The Wizard of Mars (1965)

(Aka, Journey Into the Unknown, Alien Massacre, Horrors of the Red Planet)

There seems to be some sort of inexorable law that the more names a movie has, the worse it is.

Four explorers enroute to Mars encounter mysterious space lightning and are forced down.  There they have to fight for survival in the harsh environment, in a series of sequences reminiscent of Robinson Crusoe on Mars and the Soviet classic, Planet of Storms – at least until they mysteriously end up in a series of strange caverns.

Eventually they find an alien city perched on top of a mountain by following the remnants of a golden road.  And there the find alien bodies in tubes and the giant floating head of John Carradine, who spouts the most utterly, remarkably, impossibly, garbled higher wisdom of the lost alien race speech that anyone has ever written.  …I mean, did writer/director David L. Hewitt write words down on index cards, stick them to darts, throw them at the wall and then write it all down in the order they fell in?  However he wrote it, the speech apparently impressed him so much he reused it as the opening of his later film, Journey to the Center of Time.

Go figure.

This is a very strange little film, filled with odd little references to The Wizard of Oz, and a lot of utterly inexplicable occurrences.  It has a very weird vibe to it, as not only the audience but the characters themselves end up wondering how they got from one location to the next.  And it’s very weirdness is the film’s greatest asset, although not on the same exalted level as that greatest of all Fifties mind-numbingly weird movie opuses, The Angry Red Planet.  Certainly it isn’t quite weird enough to overcome its boring moments, but it comes close.  And it’s worth noting that John Carradine always gave his all to the movies he appeared in, no matter how little they deserved it (although here his greatest challenge was probably keeping a straight face).

Oh, well.  If you’ve seen every Fifties Sci Fi epic that’s out there, you’ll have to watch this Sixties hold out as well.  It’s not too painful.

It is, however, amazing anyone could still make a science fiction movie this naive that late.

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