Saturday, November 10, 2018
This is my entry in the Claude Rains Blogathon hosted Pure Entertainment Preservation Society
In the history of Hollywood, there have often been actors and actresses wh, at the end of their carrers, often took less than stellar roles in less than auspicious films, probably just to help pay the bills. Basil Rathbone, for instance, a phenomenal star who was best remembered for being THE Sherlock Holmes in his early career, made two (if not more) sub par movies at the end of his career (Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet and Hillbillies in a Haunted House).
Claude Rains, who burst on the scene in a memorable role in which you never see his face (until the end of the movie) as the titular The Invisible Man. He went on to star in dozens of movies, including as Humphrey Bogart's friend (and foil) in Casablanca, Jimmy Stewart's mentor (and foil) in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ingrid Bergman's foil in Notorious, and Bette Davis' husband in Mr. Skeffington, all of which earned him nominations for Oscars (but which he didn't win.)
Battle of the Worlds (1961):
On a remote island observation post, Fred (Umberto Orsini) and his girlfriend, Eve (Maya Brent) make plans to transfer to the mainland, not only so they can get married, but also so they can get out from under the thumb of the head of operations on the island, Professor Benson (Claude Rains). There are not many people on the island who actually like working with Professor Benson because he is pretty much an obnoxious twit, someone who thinks he is smarter and better than anyone else in the world.
Claude Raims is almost virtually unrecognizable in his coke-bottle glasses and uruly (and white) hair. He lives in seclusion, even on the remote island that has a half dozen or so fellow scientists working. Somewhat derisively referred to as "the Old Man" by his felolow scientists, he lives in a greenhouse away from the rest of the crew. He is wholly dedicated to his god, "calculus" (a study in the field of mathematics, for those of you who may not know).
The scientists become aware of an object coming towards the Earth. "The Outsider", as it is called, seems to be on a direct collision course with Earth. But Professor Benson insists that his calculus tells him t will pass only about 95,000 miles outside of Earth's orbit. But, they wonder, why did the outpost on Mars not get word of it's impending arrival first. It turns out there was a magnetic storm on the outpost that severely curtailed communications. (rather inconvenient, unless it was necessary for the plot, I'd say.)
It turns out Professor Benson was right. The object did pass about 95,000 miles away from Earth. Well, not exactly. It comes to a complete stop 95,000 miles away. But then it begins to orbit Earth. And worse it seems to be moving closer to Earth with each orbit. Clearly the planet is being controlled by some alien intelligence. Benson is adamant that the alien planet should be bombarded forthwith with bombs to destroy it before it can cause havoc on Earth, but superior bigwigs decide it must be investigated.
A rocket ship sent to investigate is destroyed by a horde of flying saucers. THe saucers, being computer controlled, may have a flaw that can be exploited however. (Sounds vaguely familiar, huh? Maybe the writers of Independence Day saw this movie before they wrote their script.) The devil is in the works however, when it is discovered that the alien race that has been running the system have long been dead. The planet and it's invasionary tactics have been running on remote control.
This is not the worst movie I have ever seen (I doubt anything will ever surpass Teenage Zombies for that role). It is, however, probably the worsst movie of Claude Rains' illustrious career. It has some good parts in it, but the special effects ar pretty lame, although we can't fault that too much. It is not Hollywood big budget stuff, it's an Italian film. As anyone who has watched a few Spaghetti Westerns outside of the Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone niche knows, Italian movies can be iffy.
Time to fire up the jet engines (I wish) on the old Plymouth. Drive home safely folks.