4 Shots From 4 Films: The Incredible Shrinking Man, Sleepwalkers, Team America: World Police, Captain Marvel


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Happy International Cat Day!

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957, dir by Jack Arnold)

Sleepwalkers (1992, dir by Mick Garris)

Team America: World Police (2004, dir by Trey Parker)

Captain Marvel (2019, dir by Anna Bolden and Ryan Fleck)

 

Film Review: This Island Earth (dir by Joseph M. Newman and Jack Arnold)


Oh, those poor aliens!

Ever since the 1950s, intergalactic diplomats, soldiers, and explorers have come to Earth looking for help.  Some of them have come from planets that orbit dying stars.  Some represent civilizations that have been destroyed by war or pollution.  Some of them have come here looking to inspire us to be more peaceful and less destructive.  Others were just looking for something to eat.

What they all have in common is that they all came to Earth and things really didn’t work out that well.  Occasionally, they ran into humans who, due to cynicism and skepticism, simply weren’t willing to help.  Often, the aliens arrived just to discover that the humans had no interest in being conquered.  Remember what Eros yelled at the Plan 9 From Outer Space?  “Your stupid, stupid minds!”  Oh yeah?  Well, our menfolk kicked your ass and blew up your flying saucer.  So there.

Consider the sad case of Exeter (Jeff Morrow), the alien at the center of 1955’s This Island Earth.  Exeter has come to Earth with his associates and disguised himself as a human.  Despite the fact that they all have remarkably high foreheads and a total inability to relate to actual humans, no one seems to suspect that Exeter and his friends are from outer space.  Even when he starts recruiting leading scientists to come hang out at his isolated headquarters, it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that they should be too concerned.  Exeter’s just a little bit weird.  Why worry?

Well, Dr. Carl Meacham (Rex Reason) is worried!  He’s a pilot and a scientist and he’s got a square jaw and one of those deep, 1950s American male voices.  Everything that Dr. Meacham says sounds authoritative.  When you hear that confident, take-no-prisoners voice, you have no doubt that Eisenhower’s in the White House and everything’s going to be alright.  Carl doesn’t trust Exeter and he suspicions are proven correct when he and Dr. Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue) are taken to Exeter’s war-ravaged planet.  Not only is the planet on the verge of blowing up but the whole place is crawling with mutants!

Unfortunately, it takes a while for Carl, Ruth, and Exeter to reach the planet.  This Island Earth is an oddly structured film.  The first third of the film deals with Carl and his squirmy associate, Joe (Robert Nichols), building something called an interocitor.  Once Carl has shown that he can follow the alien instruction booklet, Carl is allowed to meet Exeter.  (For some reason Joe is left behind.)  Once Carl arrives at Exeter HQ, it’s another lengthy wait before he, Ruth, and Exeter are launched into space.

Still, on the plus side, one of the scientists gets to drive this really cool car:

(Unfortunately, the car doesn’t make it to the end of the movie.)

The movie gets a lot better once the action moves to Exeter’s home planet.  The planet was a gloriously realized world, a pop art masterpiece:

And then there were the mutants!  Look at this thing:

Anyway, despite the slow start, This Island Earth is a classic of 1950s science fiction, one that manages to maintain a perfect balance between the sublime and the ludicrous.  Rex Reason and Faith Domergue are inoffensively bland as Carl and Ruth but Jeff Morrow brings a weary and even tragic dignity to the role of Exeter.  If nothing else, it lives up to its title by suggesting that Earth actually is just one insignificant island in the vast ocean of the universe and that both humans and aliens are mere slaves to fate.  For all of his deep-voiced authority, Carl really doesn’t accomplish much over the course of the film.  By that same token, for all of his efforts and his integrity, there’s little that Exeter can do to alter the destiny of his planet.  At times, This Island Earth is almost existential in its portrayal of both human and extraterrestrial inability to alter the whims of fate.  Of course, it’s also a frequently silly film that will be a lot of fun for anyone who appreciates a good B-movie.

On Saturday night, I watched This Island Earth with my friends in the Late Night Movie Gang.  After last week’s experience with Disco Beaver From Outer Space, I decided to play it safe this week.  We had a lot of fun with This Island Earth.  In case you want to learn how to make an interocitor of your very own, the film is available on YouTube.

Halloween Havoc!: TARANTULA (Universal-International 1955)


cracked rear viewer

TARANTULA is a movie that used to scare the bejeezus out of me as a kid, and helped warp my fragile little mind. Watching it again through my so-called “grown-up” eyes, I could sit here and pick at some gaps in logic and bad dialog. But I’m not gonna do that; instead I’ll look at the positives in this still entertaining and fun “Big Bug” movie (okay, maybe I’ll pick at it a little!).

A pre-credits scene shows a deformed looking man in pajamas stumbling across the desert, buzzards circling over his head. He drops in his tracks, then the title appears in big, bold letters: TARANTULA! The credits roll, and we meet Dr. Mark Hastings, who’s “just a country doctor” in the aptly named desert town of Desert Rock. Mark gets a call from Sheriff Jack Andrews to inspect the body, assumed to be scientist Dr. Eric Jacobs. Mark…

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Horror On The Lens: Revenge of the Creature (dir by Jack Arnold)


For today’s horror on the lens, we present to you 1956’s Revenge of the Creature!

Revenge of the Creature was the first sequel to The Creature From The Black Lagoon.  It turns out that the Gil-Man didn’t actually die at the end of the last film.  Instead, he’s alive, he’s been captured, and he’s now being displayed in an aquarium.

Now, I’m going to be honest: Revenge of the Creature is not as a good as The Creature From The Black Lagoon.  But it’s still kind of fun in a silly 1950s monster movie sort of way.  And, if you keep your eyes open, you might spot a very young Clint Eastwood, playing a lab technician and sporting a truly impressive head of hair.

Enjoy!

 

Scenes That I Love: “Tomorrow Is A Drag” from High School Confidential


high_school_confidential_poster_03Tonight, TCM has been showing a marathon a Mamie Van Doren films.  I just sat through The Beat Generation, a 1959 film where Mamie is among the many women to fall victim to a crazed beatnik known as the Aspirin Kid.

Now, to be honest, The Beat Generation is not a very good film.  In fact, it’s probably one of the most anti-female movies that I’ve ever seen.  Watching it, I found myself very happy that I was not alive during the 50s.

However, it did remind me of the far superior High School Confidential, another film that featured a bunch of faux Beatniks and Mamie Van Doren in a supporting role.  Released in 1958 and directed by Jack Arnold, High School Confidential is a lot of fun.

And that brings us to tonight’s scene that I love.  In the scene below, “beatnik” poetess Philippa Fallon recites a poem while secret drug dealer Jackie Coogan plays the piano.  I love this scene because it’s just so typical of the way that exploitation films from the 50s tended to portray the beat generation.

I have to admit that whenever I see one of these old films that attempted to cluelessly portray (and mock) the beatniks of the 50s, I’m reminded of the similarly clueless way that bloggers are portrayed in most current films and Aaron Sorkin-penned television series.

The Daily Drive-In: The Creature From The Black Lagoon (dir. by Jack Arnold)


As anyone who knows me can tell you, Lisa Marie doesn’t do water.

Seriously, I have a very intense fear of drowning and, while I might enjoy laying out by the pool during the summer, you’re never going to catch me actually going anywhere near the deep end.  I’m the epitome of the girl who loves the beach but hates the ocean.  As a result, I have a hard time with movies the feature swimmers thrashing about in the water or ancient monsters coming up to the surface in search of swimsuit-clad victims.

For lack of a better term, these films freak me out.

Sometimes, however, it’s fun to be freaked out.  Perhaps that’s why I so love the 1954 monster classic, The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

Like all good B-movies from the 1950s, The Creature From The Black Lagoon starts off with a lot of stock footage and a stuffy narrator telling us about how the Earth was created and how mankind originally evolved from a creature that crawled out of the sea.  The narrator manages to cover all the bases by including a few Biblical quotes with his explanation of how evolution works.

From the beginning of mankind, we fast forward to the 1950s.  A fossilized claw has been discovered in the Amazon and a group of scientists think that it could be evidence of the missing link in human evolution.  Mark (Richard Denning), who is kind of a jerk, funds an expedition to the Amazon to search for more evidence.  Accompanying Mark is hunky young scientist David (Richard Carlson) and David’s girlfriend, Kay (Julie Adams).  Traveling on a boat captained by the rather gruff Lucas (Nestor Paiva), they go to the camp where the fossil was originally discovered.  However, once they arrive, they discover that everyone in the camp has been killed.  Lucas suggests that the camp was attacked by a jaguar.

Lucas, needless to say, is totally incorrect.  The film isn’t called The Jaguar From The Black Lagoon.  It’s called The Creature From The Black Lagoon and the creature, also known as the Gill-Man (played by Ben Chapman when on land and by Ricou Browning whenever he’s underwater), is none too happy about these strangers invading his home.  Soon, the Gill-Man is stalking the expedition as they move up and down the Amazon River.

The Creature From The Black Lagoon is probably best known for the dream-like sequence in which Kay, wearing a white bathing suit that is simply to die for, swims in the Amazon River without realizing that the Creature is following just a few feet below her.  This scene (which does little to help with my aquaphobia) is one of the most iconic in the history of monster cinema.  Expertly framed by director Jack Arnold, this scene is distinguished by the graceful movement of both Julie Adams and Ricou Browning.  It’s as close as a monster movie has ever gotten to duplicating ballet.

Ultimately, like all good monster films, the Creature from the Black Lagoon is on the side of the monster.  The members of the expedition are, for the most part, interchangeable and, when the Gill-Man attacks, he’s acting more out of self-defense than out of hostility.  The expedition, after all, has invaded his home.  Like many 50s B-movies, the theme for The Creature From The Black Lagoon is not that people should be careful while investigating mysteries but that most mysteries are best left unsolved.

When you combine one of the genre’s most iconic monsters with Jack Arnold’s atmospheric direction, the end result is one of the best B-movies ever made.