(aka, Planetary Giants)
The Fifties came late in Mexico.
At least when it came to Science Fiction.
To be fair, Gigantes Planetarios actually bears a stronger resemblance to some of the late films of the era, like Missile to the Moon or Cat Women of the Moon — or perhaps Abbott and Costello Go to Mars.
Although the spaceship in this film looks more like it came straight from Dr. Zarkov’s workshop in the old Thirties Flash Gordon serials.
And maybe the plot itself is more Flash Gordon that it seems at first glance: aliens have been visiting Earth, killing anyone they encounter, and getting ready for their big invasion.
Fortunately, Professor Wolf’s old Professor (does he even have a name?) has designed a rocketship capable of carrying them to the Planet of Eternal Night, which he knows is the source of the invasion, where, hopefully, he can somehow put an end to all this.
…With a crew of…four?
Things get a bit complicated, however, because the Championship Boxer, Marcos, who is enamored (somewhat) with Wolf’s loyal secretary, flees when he loses his big championship fight for no apparent reason, and he and his comic relief manager take the places of Wolf’s official crew.
And, of course, the secretary boards the ship at the last minute so she can be with her boss.
The same four characters — Wolf, his secretary, the boxer and his manager — all returned in a sequel, El planeta de las mujeres invasoras [Planet of the Female Invaders] the same year, which is set on a planet where it is always day.
And, frankly, it is far better than its predecessor (after all, it has Lorena Velazquez in a double role!).
Once we reach the planet of Eternal Night, the plot slows down. Now I need to point out that you shouldn’t ask me how it got this name, as it is all on a soundstage and looks well enough lit as planets set on a soundstage go. There is a line suggesting that the alien dictator, who calls himself The Protector, is somehow creating this eternal night, but it certainly doesn’t affect much of anything else in the film.
But back to the plot:
The Protector tries to get the plans for Wolf’s ship (which is odd when you remember his fleet of flying saucers which are surely superior to that Flash Gordon-y thing Wolf has!) while they conspire with the locals to overthrow him.
The film also indulges in a lot of talk throughout (and it doesn’t help that I didn’t have proper subs) and the alien world isn’t at all impressive. It just looks like a lot of leftover classical Roman scenery.
Only less impressive.
This was actually the second science fiction film made by director Alfredo B. Crevenna, the first being Aventura al centro de la tierra [Adventure at the Center of the Earth], a mild little underground monster film from the year before. I suspect he made the sequel to reuse his rocketship, props and effects footage, but none of the three are exactly inspired.
I do like the rocketship, even if it looks nearly as primitive as Zarkov’s rocket. There is a quite impressive full-sized prop, permanently mounted on its launch cradle (unlike Zarkov’s rocket, borrowed from Just Imagine, which could be shown moving on the ground with rockets blazing), and some competent, if not terribly impressive modelwork. The flying saucers are nice little models, too, although they are very wobbly when we see them in flight. We also get a deathray and an alien who is decidedly not waterproof.
Not to mention a big boxing match.
Which does take up a bit of screentime. It might or might not be the same match that shows up in the sequel. It certainly doesn’t look any different, but I’ve haven’t compared them closely. However, if you look closely at this version, you’ll realize that they shot the bits with Marcos on a fairly small set and cut them into some actual boxing footage.
Not much happens, there’s a lot of talk, and only a little spaceship action (which, after all, is what we are all here for). The sequel was a little better, but if you really want to find a fun little Fifties-style Mexican Science fiction film, you’d be better off trying La nave de los monstruos [The Ship of Monsters] (1960) instead.
After all, it is far more fun, even if the rocket effects aren’t as good (even though they were stolen somewhat randomly from some Soviet era Science Fiction film). And it is a lot of silly but cool monsters.
That would have helped Gigantes Planetarios enormously….