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Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

Director – Don Siegel – 1956 – US – Cert. PG – 80m

*****

The classic, paranoid SF outing about the residents of a small, American town being replaced by conformist, emotionless duplicates – on BFI Blu-ray from Monday, October 25th

This is an incomplete review, currently in progress…

Made in the middle of Hollywood’s 1950s B-movie Sci-Fi boom, this movie was made by Don Siegel who previously made hard-boiled crime thrillers after cutting his teeth as an editor of montage sequences in, among other things, Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942) with a striking script and a strong cast headed by Kevin McCarthy and, in her first starring role, Dana Wynter, which also includes Carolyn Jones who would later achieve fame playing Morticia Addams in The Addams Family TV series (creator David Levy, 1964).

Based on a Colliers Magazine serial by Jack Finney, it’s built around the highly potent idea of human beings being replaced by emotionless duplicates who operate as a communal whole rather than individual people. It’s often been read as a metaphor for the anti-Communist McCarthy witch hunts of the period, but as noted in the fascinating documentary Sleep No More, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers Revisited (2006), the left thought it was a satire on the right while the right thought it was a satire on the left.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Witches Of The Orient (Les Sorcières De L’Orient)

Director – Julien Faraut – 2021 – France, Japan – Cert. U – 100m

*****

A look through a prism of anime and archive footage at the Japanese women’s volleyball team that won the 1964 Olympics – out in cinemas and online in the UK and Ireland on Friday, July 16th

You don’t really expect a documentary about a women’s volleyball team to open with a scene from the anime short Danemon’s Monster Hunt At Shojiji (Yoshitaro Kataoka, 1935) in which the hero, trying to save the damsel in distress from the web of the evil spider witch, learns too late that the damsel is the evil spider witch and has lured him to his fate. Even if the team in question has become known as ‘the Witches of the Orient’. “To refer to people as witches is not very kind,” says Katsumi Matsumura, a surviving member of the team. “But then, witches have supernatural powers. So that suited us fine.”

The nickname originated in the Russian newspaper Pravda when the Japanese women’s team faced the Russians in the 1962 volleyball championships… [Read the rest]

Full review at All The Anime.

The Witches Of The Orient is out in cinemas and virtual cinemas in the UK and Ireland from Friday, July 16th 2021.… Read the rest

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Ishiro Honda Double Feature: The H Man (Bijo to Ekitai-ningen, 美女と液体人間) and Battle In Outer Space (Uchu Daisenso, 宇宙大戦争)

The H Man

*****

Director – Ishiro Honda – 1958 – Japan – Cert. X – 86m

Battle in Outer Space

*****

Director – Ishiro Honda – 1959 – Japan – Cert. U – 90m

Alongside the standalone release of Mothra (1961) comes a double bill of two more Toho science fiction movies directed by Ishiro Honda with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya: , The H Man (1958) and Battle In Outer Space (1959). The Toho studio is associated more with monster movies than any other genre, notably Godzilla (1954) and Mothra. The superior entries in this cycle tend to be the ones they directed, including the initial 1954 film which ticked all the right boxes to prove a massive success.

When no-one at Toho was quite sure what had made Godzilla work, the pair collaborated on a number of different SF films before everything came together on Mothra. The H Man is a monster film dressed up in gangster trappings while Battle in Outer Space is an epic with space stations, flying saucers, rocket ships, an alien moon base and alien mind control… [read more]

Over at All The Anime, I review Eureka!’s Ishiro Honda double bill Blu-ray.

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Features Live Action Movies

This Island Earth

Director – Joseph Newman – 1955 – US – Cert. PG – 83m

*****

UK PAL laserdisc review, 1997.

Originally published on London Calling Internet.

Pioneer continue to plunder the Universal vaults for SF gems. I’d never heard of This Island Earth when a print turned up for a revival run at London’s late lamented Scala repertory cinema in the early eighties, but having seen it several times since it’s a film which stands the test of time admirably. Moreover, being an Academy ratio film, it doesn’t suffer either the necessary indignity of widescreening black bars top and bottom or the thoroughly infuriating cropping of picture sides that accompanies too many video releases. The digital remaster on this Pioneer disc looks superb too – This Island Earth may be a good deal more than merely the sum of its special effects, but it IS an effects movie and those effects are impressive by the standards of the day (even if they creak a little now). What’s more, most of them are on side 2 of this disc in glorious CAV.

Warning: (plot) spoilers.

Eschewing obvious alien invasion plot lines, the narrative has nuclear research scientist Cal Meacham (Rex Reason) slowly lured into an alien conspiracy alongside rival in his field of research Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue).… Read the rest

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The War Of The Worlds

Director – Byron Haskin – 1952 – US – Cert. PG – 82m

****

RUK PAL laserdisc review, 1997.

Originally published on London Calling Internet.

Hungarian born George Pal, who produced the stop-frame Puppetoons shorts in the forties, chose H.G.Wells’ seminal alien invasion novel for his fourth live action production. Media wunderkind Orson Welles had already transplanted the Home Counties setting across the Atlantic to New Jersey for radio; it was only natural that a rising Hollywood producer such as Pal should shift events further West to California. A then‑unknown Puppetoon animator named Ray Harryhausen had pitched a movie version at Welles, without success. However, while Welles was beginning his legendary slow descent from the pinnacle of the movie biz, Pal was clearly in the ascendant.

It’s not hard to see the attraction of the Wells’ novel to such creative heavyweights. Orson Welles, whose radio version had interrupted what appeared to be a programme of live, on air dance music with a series of eye-witness newsflashes of the Martian landings, clearly relished the prospect of panicking an entire nation in art if not in life. Harryhausen, one imagines, would have recreated Wells’ towering tripods, mechanical Victoriana burning up the Home Counties with their terrifying death rays (a decade later, Harryhausen’s First Men In The Moon, Nathan Juran, 1964 is packed with Victorian industrial ephemera).… Read the rest

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The Vast Of Night

Director – Andrew Patterson – 2019 – US – Cert. 12 – 91m

*****

A radio DJ and a young switchboard operator discover strange noises in the ether which may possibly be of great significance to the small US town where they live in the fifties – on Amazon Prime since Friday, May 29th 2020

Bookended with a curious and somewhat redundant framing device which sets up an episode of black & white, fifties TV show Paradox Theater called The Vast Of Night, to which the otherwise colour film periodically and pointless returns from time to time, this is an enigmatic little tale set in the small rural US town of Cayuga where the local high school is set to host a basketball team for a match.

Older teenager Everett (Jake Horowitz) is trying to sort out technical problems before the game gets under way: Sam reminds him that last time this happened, it was a squirrel that had chewed through a wire and the wire was still in its mouth. This story seems to crop up every few minutes as yet another character relates their own abridged telling of it. And 16 year old Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) wants him to show her how the tape recorder she’s just bought works.… Read the rest

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Warning From Space (Uchujin Tokyo ni Arawaru, 宇宙人東京に現わる)

Director – Koji Shima – 1956 – Japan – Cert. PG – 87m

***

Out on Arrow Blu-ray

The first Japanese science fiction film to be made in colour, Warning From Space (1956) features peaceful, star-shaped aliens, one of whom transforms herself into a nightclub singer to make contact with Japanese scientists. Not that the aliens possess any discernible gender themselves, but the human likenesses into which they are transformed most definitely do. If you watch the original Japanese version, the aliens’ transformation into human form doesn’t take place until a third of the way in. When the Americans got hold of the film, they not only dubbed it into English, but also did some deft re-editing to create new opening and closing sequences so that the film now both starts and ends inside the alien ship. The closing sequence is basically the transformation sequence backwards. [read more…]

The full review can be found at All The Anime.

Trailers:

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When Worlds Collide

Director – Rudolph Maté – 1951 – US – Cert. U – 79m

***

RUK PAL laserdisc review, 1997.

Originally published on London Calling Internet.

Made the year before European-born producer George Pal’s The War Of The Worlds (Byron Haskin, 1953), this science-fictional disaster outing stages the end of the world by a star and orbiting planet Zyra rushing headlong towards the Earth. A handful of scientists build a Space Ark to save a chosen few humans via a perilous voyage to Zyra. But who will go – and who will stay behind and face annihilation?

From its opening Bible with destruction quotations to match, right through to its New Start For Humanity In A New World finale, this is infused with Pal’s Christian sensibilities. The script never allows that to get in the way of the story, however: the result is a compelling yarn that remains almost unique in the annals of SF cinema.

Director Rudolph Maté was a former cameraman whose prior experience included shooting Foreign Correspondent (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940) which features one of the most spectacular plane crashes in the movies. Together with lensing Dante’s Inferno (Harry Lachman, 1935) , this stood him in good stead for pulling off the outstanding special effects work required for When Worlds Collide.… Read the rest