The Angry Red Planet

An unusual movie in many ways. Firstly; it’s back to front. We see the rocket return before we know what’s been going on. That’s not quite an original idea; the same approach was taken by Nigel Kneale to his ‘Quatermass Experiment’ some years earlier. Secondly, the only ‘competent’ walking survivor is a woman. Now there’s a hint of Ellen Ripley.

The rest of the drama is a re-enactment of their mission that is drawn from her memory. She has astounding recollection. It’s meticulously detailed and chronologically perfect. In fact, it’s almost like a movie.

They’re on a mission to Mars: three blokes and a woman – which is quite forward-looking for 1960. They get there and its a bit like tropical Earth seen through red filters. They encounter strange like forms. A hokey plant with naff tentacles but excellent taste makes a grab at her. They come to a desert area with a small clump of what look like palm trees. Unbowed by the groping plant, our feisty heroine takes a chop at one of the trunks. There is a scream of distress, and suddenly the trunks reveal themselves to be a group of legs belonging to one of the most wonderful creatures ever dreamt-up for science fiction. It’s a sort of rat-bat-spider-crab. And it’s very annoyed. I’m afraid words won’t do justice to this creature; you’ve just got to see it. The thing is far better than the rest of the movie put together. At some point it traps one their number between two rocks and starts to crush him with its big pincers. Another of the team, armed with a huge ray-gun shoots it in the face and apparently blinds it. For me that is one of the saddest moments in movie history as we watch this poor benighted beast stumble-off sightlessly into the desert, doomed and uncomprehending. Little wonder the Martians think Earthlings are bad news; they’ve already convinced me.

In due course they come to a big lake. There are soaring skyscrapers on the far shore. The team rustle-up a dingy and start paddling. They don’t get far before a jellyfish the size of our Millennium dome rises into view and comes after them. It’s got the most amazing rotating eye-balls you’ve ever seen.

It comes ashore and chases them back to the spaceship. Before the crew can open the door, the jellyfish snags the bloke with the ray-gun and we see him dissolving in its gut. Serves him right. The others shut themselves inside the ship and it lays siege. There are take-off problems. From time to time, the Martians appear on their telly warning them to push-off because they’re not wanted. And you can’t blame ’em. Eventually, they escape. The rest of the (male) crew are sickened one way and another.

Quite straightforward really.

I saw this as a kid at the cinema and found it quite scary. Though my over-riding emotion was one of sympathy for the rat-bat-spider-crab. I imagined it endlessly walking, getting hungry, thirsty, tripping-up, until it finally died. It seemed a pretty lousy trick to do to anything.

There’s better and worse sci-fi stuff around from these early decades. But by 1960 this ought to have been a lot more sophisticated than it was. Check-out ‘The Forbidden Planet’ of 1959. The budget for ‘Angry’ must have been pitiful. Most now regard it as a bit of a laugh.

Still worth a watch though for that hallucinogenic beastie.