Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Angry Red Planet (1959)

Poster for The Angry Red Planet (1959)The Angry Red Planet (1959) by #IbMelchior
#GeraldMohr #NoraHayden

A survivor from a Martian expedition struggles to remember what happened up there.

“Sights beyond belief!”

“In magnificent color”

#Horror #SciFi

The Angry Red Planet (1959) Is another one of those 1950s sci-if movies that feels like a forerunner of modern sci-if horror like Alien (1979). I’ve looked at a few of them in recent months: It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) is one example. The Angry Red Planet Is probably not quite as directly influential, but it’s about a mission to another planet (Mars) that goes awry and unleashes a horror upon the crew.

It’s also got a bit in common with The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), in that it features an alien race delivering a dire warning to the people of Earth –

And I will now issue a slight SPOILER ALERT warning here, as this message comes up near the end of the movie (but I don’t think it ruins anything to read it here).

The warning goes something like this:

”Men of Earth, we of the planet Mars give you this warning. Listen carefully and remember: We have known your planet Earth since the first creature crawled out of the primeval slime of your seas to become man. For millennia, we have followed your progress. For centuries, we have watched you, listened to your radio signals and learned your speech and your culture, and now you have invaded our home. Technological adults, but spiritual and emotional infants… Your civilization has not progressed beyond destruction, war and violence against yourselves and others. Do as you will to your own and to your planet, but remember this warning – do not return to Mars. You will be permitted to leave for this sole purpose. Carry the warning to Earth – “Do not come here.” We can and will destroy you – ALL life on your planet – if you do not heed us. You have seen us, been permitted to glimpse our world. Go now. Warn mankind not to return unbidden.”

I’ve seen The Angry Red Planet (1959) a few times over the years. I always forget which one it is until a start watching it (which may say something about how memorable – or unmemorable – it is). I tend to get it confused with Planet of the Vampires (1965), which is a much better movie in my opinion. Still, I find The Angry Red Planet to be an acceptable time passer. It’s not the best movie of its kind, but it’s nowhere near the worst. It was written and directed by Ib Melchior, who later wrote the screen story and the English screenplay for Planet of the Vampires. So maybe there’s good reason for me to confuse the two movies…

Ib Melchior also wrote the original story for Death Race 2000 (1975), one of my all time favourites. So for that reason alone he will always have my deepest respect. 

The star of The Angry Red Planet is Nora Hayden, who plays one of the only survivors from the mission to Mars. It’s through her memories that the story is told in flashback. Nora Hayden appeared in a number of movies throughout the 1950s, many times in an uncredited role. The Angry Red Planet is one of her biggest and best roles. She mainly did TV shows after that, and her career pretty much petered out by the end of the 1960s. It’s too bad. She’s very good in The Angry Red Planet, and she’s a strikingly beautiful redhead who surely could have found a legion of fans for that reason alone. But who knows why some people make it and others don’t? 

The last thing Nora Hayden did was a movie called The Perils of P.K. in 1986. The plot is described on the IMDb as “P. K., a former movie star now reduced to working as a stripper in a Las Vegas nightclub, is desperate for a comeback, and thinks she could make one if she could only get a big-name star to appear in a movie with her…”. The movie features a long list of big names, including Dick Shawn, Jackie Mason, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Heatherton. It was not a big hit. It was produced by Nora Hayden, and one can’t help but view it as a thinly veiled autobiography of sorts. At least in the sense of it being an attempt to resurrect her career. It’s very hard to find now, but those who’ve seen it say that it’s pretty darn bad. One reviewer on the IMDb says:

The Perils of P.K.‘ is beyond awful… (It) is Hayden’s self-financed attempt at a star vehicle, made in 1986 when her looks and her talent had both diminished significantly. This whole sorry affair was filmed in Las Vegas and has the air of a very amateurish home movie.”

I’ve never actually seen The Perils of P.K., but now I really want to.

In the meantime, I will simply have to enjoy revisiting Hayden’s performance in The Angry Red Planet (1959) – which I seem to do every few years. It’s certified #NotQuiteClassicCinema that could be a fine addition to any deep-space-mission-gone-wrong film festival on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.