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Space Master X-7

Entry updated 16 February 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1958). Regal Films. Directed by Edward Bernds. Written by Daniel Manwairing, George Worthing Yates, and Edward Bernds (uncredited). Cast includes Joan Barry, Robert Ellis, Paul Frees, Moe Howard, Lyn Thomas, Bill Williams and Rhoda Williams. 71 minutes. Black and white.

An unmanned space probe returns to Earth containing samples of an Alien lifeform. When Scientist Charles Pommer (Frees) begins studying the samples at his house, he is interrupted by his former lover Laura Greeling (Thomas), and they have an argument about their young son, who is now at a boarding school. After she leaves, Pommer discovers that the alien lifeforms have become growing, pulsating masses of tissue, later termed "blood rust," which engulf and kill him. To prevent the spread of this deadly organism, Pommer's house is burned to the ground, but investigators then discover that a woman who had visited the house was exposed to the alien samples. She is now spreading the "blood rust," which forms and grows on every object she touches. A lengthy effort to locate the woman is complicated by the fact that Greeling is trying to flee from the authorities, believing that she is being accused of murdering Pommer, and she is unaware that she is generating alien organisms everywhere she travels. After she boards an airplane to evade capture, "blood rust" growing in the luggage compartment expands to threaten the entire plane until it is finally able to land safely. Thomas and the airplane are then decontaminated, ending the menace.

In most respects, this is a cheaply made, terrible film, with far too much time devoted to its very mundane search for the missing woman. Much of the story is also conveyed by means of voice-over narration, suggesting that portions of the soundtrack were lost. Yet at the heart of the film is the unique, and very disquieting, idea of a mindless alien organism, propagated by the touch of a contaminated person, which might emerge from any place at any time to threaten anyone in its vicinity. Many people who saw this film as children will testify to the sheer terror that was inspired by the film's "blood rust," and to the ways that the film continued to haunt their memories for decades thereafter. Space Master X-7 is thus one of the rare sf films of the 1950s which actually should be remade, since a more talented director with a larger budget might well be able to craft a masterpiece of sf horror (see Horror in SF) from its singular premise. There are two novelties in the film's casting: Paul Frees, best known as a voice for innumerable cartoon characters, makes a rare on-screen appearance as the doomed scientist, and Moe Howard of the Three Stooges plays his first dramatic role as a cab driver who gave Greeling a ride. [GW]


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