Shirley Patterson

The Land Unknown (1957, Virgil W. Vogel)

The Land Unknown has it all—a guy in a Tyrannosaurus Rex suit (the dinosaur’s roar is suspiciously similar to Godzilla’s), lizards standing in for dinosaurs, awful rear screen projection of those lizards to make them seem large, CinemaScope, misogyny, torture, a homicidal rapist being portrayed as a sympathetic character and a cute little tarsier. The poor tarsier gets eaten by a tentacle plant, which also attacks the girl. It’s tragic when the tarsier is eaten (Land Unknown actually has some really good ideas, just no way of executing them). It’s sad when the girl survives.

Shirley Patterson plays that girl and thanks to her incredibly bad performance, some of the other weak performances are tolerable. Protagonist Jock Mahoney, for example, isn’t awful. Neither is his sidekick, played by William Reynolds (though Mahoney is far better). The film’s opening suggests the two men will be competing for Patterson’s affect (it also implies she’s going to sleep with 800 sailors… it’s a special film when it comes to how it portrays women), but it never happens. There’s just her lame romance with Mahoney.

It’s hard to find an adjective to accurately describe the awfulness of Patterson’s performance. But… even if she weren’t in the film, there’s still Henry Brandon and Phil Harvey. Both of them are atrocious too.

Vogel’s incapable of composing for CinemaScope.

Besides the surprising potential in the script, both events and concepts, the miniature settings look great. Too bad the models look bad.

It’s a laughably terrible picture.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Virgil W. Vogel; screenplay by László Görög, based on an adaptation by William N. Robson and a story by Charles Palmer; director of photography, Ellis W. Carter; edited by Fred MacDowell; produced by William Alland; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Jock Mahoney (Cmndr. Harold ‘Hal’ Roberts), Shirley Patterson (Margaret ‘Maggie’ Hathaway), William Reynolds (Lt. Jack Carmen), Henry Brandon (Dr. Carl Hunter), Douglas Kennedy (Capt. Burnham) and Phil Harvey (Steve Miller).


It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958, Edward L. Cahn)

I watched It! The Terror from Beyond Space because I understood it’s widely considered (look at that passive voice) a precursor to Alien. Any such connection is tenuous at best. I also thought Ray Harryhausen did the special effects.

No, no, he did not.

If It! were a production of a middle school theater department–I kept thinking of Kesey’s favorite Cuckoo’s Nest adaptation, with the machine off to the side, a moving feature–it might be impressive. It’d work as a play, multiple levels, all connected through the same central staircase. It’d need a rewrite, of course. Bixby’s script would be laughable if one could muster the enthusiasm.

There are there major problems with It!, not including the script (the plotting isn’t bad, just the dialogue).

First, the direction. I’m not sure I’ve seen a director less enthusiastic about a space adventure than Cahn. Budgetary limitations aside, there’s a lot he could have done, maybe angled some shots, but he doesn’t.

Second, the alien. The costume is atrocious (it looks like a green sweatsuit over a bunch of padding) and the mask is lame. Ray Corrigan, playing the monster, moves with the grace of a dump truck.

Finally, the acting. Of ten actors–we’re supposed to remember all their characters, following a painfully weak introduction to them–only Marshall Thompson gives a good performance. Kim Spalding, as his antagonist, gives one of the worst performances I’ve seen lately in a theatrical release.

It! is a painful waste of time.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Edward L. Cahn; written by Jerome Bixby; director of photography, Kenneth Peach; edited by Grant Whytock; music by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter; produced by Robert E. Kent; released by United Artists.

Starring Marshall Thompson (Carruthers), Shirley Patterson (Ann Anderson), Kim Spalding (Van Heusen), Ann Doran (Mary Royce), Dabbs Greer (Eric Royce), Paul Langton (Calder), Robert Bice (Purdue), Richard Benedict (Bob Finelli), Richard Hervey (Gino), Thom Carney (Kienholz) and Ray Corrigan (It).


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