Since the DVD is due back at Blockbuster (of all places) tomorrow, I watched the 1965 film 'The Wizard of Mars' with AB last night.
It's 1975, and the crew of a dodgy special effect en route to Mars have just spent several months stuck together in a room the size of a shipping container, with nothing to occupy them except for a couple of viewmasters and the world's largest 8-track player. Present are Cap'n Steve, who looks like a third or fourth-hand photocopy of a real leading man, Charlie, whom the MST3K boys would inevitably describe as the "wormy sidekick", 'Doc', who looks like a young Cliff Clavin
, and Dorothy, who was apparently invited along in case they needed someone to get hysterical or sprain an ankle.
Just as they're entering Mars orbit, even worse special effects knock out their camera systems and rocket systems and a whole bunch of other techno-babble systems. They crash land with all the ferocious violence of a feather falling on a soft mattress. Despite no one being injured or even slightly unbalanced by the crash, they're all panic-striken and unsure of how to proceed. Eventually the fact that the ship is on fire forces their hand, and they emerge into the Martian wasteland.
Scientists will be pleased to know that there is
water on Mars. There are also swamp creatures who resemble albino Kreepy Krawlies. Charlie, who as the most unstable and easily panicked of the group has been entrusted with the sole weapon, expends more ammunition shooting them than is used up in the average Chow Yun Fat movie. Anyone who has ever shot a Kreepy Krawly, albino or otherwise, will know how effective this is, especially if your sole weapon appears to be a BB gun.
Somehow they escape in their dinky plastic rafts, get lost in the fog, and drift into an underground river. Their very, very, very long odyssey through the caverns was apparently filmed by placing the rafts in a puddle in a cave, then shooting them from a variety of angles to imply movement. Sadly, the implication isn't a strong one.
In due course, they get out, cheerfully abandon their rafts with a cry of "Well, we won't be needing these again!" and trot off into the caverns, apparently pursued by a Martian with a vibraphone, to judge from the soundtrack. There follows many long, long tracking shots of walking. Many
long, long tracking shots. It may be that the director belonged to a religion that forbad leaving any footage, no matter how inane or repetitive, on the cutting room floor.
To spice things up, the scriptwriters inserted some dialogue, presumably in the fear that if the actors didn't say anything, their mouths would seize up.
Cap'n Steve: We must make it through these caverns.
Charlie: If our oxygen runs out, we're doomed.
Dorothy: It feels like we've been doing this for days.
Blandwagon: YES! I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL!
It should be noted at this point that Cap'n Steve may not be much of a leader, and even less of an actor, but he's one hell of an ennuciator. Every. word. is. delivered. with. the. crisp. clarity. of. a. snapped. twig. It's nice to know that even the most wooden actor has his merits.
After several days (both subjectively and objectively) they get out of the caves, only to find themselves in a desert. There they chance upon some ancient paving stones, and Dorothy wonderingly announces that they seem to have discovered a golden road.
A golden road. Discovered by Dorothy. In a film called 'The Wizard of Mars'. You can see where this is heading, can't you. L. Frank Baum isn't so much turning over in his grave as rising from it, lightning streaming from his fingertips, and screaming bloody supernatural vengeance upon everyone even remotely connected with this movie.
The road leads to the ruins of an ancient city, and thence the opportunity to film more vital walking scenes, this time in front of columns painted by Jackson Pollock (on a bad day, with a limited palette). It turns out (eventually) that the columns are actually stasis tubes, in which are stored the original inhabitants of the city. And if you want to know what a Martian looks like, think former Australian Prime Minister Billy McMahon
with a giant glowing red brain.
They are drawn to a mysterious central chamber, where a Martian spokeman I like to call Expositor gushes pyschobabble at them. They ask questions that only a very determined and anal scriptwriter would think relevant, and after about a thousand years, they are permitted to do the Martians a little genocidal favour, and are magically returned to their ship, miraculously just twenty seconds after they first ran into trouble. The Martians, you see, were masters of TIME and SPACE. Unfortunately they weren't so hot with PLOT and DIALOGUE.
Oh well. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.