“ Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Fantasy / Theatrical Release: 1958 / Director: Gene Fowler Jr. / Actors: Tom Tryon, Gloria Talbott, Peter Baldwin, Robert Ivers, Chuck Wassil ... / DVD released 2004-09-14 at Paramount / Features of the DVD: Black & White, Closed-captioned, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC „
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Tom Tryon as Bill Farrell
Gloria Talbott as Marge Bradley Farrell
Max 'Slapsie Maxie' Rosenbloom as Max Grady (bartender)
Despite the horrendous lurid title, this 1958 offering in the 1950s Sci-Fi genre is actually a very good film. The title can make you think it's going to be some silly Ed Wood style laugh-fest, but in fact it's quite an intelligent story, well-written and well-acted, and surprisingly poignant.
Directed by Gene Fowler Jr, who was an award-winning Film Editor (and nominated for a 'Best Film Editing' Oscar for the big blockbuster 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World' in 1963), this is a very well directed effort which looks more mainstream than B-movie. It looks like a decently-budgeted serious film rather than the cheese-fest its title would suggest.
Bill and Marge are a young couple who are just about to be married and very much in love. The film starts with Bill and his friends chatting around a table in their local bar discussing Bill's impending wedding the next day. When he drives home, on a quiet stretch of road he sees a man lying in the road directly in front of his car. Getting out to investigate, he walks to the front of his car only to see that the body has disappeared. 'I haven't had THAT much to drink,' he says to himself in bemusement. At that moment, a glowing hand reaches out to grab him from behind. We see that it belongs to an equally glowing space alien. Bill collapses to the ground and we see him get engulfed in a cloud of what looks like smoke, and disappear.
Next we go to the following morning and Marge in her wedding gown, surrounded by family and friends. The groom has not arrived and everyone is concerned. Finally Bill does arrive, much to everyone's relief. He seems a bit odd but that gets attributed to wedding day nerves. The wedding goes swimmingly, rice and bouquets are hurled, and the bride and groom get into a beautiful shiny fat 1950s car and drive off on their honeymoon. But it's a rather peculiar honeymoon. Tom is strangely distant, and he exhibits puzzling behaviour such as not seeming to know that you need to turn on the car headlights when driving after dark, and upon hearing a burst of thunder, doesn't know what it is and asks Marge to explain.
When they return home from their honeymoon, we see Marge writing to her mother that Bill is not the man she fell in love with and seems almost like a stranger. Things get weirder still when we see Bill's friend Sam, walking home from the local bar down a dark side road, suddenly enveloped by a cloud of smoke identical to the one we saw Bill disappear in, and Sam too disappears. Little by little other men in town begin to disappear in clouds of smoke and reappear with strangely aloof personalities. For some reason, this strange phenomenon doesn't target women. What is happening to the local men, and why? And then, outdoors late at night, Marge accidentally stumbles upon a sight that terrifies her.
This is, as mentioned, a surprisingly good film. It has an unexpectedly well-written and intelligent story, which you don't tend to think you'd find in something with such a silly title. It's portrayed in a mainly serious style aside from a few instances of cringeworthy humour on the parts of Bill's unhappily married friends who are always bellyaching about their unhappy marriages - aside from those corny bits of humour, there is a good deal of intelligent and insightful dialogue.
The acting is decent quality, especially on the parts of Tom Tryon and Gloria Talbott as Bill and Marge; both come across as so natural and adept at portraying a range of emotions convincingly, and you really do feel for them as Marge struggles with her deep sadness at Bill's change of personality, and when we see that Bill himself is struggling with what has happened to him and with what he is ultimately expected to accomplish. In the latter part of the film there are some very poignant revelations that can be very moving, and you really feel sympathy for the plight of those concerned as they are portrayed in such a touching and heartfelt manner.
Cinematography is of a good standard and, as we would expect from an award-winning film editor, tightly and effectively edited. The sound quality is good, with an effective musical score that enhances the mood of the relevant scenes. There are a few special effects, which are well done for the age of the film.
All in all, this is a well-made film with a good story that makes you want to stick with it to find out what happens, and very compelling acting on the part of the two leads - even more so as Tom Tryon was a very attractive guy possessing a charismatic intensity, and Gloria Talbott had a lovely and gentle quality about her, all of which further adds to their appeal in playing their roles here.
There's really nothing I can fault with this film. Very highly recommended as that rarity, a non-cheesy but instead interesting, compelling and often deep and thought-provoking, unfortunately-titled 1950s Sci-Fi film.
My copy is not the one depicted on this page so I am not able to vouch for it quality-wise, but as mine is a crystal-clear print, it is certainly possible to obtain a high quality copy of this movie despite its age.
Also on ciao.co.uk as thereddragon and ciao.com as EsmeraldaDragon.