Sunday, February 9, 2014

Old-School TV: Tales of Tomorrow- Appointment on Mars

After last week's look at a classic tale, we shift gears to something more original.  It's a Story Written by Ed McBain under his real name of S.A. Lombino.  If you don't know, he wrote many Novels, as well as the classic film The Birds.

With that in mind, let's check out one more of the many...
This tale is about people going where man has never gone before.  Unfortunately, this appointment doesn't end in a proper check-up and a bill of good health.  It's an...
Three men are on Mars and they are there to make money.  A consortium of businesses paid for their trip, since, you know, no NASA in 1952.

Their goal: find Uranium to mine.  Sure- why not?
Naturally, this whole thing is full of, well, less than accurate science.  There's oxygen on this Mars and they aren't going to freeze to death.

Oh and both guns and beer cans are usable on Mars.  I'm sure that Neil-Dygrasse Tyson would publically-mock this thing too.
Sure enough, they find a vein of Uranium on Mars!  Well, to be more accurate, they find a vein on the super-tiny set they work on.

Kudos for working with the limited production of the day.  I bet they were totally jealous when they started to see shows like The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery!
Seeing Leslie Nielsen with an Elvis-style pompadour and slick black hair is weird to people like me who first knew him from Airplane.
As time goes on (only a few minutes, mind you), one of them starts to grow suspicious and paranoid.  It is probably not helped by him constantly being shot in super-tight close-up like this is some sort of weird play.

Hell, watch alot of early TV and see just how much it is staged like Plays.  It was a weird transition.
They all start to get paranoid, in fact.  The fact that they all have guns is not good.

In other words, it is life in Texas.  Hi-oh!
Sure enough, they all start to fight and things only get worse.
In the End, they all kill each other.  It is here that we get the twist...

The camera pans out and we hear two voices talk about how they managed to get rid of the Earthlings.  They were real (and evil) all along!  The End.
It's a bit dated, but it is still neat.  The key thing is to look at this as the base for much of the Sci-Fi TV that would come in the future.  It is not quite as polished or as deep as The Twilight Zone, but you also wouldn't have that show without this.  Judged solely on its own merits, it is a good tale of what happens when you go into a venture solely for greed.  They didn't come to Mars to study it- they came to make money!  As such, you don't have a bunch of altruistic scientists trying to find the next breakthrough in science or anything.  In the compressed format, the break down in trust is both more and less effective.  On one hand, you don't get to see them long before it all goes down.  On the other hand, it feels so unnatural- which it is.  The worst part about it is just the dated staging and production values.  If you can look past that, it is quite good.  Plus, you get a preview of what would come for Nielsen in 1956's Forbidden Planet.  As for me, I do find some of the staging a bit distracting still...
Next up, we go out to the Dunes.  As long as there is no plastic armor or Sand Worms, I'm all good.  Stay tuned...

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