There is an endearing, if slightly scruffy, charm to the films Roger Corman produced back in the Fifties.
This one was actually produced by his brother Gene, who also provided the story. Roger’s generally listed in film guides as a producer although, as with Gene’s Beast from Haunted Cave, he remains unlisted in the credits. One suspects, though, that he was hard at work behind the scenes.
This one comes across as a cross between The Quatermass Experiment and The Thing: an astronaut’s ship crashes on his return to Earth. He is apparently dead, but returns to life at the same time as something kills the chief scientist on the ground team that recovered his ship and eats half his head!
Something has returned from space with him. He insists it is friendly, but it left something in his blood which is turning into alien embryos…
I particularly like the opening credit sequence on this one, which features some nice model work of a series of rockets of the Chesley Bonestell persuasion, followed by a beautifully shaded cel-animated rocket flight, complete with a believable separation of the upper stage which is a space plane. It is clearly a far better piece of work than one would expect in such a low-budget effort. I suspect it was borrowed from another film, although I don’t recognize it off hand. IMDB lists Roger Corman’s War of the Satellites as a source for some of the footage. That might explain where the modelwork came from, but somehow the animation seems unlikely. Perhaps it came from the people who did the credits, which often, even in Corman films did feature a certain amount of very limited animation.
However, once the credits are out of the way, all we see of the ship is its interior (which is surprisingly small for the era, although it isn’t quite as cramped as a real spaceship would have been. However, Riders to the Stars is the only other film I can think of whose spaceships were this small inside) and the wreckage, which is basically nothing with a bit of paint.
The alien, however, is a retread from a film they made around the same time, Teenage Caveman, with only minor changes. It doesn’t look particularly impressive in either film, however.
However, despite the very threadbare nature of this production, like most of the Cormans’ work of the era it is a brisk but reasonably entertaining film. It isn’t one of their better efforts, but then, it isn’t as bad as many of the other films AIP was churning out at the time. I’ll confess, I rather like this one, I suspect because of the last minute switches it pulls on our sympathies.
Of course, it is flawed, like most of what Gene and Roger made back then. But if you can accept that, then this one is definitely worth a late night viewing.
Preferably with friends.
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