be holding a skull and crying out for Desdemona. “The parrot is ready for his close-up, Mr. DeMille!”

If you need more fun-filled, Roger Corman sci-fi tomfoolery, check out Night of the Blood Beast’s John Baer in Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) and Ed Nelson in Attack of the Crab Monster (1957).

If you want to go deep into the Alien cottage “homage” industry with B&S Movies, then surf on over to Ten Movies that Rip-off Alien and A Whole Bunch of Alien Rip-offs All at Once.

It freaks me out that I’ve seen all these movies. I don’t know if that makes me cool or just a very sad excuse for a human being.

About the Author: You can read the music and film criticisms of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his rock ‘n’ roll biographies, along with horror and sci-fi novellas, on Facebook.

CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: I Bury the Living (1958)

A few years ago I saw a great movie called The Canal. In the opening scene a man gets an auditorium of noisy kids to pipe down asking them if they want to see ghosts. The “ghosts” he is referring to are the people in the film and how none of them are alive today.

I often think of these “ghosts” when I watch older movies. How odd (and wonderful)it must be to get to see relatives long gone. Not just the visual but also their mannerisms and hearing their voices. I Bury the Living has that feeling for me. I am seeing ghosts pleading, going mad and caring that have been gone for some time.

I Bury the Living was released in 1958 and I am not sure how well it was received. Most of the reviews and articles I read about it compared it to a longer episode of the Twilight Zone. It runs an efficient 77 minutes and was made by Albert Band father of Charles. Looking up his career I found the sweet support of a father who served as a producer for many of his son’s projects including one of my favorites Castle Freak. I wonder what he thought of his son’s films then I realized he was the director of Dracula’s Dog and Ghoulies 2. Their Thanksgivings must have been a lot of fun.

Stephen King is a huge fan of this film but hates the ending. That is a fact steeped in irony since I often find the endings of his books to be lacking (throw rotten tomatoes at me here). I am not going to spoil the ending, but I have watched this several times and am still undecided. I don’t hate it but after some viewings I think they could have done more with it. But I am not sure how or what (no not a giant spider).

I Bury the Living is very atmospheric and you can feel the coldness of the main set of an office at a cemetery. Richard Boone is kind of a grumpy 50s businessman that has to take his turn in being the chairman for the cemetery. When he is sworn in they tell him it is not a tough job but slowly it possesses him and he goes from a confident and well-groomed man to a confused, flustered and downright scared man.

Andy is the caretaker who does the real day to running of the cemetery. There is something charming and sweet about him and he is a man who truly loves his job. It was a sign of the times and a sad reminder of how people used to have pride in their work no matter how lowly or menial the job was. Andy didn’t have nice suits and slick hair like Mr. Kraft but he appreciated the scenic views at the cemetery and the comfort and peace.

Mr. Kraft imposes his values on Andy and thinks he is doing him a favor when he tells him it is time for him to retire and to find his replacement. Kraft being the typical businessman asshole pats himself on the back not realizing work and this place provides Andy with most of his purpose. And a man can be truly lost when he has lost his purpose.

The giant map has a great look to it. In it are white pins for unoccupied spots that have been sold and black ones are for the ones that have bodies in them. Kraft makes a mistake and puts the wrong color of pin into the map and starts a chain reaction of doom (or does he?)

Kraft’s lady Ann comes to visit and she seems a bit younger than Kraft. I like the fact that the leads are older. It seems like films these days never cast older people (they consider mid 30s old now)and I think it adds to how Kraft actually wear all the bad things that start happening around him. He even questions his sanity and wonders if he is truly to blame which is what we often do as we age. Much more meaningful then Archie trying to spend time with his best gal no matter what is going on around him.

No one seems to believe Kraft and he in a sense is doing the math. They seem to think he is buckling from all the pressure of being a modern businessman. A few costly experiments are done and Kraft really starts to go off the rails. The music used is top notch and eery and Band does some very interesting visuals for Kraft’s descent into possible madness.

It is hard to write without spoiling the film. But it is definitely worth a watch. Sure it could be a supernatural force at work or a who done it. I feel it is a film about the upper class not truly understanding how the working class feel about life and their jobs and that is all you are going to get out of me. I am still not sure how I feel about the ending, but really I love the room to speculate and wonder about the ending of a film.

2018 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 9: Fiend without a Face (1958)

Day 9 of the Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge is Unseen Terror. You barely see it but it still terrifies you. This one was really rough, as I didn’t want to cover a Predator movie as that was just too simple. So I reached out to Bill from Drive-In Asylum and Groovy Doom for help. I’m using this challenge as a way to see movies I’d normally never watch, after all!

Based upon Amelia Reynolds Long’s 1930 short story “The Thought Monster”, originally published in the March 1930 issue of Weird Tales magazine, this independent British film played in the US on a double bill with The Haunted Strangler.

U. S. Air Force Interceptor Command Experimental Station No. 6 is a long-range radar installation located in the fictional town of Winthrop, Manitoba, Canada, which is a farming village that’s been plagued by unexplained deaths. It turns out that people are being killed with their brains and spinal columns being taken. The townies are up in arms, as they feel that the radiation experiments are to blame.

That leads Air Force Major Jeff Cummings starts to investigate the murders and quickly fingers Professor R. E. Walgate as a person of interest. Turns out that the Professor has been experimenting with telekinesis and thought projection for some time. That said — the radiation from the base has turned his thought projections into an entirely new life form that is attacking the locals and using them for host bodies. Of course, those bodies are mostly invisible, but also show up from time to time as moving brains with spinal columns with eyes at the end of extended eye stalks. They’re creepy as hell and led to a public uproar after its British premiere, with the public and critics angry over the films horrifying levels of gore (for the time, at least).

When this movie debuted at the Rialto Theatre in New York City, it came complete with a sidewalk exhibit of a “living and breathing Fiend” that moved and made sounds. The crowds that gathered to watch the caged Fiend created large crowds that the NYPD had to disperse.

It’s a pretty effective picture. Maybe that’s not even due to the film’s director, Arthur Crabtree. He believed that science fiction was beneath him and walked off the set at one point, with star Marshall Thompson finishing the direction of the movie.

If you like 1950’s atomic science fiction, scenes of people boarded in a room trying to hide out from pulsating brains and stop-motion blood and guys, well, this is the movie for you.