This disc combines one of the strangest â€œsci-fiâ€ pictures Iâ€™ve ever seen, a fairly typical cheaply-done B-grade flick, and two films derived from the 1954 syndicated TV series Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, whichâ€”according to the sleeveâ€”â€œwas cancelled after a single season because the costly special effects made it unprofitable.â€ Three of the four films have characters named â€œWinkyâ€â€”reason enough to group them on the disc. In all four films, the people on other planets speak Englishâ€”in the first case, because they watch Earth TV, in the second because itâ€™s convenient, and in the others with a â€œbut itâ€™s so foreignâ€ overlay and no really good explanation. (OK, in the fourth, the people on one planet that canâ€™t possibly support human life also speak their own language.) I believe one or two of these have been on MST3K. The first is also on IMDBâ€™s â€œ100 worst moviesâ€ list.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, 1964, color, Nicholas Webster (dir.), John Call, Leonard Hicks, Pia Zadora. 1:21
Taken from a copy for TV distribution (the AVCO TV logo appears before the title), the print is goodâ€”good color, decent VHS-quality appearance, good sound, very little damage. Now, about the pictureâ€¦ Martian kids are unhappy because theyâ€™re educated like grownups from birth, so a group of leaders goes to Earth to kidnap Santa Claus from his workshop at the North Pole. They do, they build him an automated workshop, and much strangeness ensues. Pia Zadora is presumably the big-name star in an entirely forgettable role. The theme song (â€œHooray for Santa Claus,â€ with â€œSantaâ€ consistently pronounced â€œSantyâ€ even after itâ€™s been spelled out), repeated at the start and end of the film, was almost enough to send me running screaming from the treadmill. Only â€œsci-fiâ€ because thereâ€™s a rocket (and a tickle-gun, and a freeze-ray) involved. You get Wernher von Green, head of the space program; Mrs. Claus â€œpositively identifying the kidnappers as Martiansâ€ (you can tell because they have olive skin and wear hoods with antennas); and a subplot about spaceships attempting to retrieve Santa that is simply dropped after using some stock footage. They donâ€™t get much stranger than this. I canâ€™t imagine ever watching it a second time, but it gets $0.75 for sheer novelty value.
Teenagers from Outer Space, 1959, b&w, Tom Graeff (dir.), David Love, Dawn Bender, Tom Graeff (who also produced and wrote). 1:25.
The blurb says, â€œThe Martians are coming to Earth to raise the Gargon Herd, an unstoppable torrent of giant lobsters.â€ Well, they arenâ€™t identified as Martians, and thereâ€™s no attempt to make them anything but pure humanâ€”but from some planet where kids donâ€™t know their parents, there is no joy or love, and thereâ€™s a need for a planet to raise the Gargons as a reserve food supply. Why? Because the Gargons start out tiny, then grow to a million times the size, into enormous, vicious lobster-like creatures. Theyâ€™ll kill everything on Earth, of course, but â€œwhat concern are foreign people to the supreme race?â€ One crew member (a good-looking teenager who turns out to be the son of the Great Leader, of course) objects to using a planet with intelligent life, and escapes. Plot ensues. Thereâ€™s a weapon that eliminates all flesh from living things (skeletal special effectsâ€”or, rather, one skeleton reused several times). Thereâ€™s lots of life in the 1950s. Itâ€™s silly, but itâ€™s not a bad B movie. Decent print quality, good sound (seemingly stereo, but thatâ€™s unlikely). $1.
Crash of the Moons, 1954, b&w, Hollingsworth Morse (dir.), Richard Crane, Sally Mansfield, John Banner. 1:18 [1:12]
As cheap TV serials go, this oneâ€™s pretty good, with extensive sets and simple but adequate space stuff. The blurb notes â€œRockyâ€™s scantily clad assistant, Vena Rayâ€ (Sally Mansfield), but she seems clothed in the womenâ€™s fashions of this near futureâ€”basically, a loose-skirted minidress with cape, neither particularly scanty nor at all shocking. The science doesnâ€™t bear even crude scrutinyâ€”for example, the â€œmoonsâ€ in this case are twin â€œgypsy moons,â€ connected by a band of atmosphere and both fully capable of supporting human life, at least until one of them crashes into a planet whose female ruler doesnâ€™t get along with the federation of planets. Good simple fun, actually, including an amusing sidekick (Winky), the stalwart hero (Rocky Jones, Space Ranger), and a kid. Decent print with some damage. $1, as long as you donâ€™t expect credible sci-fi.
Menace from Outer Space, 1956, b&w, same director and cast (without John Banner). 1:18.
The same hostile female ruler (planet Officious?) is involved here as well, but mostly itâ€™s about strange crystalline rockets being fired at Earth, apparently from a moon known to lack metals and clearly incapable of supporting life. Except, of course, that it does: Entirely human life, but on a planet where everythingâ€™s crystal-based. Spies, intrigue, general nonsense, and (as in Crash of the Moons) a kindly elderly professor. $0.75â€”the plotâ€™s neither quite as ridiculous nor quite as interesting as the other one.
I was amazed to note that each of these is available on its own DVD, typically for $7 to $14. The notes on one of the Rocky Jones DVD releases suggest a print in much worse shape than the one used here–and this whole 50-movie set cost $25. Such is life.