The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
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All Critics (7)
| Fresh (7)
| Rotten (0)
Creative, idealistic science fiction film.
Capable B horror of the sort that invites nostalgia even in those of us who weren't there.
An eerie reminder that a decent script and adept direction can overcome even the lowest of budgets.
Odd, atmospheric, but rather slow Edgar G. Ulmer sci-fi cheapie.
I bet if Ulmer had a few more days of shooting time we would have seen a lot more action.
A movie in dire need of script re-writes, more production money and a better look man from planet X. Nonetheless, if you're familiar with who director Edgar G. Ulmer is this is a can't miss film from his repertoire
A slight change for this all American, 50's B-movie sci-fi. That slight change being the movies story is not set in some sleepy, small, all American town in the desert. No this film is actually set in the dark, dreary, foggy, misty, bleak wilds of Scotland...or so the film makes out. OK so the black and white picture doesn't give the movie much in the way of bright sunshine and rolling green hills, and obviously the movie is supposed to be scary and moody, but geez...stereotyping of a country much? (nah they're spot on).
The plot isn't much to go by really, a simple silly tale. A distant planet (planet X!!) is looming close to the Earth and will pass closely by on its current trajectory. Naturally this will cause immense chaos and devastation, if not complete annihilation of the human race! But no time for any of that, there are bloody aliens landing in Scotland for flips sake. So this one spaceship lands in the Scottish moors (island of Bury??) somewhere and is found by some locals and of course an all American reporter (Robert Clarke) whose over visiting Scotland because planet X will pass closest to the Earth in this vicinity. Eventually after much back n forth from the various characters the main alien is encountered but thought to be friendly. Trying to communicate turns out to be tough going, but nevertheless the obvious baddie character of Dr Mears (William Schallert) is left to try. Naturally he attempts to gain information about the aliens spacecraft and the material its constructed from for his own dastardly deeds, in the process he almost kills the alien. The alien then buggers off (presumably slightly offended), but at the same time local folk start to vanish. Its left to the handsome American and some quirky fat Scot to work out what's happening (which I'll spoil for you down below).
So yeah, the basic plot for this is horrendously simple and weak, and as with many of these glorious old movies, its doesn't really make any sense. K...firstly, the alien in question is actually a scout party that is laying the ground work for an invasion it seems. The big big question is (from me at least), was this the plan all along or did the alien just become really pissed off with Mears trying to suffocate him? You see at first the alien is friendly and keen to try and communicate, of course this could be a ploy. But then we have this scene where Mears tries to kill the alien because he wants to know about the material the spaceship is built out of. After that scene the alien does a runner and all of sudden he's kidnapping locals, zombifying them and using them to build a base at his spaceships landing site. So had Mears not done this, would the alien not have tried to set up the invasion?
Next up is the obvious one. The alien lifeform is unable to breathe on Earth without its equipment, so why would they choose Earth to invade (if that was the original plan...all Dr. Mears fault speculation). I mean sure their choice might not be much planet wise, and the fact their home planet is inexplicably travelling towards Earth is remarkably convenient, but breathing problems?? Surely not being able to breathe without constant backup from your gear would be a long term problem. We also do not find out why the aliens planet is dying either, it just is.
Most of the movie is made up of lots of character building that really feels useless in the grand scheme of things. The American reporter of John Lawrence (Clarke) is your standard good looking bloke with a pencil thin tash. The main female protagonist of Enid Elliot (Margaret Field) is your standard damsel in distress, and the old scientist character of Professor Elliot is your stereotypical pipe smoking, Basil Rathbone-esque fellow. Completely expected of course but at least this time there is also the jolly Scot sidekick character to help Lawrence later on, along with some cornball extras playing local fishermen. All with dreadful American/Scottish accents I might add. But the main problem with this little movie is the fact there is a whole heap of exposition, boring pointless exposition. There are endless slow scenes of characters nattering to each other and simply moving from one scene to another to further the basic plot. Sounds important but it really isn't, it just feels like padding because there simply isn't enough with the alien which would make it more exciting.
For instance the villain character of Mears isn't really given any backstory at all! This despite loads of dialog about the characters and their situation which felt odd. We are constantly reminded that Mears is a brilliant but flawed man who never got any proper comeuppance for whatever it was he did, we don't find out. Then you have the very predictable and totally cliched fact that both Lawrence and Enid have a past that goes back years to the war. Lawrence was a pilot (of course) and Enid provided weather conditions for their bombing raids sooo...naturally when they meet up again they'll fall in love! The start of the movie involves a load of chit-chat between Lawrence and some other old scientist about the pending planet X coming into range of the Earth. All this does is set up Lawrence coming to Scotland. There is also a good tonne of frantic dialog between Lawrence and the jolly Scot when everything goes tits up towards the end, frantic but boring, made humorous down to bad accents.
The general look of the movie is actually quite good and atmospheric I'll give it that. Much of the Scottish scenery is conveyed through models and using lots of smoke to mask the fact, something that is obvious but looks great in a charming way. Everything else is contained within sets as I don't believe there are any location shots at all except for the obligatory bit of stock footage. Overall it does look effective which is helped (as always) by the black and white film which always hides faults well whilst adding to the creepy vibe. Its also amusing to note that virtually the entire story seems to occur at night from what I can recall. As for the alien costume, well its quite good to be truthful, nothing outrageously daft but quite simple and effective with a haunting face for the alien. Sure the face is devoid of any actual movement and doesn't make any actual sound but its Halloween-esque, mask-like face works well. This seems to sum up the movie altogether really, it looks good and it is atmospheric, considering the lack of budget, but beneath that its a bit of a muddle really. Heck even the movie can't really decide what happened in the end going by Enid's last bit of dialog, oh well.
An okay sci-fi movie of the 50s. It's not a very original plot, nor are there good special effects, but it's not bad either.
A supposed classic, but really it's pretty lame. Sweet 50's low budget sci-fi.
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