The Angry Red Planet

The Angry Red Planet (1960)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Nora Hayden, Jack Kruschen, Gerald Mohr, Les Tremayne
Extras: Trailer

I have to fess up and admit that I’ve become addicted to MGM’s budget priced Midnite Movies collection. Whereas other folks strive to amass the entire Criterion Collection or some such high-falutin’ line-up of ’quality’ films, here I am anxiously awaiting the next batch of $10 discs featuring some of the best worst movies ever made. Actually, many of the Midnite Movies are quite good but, alas, ’The Angry Red Planet’ is not one of them… not that I didn’t still get a kick out of it.

A ship on a mission to Mars returns to Earth with its crewmembers missing and unconscious. The lovely Dr. Iris Ryan (Nora Hayden — there just aren’t enough saucy redheads in the movies these days) awakens and relates the harrowing tale of a trip gone bad. On a five-day journey to explore the jungles of the red planet, Col. O’Bannion (Gerald Mohr) and crew encountered a whole host of unfriendly natives. While trying to escape the planet, the crew was intercepted by the real rulers of Mars and sent packing with a dire warning for Earth.

While many sci-fi films from this era are almost quaint in the quality of their special effects, ’The Angry Red Planet’ didn’t really bother to try. The matte paintings appear to have been culled from a paint-by-numbers kit while the numerous monsters ranging from crazed plants to giant blobs look like 4th grade science projects gone wrong. Heck, even the back of the box calls one of the creatures a hairy ’batratspidercrab.’ But really bad effects have their own unique charm and I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy anticipating what rubber monster would be sprung on me next.

The real star of the show here is the Cinemagic process whereby scenes taking place on the surface of Mars appear in an intense orange-red hue. The resulting image looks like a picture seen through a red filter with the image occasionally being rendered like a film negative. Not all that impressive but hey, at least they gave it a shot.

’The Angry Red Planet’ is presented in a full frame format and herein lies the major problem with this disc. Although the packaging indicates that this is the original theatrical format, other sources indicate that the film was shown widescreen. In addition, the image is soft and quite grainy with a great deal of physical damage evident on the film elements. Black levels are also poor with darker scenes losing almost all detail. Colors are fairly good with the Cinemagic scenes being almost painfully vibrant in their orange-red intensity. What’s odd is that even with all these faults the overall image quality remains decent enough to be enjoyable.

Audio is a fairly flat sounding English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix. Dynamic range is, of course, limited but there really isn’t too much distortion and dialogue remains clearly understood throughout. Sound effects and music are typical 1950s sci-fi fare and are well-integrated into the soundtrack. Stick around for the end as there’s a very funky tune that accompanies the final credits.

The only extra is the film’s original theatrical trailer which hints at the wonders of Cinemagic with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

’The Angry Red Planet’ is a typical 1950s B-movie featuring hammy acting, incredibly cheesy special effects, and a laugh-inducing storyline. If you know all that going in and movies of this sort are your thing then you’re likely to enjoy the ride. The quality of the DVD is subpar, but not unbearable, and my only major gripe is the lack of a widescreen transfer. I really wanted to see that ’batratspidercrab’ in all its glory.