The opening scene depicts a laboratory experiment in which a monkey is frozen and revived. In the course of developing a crucial scene for 2001: A Space Odyssey, it also provides the basis of a key image in Billion Dollar Brain. Furthermore, the monkey sitting up on its table extending from the bottom of the frame into the lab makes an interesting effect in 3-D.
The desert base is run automatically by a “giant brain machine.” Its experimental weapon is a “sun mirror” capable of vaporizing steel, incinerating cities and evaporating oceans. Richard Egan, who has worked in the OSS as well as H-Bomb Security, is assigned by the Office of Scientific Investigation to get to the bottom of the suspicious mishaps at the base and the presence of “transmitters” hidden here and there.
The design of the base, underground around a central hub, as well as its several levels and uniforms and décor, is a model for The Andromeda Strain. The filtered image of the solar disk in red and blue showing the “corona and permanences” is distinctly a foretaste of 2001: A Space Odyssey. A metalsmith’s crucible seen from above at a slight angle, with two shadows, looks in 3-D like a Robert Irwin sculpture.
The base is permeated by a high-intensity soundbeam that produces heat as well as another important image from 2001: A Space Odyssey (and The Shout).
The computer’s name is N.O.V.A.C. It operates two four-armed robots, which are called Gog and Magog. One of their mechanical arms opening a hatch was also remembered by Kubrick. The sun mirror and the robots are two competing programs at the base, the purpose of which is to design an orbiting space station. There is an amusing formulation of security ideas in the notion that only red or gold armbands give access to the upper level.
A major influence on the film is revealed when Egan is given a tour of the lab’s inner workings, and technical footage takes the place of the models in Things to Come. Yet another amusing detail has a dial marked REVOLUTIONS fill the screen during a centrifuge test.
How to Make a Monster
American International Studios has a new owner, NBN Associates, it’s all over for monster pictures, the legendary makeup man is sacked once teenage Werewolf Meets Frankenstein wraps up production. “I’ll destroy this studio, see it go up in flames before I—“
A cast of favorites, Robert H. Harris, Paul Brinegar, Thomas B. Henry et al. for Arkoff-Nicholson, cinematography Maury Gertsman, score Paul Dunlap.
“EASTERN STUDIO HEAD FOUND STRANGLED IN HOLLYWOOD MURDER”, Los Angeles Times extra (slogan, “All the News All the Time”).
Crabtree’s Horrors of the Black Museum is underway, a studio tour group is told. John Ashley does a Presley number for the “new regime... what the people want... escapism.” As the new studio head puts it, “that’s the way the footage cuts.”
The artist, fired.
The Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “pedestrian”.
TV Guide, “silly, sort of stupid.”
Vision of Crime
A man (Robert Hardy) sees his brother’s murder reflected as it were on the surface of the water in the washbowl of his stateroom making the Channel crossing. He returns at once to find the murder done at the apothecary shop owned by his brother, where he himself is a regular employee.
The case is being h’investigated by Sergeant Boris Karloff (“yuss!”) and Constable Patrick Macnee, their man doesn‘t fit the vision.
The comedy of these middle scenes is rarefied and precise, Karloff (who introduces the story as himself at a cordial fireplace) is the model for John Cleese in the role.
The visionary’s high-toned fiancée had meant to secure for herself a certain social position, that’s all.
The Devil’s Messenger
This vastly underestimated and neglected film is said to be primarily the work of Curt Siodmak as writer and director of a television series unaired in America, 13 Demon Street. A series writer has sagely combined three episodes for theatrical release with a sequence joining them under the rubric “Hell hath no fury like.”
A suicide for love goes to Hell, she is christened Satanya and sent back to Earth with various devices, a camera, a pick, and a crystal ball, to win more converts. Her last assignment is to bring us, the audience, plans for a 200-megaton bomb, “they’ll know what to do with it.”
The first of the marvelously subtle stories is a justification of photography as art, the second an epitaph on expectation in the face of reality. The third completes the thought, a lady fortuneteller’s signboard kills a fearful man in an abandoned building.
Strock, who certainly films the interstices, has him in Hell at the last, the very man for whose sake poor Satanya cut her wrists and left the Earth initially.
the crawling hand
One astronaut after another lands on the moon, gets off, and fails to return. The second begs to be blown up in space.
A dial or gauge and one arm of his land on the beach in California, where a young man and his coy girlfriend, a Swedish exchange student, are having a swim.
He collects the arm that night, it strangles his landlady. The effect of space travel passes into him, he nearly strangles his girlfriend.
Two cats in a junkyard make the hand their dinner, all ends well in this magnificent display of Strock’s best style.