Mary Poppins Returns
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A film that can never go out of style because it is so bad that it never was in style.
This movie has to have one of the most peculiar intros I've come across for a science fiction, horror. Actually the movie is officially labelled as a science fiction, horror, comedy truth be told, which again is rather unusual for the 50's as far as I'm aware. I don't think I've come across a science fiction movie from the 50's that is officially a blend of horror and comedy. Usually these films are laughable but that's not deliberate, they are often serious attempts at science fiction and horror...unless I'm mistaken (probably am). Anyway the opening credits for this film are basically done like a children's fairytale for a children's film. All the credits are written down in a big thick storybook with cheerful cartoonish illustrations, as a woman's hand turns the pages slowly one by one. At the same time, this is accompanied by a very merry little musical score that could easily be from any early Disney feature.
The plot is very straight forward, very cliche, very predictable and one of the earlier examples of an alien invasion flick. Put simply, a flying saucer lands in the woods near a small American town. One of the aliens manages to get himself run over by some teenagers in their car one night, the kids run off to find help. Around the same time a drunken man stumbles across the body and decides to go get his buddy to help him recover it, thinking of fame and fortune. Unable to convince his buddy, the man returns himself but is killed by the aliens, the creatures leave him and take their fellow dead alien, setting up the teens for murder. When the teenagers return with the police they find the dead man and are arrested under suspicion of killing him by possible drunk driving, or just careless driving. But! little does everyone know, the dead aliens hand has detached itself from its body and has gone off to run amok, for some reason. At the same time as all this is happening, the military have discovered the flying saucer after a hot tip and are trying to break into it. Can the teens convince anyone that there are aliens running around? Can they convince the police that they didn't hit the man? Will the military get into the saucer? How can the teens stop the aliens? Tune in next week, same alien-time, same alien-channel.
So in all honesty I wouldn't really say this was an out and out comedy, sure its dumb, but there aren't any laugh out loud moments or anything. To be frank it just feels like any other 50's sci-fi alien flick, I could see the actors were having a bit more fun than usual but generally it all felt semi-serious as usual for the era. The only actors that really seemed to be playing it goofy were the two youngsters playing the (so called) teens, they were definitely acting more dumb and naive than expected. The military were clearly in it for fun but again...not too dissimilar from other sci-fi flicks of the time, with bad acting dare I say. Basically what I'm saying is, if you saw this you wouldn't immediately say...oh this is clearly a horror comedy and the actors are clearly playing it for laughs. As for the movies main young star, Frank Gorshin, well he seemed to going at it for real baby! No slacking on his part, he was playing this thing seriously damn it! hungry for fame!!
The visual in the movie are actually very Ed Wood-esque if you ask me, not that they are that bad and full of mistakes, but just very basic, trying to be creepy, and just had a similar tone or vibe (in my opinion). There is nothing much to rave about though, clearly much (if not all) is shot on sets with possibly the occasional outside scene. The flying saucer is a hokey looking model on wires, and the aliens themselves are simply (by the looks of it) little people in suits. Of course the giant alien heads are full scale prosthetic heads with moving eyes which are effective and eerie looking with their pulsating veins. When seeing those bulging eyes glaring out from behind some bushes, and hearing their high pitched verbal squeaking, its quite unnerving for sure. Unfortunately when we see them in all their glory they obviously look like blokes in bad suits. I did find the needles for fingernails a strange thing though. The aliens have long retractable syringe like needles that come out of the tips of their fingers, they use these to attack obviously, which seems quite nasty if you ask me! These needles contain alcohol apparently as they never actually kill anyone by stabbing them, but merely inducing alcohol poisoning or getting them highly drunk. Definitely an odd ability to have for an alien race methinks.
The movie wasn't shy about gore though which was definitely a fun surprise. As already mentioned, when one alien gets run over, its hand detaches itself and shuffles off to cause mayhem. Firstly this was easily the best effect in the whole film, the little puppet hand was quite adorable really, much like Thing from [i]The Addams Family[/i]...accept this hand had tendons and bone dragging along behind it and a fat eyeball. I quite liked the predictable disembodied hand tapping on the girls shoulder gag, corny but fun. Another rather surprising sequence was when a bull attacks a lone alien and manages to gauge the aliens eye out with its horn! Now that alone sounds pretty icky, but you even got to see it! with plenty of oozing goo as it happened! Now I could be mistaken but you didn't often see graphic things like that in these old 50's flicks, maybe hinted at but not seen.
I'm still not entirely sure just how deliberately tongue-in-cheek this movie was supposed to be, or whether it was just lost in translation during production and they decided to call it a horror comedy to cover their tracks. Its certainly a product of its time and totally silly in parts, such as the teens literally walking everywhere, no matter where they need to get to, they walk because everything in this town is obviously really close together. The fact that when the teens are accused of killing a man with their car, everyone is so polite, calm and almost blasé about it. Then they leave the teens in a room with a huge wide open window, hmmm. Then of course there's the million dollar question, why do the aliens explode when they come into contact with bright lights? The little aliens are the best thing in the movie by a country mile, coming across more like little evil goblins from hell rather than aliens, the fact we never really see much of them was also a clever move. Overall the movie works fine but its comedy aspect is weak, I think they should of gone all out for a proper scare flick from the start (unless they did) as the effects are easily verging more on that angle. Very much a mixed bag of hokey goodness.
These fifties paranoia films were fantastic. If you can get over the fact the aliens are all large bug eyed rubber legged toys with men inside this is a film for you. I loved them as a kid and doubt that will ever change.
Lots of 50s alien fun.
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