review for The Angry Red Planet on AllMovie

The Angry Red Planet (1959)
by Bruce Eder review

Director Ib Melchior and producers Sidney Pink and Norman Maurer tried for something different with The Angry Red Planet, and they got it. With Stanley Cortez (best known for The Magnificent Ambersons, Night of the Hunter, The Naked Kiss, and Shock Corridor) lensing the film, the makers incorporated a process called Cinemagic, which tinted everything on the Martian landscape red, but also gave it an eerie 3-D quality. The result is a genuinely odd-looking film, in those segments where the space explorers step out of their "normal" environment on the ship and into the Cinemagic settings. Coupled with some surprisingly good, straight-faced performances by Gerald Mohr, Nora Hayden, Les Tremayne, and Jack Kruschen (playing the astronauts), and very effective model and puppet work, The Angry Red Planet works well as 83 minutes of adventure. The effects are a combination of costuming, model work, and puppets, with Bob Baker's giant (puppet) bat-rat-spider moving off in the distance perhaps the best shot in the movie. Danish-born director/screenwriter Ib Melchior brings a surprisingly light, deft touch to the proceedings, allowing the actors a chance to have fun with their roles -- especially Gerald Mohr, still looking and sounding a bit like Humphrey Bogart, as the stalwart mission commander, and Jack Kruschen as the good-humored technician in the crew -- without losing sight of the adventure and the story line, and meshing it all seamlessly with the special effects-driven sequences. The only real flaw, within the context of this kind of genre film, is in the opening segments, when the returning spaceship is first sighted and brought down -- these scenes, which may have been derived from the opening sequences of The Creeping Unknown and 20 Million Miles to Earth, seem both rushed in execution and leaden in their slow pacing and lack of tension, but after ten minutes it's into the flashback sequences that make up the bulk of the movie, which are entertaining and exciting. Those lucky enough to see the trailer (which appears on the DVD) may marvel at its cleverness, as it promotes Cinemagic while stating that it can't show what the process looks like on the screen, thus using the prospective viewers' own imaginations to lure them in.