January 14, 2024

Three Obscurities from MGM: "Hey, didn't I see that once?"

Available at MovieZyng.com
Review by Mr. Paws😺

These three oddball obscurities (from different decades) aren’t classics - maybe not even cult classics - but chances are one or more of them evoke a few fond memories in sci-fi/horror fans of a certain age. Re-released by MGM, the discs are bereft of bonus material, but at least they’re once again available at a reasonable price (most previous editions are either out of print, overpriced or unavailable domestically).

On Blu-ray for the first time,
Red Planet Mars (1952/87 min) gets this writer’s vote for the weirdest sci-fi movie of the ‘50s. In a decade of alien invasions and radioactive behemoths, here’s one with no special effects or monsters…just a pair of married scientists (Peter Graves & Andrea King) making contact with an advanced civilization on Mars, which throws the world into turmoil in ways that must be seen to be believed (and isn’t entirely explained). A bizarre mix of social commentary, paranoia, red scare politics and heavy-handed religious dogma, the film is sometimes perplexing and unintentionally humorous, but it certainly thinks outside the box.

Made and released shortly before William Shatner returned to the captain’s chair, Kingdom of the Spiders (1977/94 min) is one of countless nature-strikes-back creature features that followed in Jaws’ wake. But unlike most similarly-themed B-movies of the time, this one manages to get under your skin. Granted, much of that is due to the fact spiders are inherently scary, but considering the budget, the film has a lot of well-executed sequences, creepy arachnid action (with thousands of real tarantulas) and a chilling conclusion. Despite dated aesthetic trappings and a cringeworthy romantic subplot, this is the second best spider movie ever made (after Arachnophobia) and Shatner gives a surprisingly subdued performance. My only beef…it’s only being released on DVD.

Bill sees the light.

Previously released on Blu-ray by now-defunct Twilight Time, Strange Invaders (1983/93 min) is another one of those movies that came-and-went in theaters unnoticed, then seemed to play on HBO forever. An affectionate tongue-in-cheek homage to such paranoid sci-fi classics as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the film boasts a good cast of familiar character actors in a story of aliens who’ve infiltrated a small town under the guise of people who live there. While the film is fairly enjoyable, one can’t help but think the premise would have been a lot better served if someone like Joe Dante were directing. Still, its heart is in the right place and the creature effects aren’t bad. 

None of these titles are gonna be jewels in anyone’s collection. However, nostalgia can be a strong motivator in movie buying decisions and I’m sure some folks reading this are going, “Hey, didn’t I see that once?” (as I did with Kingdom of the Spiders and Strange Invaders). Revisiting one to see if it’s better or worse than you remember is kinda fun.

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