The Angry Red Planet is a 1959 American science fiction feature film directed by Ib Melchior (co-writer of Planet of the Vampires and Death Race 2000). Pre-release titles were Invasion of Mars and Journey to Planet Four.
Co-producers Sidney W. Pink (director of Reptilicus) and Norman Maurer could only afford to give Melchior ten days and a budget of less than $200,000 to make the film. This necessitated the use of a CineMagic technique, which involved using hand-drawn animations together with live-action footage and was used for all scenes on the surface of Mars. Although this process was largely unsuccessful, producer Maurer would attempt the same technique again in The Three Stooges in Orbit.
The film’s distinctive quirky soundtrack score was composed by prolific Paul Dunlap. It was distributed in the US by American International Pictures.
The rocketship MR-1 (for “Mars Rocket 1”), returns to Earth after the first manned flight to Mars. At first thought to have been lost in space, the rocket reappears but mission control cannot raise the crew by radio. The ground crew land the rocket successfully by remote control.
Two survivors are found aboard: Doctor Iris Ryan (Naura Hayden) and Col. Tom O’Bannion (Gerald Mohr), the latter’s arm covered by a strange alien growth. The mission report is recounted by Doctor Ryan as she attempts to find a cure for Col. O’Bannion’s arm.
While exploring Mars, Ryan was attacked by a carnivorous plant, which was killed by O’Bannion. They also discover, after mistaking its legs for trees, an immense bat-rat-spider creature, which is later repelled by a freeze ray fired by weapons officer Jacobs.
When they return to their ship, the crew finds that their radio signals are being blocked and the MR-1 is grounded by a force field. O’Bannion leads the crew to a Martian lake with a city visible on the other side. They cross in an inflatable raft, only to be stopped by a giant amoeba-like creature with a single spinning eye…
Reviews [click links to read more]:
“The spectacle of the thing gets you even as you find the dialogue among the space travelers somewhat inane.” The Los Angeles Herald Examiner, 1959
“It has more jury-rigged gimmickry per unit time than any other movie I’ve ever seen, it has some of the most wildly imaginative monsters ever, and it even has a not-completely-unintelligent story with a hint of social import … It’s a shame that The Angry Red Planet never seems to receive the attention that, say, Forbidden Planet or This Island Earth do.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
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“Director Melchior created a genuinely interesting vision of Mars with the use of the pinkish tinting process of Cinemagic for this otherwise routine film.” The Aurum Encyclopedia of Film: Science Fiction
“They encounter a giant spider-bat and globular entities but, but none of these goofy E.T.s is convincing. The script by Ib Melchior and Sidney Pink evoked unintended chuckles.” John Stanley, Creature Features
“Saturday morning serial stuff with moderate to bad special effects…” Alan Frank, The Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Handbook
“Bad acting and questionable science can’t overpower the film’s energy, pacing, and sheer joie de vivre. By the time I got to the genuinely exciting climax and the requisite post-crisis warning, I was grinning from ear to ear and ready to do the whole thing over again.” Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies
” …there is an undeniable blending of the actors with sets, and there is a compelling unearthly psychedelia to the whole. The capstones of the Mars scenes are the three encounters with Martian monsters, including the astonishing rat-bat-spider. Angry Red Planet is as close as any film has come to bringing EC comic books like Weird Science and Weird Fantasy to the screen.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
” …full of splendidly tatty monsters that I don’t doubt would have scared the living daylights out of me when I was eight. Best of all is our bat-rat-spider friend. He’s meant to be forty feet high but was actually a fifteen-inch marionette. It still looks…unnerving…” House of Mortal Cinema