Tag Archives: lorelei

[December 4, 1962] Like Five Weeks in a Theater (Five Weeks in Balloon)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Lorelei Marcus

“5 weeks in a balloon!” What an exciting phrase — so much potential for many interesting stories and ideas.  Thus, you can perhaps understand the excitement I felt in anticipation of the new Jules Verne spectacular based on the book of the same title. Going in without a hint of what the film might be about, I already had a bunch of wild adventures thought up. I was certain the movie would involve a group of explorers struggling to survive a month in the air. Maybe they would run low on food. Perhaps they’d get on each others’ nerves. A giant storm might throw them off course or prevent their landing. Seeing it on the big screen was going to be fantastic!

Or so I thought. To be frank, the movie that I actually got was disappointing, especially compared to the wondrous stories that I’d already imagined before the movie. Rather than a cool and creative survival movie of living in a balloon, we got a rather dull sight-seeing trip.


Get used to scenes like this.  There are a lot of them.

The movie stars a small cast of stereotypes: The witty professor, the kooky general, the teenage heartthrob (Fabian), the obnoxious American reporter (Red Buttons), the slave girl who knows just enough English to sound foreign (but is totally understandable), and the love interest.


I’m glad Fabian’s working again.  Dig that 19th Century hair!


“Which man do you want to end up with?”  “Anyone but Red Buttons, please.”

Oh, and I can’t forget their ape companion either, because every Jules Verne movie has to have an animal companion.


This seems thoroughly responsible.

Now if I told you that this movie was about this crew racing in a balloon across Africa to beat slave traders from staking a valuable claim, and getting caught in various misadventures along the way, you would probably say, “Well how could such an adventure be boring?” I’m not sure, especially considering the movie started off so well!

Everything before the balloon’s take off (the first 20 minutes or so) was funny, clever, and fast paced. The first scene, in which the professor and his inventor friend take reluctant investors on a demonstration flight, and then the next bit in which the professor prepares for the expedition and collects funds and crew, was quite fun to watch!


“Jane!  Stop this crazy thing!”


“This is Africa.”  “Oh!  Good to know!”

But once he’d picked up the American reporter, and the balloon took to the skies, the movie ground to a sudden halt. Unfortunately it never seemed to pick back up again either. The entire movie was: the balloon flies around, lands someplace; the crew gets out and gets into trouble, they run back to the balloon and fly away. There were no real conflicts, because they could always just retreat to the balloon and escape danger. Moreover, many of these scenes went on for ‘way too long. There was never any real tension through the whole movie, and without tight pacing of events, the movie felt like it was really dragging on for five weeks!

Now I will give the credit for its visual quality. It was in color like all the Jules Verne classics, and it had many exotic settings and beautiful sets. However, with the lack of a real plot, the movie really just felt like “Look at this pretty thing!” over and over again. I’m hoping this doesn’t become a common trend, the substitution of pretty special effects for a good story.

The acting was alright. In fact, the best part of the movie was the interaction between the singleminded professor and the prissy general sent by the Prime Minister to co-lead the expedition.  Their banter was genuinely funny.  But it was also very British, or I should say, what Americans think of as British.  That was a big problem with this movie: racial stereotyping. There were certainly quite a few racist portrayals of different cultures, to say the least. The journey took place over Africa, so there several scenes set in Muslim palaces. The problem was, rather than using this opportunity to show these cultures in an interesting and insightful way, we got very clearly not Muslim African actors in brown makeup spouting nonsense. And the Black Africans were hordes of dancing/yelling savages. It really just felt kind of insulting.


“I’m British, you know.”  “What a coincidence!  So am I!”





Sensitive portrayals of foreign cultures.

In the end though, the largest fault of this movie was not its own shortcomings, but the fact that we’ve already seen this plot done better. Master of the Air, another film inspired by a Jules Verne novel, lived up to the expectations set by its title. It has a tense and satisfying story, characters with lots of depth, an awesome set…and weeks spent in an airship! That movie is everything Five Weeks wants to be.


This explains a lot…

All in all, I would not say Five Weeks in a Balloon is a bad movie. I think the creators were trying to make an exciting adventure movie and mix it with comedy, and they ended up succeeding at neither. Still, the high budget did make it a fun tour through Africa. The movie wasn’t a waste of my time, but I was disappointed that it didn’t meet the standard previous Verne films (particularly Master), have set. Overall, I give this movie 2 stars. It was quite mediocre, and I would say if you’re looking to watch a great Verne spectacular, then you’re better off with one of his other films.

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.

[I watched this movie, too, and I really have very little to add to this excellent review.  I might charitably give the film 2.5 stars as it is less bad than not good.

One interesting observation — we saw this in a double-feature with This is not a Test, and both flicks featured chicken abuse.  Is this a new cinematic trend? [Ed]]




[Nov. 15, 1962] Panic in Year One (the movie, This is not a Test)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

With nuclear bombers parked just 90 miles off the coast of Florida, and last month having seen the United States go to its highest military alert level since we were fighting the Japanese, its no wonder that The Bomb remains a popular cinematic topic.  In the last decade, most of the films that featured Our Enemy, the Atom starred horribly mutated monsters.  More recently, there has been a slew of films portraying a post-apocalyptic world, starting with On the Beach, including the excellent The World, The Flesh, and the Devil, and also the less than excellent The Last Woman on Earth.


This is a test… of your patience.

The most recent entry in this radioactive field is the Z-Movie This is not a Test.  Its “star” is Seamon Glass as Deputy Sheriff Colton, a lawman dispatched to establish a roadblock on a rural road at 4AM.  As the cars and trucks are detained, we learn that Colton is after a young murderer.  The manhunt is interrupted by a bulletin: A Yellow Alert; the nation is under attack, and missile impact is imminent.


Todd Stiles and Buzz Murdock as truck drivers…

After the first few minutes, the flood of vehicles abruptly stops, and we are left with our cast of characters.  There’s the estranged middle aged couple with a dog (the Young Traveler quickly dubbed it “Gertrude“).  There’s grandpa and his pretty, pious daughter.  There’s the rakish truck driver, in whose rig the murderer had been hitchhiking.  There’s the hip couple, just back from Vegas after having made it big.  Wrapping up the ensemble is the late-arriving young scooter driver with an intellectual mien and an amazing capacity for remembering all of his lines (and little else).


“Drink this, honey — it’ll help the movie go down.”

And so begins a sort of atomic 12 Angry Men, a one-set piece in which the interactions of the characters, such as they are, takes center stage.  Civilization breaks down in the sixty minutes prior to the Bomb’s fall.  The rake seduces the wife.  The milquetoast husband shoots himself rather than interfere.  The hipsters drink themselves silly.  The fugitive, clearly mentally challenged, makes a few languid ominous moves at the daughter…but mostly just wants his suitcase back.  The grandfather suddenly remembers the existence of an abandoned mineshaft and dispatches his daughter and the intellectual to it.


Our Kooky Kast.

The most interesting character is Colton, who is a moron and yet, by virtue of his position, in charge.  He orders the roadblocked travelers to give him their car keys, he smashes the liquour in the back of the truck (so as to keep people from drinking), and then directs the stranded civilians to empty the vehicle so that it can be used as a bomb shelter — though what good thin, above-ground metal walls will do is an open question.  Later, while panting in the hot bed of the truck, the Deputy decides to kill the puppy to conserve oxygen (yes, Gertrude dies in this film, too!)


This is the enemy.

At the film’s conclusion, looters show up and abscond with the wife.  The rest of the travelers close up the truck just before the bomb hits, leaving the criminal and the deputy out in the open.  Cue a bright flash and… The End.


And thus the movie ends as it began… with a whimper.

By any measure, This is not a Test is terrible, made on a shoestring, indifferently written, counterproductively acted.  Still, as bad as this movie clearly is, it does work.  Sort of.  It’s obvious within the first ten minutes that the only drama is that provided by the characters under increasing stress.  It’s strangely compelling and somehow keeps your interest from beginning to end.

Two stars.

And now for a view from the perspective of a teen: Young Traveler, take it away!


by Lorelei Marcus

You know what there aren’t enough of right now? Movies with people talking about what to do when a nuclear bomb hits! At least, that’s what the writers of This is Not a Test thought before writing this sorry excuse of a movie. That’s right, we’re back with another movie review, and this time the movie is really bad. Let’s start from the beginning.

This is Not a Test is about a group of people who get stranded on a mountain close to ‘ground zero’ just before the missiles hit. The entire movie is their discussion of how they will survive the blast. That’s it. Now this movie was made on a shoestring, so I can let some cheapness slide but the storytelling was just lazy! There was practically no plot! Sure there were a few conflicts here and there, but nothing I really cared about. “Oh no, that one guy’s wife is cheating on him. Oh no, that other girl’s dog died.” You’d think a movie about a nuclear bomb would manage to be a little bit thrilling, or even interesting, but I guess not.


“You think we’ll see the bomb?  Hear it?”  “Not on this budget…”

I think this movie is also made so much worse because we have an example of a really fantastic movie on this topic, also made on a low budget. Panic in Year Zero was an excellent film, made with little more than This is not a Test. It had a fascinating story, compelling characters, and thrilling conflicts. In fact, its as if someone saw Panic and said, “I want to make that… but worse!” It’s a bit uncanny how the events in Panic line up with the topics of discussion in Test so flawlessly. Hmm..


“Calling all cars.  Watch out for traffic jams and people pushing cars off roads.  We won’t show you, but you’ll hear about it.”

The plot wasn’t the worst part of the movie though. The entire movie had one set: an empty road on the side of some barren mountain. I’ve seen some very bad movies, but at least they gave me something to look at! For example, the movie Konga was one of the worst films I’ve seen, but at least it was awesome seeing the city getting destroyed by a giant ape! Instead, Test gives us a couple shots of a dirt hillside and some cars to look at for an hour and ten minutes.


“Kids, I just remembered that there’s an old mine nearby.  You might have to fight Ray Milland for it, though.”


A band of looters!  This isn’t anything like Panic in Year Zero

The acting was extremely dry, the story was unoriginal and terrible, and it was boring to look at too! The title might as well be This is Not a Film! I was thoroughly bored from beginning to end, and it was frankly a waste of (more than) an hour of my life. I give this movie 1 and a half stars.

This is The Young Traveler, signing off.




[October 12, 1962] What beats hate… (Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Lorelei Marcus

It’s a scary time to be alive. The Russians are sending “equipment” to Cuba — equipment such as soldiers and missiles. The Berlin Wall is forcing many Germans to remain trapped under Communism. On a larger scale, overpopulation is slowly overtaking the Earth. In 100 years our world may be nothing more than a depleted husk filled with hungry people, or maybe an empty rock polluted with radiation. If only someone could step in and say ‘time out’, and just make everyone get along.

But, when you think about it, is that really such a good idea?

A new book came out recently, called A Wrinkle in Time. It’s written by Madeleine L’Engle, a new writer on the young adult fiction scene. Wrinkle is about a young misfit teenager named Meg Murray and her adventures across time and space. With the help of three aliens (disguised as a trio of witches), she travels to unimaginable worlds to rescue her father, who has disappeared after experimenting with hyperdimensional travel. One world is a beautiful garden planet populated by flying centaurs. Another is a misty place inhabited by blind, sensitive creatures. And the third, where Meg’s father is imprisoned, is the regimented world of Camazotz ruled by IT, a domineering mind that keeps the population of humanoids running like evil clockwork.  Everywhere, planets are shrouded in the Black Thing, causing strife and hardship, edging them toward the machine-like conformity of Camazotz.  Even Earth is under a dark shadow.

Relying on her innate talents and those of her companions, precocious little brother Charles Wallace and the bright and alluring schoolmate, Calvin, Meg must defeat IT to win back her father.  In the end, it is because of Meg’s stubborn nonconformity, and because of the love she and her companions share for each other, that they are able to rescue Dr. Murray and vanquish, if only in a small battle, the darkness of IT.

Wrinkle dives into the dark problems of conformity, shows the hardships of being a genius, and most of all, highlights the true power of love. The world is a very dark and scary place with lots of problems. Problems that could be fixed easily by getting everyone to do things a certain way. However, Wrinkle‘s message is that it shouldn’t be so simple. Human beings are complex, and we all have differing opinions. These opinions define who we are, our personalities; take that away and we are no more than husks, performing duties like machines.

It is true that differing opinions are also the source of conflict and war, but that is not their only purpose. If our existence is to simply fulfill a task like we’re told, like a computer, then what’s the point to existing at all? Without opinions there is no desire, no discovery, no love. We live to please ourselves and others, and without that there is no point to living.

Seeing the world in this way makes it a little less terrifying. These challenges aren’t supposed to be easy. We’re not supposed to simply conform and give up. There are problems in the world and they come from the choices we have made, but the point is: We can make choices, and we need to value that ability, because it means we are alive. I have hope that we’ll make the right choices. Wrinkle’s author clearly does, too.

Now you didn’t just come here to read an analysis, so here are my personal thoughts on A Wrinkle in Time. I did not read the story conventionally — my father actually read the book to me and my mother in chapters at bedtime. Between his reading and the immersive story, it was truly an amazing experience for me. It was almost as if I was in the story with the characters! I believe this was partly because the main character, Meg, is so relatable in that she is super smart. Most stories for kids and teens right now are action comics, slice of life stories, or simple fantasy novels. Though A Wrinkle in Time could arguably fit into all three of these genres, it’s also something we’ve never seen before. All of the characters are very intelligent, including the children. After seeing so many stories with ‘strong boys’ or ‘beautiful girls’, it is so relieving to see intelligent characters with such depth in a novel aimed at teenagers.

I really love this novel. I love the story, I love the message, I love the settings, I love the characters, and I love the writing! I think my main nitpick would be the fact that Calvin is way too mature for a 14 year old boy. That aside, this novel incorporates many of my values and philosophies. Intelligence, and using one’s intelligence, is an important aspect of the story, mature themes about the world and its problems are displayed in an optimistic light, and love conquers hate in the end. These themes throughout the story are what make it so dear to my heart.

Overall, this is an amazing book that I highly recommend you read. Even if you’ve already read it, reread it again! I think it would be especially good to read when you’re feeling hopeless. In the end, there’s no way to make the world’s problems disappear, but that’s a good thing. The challenges we face every day to better ours and others’ lives are what make life worth living. I give this story a record 5 stars! I believe there is nothing in it that should bring it to anything less than a perfect score. I would love to hear what you all think of A Wrinkle in Time and what you believe the message is too! Feel free to drop a line about your thoughts on it, and as always,

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.




[August 8, 1962] Abysmal (The Underwater City)

[if you’re new to the Journey, reference this summary article to see what we’re all about.]


by Gideon Marcus

The Sea.  An endless, mysterious expanse.  A potential source for bountiful harvests of food.  An untapped mine of vast mineral wealth.  A battleground to be populated with underwater naval bases. 

An inspiration for far too many lousy movies.

Frontiers are always ripe arenas for adventure stories.  From Outer Space to the frigid poles to the watery depths, they lure us with the promise of riches and resources; they reward us with hardship and death.  Man vs. Nature is one of the classic conflicts, and expertly handled, can be a thrill.

The makers of the latest summer sci-fi film, The Underwater City, were not experts.


(stills are in color, but the film was released in black and white for no explainable reason)

The plot in brief: Contractor is tasked with creating the first ocean-bottom settlement.  He settles on a cluster of independent metal cels, and then joins the first small group of colonists.  Some of the builders die during construction, victims of various undersea perils — from seaquakes to manta rays (?!) One of the settlers rummages around an old wreck to find bottles of scotch.  A giant octopus and a giant moray eel fight at one point for some reason.  And, at the very end, the crust gives way and the colony is lost.


The only reason to build models of an undersea city is…


…to give it the Atlantis treatment.

Our cast:


“Hmmm….says here we’re the main characters so we have to fall in love.”


“Pleased to meet you!  Since we’re men and you’re the woman, you’ll be doing our cooking.”


We’re newlyweds!  Now stay in this room until the end of the movie, please.  You’re pregnant.


You might need some scotch to get through the movie, too.

Certainly, a movie about the first settlement at the bottom of the sea, particularly one with the decent production values of City, could be very interesting, indeed.  This one was flubbed at every turn.  More of an advertisement for undersea living, the kind that might be shown at the World Expo going on right now in Seattle, City is a conglomeration of scenes that serve no narrative. 

I watched this on opening night with The Young Traveler, and I think she encapsulates what was wrong (and inadvertently right) with the film better than I ever could:


by Lorelei Marcus

I read recently that you can tell exactly what a movie is about, just by its opening shot. Unfortunately, the only thing the opening shot of The Underwater City told us was that it was going to be a bad movie. That said, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a quite enjoyable experience. Taking advantage of the empty theater, my father and I commentated throughout the entire film, making it a bearable watch. This form of viewing can make anything entertaining, but this movie was something special.

The first interesting trait of this movie is…it wasn’t one. Walking out of the theater, my father and I kept repeating how what we just watched wasn’t a movie! There were scenes, and things that happened, sort of. Still, there was no coherent plot to speak of! Not to mention there was no conflict either. Any potential conflict was quickly resolved a few seconds later by either a character dying or being saved. There was no time to feel anything at all! (And yet the underwater scenes still seemed to drag on forever.) Even the final conflict was resolved within 10 minutes!


“Just wanted to let you know, I found the plot.”  “It’s about time!”


“Oh no!  We’re trapped because of the quake!  We’ll never… oh look.  A rescue submarine.”

There isn’t much to say about the sets and acting. The acting was mediocre and really didn’t add anything to the story. The two main sets of the ‘movie’ were the underwater city rooms and the underwater set. The underwater city was honestly very bland, and surprisingly roomy. After recently touring an aircraft carrier myself, the underwater modules looked absurdly spacious, especially for so few people living in them.


“The bowling alley is down the hall, gentlemen…”

The underwater scenes were actually fairly convincing.  The rocks and coral were nice, and the filter on the camera added that extra level. My dad was actually fooled for most of the ‘movie,’ until he realized the ‘air bubbles’ coming out of their breathing modules were actually soap bubbles.


Never sneeze in SCUBA gear

I’d say my favorite part of the ‘movie’ was all the stock footage of adorable sea creatures! The appearances such as the deadly shark, giant eel, giant manta ray, and giant octopus, really brought an extra layer of entertainment to the movie. The science of how the city became self sustaining underwater would’ve been interesting to me too. Unfortunately, the ‘movie’ didn’t show any of that — we just heard the characters telling us that the city was self sustaining.


“Why are we fighting again?”  “Shut up!  This is for Hollywood!”

In fact, the entire movie reversed the old adage, deciding that the best stories come from telling, not showing! They stuck so hard to this rule that they had a narrator describe everything that was happening on screen for the first half of the entire movie. I actually wondered if my father had gotten a version for the visually impaired! Apparently not, however, as said narrator disappeared halfway through the film, never to return.


Best not to show…just tell.

I would recommend you only watch this movie for fun and not for any cinematographic value. The dry and clunky story telling, the absurd science, and the nonexistent plot really make this movie, well, not a movie. I give it 1 star as a serious watch, but an honorary score of -3 for its unintended goodness. This movie is best enjoyed with friends, being made fun of.

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.




[June 5, 1962] Into the Sunset (the End of The Twilight Zone, Season 3)


by Lorelei Marcus

You hear that? That’s the last school bell ringing, signifying the end of the school year. That means the beginning of summer break, and with it the end of another season of The Twilight Zone. However, unlike the previous seasons of The Twilight Zone, I hear this may be the last. I am both sad, and a bit relieved. I have very much enjoyed reviewing this series with my father, and I am very sad to see it go. However, I believe its also time for it to go. It had a very good first season, and progressively got worse over time as Serling strained for more ideas. It was obvious that by the end, Serling was out of inspiration. Still, rather than focus on all the many mediocre episodes, I’d like to go back and appreciate the really stand-out episodes of The Twilight Zone.

The first ones I would like to honor, of course, were the two recent five star rated episodes, Little Girl Lost and The Fugitive. Truly spectacular works that were the perfect balance of peculiar, creepy, and heartwarming. Next I would like to honor The Mirror in its complete awfulness. It was really terrible, in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way. Finally, I would like to say something about Time Enough at Last and It’s a Good Life, because I know people are going to be asking about them. Time Enough had an interesting setup and conflict, however I didn’t like the ending at all. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for happy endings, but just having his glasses break seemed like a cheap cop-out rather than an actual twist. It’s a Good Life also had an interesting setup, however from there it just went downhill for me. There wasn’t really a message I got out of it other than “don’t spoil your kids,” which I assume was not the intended theme. At least I don’t have to babysit the kid. If you’d like to see full reviews of all the episodes I just mentioned, and more, just peruse past articles of Galactic Journey with The Twilight Zone in the title.

Alright, enough talk about episodes I’ve already reviewed; let’s talk about the last four episodes. Which just so happen to be the literal last four episodes of The Twilight Zone:

Young Man’s Fancy, by Richard Matheson

We start off with a more Season One style episode. A newlywed couple goes to the husband’s dead mother’s house to pack and get ready to sell it. It becomes clear fairly quickly that the husband is still clinging to the house and the memory of his mother. The wife, on the other hand, is the polar opposite, relieved she can finally have her husband all to herself. Throughout the episode, certain strange things keep happening around the wife, such as a broken clock starting to work again, and a modern vacuum magically changing into a much older one. It seems as if the ghost of the husband’s mother is malicious and trying to scare the wife off. The episode ends with a twist that neither me nor my father predicted for once, so that was a nice surprise. However I am still a little confused by the ending as well, and haven’t really been able to decide what it means. I’d love to hear some feedback of what you think. I give this 3 stars.

I sing the Body Electric, by Ray Bradbury

This second episode was a bit of a contrast to the first one. It was very touching and I found it very enjoyable to watch. It’s about a single father struggling to raise three unhappy children. Everyone misses the mother of the family very much. Luckily, they’re just so happens to be a company that makes robotic caretakers that are perfect for a lonely household! Of course the family heads over to check them out. From this point until near the end of the episode, I was convinced the twist would be that something terrible was going to happen. This idea was only reinforced by the infinitely creepy salesman and his “create your own person” type product. Still, the episode proved me wrong and ended very sweetly. I would highly recommend that you would watch this episode on a bad day, it has a very happy ending and theme, that I think will cheer you up. I give this episode a whopping 4.5 stars!

[Gwyn, our fashion columnist felt similarly (ED)]

Cavender is Coming, by Rod Serling

The third episode was about a clumsy but charming woman who couldn’t keep a job if her life depended on it, and her 24-hour guardian angel, who isn’t so great himself. The Angel tries to make the woman happy by giving her lots of money, but in the end, of course she wants to go back to her old, silly life. Hmmm, this plot sounds awfully familiar doesn’t it? That’s probably because it’s the exact same plot as Mr. Bevis except done worse. I won’t bother to go into detail about my opinions on this episode, since it would be the same as my father’s review of Mr. Bevis. I give it 2.5 stars.

Changing of the Guard, by Rod Serling

Unfortunately, this final episode is not the big awesome finale I think some of us were hoping for. In fact, I was actually having trouble remembering the episode when sitting down to write this review! The entire plot can be summarized to about two sentences. Teacher gets fired and is depressed. Gets told he’s done a lot for the world, and becomes no longer depressed. Now imagine that, but drawn out into 22, very slow minutes. However, I did realize while writing this article, that this final episode had a deeper meaning. The teacher realizes at the end that, it is his time to retire and let a new teacher in. He has left a great mark on the world and will not be forgotten, however he is also done and it is his time to step out of the light. In a way, this is a metaphor for The Twilight Zone. It has had a long, good run, and I imagine it will not be forgotten anytime soon. However, it is time for it to end, as all things must do, and give room for new amazing shows to come. I will still only give this episode 2 stars, because it was incredibly boring, but it did give this for me to think about.

I have the final average of 3 stars. A nice middle to end on. Not particularly good, but at least not too bad either. I will miss you Twilight Zone, but I’m also glad it’s over. Besides, I need to make room for all the fantastic summer blockbusters yet to come. Until then,

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.


by Gideon Marcus

And here’s the Old Traveler..er..the Just Plain Traveler signing in.  My two-and-a-half cents:

Young Man’s Fancy was tedious, though the final twist was somewhat interesting.  Two stars.

I liked I sing the Body Electric less that my youthful counterpart.  It’s a fantasy, not science fiction, and perhaps would been better framed in that context.  But David White (the father) is quite an excellent actor, and young Veronica Cartwright (the eldest sibling) did a fine job.  Josephine Hutchinson, in the Mary Poppins role, somehow left me cold.  Three stars.

Cavender is Coming fell incredibly flat, some of the blame I must lay at Jesse White’s (Cavender) feet.  Two stars.

Changing of the Guard features an excellent performance by British actor, Donald Pleasence, but the soliloquies are all 20% too long, and the “twist” broadly telegraphed.  2.5 stars.

Thus, for me, The Twilight Zone ends with a whimper, and I suspect there is truth to the rumor that the show has failed to get a sponsor for next season.  Nevertheless, however spotty this final run has been, we must still give Serling his due for creating a revolutionary anthology show, one which will rightly be remembered (and hopefully imitated) for years to come.

[April 17, 1962] No Butts! (The film, Journey to the Seventh Planet)


by Gideon Marcus

Those of you deeply in the know are aware that Sid Pink made the Scandinavian answer to Godzilla last year, Reptilicus, and Ib Melchior brought it to the states (where it has had a limited release).  It was, to all accounts, pretty awful. 

The unlikely Danish-American team of Sid Pink and Ib Melchior is back, gracing our drive-ins with the latest American International Pictures extravaganza, Journey to the Seventh Planet.  It is a space exploration flick, as one might guess, and (praising damned faintly) it’s not as bad as it could have been.

The year is 2001, and peace has settled upon our troubled planet.  The United Nations Space Force has dispatched missions as far out as the planet Saturn.  Thus, it is now the turn of Uranus to be probed.  An “international” team of five Northern Europeans is sent out in Explorer Ship #12 with a mission to land on the frozen world.

Once in orbit (and they do a nice job of suggesting that the ship accelerates to the half-way point and decelerates the rest of the way – like a ship should), the crew are put into stasis by a malevolent intelligence based on the planet below.  When they are released, weeks have passed.  The crew, however, are relatively unfazed and proceed with the landing.

The surface of Uranus, at least in the vicinity of the landed vessel, is not at all what they expected.  It is a temperate place with Earth-like forests and a breathable atmosphere.  Very soon, it becomes clear that this is a manufactured setting.  In fact, as the crew think of things they would like to see, they are created out of thin air.  The village the Commander grew up in, complete with his childhood crush, appears before their eyes.


Don’t trust her!


Don’t trust them!

But this paradise is a limited affair – it is encircled by a force field beyond which lies the frozen waste they expected to find.  Exploring this forbidding terrain, the alien projects frightful images of monsters to ward them off.  More than just hallucinations, these projections are as real-seeming as the lovely ladies the crew encountered in the simulated village.


Going eyond the barrier…


Quicksnow!


Razor-sharp ice crystals.


Uranian vermin

Ultimately, Journey to the Seventh Planet is about fighting fear and temptation to vanquish an implacable foe, one that fights you with your own desires and phobias. 


Don’t trust her!


I told you…

They manage to succeed, but not without casualties of varying kinds.  The film ends on a triumphant though wistful note that I appreciated – it could well have wrapped up with the common “THE END?” scenario.


The monster is made of tripe…

So, what’s right about Journey to the Seventh Planet?  The science is not bad, surprising given it’s a B-movie of AIP provenance.  The producers neatly sidestep the “YOU-ra-nus” vs. “u-RAIN-us” pronunciation conundrum by inventing a new way of describing the planet: “YOU-rah-nus.”  The special effects accompanying the brain-creature’s psychic manifestations, and particularly the stop-motion monster at the film’s midpoint, were nicely done. 

The concept behind the film is a good one.  I found myself genuinely interested in the outcome, and it was nice to see the characters find the strength to overcome obstacles of their own creation.

Well then, what’s wrong with the movie?  It’s about 30% slower-paced than one would hope, for one.  This is not helped by the wooden acting (the dubbers of the Danish actors, who spoke their lines phonetically, were not particularly inspired).  Thus, what could have been a cracking episode of The Twilight Zone ends up being rather dull.

Still, having had a few days to reflect, I can safely say that I enjoyed the flick (not to mention, the popcorn they served at the concession stand was excellent).  2.5 stars.


by Lorelei Marcus

Going to conventions is always a fun experience for a traveler; however it does have its draw backs. Specifically, the many germs that are passed around in the tight space of the dealer halls. These germs can sometimes lead to sickness, and I have contracted a vicious, voice stealing, cold. However, you came to read a review and not hear about my troubles, so I will get on with it. Just expect one somewhat shorter than I usually write.

I pretty much agree with everything my father said about the movie, itself. The acting was very dull, the sets were somewhat interesting, and the effects weren’t half bad. The story itself was much too long, and the ways they decided to fill time were incredibly uncreative. For example, we have many scenes of the spacemen walking around for 5 minutes. However, to draw these scenes out, the men aren’t just walking around, they’re shuffling around slower than a snail! I have certainly seen better science fiction movies.

However, there was one part that I liked very very much. Towards the middle of the movie, the spacemen go out of their terrestrial clearing and encounter the being that is creating the Earth-like habitat that they were living in. They shoot at it, and in defense it creates a rat-like one eyed monster. They did this with shots of claymation that could compete with Harryhausen’s!

I’m giving this movie 2 stars. Not bad, but I’m not going to remember it in a week. Anyway, I’m going to leave now and get some needed rest. I hope you enjoyed this review.

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.

[Apr. 7, 1962] Half and Half (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 25-28)

[Apr. 7, 1962] Half and Half (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 25-28)


by Gideon Marcus

I have criticized the show that Rod built over the course of this, the third season.  Serling has seemed tired, borrowing cliches from himself.  Thus, I was delightedly surprised to find some of the best quality of the series appearing more than half-way through this latest stretch.  Read all the way through because, in keeping with the show, there’s a bit of a twist around the mid-article mark.  You won’t want to miss it:

The Fugitive, by Charles Beaumont

A 12-year old girl with a bum leg has befriended a sweet old man with magical powers.  But he’s on the lam from another world.  Can the plucky child save him?

There’s a lot going on for this episode: genuinely likable characters, several plot twists, fast pacing.  It’s a charming piece with a strong young woman in the lead role.  We need more like this one.  Five stars.

Little Girl Lost, by Richard Matheson

Mom and Dad are wakened by the cries of their young daughter, but when they rush to her aid, she is nowhere to be seen.  Where could she be trapped such that she could be so close yet so far away?

This one packs a punch to any parent.  Richard Matheson has a knack for turning in compelling screenplays, and Lost was apparently inspired by a personal experience.  You’ll be on the edge of your seat all the way to the exciting resolution.  Five stars.

Person or Persons Unknown, by Charles Beaumont

Unfortunately, the winning streak doesn’t last.  With Persons, we’re back to vintage 3rd Season.  A fellow wakes up to find all evidence of his existence had disappeared.  His wife and co-workers don’t remember him.  His wallet is empty of identification.  He slowly goes mad, in typical Twilight Zone fashion and ends up in an institution.  There’s a twist at the end, but it’s not much of a surprise.

What kills this episode is that there is five minutes of content stretched out into a twenty-two minute show.  A far more interesting piece might have been made of him finding out that he was slipping across universes.  There would have been time to throw him into a few different situations and still leave space for an interesting resolution.  Instead, we get this dull story.  Two stars.

The Little People, by Rod Serling

Here’s an episode that starts poorly and doesn’t travel far from there.  Two humans crash land on an alien world (an “asteroid,” per Mr. Sterling’s preview last week…but clearly a planet, even though it’s only “millions of miles” away).  The junior of the crew has delusions of godhood, which are nicely fulfilled when he finds an entire city of tiny humanoids, over which he cruelly lords.  His fun is put to a quick end when another pair of spacemen, these hundreds of times larger, land and squash him like a bug.

It’s a dumb tale, and Serling has apparently never heard of surface tension or the square cube law.  I did, however, appreciate the implied critique of our religions.  After all, does not the Judaeo-Christian-Moslem tradition feature an almighty and oft-times menacing God?  One who would deluge a planet or decimate a people out of spite?  Maybe that’s the semi-precious stone at the heart of a drab pebble of a piece.  Two stars.

***

Now, where’s the Young Traveler, you ask?  Here she is, taking on the month’s episodes in reverse order, so that unlike the viewing audience, you can end on a positive note.

***

by Lorelei Marcus

“I’m hoping we’ll have a more reliable batch of good episodes in the future, but you never know. I’m counting on you Serling!” (me, last article)

Well, I think I can safely say that Serling did come through, for the first two episodes at least. This is a special day, because something that has never happened before, has happened. However I’m not going to tell you what it is until later. This review will be a little bit odd, in that I’m going to review the episodes in reverse order of how we actually watched them. My father reviewed them in the right order of their airing, so you shouldn’t get confused. So without further ado, I bring you “The Little People”

The Little People, by Rod Serling

The episode stays true to its title well, being about a whole city of microscopic alien people. Unfortunately, that’s all the episode is. Two spacemen crash onto a rocky planet (of course the planet has the same atmosphere and gravity as Earth) and are stranded until they can fix their ship. One of the two men happens to stumble on a tiny city, almost too small to see. The man becomes power hungry and stays on the planet, even after his fellow spaceman repairs the spaceship and flies away, so he can rule the tiny people as their “god.” It ends with two real giants coming and accidentally killing the spaceman, saving the tiny people.

I think my biggest peeve with this episode is the fact that the whole focus is on these tiny people and their town, and yet we only get about three shots of it. I understand these effects are difficult to create, but it felt so lazy having almost all the shots be composed of just one of the two men’s faces. I would have loved to have seen some small people or maybe even a model home or two rather than the boring cinematography we actually got. I give this episode 1.5 stars. The story was bland and predictable, the camera-work was boring, and the set was boring. The only thing I liked was the acting! Definitely not one of Serling’s best.

Person or Persons Unknown, by Charles Beaumont

Sadly, Serling did not come through for us in this next episode either. This episode can be summarized in one sentence: Man loses identity. It’s as interesting and ground breaking as it sounds. Normally I would summarize the episode here, but there is literally nothing else to summarize: that one sentence was the episode.

However, despite being the utter mediocre piece of work it was, it did give me something worth while. In the beginning of the episode a man – the one who loses his identity – wakes up next to his lovely wife. He is a total jerk to her as he gets up and changes, commanding her for breakfast. It was then that I realized how much I really wanted to see an episode about a husband and wife switching places.

Just imagine, there could be humor, for example, the man being unable to cook eggs, and the woman unable to tie a tie. However, there could be so many deeper messages in the episode too – who’s “in charge” of the house anymore? Who will actually go to work? Not only that, but I think it would be the perfect kind of confusing, interesting, thought-provoking episode that Serling wants to make.

Unfortunately we didn’t get that episode, we got this one, and I give it 2 stars. It really felt like a bad season one episode, being entirely mediocre and dragged out. Could there still be hope for The Twilight Zone at this rate?

Little Girl Lost, by Richard Matheson

The episode started with a mother and father waking up to their child crying. The way it was acted out felt very real to both my father and me, since we’d both experienced the event from opposite perspectives. Anyway, when the man goes to his daughter’s room he can hear her crying, but he can’t see her! He wakes his wife in a panic as their dog frantically barks outside. Now, I’m going to stop the summary right there, because I want to force you to watch the episode yourself. It’s just that good. Great special effects, superb acting, amazing story telling, and overall a perfect episode. 5 stars, in fact, the first 5 star rating I’ve given anything we’ve watched since my dad started this column!

The Fugitive, by Charles Beaumont

This last episode starts out with a group of kids playing with an old man. Out of these kids, one of them in particular stands out. A feisty little girl in boy’s clothes and a leg brace. She connects most with the man, and its clear that they are close in a cute, grandpa-grandchild sort of way. I’m sorry to do this to you again, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to cut the summary short again to avoid spoiling anything else about the episode.

This episode is my favorite episode of Twilight Zone, and really my favorite thing we’ve watched since the beginning of the Journey, by far. Now I can hear you confusedly saying to yourself, “wait wasn’t that last episode five stars?” I reply with yes, and so is this one. It would get more than the last, excellent episode, but the meter stops at 5. The only flaw with this story was there wasn’t enough of it. It has everything I like in The Twilight Zone and nothing I don’t. No people going crazy, no padding, no lackluster twists, nothing creepy – just a fantastic situation and characters you care about.  I want you to go watch it right now, well maybe after you finish reading this article, that is.

***

In sum, that truly was a legendary combo with two 5 star episodes in a row. I did the reviews in reverse so I could save the best for last. I hope you will go watch those two episodes and enjoy them as much as I did. And now, I think all that’s left to say is:

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.

[February 12, 1962] Out of the Wasteland (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 17-20)


by Gideon Marcus

and


by Lorelei Marcus

Reading a recent Radio Television Daily, I see that Rod Serling is once again up for an award.  I’m not surprised.  While his latest achievement, The Twilight Zone has flagged a bit in quality this season, it has still been (for the most part) worthy TV.  In fact, the last four episodes do a lot toward watering the “vast wasteland” that has chagrined our new FCC Chairman of late.  Check these out:

ONE MORE PALLBEARER, by Rod Serling


by Gideon Marcus

This tale of a ne’er-do-well turned millionaire out to humiliate the elders who once impugned him should be a fairly straightforward story.  Said tycoon invites his former schoolteacher, priest, and senior army officer to a shelter with the intent of convincing them a nuclear attack is imminent.  He wants to hear them recant their criticisms and beg for mercy.  Instead, they stick to their guns, abandon the scoundrel as simulated sirens blare, and the poor fellow has a mental breakdown.

What makes this story interesting is how it’s played.  We only hear of the tycoon’s indiscretions from the sanctimonious authority figures.  The millionaire, in fact, comports himself with dignity and charisma.  One is left with the impression of a story turned on its head.  Was this man really as bad as all that?  If the do-gooders had spared him an ounce of compassion, might he not have been salvaged?  Did he even need salvation?  He certainly seems a better sort that the so-called “good guys.” 

I’ll never know if this depth was intentional, but it did make memorable an episode that, on the face of it, should not have been noteworthy.  Three stars.


by Lorelei Marcus

Ah it’s that time again — I smell another round of Twilight Zone episode reviews! This time I think it’s safe to say the old show has finally gotten its charm back.  Well, let’s dive right in then! Our first episode was more faithful to the old Twilight Zone episodes, carrying that eerie charm it does so well.  This episode was about a man who believed he needed to get revenge on those who humiliated him in the past.  These people were a school teacher, an army officer, and a reverend. It was certainly a very interesting story, given an entire new layer by the acting that I don’t think was intentional.  The story hinges on the fact that he was really a terrible person and deserved all their humiliations, but the character we see never seems like the same person, adding to the whole episode.

DEAD MAN’S SHOES, by Charles Beaumont


by Gideon Marcus

Now here’s one that really sizzled.  An underworld type is rubbed out and left in the alley to rot, but when his shoes are pilfered by a Skid Row resident, the rogue gets a new lease on life as he possesses the bum’s body to take revenge on those that murdered him.  The sparkle all comes from the excellent performance of Warren Stevens, who deftly manages the transition from broken-down hobo to dashing gunslinger.  Four stars.


by Lorelei Marcus

This second episode is fittingly named seeing how it was about a dead man and his shoes.  It was about an old alley bum who happens to come across a dead body with a rather nice pair of shoes.  He puts them on and well, I won’t say anymore to avoid spoiling you.  I will say, however, that this episode was very well done.  The effects were nice and subtle, and the acting was certainly spectacular.  I highly recommend you watch this episode yourself; it was masterfully done and really stays true to that classic Twilight Zone feel.

THE HUNT, by Earl Hamner


by Gideon Marcus

Where do you go when you die, and how will you know you’ve got the right place?  That’s the fundamental question behind this episode, which stars a old man and his dog, two old pals who go off to hunt ‘coon and never come back.  It’s a touching tearjerker of a backwoods tale, the likes of which I’ve not seen on this otherwise urban show, and I found it authentic – very reminiscent of my mother-in-law’s home in Washington County, Maryland, in fact.  I also greatly appreciated the warm relationship between the fellow and his wife; it’s not often that happy married couples are portrayed on TV, especially elderly ones.  Five stars.


by Lorelei Marcus

I would have to say this third episode was my favorite out of this bunch. However, this is to be expected considering it stars not only a dog, but a raccoon too! This charming story starts out with an old fashioned couple eating supper out in their old farmhouse.  The “Old Woman” is worried about her husband going ‘coon hunting that night, but he insists and goes anyway.  Sure enough he gets bested by the animal and drowns with his dog.  He soon passes into the Twilight Zone, taking the rest of the episode to realize he’s a ghost.  There is a twist at the end, but I’d rather you find out what it is yourself.
This was a sweet episode that wasn’t too drawn out or overdone.  It was what it was, and I liked it.  I think you will too if you watch it.

SHOWDOWN WITH RANCE MCGREW, by Rod Serling (based on an idea by Frederic L. Fox)


by Gideon Marcus

You ever wonder how historical figures feel about how they’re portrayed on TV?  Showdown involves a posse of Wild West outlaws sending representative Jesse James to put a certain marshmallowy actor in his place.  McGrew, an insufferable high-rent oater star, has put the black hats in a bad light, James says, and he wants the record set straight.

It’s an episode with some genuinely funny bits, though the joke can only run so far without getting tired – about 18 minutes of the episode’s 22 minute running time.  Like Pallbearer, however, this is another episode with hidden depths.  Jesse James and his gang are not interested in the truth.  Their aim is not to promote historical accuracy for the education of our television audience.  They want to be cast as the heroes.  In effect, they are bushwhacking our entertainment industry to advance their own agenda.  You know, exactly what you’d expect a bunch of last-century criminals to do.

Again, I don’t know if this subtext was intentional, but it is intriguing.  Three stars.

And now I’ll let the Young Traveler finish things off:


by Lorelei Marcus

This final episode was interesting.  It started off in the classic old Western town, which made us do a double take to make sure we were on the right channel!  Soon, the main cowboy drove on screen, telling us that this was indeed, a Twilight Zone episode.  The main cowboy was really an actor playing a cowboy for, you guessed it, a Western.  The only problem is, he was a completely terrible person in every way!  Worst of all, he was giving bad names to the honest men who were chosen to be the villain cowboys in the show.  So, naturally, these tough vigilantes of the past decided to choose someone to go talk to him face to face, in the Twilight Zone of course.  To be honest, I found this episode to be my least favorite out of these four.  This is by no means an insult considering that all the episodes this time around were fine.  This episode had a nice, satisfying, unpredictable ending and certainly got a few chuckles out of me; it just wasn’t as good as the others.  I still recommend you watch it though.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed these episodes. They all had charming qualities and great, satisfying stories. Each were unique in their own way, and really give me hope that we’ll see more of the same in the future. My scores, in order, are 3.5, 4, 4.5, and 3, with an average of 3.75 out of 5 stars. I highly recommend you watch these episodes for yourself, and I hope you have just as good experiences as I did.

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.

[January 16, 1962] Accidents (un)happen (The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episodes 13-16)


by Gideon Marcus

It is common practice in statistics to average out data over time in a rolling fashion.  This gives you smoother lines, free of the jagged spikes of noisy data.  For the last several months, The Twilight Zone has shown a definite tendency toward the lower end of the quality scale, at least in comparison with its brilliant earlier seasons. 

But, I’m happy to report that the last month (ending January 5, anyway) showed a distinct and sustained improvement.  I’ll let the Young Traveler do most of the talking this time around since I find I don’t have much to improve upon her insights!

(Once upon a time, written by Richard Matheson and featuring the great Buster Keaton as a janitor who is propelled from the late 19th Century into the world of today…)


by Lorelei Marcus

Going into these four weeks, I was really dreading what was to come. Prior experience had given me doubts about the quality of these most recent Twilight Zone episodes. Thankfully, this time around, you will not have to hear me rant about how awful these past few episodes were!

To start us off, we had a charming little episode about a man from 1892. He goes to the present (1962) and finds a large scientist who just so happens to be obsessed with that earlier time period. I won’t say much more about the plot since I highly recommend you see the episode yourself. It did give us a lot of laughs, and was partly shot in the old, silent movie style. This was definitely a breath of fresh air from the usual grim twilight zone themes.

(Five Characters in Search of an Exit, adapted by Rod Serling from a story by Marvin Petal, whose title is literally descriptive…)

This second episode did return to a darker feel, but this time it was done fairly well. The episode started out with a small group of oddly specific but different people. A soldier, clown, ballerina, hobo and piper stuck in a completely metal prison, but with an open top. Despite guessing the answer at pretty much the beginning of the episode, it still managed to reveal just little enough information to keep it interesting.  At one point I wondered if this was a metaphor for depression, that feeling of being trapped with no exit, accepting the hopelessness of escape, and eventually giving up entirely.  Just to keep you on your toes, I won’t tell you the ending. I do recommend you watch this episode yourself. Even though me and my father predicted many things that happened, it never felt like the episode went on for too long, which frankly, is a real treat these days.

(A Quality of Mercy, adapted by Rod Serling from an idea by Sam Rolfe, in which an American platoon Lieutenant must weigh the virtues of assaulting a beleaguered Japanese position on the eve of V-J day…)

Unfortunately, this batch was not quite four for four. At least this episode was forgettable enough that I could pretend it didn’t happen at all! Alas no, I must do a review on it for you readers, so here I go. As I said before, the episode itself was entirely mediocre, but I did like the message and the effects. “Everyone is human, even if they are the enemy” is a great lesson that I think to be very true. The makeup was fairly impressive at making one of the actors look asian, and the Japanese accents weren’t completely atrocious. I would recommend spending your 20 minutes in a more productive manner, but I will not stop you from watching this episode.


by Gideon Marcus

My problem with this episode was absence of crisis.  Rather than allowing the Lieutenant to learn from his jaunt through the Twilight Zone, and then let the audience judge the wisdom of his actions, instead decisions are made for the protagonist, and the whole plot sort of meanders along without influence by the show’s participants.  More tightly written, and with actual consequences, this could have been a great one.  C’est la TV.

(Intermission, in which the Traveler family detours away from The Twilight Zone by way of The Twilight Zone…)


by Lorelei Marcus

Before we watched this fourth episode, my dad got caught up in the game show, The Price Is Right, where people were bidding on this cool looking soda fountain! When it ended we changed the channel and started watching. The episode had a much different feel this time, being more of a comedy sitcom rather than the usual Twilight Zone format. The twist seemed to be that one of the cast members was a talking horse! Oh wait a minute, we weren’t watching Twilight Zone, we were watching Mr. Ed! Oops.

So Mr. Ed finishes and we go to watch Twilight Zone. Perhaps, we thought, we would be able to catch the end of it, enough to make a review on. We were pretty sure we’d found the right show; it certainly was more true to Twilight Zone in that it had a lot of scientific themes. Still, it was very different, mainly in the fact that it was entirely cast with puppets!  Oops, again! Turns out we were watching Supercar, not Twilight Zone

That’s when we realized were still on the wrong network. So we turn to CBS, and find…The Andy Griffith show. Good enough. I like this show. 

Still, what happened to Twilight Zone? We start getting ready for bed, only then remembering that this was Monday, and Twilight Zone airs on Friday. OOPS. Darned winter break. Made us forget entirely what day of the week it was!

(Nothing in the Dark, by George Clayton Johnson, featuring a return of Mr. Death and the woman whose profound fear of him has kept her alive – so far…)

Well, the Friday after that wild goose chase, we did end up watching the last Twilight Zone episode. This episode was a lot more reminiscent of older Twilight Zone shows, which was really nice to see after all the lousy newer ones. Like the second episode, it had a good theme (“Things in darkness are the same as they are in the light, and should not be feared”) which I really appreciated. The episode was just long enough to tell a full satisfying story, and it was never too predictable. The acting was slightly off, but it was intentionally so, hinting at certain hidden truths, but not all out saying them. Over all it was a well rounded episode that I thoroughly enjoyed.

My episode scores, in order, are 4, 3, 2, and 3.5. This comes out to an average of 3 stars out of 5. I very much enjoyed most of these episodes and recommend you watch the first, third, and fourth ones. With such a good lineup, it’s starting to look a little more promising in terms of episode quality. Hopefully it will continue to be this way for the next few weeks!

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.

[December 27, 1961] Double and Nothing (The Phantom Planet and Assignment: Outer Space)


by Gideon Marcus

Our effort at the Journey to curate every scrap of science fiction as it is released, in print and on film, leaves us little time for rest.  Even in the normally sleepy month of December (unless you’re battling Christmas shopping crowds, of course), this column’s staff is hard at work, either consuming or writing about said consumption.

I try to write my annual Galactic Stars article as close to the end of the year as possible.  Otherwise, I might miss a great story or movie that had the misfortune to come out in December. 

Fortunately for that report, but unfortunately for us, neither of the films in the double feature we watched last weekend had any chance of winning a Galactic Star.

Both of them were low budget American International Pictures films.  This is the studio best known for making B-movie schlock for the smaller Drive-Ins.  However, they also brought us the surprisingly good Master of the World as well as the atmospheric Corman/Poe movies.  So I’m not inclined to just write them off.  This time, however, we should have. 

The Phantom Planet is a typical first-slot filler movie.  Spaceships launched from the moon keep getting intercepted by a rogue asteroid.  Only one crewmember of the third flight survives, a beefcake of a man who shrinks to just six inches tall when exposed to the asteroid’s atmosphere.  What’s stunning is not the lack of science in this movie, but the assiduous determination to avoid any scientific accuracy in this movie.  However, I the sets are surprisingly nice…and familiar.  They look an awful lot like the sets from the short TV series Men in Space


“Remember when we flew these last year?”

The people of the asteroid (humans, natch) are a paradox of ultra-advanced technology and primitiveness.  They have powerful gravitational devices, operated similarly to the theremin, but they grow food out of rock and spin their own clothes.  There is some typical jive about the softness of civilization and the conscious choice to live the harder, but more pure life.


“Decisions…decisions…”

Beefcake pilot must choose between the two women who asteroid chief throws at him.  The younger, dramatic-looking one is mute, and therefore more readily impressed with a projected personality.  The older one is coveted by the chief’s top adviser, and some drama results from that.  All squabbles are put aside when enemy aliens appear to blast the asteroid with fire.  Beefcake and Jilted Lover work together to defeat them with theremins.  One of the lumpy aliens, a prisoner at the movie’s start, takes the mute girl captive.  She is rescued, and happily for her, the ordeal gives her back her voice.  Sometimes it’s that easy folks.


“You asked to be woken up at 6…”

Jilted Lover wins the love of Older Beauty.  Beefcake takes a gulp of oxygen and returns to normal size.  He returns to the moon with nothing but a pebble to remember the formerly mute girl with whom he shared the love of a lifetime in the course of 25 silent minutes.

Not quite one star, I suppose, but not much above it.  Call it 1.5.

Assignment: Outer Space, the “A” feature, is even worse.  An Italian production, it promised to be the superior of the productions, featuring full color, a wider aspect ratio, and a diverse cast.  Sadly, Assignment, filmed in Italy and dubbed with signal ineptitude, is a hot mess.  The set-up is fine, with an Earth reporter assigned to a space naval vessel to record a routine scientific investigation.  There’s some refreshing nods to weightlessness and some not terrible in-space shots.  The laughable model work is somewhat offset by the serviceable sets.  Yet, between the arbitrary plot (an Earth ship’s “photonic drive” has gone haywire and will destroy the Earth!!!) the fuzzy grasp of distance (Let’s go to Mars!  Now let’s go to Venus!) and the indescribably poor acting, this film is a dud.  And, of course, there is the perfunctory and accelerated romance between our reporter, Ray, and the navy ship’s navigator, Lucy.  It is as engaging as it is nuanced.


“These plants convert hydrogen into oxygen.”  “I love you.”

Another 1.5 star film (the half-star given for the mildly interesting engineer character, who is both Afro-American and the most competent of the ship’s crew).

Of course, as usual, the Junior Traveler came along for the ride.  As might be expected of someone with such maturity, culture, and discernment for her age, her views mirror mine…


by Lorelei Marcus

Today me and my dad decided to hit the theater and see what magical experience it would give us this time. We got a double showing, featuring The Phantom Planet and Assignment Outer Space. I will start with the former movie, to keep things in order. So without further ado, the review:

I think Phantom had to be one of the most low budget, poorly written, B movies we’ve seen so far. However that does not mean it wasn’t enjoyable. In fact it was quite humorous, after we decided to add our own little ongoing commentary. It’s more a movie to be made fun of rather than watched as a respectable feature. I don’t think it’s possible to watch it seriously all the way through.

What really intrigued me, is that it was made by the same studio who made Master of the Sky and the infamous Konga! This baffles me, because as you might know, these movies have a drastic difference in quality. In a way that’s really an understatement considering Konga was literally the worst movie we’ve ever seen. I suppose it isn’t that surprising for the studio to make The Phantom Planet though. It’s about the quality you would expect from a B movie studio.


“I thought cotton shrunk in the dryer…”

In terms of the story, there wasn’t one. Things happened, of course, but there was no ongoing plot, just a bunch of random events being thrown in your face, at random! The effects were cool at times, though mostly they just made me laugh. For example, the rubber alien suits on flaming ships, in space. The science of the movie could not be less accurate. I found myself constantly muttering to myself, “That’s not how it works!” throughout the movie. Still, that did also give more fuel to make fun of the movie and get any scraps of humor we could out of the mess.


“Theremins…in…space!

I’m going to give this movie 2 stars. Despite being absolutely terrible in every way, the experience around it that I had with my dad was quite enjoyable. I imagine someone going alone would give this movie a lower score than mine, but my experience is going to affect my score – I imagine if I’d gone alone it would probably be a 1 out of 5 stars instead. At least I had fun!

Unfortunately I can’t say the same for Assignment Outer Space. We came back from the concession stand with high hopes, after the not-very-good experience we’d just had. Sadly, our hopes were soon crushed into a billion, tiny, disappointed pieces. The worst part is this thing tried to disguise itself as a movie, making the realization that it wasn’t even harsher.

We start off on a space ship where the main characters are waking up from hyperspace. We know this, thanks to the constant expositional narration that describes everything that’s currently going on in every scene. Despite that, we still managed to be confused about what was actually happening nearly the entire movie, which tells you something.


“I dreamed I was in a lousy movie!” “It’s no dream, my son.”

Anyway, we are soon introduced to the main character of the film, Ray, who is actually a reporter, and the narration is the article he writes after the movie. This was a terrible, and I repeat, terrible choice on the script-writer’s part. Not just because it’s completely boring and unnecessary, but it ruins the entire climax of the movie!

For you to understand, I will need to tell you the movie’s plot. Unfortunately this movie does not have one, just a series of events with no context or build up whatsoever. The main conflict of the film, which literally appeared out of nowhere, was an indestructible man-made weapon, intent on destroying Earth. The main crew’s job is to find a way to stop it, and that’s the entire second half of the movie! However we know how it ends from the beginning, we know they save Earth and the main character survives because we know he writes an article that he will share with the world! Plus, its not like the narration was even needed in the first place!


Ray saves the day.  Surprise, surprise.

As you can probably tell, that frustrated me a lot, probably because it felt like the entire movie was a pointless waste of time and I wasn’t going to get anything new out of watching it. I almost walked out of the theater at one point, especially when they killed the one character I was at all fond of (the engineer sacrifices himself to find the photonic barrier’s weakness). But no, I stayed.


“Mustn’t… show… emotion…”

I could go on and on about all the flaws in the pacing and acting and dubbing sync etc., but I already pretty much did that for the other movie. In comparison to Assignment Outer Space, The Phantom Planet actually looks like a decent movie (despite being in black and white). So of course, Assignment Outer Space is going to get a lower score of 0.5 stars. I think this is the lowest score I’ve given a movie so far, and this one deserves it. Konga was incredibly bad, but it had more redeeming qualities than this pile of garbage. I think the only two things I liked about this movie was the style of one of the character’s hair, and a shot where the main character turns towards the camera ridiculously slowly for no reason. That’s it!


Get used to this shot.  You’ll see it a lot.

With a steep ratio of bad to good Science Fiction movies this year, I’m really hoping we’ll get some better quality stuff in 1962. I wish I were a Time Traveler so I could just go and see, but that would spoil the fun. I hope you all have Happy Holidays, and do me a favor: never watch Assignment Outer Space. Thank you.

This is the Young Traveler, signing off.