Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It Conquered Corman (or vice versa)

In response to Tim Lucas' call to blog about Roger Corman today in celebration of his 80th birthday I attempted to dash this off in my spare moments at work. I managed to get this blog done before lunch so by Corman standards I should have been able to get another one finshed before 6PM. I guess I'm just a slacker!

I am a major fan of Mr. Corman with his Poe inspired series of films in the 60's being the best stuff he ever produced as director. But I would like to focus on one of my all time favorite Corman directed films from the 1950's- IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956). It's 50 years old this year which means he made it when he was 30! I AM a slacker!

In this epic we have one of the greatest character actors ever, Lee Van Cleef, collaborating with Venusians to take control of our fair planet. Convinced by the alien creatures that they have only the most benign intentions Van Cleef's scientist character goes along with what he thinks will be the advancement of mankind. Instead they, of course, slaughter everyone in their way and enslave the survivors. The mighty Peter Graves uses his trowel-like voice to try to reason with Van Cleef but its not until hot, sweater wearing wife Beverly Garland is menaced by the evil scum that he comes around and kicks some alien ass! Shot in black & white with a budget that could best be described as miserly (if you were being) the film still manages to convey a good amount of suspence and has somevery well acted scene especially early on. Van Cleef and Graves throw themselves into their roles beautifully and Miss Garland is much better than a simple piece of eye candy needs to be.
There is plenty of creepiness as we build to the climax with the alien sending out it flying bat-like minions to attack the cast. One of the most memorable aspects of ICTW is unfortunately the one that always gets the most attention. At the end of the film Van Cleef attacks one lone (THIS is an invasion?) Venusian so the hideous monster comes rolling out of its cave hiding place. And it looks like an inverted cone on wheels. With some stubby arms. And silly eyes. And did I mention the pointed head? Its hysterically stupid looking and whats even worse is that it worked great as long as it was hidden in shadows and speaking in a threatening, deep voice. Designed by Paul Blaisdel with the knowledge that it would not be shown except in shadows it is a pretty amazing critter. If it had remained in the cave as originally intended it would have gone down as one of the great monsters of the 50s. But then Roger was the director you see. He felt that since hed paid good money for this sucker it had better get trotted out for a good view. (You can almost hear Blaisdel crying over the laughter as his beast rolls clumsily across the open ground.) That's one thing about Corman- there may not be a lot of money invested but every damned penny goes up in that screen. So the Venusian rolls out to be burned by the late comer military men and the world is saved. Roll credits!

I really love this movie and not just for the good parts either. I love it warts and all. Its a perfect Saturday afternoon flick that I never tire of watching. Roger made many better movies but today on his 80th birthday I'd like to thank him for this one. You made a bad decision that will be there for the ages but you got your moneys worth. And so did I.

Happy birthday Mr. Corman and many happy returns of the day!

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