Roll up, for an amazing example of what a psychotronic masterpiece of B-Movie filmmaking can be. Because I can’t remember the last time such a godawful film held my attention so utterly. This 1962, Wesley Barry directed, lump of sci-fi cheese swings between the profound and the pathetic faster than the Theremin vibrates in the soundtrack, and is worth every rotten minute of its nippy 75 minutes run time.
To make sure no expectations are mismanaged here is now a list of reasons this is, unquestionably, A Bad Film.
The script is bad. It’s clunkily written, has wild bouts of sexism and technobabble, and is made up of what feels like a random series of speeches. It’s also delivered, sometimes quite badly, by a cast that varies between unskilled and indifferent.
The production is bad. The sets are bare and cheap, the costumes for the humans are a mismatch of whatever was laying around, and everything about it looks silly. On top of that, the sound is so-so, the visuals often look like TV footage, and people are only ever on-screen if they need to speak.
The direction is bad. This is shot like a stage play, with everyone facing one direction. Unfortunately, as the script involves a lot of people talking a lot, that means everyone lines up and stands there, waiting their turn to talk. That wait is not helped by everyone taking their time, leaving lots of gaps, and then waiting patiently before responding to anything said to them. Everyone’s voice is a calm, mid-Atlantic accent, designed to transmit all the required information and none of that pesky emotion.
But, on the other hand, we have some seriously interesting ideas being talked about here. Starting with a premise of mankind’s decline after WW3, it talks on a wide range of topics in it’s rambling through plot points. A truly intriguing world of tomorrow is described, discussed, and debated over, along with some very weird science and truly astounding 60s metaphors for anything even vaguely naughty bits related. Mankind’s self-destructive tendencies, the importance of working, sexual politics, issues of democratic accountability, and the right for a sister to marry her vibrator all get brought up and discussed in varying manners. Given its age, it’s scarily present of a number of contemporary issues.
It’s quite possible that you’ll have come across some of these ideas before, and quite possibly in a far more coherent manner, but to see them all in one place is pretty cool. That these musings on the nature of man are interspersed with sci-fi noises and incredibly “of their time” moments of eyebrow-raising just makes it somehow weirder and more entrancing. It’s like a mash-up between a Stephen Yaxley-Lennon TikTok, PhilosophyTube, a Benny Hill episode, and Lost In Space done by a 6th for the drama club. The dialogue will bounce from the dignity of man, to how the humanoids are out to get us all, to telling off a woman for having a thought in her head, without missing a beat.
On top of this there is a twist, a twist in the twist, and then finally a twist ending you won’t see coming but that is too audacious not to applaud. As well as trying to far more well written and intelligent than it actually is, this film is determined to be as exiting as it can be. Possibly because nothing exciting happens with the direction. It wants you to have fun, even if it doesn’t necessarily understand that human emotion.
The film kept me locked in from start to finish, even though it was clearly quite badly made. It’s a really good sci-fi narrative short story that got turned into a script, and then padded out with a lot-job of cliches, bad writing, and fluff. Keep your ears open, and there are some great lines and really solid ideas being discussed. Focus on those, and forgive the shortcomings, and there is a compelling film to enjoy. It has to be ranked a Treasure, because it kept me either engaged or amused for it’s full running time. I was also thinking about it several days later, either because of keen questions and deep observations about the condition, or the unintentionally hilariously caricature-sexism of the script.