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Zombies of the Stratosphere

Entry updated 6 March 2023. Tagged: Film.

Serial Film (1952; vt Satan's Satellites). Republic Pictures. Produced by Franklin Andreon. Directed by Fred C Brannon. Written by Ronald Davidson. Cast includes Lane Bradford, Judd Holdren, Leonard Nimoy, Aline Towne and Wilson Wood. 12 episodes. 167 minutes. Black and white.

Marex (Bradford) and Nareb (Nimoy), humanoid-appearing Aliens from Mars, arrive on Earth and make preparations to blow it out of orbit with a "super H-bomb," so that their chilly planet can be moved closer to the Sun. Hero Larry Martin (Holdren) sets out to stop them with an experimental flying Rocket suit, and a trusty forty-five calibre handgun. He appears to be Commando Cody (see below), but is never called by that name in this film. Sue Davis (Towne) and friend Bob Wilson (Wood) are on hand to help and/or to be rescued, as the case may be. After a number of fights with the Martians and their human henchmen, plus escapes from various death traps, Martin finally destroys them by blowing up their ship before the super-bomb can be detonated. Despite the promise of the title, no Zombies appear.

Holdren was appearing at the time in the serial film (later a Television series) Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe (1953), and this serial was reportedly produced from a script originally intended for that programme, only with the characters' names changed. It is of historical interest as the first sf cinema credit for Leonard Nimoy, very early in his career (and already playing a humanoid alien). Such film serials were shown in theatres in fifteen- to twenty-minute episodes – usually eight to twelve weekly instalments in all – and by this time were a dying form of Cinema. When the Space Age began with the launch of Sputnik One in 1957, filmmakers rushed to capitalize on both the renewed interest in space, and the near-panic the Soviet satellite provoked in the US. In 1958, Zombies of the Stratosphere was drastically edited down to a tolerable 70-minute length and re-released as Satan's Satellites. [GSt]


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