Red Planet Mars

Tagged: Film

Film (1952). Melaby Pictures/United Artists. Directed by Harry Horner. Written by John L Balderston (1889-1954), Anthony Veiller, based on the play Red Planet (produced in New York in late 1932; 1933 chap) by Balderston, John E Hoare. Cast includes Peter Graves, Andrea King and Marvin Miller. 87 minutes. Black and white.

Two young US scientists, man and wife, pick up television transmissions apparently from Mars. These messages (confusingly) take two forms. One class, suggesting Mars is the centre of incredible technological breakthroughs, has been faked by an ex-Nazi scientist and is designed to panic the Western World, which it does, though it pleases the evil Russians. The second class (genuine) tells us that Mars is ruled by a "Supreme Authority" who is none other than God himself. This revelation also causes chaos, and there are accusations of fakery, but religion is ultimately justified and Godless communism (the true villain) destroyed: aged revolutionaries overthrow the Soviet Government and restore the monarchy, choosing an Orthodox priest as their new Czar.

Red Planet Mars is a fascinating (and quite hysterical) product of the Cold War Paranoia that swept the USA in the early 1950s, and specifically a mirror of the widespread feeling in US society that religious crusades (as led by Billy Graham and others) were a political weapon against communism. Balderston, responsible for the script and the original play, had a distinguished career in genre movies, his screenplays including Dracula (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Mad Love (1935; see Orlacs Hände) and Gaslight (1944), but this essay in patronizing populism did him no credit. The film flopped. [PN/JB]

see also: Gods and Demons.

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