Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Solar System on $5 a Day (Pt 3)

This is my third (and final) entry in the Outer Space on Film Blogathon hosted by Moon in Gemini

For three days, from April 13th -15th. we are going to take a tour of the solar system.  American International Pictures is our main guide to this tour. We will be visiting many of the planets in our solar system along with a brief jaunt to Earth's moon.  We hope you enjoy this respite from your daily humdrum life.

(This is a continuation of a thee part series.  You should read Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 first if you don't want to be slightly confused...)

On our travels through the solar system we have already paid a visit to Venus, Mars and Jupiter as well as a side trip to the Earth's Moon.  Our journey is just about to get exciting, as we have saved  the best for the last.  Join us now as we conclude our brief tour of our neighborhood.

Space Patrol, a British television series, is one of the film documentations of encounters with Saturn.  But Silent Running, a film from the 70's actually had a spaceship orbiting the planet.  Most other references to Saturn occur obliquely, such as the fact that the main character in the Star Trek episode, "Tomorrow is Yesterday", would eventually head a crew that was to be on the first Earth-Saturn probe.

Planet Outlaws (1953):

The hero Buck Rogers (Buster Crabbe) was a standup kind of guy who, through some drastic events, crashed his dirigible over the North Pole and was suspended in animation, along with hi pal Buddy (Jackie Moran), for 500 years.  When Buck and Buddy are found, they are taken captive by soldiers of an underground city.  Apparently initially they are thought to be spies for the ruthless dictator "Killer" Kane (Anthony Warde).

The tide turns quickly when the underground city's leader, Dr. Huer (C. Montague Shaw) finds out his captives are from the past.  Quickly Buck and Buddy become allies in trying to wrest power over the planet from Kane.  See, the city is impenetrable by Kane's forces outside the city (due to a secret entrance that only the city inhabitants know about, but at the same time they are almost virtual prisoners in their city as Kane's superior forces rule the skies.

Buck and Buddy volunteer to take a dangerous trip to go to Saturn and appeal to the residents of that planet to help in their ordeal.  But when Buck arrives, so do representatives of Kane's dominion.  And the Saturnites initially side with Kane's contingent.  (Why the Saturnites want to side with anybody who goes by the name of "Killer" is anybody's guess, but there it is.)

 Back on Earth Buck kidnaps the representative of Saturn and forces him to see video proof of Kane's true evil intentions.  Kane takes all his prisoners and makes them wear special helmets which reduce them to mindless automatons.   As such, the Saturn native eventually switches allegiances and sides with the good guys.

This movie was originally a 12 part serial, and the editing on it is a little stagnant in places, but it is a typical example of the gung-ho type of serial that was prevalent at the time.  Lots of fist fights and occasionally a few pistol shots, (but surprisingly very few ray guns except on the spaceships).  You take away the spaceships and the travel to another planet and it could just as easily have been a good guys vs. the mobsters movie.  Even so, it is pretty good, well worth a couple of viewings, and probably entertaining even for the youngsters in the family.

The planet Uranus, like it's predecessor in this blog entry, was also rarely seen in film. The aforementioned Space Patrol delved into the planet briefly.  And apparently it had been mined for a mineral needed by Doctor Who at some point, although the show never actually went to the planet.

Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962): 

The focus of this film is a trip to Uranus.  Our five man team of astronauts, which include Don (John Agar), who is the Captain of the team, along with Eric (Carl Ottosen), Karl (Peter Monch), Barry (Ove Sprague) and Svend (Louis Miehe-Renhard) arrive in orbit around Uranus. (BTW, if those names sound a little strange to you, it's because this film was originally made in Denmark).

The first thing that happens is some alien that is on the planet uses a sort of mind control, and while a voice tells them that it has been waiting for them and that it will use them to go to Earth to take over the Earth, time passes for them.  Although they think only seconds has passed, it is apparent they have been in some kind of suspended animation for several days, and they are completely unaware of the presence of  the alien.

When they disembark from the rocket, they find an Earth-like atmosphere and plant life.  One of them actually recognizes the area as being exactly the same as a place where he grew up.  While investigating further, the crew finds an old farm, which again is exactly like the one where he grew up.  Each also encounters the one woman he loves the most from back on Earth.

They run into some kind of mobile barrier, and when one of the crew members rashly sticks his arm through the barrier it is frozen solid.  Fortunately it heals quickly, and when the crew discusses what they should do, three of them are designated to check out what's beyond the barrier.  Decked out in spacesuits, they advance through it and find an entirely different  situation on the other side.

The alien, it turns out, is using their minds to create the things they fear the most.  Giant rat-like creatures and a huge tarantula attack them on different occasions.  They eventually cotton to the idea that there is an alien presence and just what it's goals are.  They realize their only chance of escape is to cross the barrier and find and kill the alien in it's lair or they will never be able to leave Uranus.

As cheesy as this movie sounds, it is by far the best movie of the entire weekend.  If you don't watch any of the others, you really shouldn't miss this one.  If it sounds vaguely familiar as a story, it seems to me at any rate to be somewhat based on a Ray Bradbury story "Mars is Heaven".  At least the elements of an alien force using the minds of the Earthlings to create a world they can relate to seem to mirror that story.  It ain't Casablanca, folks, but if you like your entertainment on the cheap side, it is well worth a look.

In conclusion, we had to miss out on our complete tour of the solar system.  Both Neptune and Pluto received some peripheral attention in the Doctor Who and Space Patrol TV series, but no real investigation of the planets has ever been recorded. Suffice to say both would be intriguing places to visit, but they will have to wait for more in depth surveillance before we make an attempt to land there at this point.  Your safety is paramount.

We will now return you safely to planet Earth.  Hope you enjoyed the trip.



  1. One thing I have gleaned from all of this, Mr. Tour Guide, is that unless you are prepared for a lot of strange things happening, it is best not to explore other planets. I'll stay home and wait for the written reports in triplicate.

    1. Good thing I didn't go with my first choice of "Nude on the Moon" for the moon entry, then... :-D Thanks for reading.


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