Movies That Suck returns after a long break. It's been a while! I'm returning this week with an old favorite- loved it as a kid. How does it hold up? Well, not great, to be honest. Let's take a peek.
We start with a spacecraft approaching Mars. This looks a lot like the opening sequence to the original Star Trek, by the way. And here's Adam West as McReady with a monkey companion- -Mona- floating weightlessly. You just know Mona's gonna play a role. We also meet Commander Draper played by Paul Mantee. It doesn't take long for things to go wrong, as a meteor flies by, way too close for comfort, and they end up having to eject. Draper crash lands on Mars- what's with all the fire?- there's like a firestorm raging, for no apparent reason, and he almost gets fried. Meanwhile, McReady's descent doesn't go so well, and he's toast.
Oh, and draper keeps opening his mask. Um, I know this was made in 1964, but does he really think he's going to be able to breathe? Well, he must cause he keeps doing it. And ooh what's that howling noise? Is there something alive down here? No, it turns out it's just the wind howling through some loose wires. An early fake out! So Draper sets off to find shelter and is awakened by a strange purple borealis- type effect. Hmm. Oh, and he almost gets fried again by a fireball. Clearly our knowledge of the surface of Mars was somewhat deficient in the '60's.
He soon finds a cave shelter high on a cliff face. Too bad his oxygen reserves are running out. Still, he finds some cool crystal formations in there. He manages to light a fire but almost suffocates when he's asleep and his air runs low. Looking for McReady, he finds just wreckage and a dead body, sadly. But hey, Mona survived! Wait, did he just take Mona's oxygen tanks? Lol. They share though and Mona doesn't seem too concerned. Turns out that they can generate oxygen by burning these coal- like rocks that Draper found. *eye roll* okay that's plausible. Well, I guess that solves that problem.
Mona, oddly, doesn't seem to need water. Draper takes a while to figure out that- duh- she found a source of her own! Turns out there's plenty of it, too, so that's another problem solved. Draper has been marooned now for over four months and he's starting to get a little loopy, hallucinating and whatnot. Too much isolation. Anyway, while out exploring one day he finds a skeleton, with an arm and a black bracelet. Oh no- he's not alone? He self destructs the orbiter which has been still circling Mars since they ejected, afraid it will give away his presence. And he notes in his log that the skull had a hole in the front, like whoever it was was shot. Yikes.
So now it's getting interesting. He spies some kind of craft descend nearby, and upon investigating sees several ships hovering about, periodically blasting... something. He almost gets blown to bits, and then who shows up but some guy trying to escape. Ooh, and this guy- who Draper names Friday, because, you know- Robinson Crusoe- has a black bracelet too! They book it back to shelter and Draper learns that Friday is an escaped slave, and that the aliens use them for mining. The aliens look human, but their spaceships are cool- the best part of the show so far. They're blasting the shit out of the countryside- I think they're pissed that Friday escaped...
I guess they can track Friday by his bracelet, so they gotta get rid of that. But before they can they investigate the mining area and find a bunch of dead slaves. And oh no the aliens are back! They're blasting everything again and they gotta flee. Luckily there's a back way out of the caves and they escape- it turns out they're near part of the canal network. You know, the canals everyone thought were there. So they escape but the aliens really want their slave back, and every time they show up Friday gets weakened by the bracelets he's wearing. But hey they're near the polar ice cap now- they've come a great distance.
So they make it to the ice cap- water!- and of course more trouble. Another meteor- those pesky things- swooshes by and explodes, melting the ice cap. These guys are screwed. But wait... rescue! They pick up a transmission and it's an Earth mission. And that's how we end this one- with a melting polar ice cap and a dramatic last minute rescue. I guess points for drama?
So...does this movie suck? Oh, let me count the ways. But, it has its moments. The spaceships are cool, if borrowed from The War of the Worlds. I would have liked to know more of them- what's the deal with the mining?- but at least there's a sense of danger, to relieve the boredom of the first half. I can't really recommend this, but if you do watch it stay for the later parts. And oh- here's a clip.