Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rip-Off Cinema: The Wizard of Mars

If you don't know this story by now, it will explain a lot to you. John Carradine had one love: the theater. He loved it so much that he had his very own one, but money was tight. What was the guy to do? If you guessed 'do every terrible movie offered to him,' then you guessed right! This is why he appears in Frankenstein Island, Billy the Kid vs. Dracula & Hillbillies in a Haunted House, among other. Today's film is one of the less embarrassing films of the bunch, but by no means a classic. The gimmick of this film is easy to figure out if you read the title just right. Somehow, this film made it to DVD, so you're getting a chance to experience it with me. It is...
Our story begins, as it should, in space. In this film, space is packed in pretty tight, making you wonder how things aren't constantly crashing into each other. Speaking of crashing, let's meet the crew of our ship. Our Captain is Generic Guy #1, our co-pilot is Generic Hunk #2, our woman is Every Woman in a 1970s Sci-Fi Film #3 & Doc is one of The Mole People. By the way, the lady's name is Dorothy. We learn that they are a 'United States Space Exploration Craft,' which they explain to NASA. You guys are as bad as the 'patients' in Day of the Dead 2. In fairness, this is merely exposition, albeit done in a really blatant way. Anyhow, they talk about how their mission to fly around Mars and map the surface. Incidentally, this advanced space ship has a regular clock in it. Before I die from exposition overload, the ship experiences some strange interference, which is causing them to lose audio. After more techno-babble than a Star Trek: TNG montage, they get a shot of Mars. Wow, it sure is...round. More techno-babble takes place before the crew decides to land on the surface.
Well, apparently, Mars resembles a Yes album cover (thank you, MST3K: The Movie for that joke). Mars also looks really, well, cheap. This Mars looks way too much like Actium Maximus for its own good. Thus begins the best portion of the movie: the wandering. Our heroes- now donning cheesy spacesuits- wander around the planet's surface, taking in everything that they can. At one point, they even ride in a raft and are besieged by 'snake monsters.' Once on foot, they find some mysterious caves and lava pits. The thing guiding them on their trip is a mysterious signal, but that is just a red herring.
Eventually, they find a golden pathway that leads them to a, I mean, city. To make matters simpler, the place has oxygen in it, which apparently just replicates itself for eons. The dank hallways are not all that pleasant. The fact that they are littered with alien bodies (remind anyone of the long corridors in the third act of Mass Effect). Unfortunately, this place is far less interesting than that. However, it does have one thing going for it- the disembodied head of John Carradine! If you thought the exposition earlier was forced, wait until you hear this stuff. Carradine is the collective minds of all of the Martians & he explains that the aliens froze themselves in time. Only visitors can awaken them through a particular method. The method is so simple that it will want to make any seasoned Myst player punch their screen. After doing this, the filmmakers cue up Cliche #245 and have the place fall apart. Our heroes run outside to the cold Martian air and...wake up in their space ship. It was all a dream...but you were there and you were there & this movie sucked. The End.
This movie is a rarity, but I consider that a good thing. On one hand, it is an interesting idea to take the Wizard of Oz story and set it in space. On the other hand, this movie sucks. It has no budget, bad effects and terrible pacing. It would be one thing if it let to anything interesting. Instead, you get the giant head of John Carradine speaking about nothing that makes sense. By the way, I realize that I mention this giant, disembodied head a lot here. What the hell else am I going to talk about though? The movie is a big, giant pile of nothing. I actually had a better time with Robinson Crusoe on Mars, which is a big-budget adaptation of a fairly-forgotten story. That was a least a focused tale of survival and adaptation, even if it did fall apart a bit in the third act. Rent that movie instead. Incidentally, there are two versions of this DVD- both of them are bad. One of them is bundled under Horrors of the Red Planet and falsely bills Lon Chaney Jr. as appearing. The one I got was a Data DVD that had one item listed on it- this movie. You click on #1 and the movie plays. What a load of crap, although oddly appropriate for a movie of this quality.
Next up, a film that is so confusing and yet so awesome. I wanted to love you movie, but I couldn't! Stay tuned...

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