Release Date(s)1959 (June 27, 2017)
Studio(s)American International Pictures/MGM/20th Century Fox (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: D
Directed by writer/producer/director Ib Melchior, who would go on to work on other science fiction related projects like Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires, The Angry Red Planet showcases a scientific expedition to Mars and all of the horrible things that four scientists find once they land and begin to explore its surface. Shot in just 10 days with a budget of around $200,000, the film gave audiences the opportunity to see a new process known as “Cinemagic”. Scenes taking place on Mars were given a solar look with a red tint, attempting to blend together live action elements with hand-drawn backgrounds and puppet-operated creatures. In essence, it gave them a wild, new alien world to see.
While many folks grew up watching The Angry Red Planet as a late night TV creature feature, it’s not had much of a resurgence with modern audiences despite Shout! Factory releasing it on DVD a few years ago alongside other similar titles. The film is extremely quaint and old-fashioned in many ways, including its characters, dialogue, performances, and special effects. However, the real draw of it is the red-tinted sequences and the monsters that inhabit the planet, particularly one that’s a combination of a rat, a bat, a spider, and a crab. Even though the wires that were used to marionette it can clearly be seen through the red haze, it’s still quite striking. It remains the definitive image from the film, even winding up on the cover of the Misfits album “Walk Among Us”.
Clearly, the one thing that The Angry Red Planet has over many of the films that were made before and after it is imagination and presentation. Shot under the title Invasion of Mars and released by American International Pictures in 1959, it’s a film that has the potential of finding new audiences, but only those with open minds. The performances and the dialogue leave plenty to be desired, but like many movies after The Day the Earth Stood Still, the film’s closing message of man having to find his own way in the universe without destroying the lives of others, sadly, still resonates.
Scream Factory’s re-release of The Angry Red Planet comes as a standalone Blu-ray with a new transfer taken from the film’s interpositive element. It’s not in the greatest shape in the world, carrying light scratches and occasional lines throughout, but it’s a solid and detail-laden presentation nonetheless. Grain levels aren’t even, mostly due to the use of stock footage and opticals, but they aren’t all that intrusive, giving the transfer a natural look. The main draw of this new transfer is its color palette. The sequences that take place on Mars were always slightly more orange in previous home video releases, which has now been rectified. They’re shown in their intended red hue now. Brightness and contrast levels are satisfactory while black levels have some depth to them as well. The presentation is a little unstable in a couple of places, but in a very minor way. The sole audio option available is an English 2.0 mono DTS-HD track. While it’s by its nature flat in design, the score has some surprising life to it. Dialogue is always clear and discernable, but sound effects tend to override the entire track at times. Hiss and distortions are minimal, but if you’re accustomed to seeing this movie in less than savory quality, this presentation will definitely be an upgrade no matter what. English subtitles, the film’s trailer, and an animated photo gallery are also included.
Although the “Cinemagic” process practically arrived dead in the water, only being used one other time on The Three Stooges in Orbit, The Angry Red Planet manages to survive it as a B movie curiosity with imagination and style. It’s not the strongest piece of work that director Ib Melchior took part in, but it’s a definite highlight of the genre overall.
- Tim Salmons