The Twilight Zone Episode 68: The Shelter

General Information

Director: Lamont Johnson

Writer: Rod Serling

Cast: Larry Gates, Joseph Bernard, Jack Albertson, Peggy Stewart, Sandy Kenyon, Michael Burns, Jo Helton, Moria Turner, Mary Gregory, and John McLiam

Composer: None (Stock Music)

Air Date: 9/29/1961

Production Code: 4803

 

Overview

Following an emergency broadcast, Dr. Bill Stockton (Larry Gates) prepares to enter a fallout shelter with his wife Grace (Peggy Stewart) and son Paul (Michael Burns). Unprepared for a nuclear attack, neighbors Jerry and Martha Harlowe the-twilight-zone-the-shelter(Jack Albertson and Jo Helton), Frank and Mrs. Henderson (Sandy Kenyon and Mary Gregory), and Marty Weiss (Joseph Bernard) and his family—all longtime friends of Jack—attempt to invade the shelter, despite knowing that only three people can survive inside.

A classic episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Shelter” contains a disturbing, insightful commentary on the human condition. Fans of Rod Serling should therefore appreciate this episode, dated subject matter (i.e. a community crisis resulting from Cold War paranoia) notwithstanding.

 

Pros

Opening with a panoramic view of an idyllic 1960s neighborhood, “The Shelter” wastes no time in establishing the friendly, harmonious environment the-twilight-zone-the-shelteroccupied by Bill and his acquaintances. Moments later, the sound of laughter and casual conversation can be heard coming from a nearby house, wherein more than half-a-dozen people celebrate the birthday of a cherished and highly esteemed companion—a display that, when preceded by the perky, cheerful music of an unknown composer, generates a most ironic contrast with the violence, hysteria, and vicious name-calling that occurs almost immediately after the Civil Defense announcement.

 

Cons

(Spoilers beyond this point)

the-twilight-zone-the-shelterThough designed to withstand the pressure of a nuclear blast, the shelter door is quickly and easily torn apart by a homemade battering ram.

 

Analysis

Operating on a misanthropic premise (i.e. that the majority of people remain civilized only when afforded the comforts of an artificial society), “The Shelter” employs a Cold War theme to explore the selfish, if not thoroughly savage, qualities of the human animal. (Note, however, that even when turning on each other, the neighbors continue to care for the wellbeing of their own families—likely a statement on the tribal nature of man.)

 

Concluding Comments

Despite forgoing elements of a bizarre and supernatural variety, “The Shelter” deserves its reputation as a haunting, well-made episode of The Twilight Zone. Especially praiseworthy are the characters featured in this episode, the sudden but realistic transitions of whom will surely perturb those of a sensitive inclination.

 

Overall Quality: 10/10

 

If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.

Munster, Go Home! (1966)

General Information

Director: Earl Bellamy

Writers: George Tibbles, Joe Connelly, and Bob Mosher

Cast: Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, Butch Patrick, Debbie Watson, Terry-Thomas, Hermione Gingold, Robert Pine, John Carradine, Bernard Fox, Richard Dawson, Jeanne Arnold, Maria Lennard, and Cliff Norton

Composer: Jack Marshall

Release Date: 6/15/1966

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

 

Overview

Following the death of Lord Cavanaugh Munster, Herman—now proprietor of the family estate—travels with Grandpa, Lily, Eddie, and Marilyn (Debbie Watson) to Munster Hall in Shroudshire, England. Unable to accept the conditions ofmunster-go-home Cavanaugh’s will, Lady Effigie (Hermione Gingold) and Freddie Munster (Terry-Thomas) hatch a plot to eliminate Herman. Meanwhile, Marilyn forms a relationship with Roger Moresby (Robert Pine)—a handsome, polite young man whose parents harbor a centuries-old grudge against the Munster family.

Munster, Go Home! benefits from the combined writing talents of Bob Mosher, George Tibbles, Joe Connelly, and Earl Bellamy—four long-time contributors to The Munsters. Sitcom buffs would nevertheless be wise to ignore this effort, which fails to retain the magic of the original television series.

 

Pros

munster-go-homeFilmed in Technicolor as opposed to black-and-white, Munster, Go Home! (a parody of the Universal Monster series) never quite exemplifies the creepy, suspenseful atmosphere that one would expect of a classic horror movie, satirical or otherwise. Certain eerie tropes (e.g. chattering skeletons, exterior shots of a dilapidated mansion, and the blood-chilling cries of a werewolf on the prowl) do, however, serve as homages to those iconic films (Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man to name only a few) that inspired The Munsters.

 

Cons

Lacking the innocent charm/beauty commonly associated with the character of Marilyn, Debbie Watson—though mildly attractive—hardly matches the archetype established by her predecessors (i.e. Pat Priest and Beverley Owen). Therefore, munster-go-homemany fans of The Munsters will no doubt lament the absence of Priest, who, despite being in her 20s during the production of this film, was considered too “old” to portray Marilyn on the silver screen.

Also problematic is that Munster, Go Home! recycles a number of comedic devices (e.g. Grandpa’s “hairy” predicament aboard the cruise ship) from prior episodes of The Munsters. In one scene, for example, Freddie disguises himself as a ghost in the middle of the night, hoping to frighten Lily and Herman; predictably, however, the plan backfires when Freddie, having observed the Munster couple for the first time, runs away panicking—a gag that had been employed to a more humorous effect in “Herman’s Happy Valley.”

 

Analysis

munster-go-homeWhile competing in a rigged drag race (a concept borrowed from “Hot Rod Herman”), Herman steers the Drag-u-la alongside Lily, who risks her life to warn her husband of the danger to his safety—a touching, if comically executed, sequence that offers a testament to the loving, self-sacrificing characteristics possessed by the Munster family.

 

Concluding Comments

By forgoing the elements (e.g. a laugh track) of a traditional sitcom, this obscure film earns its reputation as a lackluster installment in the Munster franchise. Especially deserving of criticism is the screenplay for Munster, Go Home!, which can best be described as a muddled, unamusing rehash of about half-a-dozen highlights from the aforementioned television series.

 

Overall Quality: 4/10

 

If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.

The War of the Gargantuas (1966)

General Information

Director: Ishiro Honda

Writers: Kaoru Mabuchi and Ishiro Honda

Cast: Kenji Sahara, Kumi Mizuno, Russ Tamblyn, Jun Tazaki, Kipp Hamilton, Yoshifumi Tajima, Nobuo Nakamura, Hisaya Ito, Nadao Kirino, Yasuhisa Tsutsumi, Henry Okawa, Masakazu Hirose, Akiji Nomura, Ikio Sawamura, Ren Yamamoto, Noriaki Inoue, Yasuhiko Saijyo, Yasuhiro Komiya, Haruya Sakamoto, Mitsuo Tsuda, Wataru Omae, Kyoko Mori, Hiroko Minami, Tadashi Okabe, Yoshio Katsube, Minoru Ito, Shiro Tsuchiya, Takuzou Kumagai, Toku Ihara, Kuniyoshi Kashima, Masaaki Tachibana, Hideo Shibuya, Yutaka Oka, Haruo Nakajima, Hiroshi Sekita, Goro Mutsu, and Kasei Kinoshita

Composer: Akira Ifukube

Release Date: 7/31/1966

MPAA Rating: G

 

Overview

Created from the flesh of Frankenstein, a giant monster known as Gaira emerges from the sea and wreaks havoc upon the city of Tokyo. Thereafter,the-war-of-the-gargantuas Sanda—a peaceful gargantua raised by Dr. Paul Stewart (Russ Tamblyn) and his colleague, Akemi Togawa (Kumi Mizuno)—collides with his “brother” near the Japanese shoreline.

The War of the Gargantuas is an entertaining sequel to Frankenstein Conquers the World. Especially rousing are the kaiju battles contained in this film, which, though a tad overlong, exemplify the eternal struggle between the good and evil tendencies of man.

 

Pros

Aside from green skin, Gaira fails to possess many of the grotesque physical attributes (e.g. surgical scars) typically associated with the Frankenstein monster.the-war-of-the-gargantuas Nevertheless, the distorted, menacing features of Gaira effectively convey his sinister intentions to the audience—an aspect that distinguishes Gaira, a flesh-eating kaiju with destructive inclinations, from his benevolent brother Sanda.

Also praiseworthy is Akira Ifukube’s composition, the dark, haunting quality of which serves to accentuate the underlying message (i.e. that good and evil forces remain in a perpetual state of conflict with each other) of Ishiro Honda’s narrative.

 

Cons

Lacking the charisma of a strong male protagonist, Russ Tamblyn (known for his portrayal of Riff, leader of the Jets in West Side Story) should be the-war-of-the-gargantuascriticized for his languid portrayal of Dr. Stewart—much in contrast to American actor Nick Adams, whom kaiju fans appreciate for his captivating performances in Frankenstein Conquers the World and Invasion of Astro-Monster.

Though initially riveting, the monster action in The War of the Gargantuas borders on excessive. As a result, the (already somewhat bland) human characters remain virtually undeveloped throughout this film.

 

Analysis

the-war-of-the-gargantuasDespite forgoing the central themes of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, The War of the Gargantuas includes a thought-provoking commentary on the dual nature of man. Specifically, Sanda and Gaira (two opposing offshoots of the same creature) represent the good and evil sides of humanity, with neither kaiju managing to overpower the other—a subtle statement on the inability to cast aside, at least not completely, the so-called negative characteristics that exist within the human soul.

 

Concluding Comments

For combining the moody atmosphere of Gojira with a compelling study on the human condition, The War of the Gargantuas will satisfy enthusiasts of the kaiju eiga genre. Casual viewers may, however, wish to avoid this film for its awkward pacing, dated special effects, and cringe-inducing musical number.

 

Overall Quality: 6/10

 

If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.

The Twilight Zone Episode 67: The Arrival

General Information

Director: Boris Sagal

Writer: Rod Serling

Cast: Harold J. Stone, Fredd Wayne, Noah Keene, Robert Karnes, Bing Russell, and Jim Boles

Composer: None (Stock Music)

Air Date: 9/22/1961

Production Code: 4814

 

Overview

When a DC-3 aircraft makes a safe landing with no passengers aboard, Grant Sheckly (Harold J. Stone)—an inspector with 22 years of experience—is called to investigate. With the aid of Robbins (Robert Karnes), George Cousins (Bing the-twilight-zone-the-arrivalRussell), Paul Malloy (Fredd Wayne), and Airline Executive Bengston (Noah Keene), Sheckly determines that a psychological trick could be responsible for the enigma of flight 107.

“The Arrival” contains all the elements of a spooky, mystery-themed episode: a plane with no passengers, conflicting accounts of the same phenomenon, and a character whose déjà vu slowly leads him to a horrifying conclusion. The numerous logical and continuity errors contained in this offering will likely not, however, go unnoticed by those with an astute mindset.

 

Pros

the-twilight-zone-the-arrivalBelieving the plane to be an illusion, Sheckly extends his hand while advancing toward the propeller—arguably the most intense moment in any episode of The Twilight Zone. (That being said, viewers may question why Malloy, Bengston, Robbins, and Cousins agree to participate in Sheckly’s dangerous maneuver, thereby involving themselves in a potential homicide.

 

Cons

(Spoilers beyond this point)

Encountering Bengston and Malloy in the operations room, Sheckly discovers that the empty plane had been a figment of his imagination—a revelation that seems to contradict the landing and parking of the DC-3 as detailed in a previous the-twilight-zone-the-arrivalscene, which occurs prior to Sheckly’s arrival at the base.

In addition to the illogical premise on which it operates, the twist ending is explained through an inordinate amount of expository dialogue. Audiences who enjoy The Twilight Zone for its dramatic tension may therefore wish to avoid this episode, which lacks a compelling resolution to its primary narrative conflict.

 

Analysis

“The Arrival” employs a fantastic concept (i.e. airplane-related mishaps in a sci-fi/supernatural setting) to explore the real-life issue of survivor’sthe-twilight-zone-the-arrival guilt. Though intriguing on a surface level, the scenario outlined above benefits from a more unsettling, coherent execution in season two’s “King Nine Will Not Return” than it does in “The Arrival.”

 

Concluding Comments

For building and maintaining suspense prior to the climactic sequence, “The Arrival” should be praised by enthusiasts of The Twilight Zone. The disappointing, if not thoroughly confusing, nature of the final scene may nevertheless prevent the majority of fans, casual or otherwise, from enjoying this effort.

 

Overall Quality: 6/10

 

If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.

The Munsters Episode 70: A Visit from the Teacher

General Information

Director: Ezra Stone

Writers: Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher

Cast: Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, Pat Priest, Butch Patrick, Willis Bouchey, and Pat Woodell

Composer: Jack Marshall

Air Date: 5/12/1966

 

Overview

When Eddie writes an English composition about his family, Ms. Thompson (Pat Woodell) and Mr. Bradley (Willis Bouchey)—a teacher and principal at the-munsters-a-visit-from-the-teacherMockingbird Heights Elementary—pay a visit to the Munster home. Meanwhile, Grandpa invents a machine that can harness electricity from lightning bolts, causing a power outage when Herman introduces himself to the school administrators.

The final episode of The Munsters, “A Visit from the Teacher” will appeal to fans of the classic (albeit corny) misunderstanding tropes that define this series. Specifically worth praising are the ways in which Mr. Bradley and Ms. Thompson attempt to rationalize the kooky, bizarre content of Eddie’s composition, thereby setting the stage for a hilarious encounter with Lily, Marilyn, Herman, and Grandpa.

 

Pros

In one scene, Munster family members Herman, Lily, and Grandpa gather around the organ to perform their own version of “Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie.” the-munsters-a-visit-from-the-teacherThough played strictly for laughs, the above sequence should be commended for providing Fred Gwynne—the rich, baritone voice of whom had been used to record “Dry Bones,” the signature tune from “Will Success Spoil Herman Munster?”—and Yvonne De Carlo, whose character sings alongside a group of beatniks in “Far Out Munsters” from season one, with an opportunity to showcase their extraordinary vocal abilities.

 

Cons

While fleeing from Herman, Mr. Bradley and Ms. Thompson are trapped in the Munsters’ coffin booth—a comedic device employed to a more humorous effect in the previous episode, “Herman’s Lawsuit.”

 

Analysis

the-munsters-a-visit-from-the-teacherDuring their visit to the Munster home, Ms. Thompson and Mr. Bradley invent a number of excuses (e.g. malnutrition resulting in green skin) to explain the idiosyncratic features of Lily, Herman, and Grandpa—possibly a commentary on the presumptuous, ill-informed nature of many bureaucratic school officials.

 

Concluding Comments

By emphasizing the horrified reactions of two normal, well-adjusted people (i.e. Mr. Bradley and Ms. Thompson) when confronted with Herman and the gang, “A Visit from the Teacher” makes effective use the one-note premise on which it operates. For this reason, sitcom enthusiasts would be wise to view this unofficial series finale.

 

Overall Quality: 8/10

 

If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.

Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)

General Information

Director: Ishiro Honda

Writer: Shinichi Sekizawa

Cast: Akira Takarada, Nick Adams, Kumi Mizuno, Keiko Sawai, Jun Tazaki, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Akira Kubo, Takamaru Sasaki, Fuyuki Murakami, Yoshifumi Tajima, Kenzo Tabu, Noriko Sengoku, Somemasu Matsumoto, Gen Shimizu, Toru Ibuki, Kazuo Suzuki, Yasuhisa Tsutsumi, Hiroo Kirino, Toki Shoizawa, Mitsuo Tsuda, Takuzou Kumagai, Koji Uno, Masaaki Tachibana, Yutaka Oka, Rinsaku Ogata, Tadashi Okabe, Ryouji Shimizu, Hideki Furukawa, Kamayuki Tsubono, Minoru Ito, Haruo Nakajima, Masaki Shinohara, Shouichi Hirose, and Goro Naya

Composer: Akira Ifukube

Release Date: 12/19/1965

MPAA Rating: G

 

Overview

invasion-of-astro-monsterExploring the recently discovered Planet X, Astronauts Glenn (Nick Adams) and Fuji (Akira Takarada) are kidnapped by Xiliens—humanoid aliens whose original society had been devastated by Monster Zero (the Xilien designation for King Ghidorah). Desperate to purge the flying demon from their planet, the Xiliens present Fuji and Glenn with a unique proposal: in exchange for Monster Zero-One (Godzilla) and Monster Zero-Two (Rodan), the only creatures capable of defeating Ghidorah, the Xiliens will provide the people of Earth with a cure for cancer. Thereafter, the Xiliens—now in possession of all three monsters—assume control ofinvasion-of-astro-monster human civilization. Only a sonic emitter crafted by Tetsuo (Akira Kubo), a meek inventor, can save humanity from the Xilien occupation.

By combining the aesthetic vision of Forbidden Planet with the stylized monster action of Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro-Monster (also known as Monster Zero and Godzilla vs. Monster Zero) will appeal to fans of the creature feature genre. The child-friendly tone of this film may, however, fail to captivate those who appreciate the dark, moody atmosphere of its predecessor from 1954.

 

Pros

invasion-of-the-astro-monsterThough saddled with cringe-inducing dialogue, Nick Adams (an American actor whom kaiju fans will recognize from Frankenstein Conquers the World) should be commended for his performance. Worth praising in particular is the alpha-male spirit embodied by Adams while portraying Astronaut Glenn, who, in spite of his diminutive stature, puts forth a fierce and heroic opposition to the Xilien race.

 

Cons

Senichi Sekizawa’s narrative deserves criticism for its alien invasion subplot, which lacks a compelling air of tension to compensate for the slow pacinginvasion-of-astro-monster of this production—much in contrast to The War of the Worlds and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, two similarly themed science fiction films. Specifically, the machinations of the Xilien people are never explored beyond a surface level, preventing them from conveying their intentions in a non-cartoonish, let alone menacing, fashion—a problem compounded by the fact that the alien commander (the Japanese equivalent of a mustache-twirling supervillain) erupts into a fit of maniacal laughter as the astronauts depart from Planet X.

 

 

Analysis

invasion-of-astro-monsterThe first daikaiju offering to depict Godzilla as a superhero, Invasion of Astro-Monster establishes a now iconic trope (i.e. the king of monsters rescuing mankind from a dangerous and malevolent adversary) initially alluded to in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. Another important aspect of this film, a technologically advanced alien race travels to the planet Earth ostensibly to promote peace and prosperity, later revealing a sinister plot to enslave the human species—a frequently employed storytelling device in the Godzilla franchise that, though originally featured in The Mysterians, would achieve tremendous popularity through Invasion of Astro-Monster.

 

Concluding Comments

Invasion of Astro-Monster is a campy, cheesy, fun-filled entry in Toho’s daikaiju series. Especially terrific are the monster battles involving Rodan, Godzilla, and King Ghidorah, which, despite being somewhat brief, will induce “roaring” laughter from the audience.

 

Overall Quality: 6/10

 

If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.

The Twilight Zone Episode 66: Two

General Information

Director: Montgomery Pittman

Writer: Montgomery Pittman

Cast: Elizabeth Montgomery and Charles Bronson

Composer: Van Cleave

Air Date: 9/15/1961

Production Code: 4802

 

Overview

Following a nuclear holocaust, two soldiers—one man (Charles Bronson) and one woman (Elizabeth Montgomery)—from opposing sides confront each other in athe-twilight-zone-two deserted city. Suspicious of the man, the woman gradually considers letting go of her reservations and acquainting herself with a former enemy.

Featuring Charles Bronson—a man with pronounced Slavic features—in the role of an American soldier and Elizabeth Montgomery, a woman of Irish and Scottish descent, as an implied member of the Soviet Army, “Two” may evoke criticism from those with a keen eye for detail. This episode should, however, be commended for its underlying themes, which compensate for an occasional lack of realism.

 

Pros

the-twilight-zone-twoThough filmed long before the prevalence of mainstream post-apocalyptic fiction (e.g. Fallout, The Walking Dead, etc.), “Two” presents a haunting, devastating, and thoroughly convincing picture of a once magnificent society ravaged by nuclear warfare. Especially worth praising are the soot-faced characters; shattered window panes; and decrepit, vine-covered buildings scattered throughout the wasteland, all of which serve to reinforce the credibility of Montgomery Pittman’s narrative concept.

 

Cons

In one scene, the man pours a bucket of clean water (undoubtedly a scarce commodity in the post-apocalyptic world) over the woman’s face—an incredibly foolishthe-twilight-zone-two and therefore implausible act from a trained soldier.

With the possible exception of the man’s initial encounter with the woman, “Two” fails to generate an absorbing layer of tension with which to captivate the audience. For this reason, those who enjoy The Twilight Zone for its dramatic elements would be wise to avoid this slow-moving, albeit thought-provoking, episode.

 

Analysis

the-twilight-zone-twoProduced in 1961, “Two” offers a damning statement on the futility, if not absurdity, of the Cold War—a message that, when applied to any foreign conflict, remains just as relevant today as it was over fifty years ago.

 

Concluding Comments

For employing science fiction as a vehicle for political commentary, this installment deserves praise from fans of The Twilight Zone. Also terrific are the performances of Bronson and Montgomery, who, though arguably miscast, embody the quiet skepticism and paranoia typically associated with the Cold War era.

 

Overall Quality: 7/10

 

If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.

The Munsters Episode 69: Herman’s Lawsuit

General Information

Director: Ezra Stone

Writers: Douglas Tibbles, Joe Connelly, and Bob Mosher

Cast: Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, Pat Priest, Butch Patrick, Dorothy Green, Monroe Arnold, Simon Scott, Than Wyenn, Fabian Dean, Eddie Marr, Bob Harvey, and Jerome Cowan

Composer: Jack Marshall

Air Date: 4/21/1966

 

Overview

While returning from the store, Herman is struck by an automobile. Fearing that the accident has “disfigured” Herman, Marge Kingsley (Dorothy Green)—thethe-munsters-hermans-lawsuit operator of said automobile—offers the Munster family a cash settlement of $10,000. Confusion follows when Herman, having destroyed Mrs. Kingsley’s vehicle in the collision, mistakes the offer for an owed amount.

For making effective use of a monster-themed mix-up, “Herman’s Lawsuit” deserves praise from fans of The Munsters. Especially worthwhile are the (mis)communications between the Kingsleys and the Munsters, which will appeal to enthusiasts of corny sitcom humor.

 

Pros

Representing Mrs. Kingsley and her husband, attorney Ted Thatcher (Jerome Cowan) visits the Munster home in order to determine a proper settlement amount.the-munsters-hermans-lawsuit Thereafter, a number of hilarious, well-written exchanges ensue between Thatcher and the Munsters; for example, Lily explains that Herman had traveled to the mortuary for an “estimate,” leading the Kingsley attorney to assume the worst (the discovery of a “coffin booth” in Herman’s house serves to amplify this morbid misunderstanding). Also amusing is that Grandpa—now clutching a bag of moldy bread—attempts to manufacture his own penicillin, prompting Thatcher to feel tremendous sympathy for the supposedly unfortunate Munster family.

 

Cons

the-munsters-hermans-lawsuitDespite resulting in many humorous moments, the subplot involving Herman’s job search drags on much longer than necessary.

 

Analysis

Though motivated by ignorance, Herman’s decision to work a variety of odd jobs (e.g. a freight handler, a circus clown, and a stunt performer) for the benefit of his family should be commended.

 

Concluding Comments

“Herman’s Lawsuit” is a clever and entertaining, if not hysterically funny, episode of The Munsters. Therefore, those who enjoy this series for its absurd, screwball situations would be wise to view this effort.

 

Overall Quality: 7/10

 

If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.

Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965)

General Information

Director: Ishiro Honda

Writer: Kaoru Mabuchi

Cast: Tadao Takashima, Nick Adams, Kumi Mizuno, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Koji Furuhata, Jun Tazaki, Susumu Fujita, Nobuo Nakamura, Kenji Sahara, Hisaya Ito, Yoshibumi Tajima, Akiji Nomura, Haruya Kato, Ikio Sawamura, Yoshio Kosugi, Noriaki Inoue, Keiko Sawai, Noriko Takahashi, Peter Mann, Ren Yamamoto, Yutaka Sada, Kenzo Tabu, Shigeki Ishida, Haruo Nakajima, Yutaka Nakayama, Senkichi Omura, Nadao Kirino, Yasuhiko Saijyo, Shin Otomo, Shoichi Hirose, Junichiro Mukai, Toshihiko Furuta, Mitsuo Tsuda, Hiroto Kimura, Hideo Shibuya, Yoshiko Miyata, Masaaki Tachibana, Tadashi Okabe, Rinsaku Ogata, Sumio Nakao, Ichiro Kumakura, and Goro Naya

Composer: Akira Ifukube

Release Date: 8/8/1965

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

 

Overview

Transported from Germany to Japan at the end of World War II, the undying heart of Frankenstein’s monster is presumed lost in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Fifteen years later, Dr. James Bowen (Nick Adams) and his colleague, frankenstein-conquers-the-worldDr. Sueko Togami (Kumi Mizuno), discover a physically deformed child who develops a strong resistance to radiation. After escaping captivity, the boy—now more than 20 feet tall—proceeds to devour a variety of animals, both wild and domesticated, located in the Japanese countryside. Before long, Baragon—a reptilian kaiju with the ability to burrow underground—engages in a terrible fight with the mutant child.

Arguably the strangest movie ever made, Frankenstein Conquers the World may appeal to fans of B-grade science fiction films. Those who enjoy Mary Shelley’s novel for its underlying themes, however, would be wise to avoid this effort.

 

Pros

frankenstein-conquers-the-worldIn the opening sequence, a German graveyard is bombed by Allied forces during the dead of night. Thereafter, a Kriegsmarine officer and his three commandos barge into the laboratory of Dr. Riesendorf (Peter Mann)—a wild-eyed scientist surrounded by test tubes and electrical devices—and steal a living heart from him. Though underutilized, the horror movie tropes outlined above establish an eerie, haunting atmosphere similar to that of a classic Universal Monster film (the 1931 version of Frankenstein comes to mind for obvious reasons).

 

Cons

Despite offering a unique (if bizarre) twist on the subject matter conceived by Shelley, Frankenstein Conquers the World fails to provide a coherent, let alone compelling, origin story for the Frankenstein monster (referred to as “Frankenstein” frankenstein-conquers-the-worldin this film, resulting in confusion between the eponymous creature and the mad scientist who ostensibly gave him life). Specifically, no attempt is made to explain if the daikaiju Frankenstein began his journey as an orphan boy, later growing to a gargantuan size after consuming the irradiated heart; or if the heart itself had somehow morphed into a functioning, albeit heavily distorted, humanoid.

On a technical note, the monster Baragon lacks a realistic design by which to terrify the audience. Viewers may thus fail to take seriously the climactic showdown between Frankenstein and Baragon, the colossal nature of which is exemplified only by Akira Ifukube’s powerful musical arrangement.

 

Analysis

While the main characters regard Frankenstein as a misunderstood antihero, the titular monster is never portrayed in a sympathetic or even tragically endearing frankenstein-conquers-the-worldmanner—much in contrast to the Frankenstein monster played by Boris Karloff, who, in spite of his childlike demeanor, exhibits remorse after inadvertently slaughtering an innocent human being; the Japanese Frankenstein, on the other hand, gorges himself on food while laughing at the spectacle of his deceased victims. As a result of this fact, enthusiasts of the horror genre may struggle to subconsciously relate Ishiro Honda’s Frankenstein (already an incongruous creation) with the iconic flesh golem of Western literature and cinema.

 

Concluding Comments

Similar to King Kong vs. Godzilla, Frankenstein Conquers the World adds an American/European monster to Toho’s daikaiju lineup; but does so in a slipshod manner. There are times, however, when the dark tone of this film embodies, at least somewhat, the gothic essence with which the Frankenstein legend is commonly associated.

 

Overall Quality: 3/10

 

If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.

The Twilight Zone Episode 65: The Obsolete Man

General Information

Director: Elliot Silverstein

Writer: Rod Serling

Cast: Burgess Meredith, Fritz Weaver, Josep Elic, Harry Fleer, Barry Brooks, Harold Innocent, and Jane Romeyn

Composer: None (Stock Music)

Air Date: 6/2/1961

Production Code: 173-3661

 

Overview

the-twilight-zone-the-obsolete-manIn a futuristic society, a Chancellor (Fritz Weaver) finds librarian Romney Wordsworth (Burgess Meredith) obsolete—a crime punishable by death—given that all books, including the Bible, have been banned by the state. Arranging the method of execution with his own personal assassin, Mr. Wordsworth extends a last-minute invitation to the Chancellor—with a surprise in mind.

“The Obsolete Man” deserves its reputation as an iconic and thought-provoking episode of The Twilight Zone. Notably, astute viewers will observe the many parallels between Nineteen Eighty-Four—a dystopian science fiction novel by George Orwell—and the underlying themes featured in this offering.

 

Pros

Though quite heavy on exposition, the interactions between both main characters are made compelling by the performances of Burgess Meredith (“Time Enough at Lastthe-twilight-zone-the-obsolete-manand “Mr. Dingle, the Strong”) and Fritz Weaver (“Third from the Sun”). Specifically, the passion with which Mr. Wordsworth—ostensibly a meek librarian with a trick up his sleeve—and the Chancellor, a bloviating bureaucrat, plead their respective causes (i.e. individualism and collectivism) should allow the audience to personally engage with Rod Serling’s dialogue, lack of subtlety notwithstanding. Especially worth noting are the final exchanges between Mr. Wordsworth and the Chancellor, which, despite being somewhat predictable, maintain an air of credibility due to Weaver’s cowardly, groveling, and thoroughly convincing portrayal of a hypocritical authority figure.

 

Cons

None.

 

Analysis

the-twilight-zone-the-obsolete-manOften criticized for its aforementioned lack of subtlety, “The Obsolete Man” occasionally fails to represent the totalitarian position in a realistic, let alone persuasive, manner; for example, the Chancellor goes so far as to condemn Hitler and Stalin for sparing the sick, the maimed, and the elderly—a judgment that, in the real world, would likely horrify the vast majority of people. For this reason, Serling’s narrative would best be viewed as an allegory of the individual, no matter how seemingly insignificant, posing the greatest challenge that a supposedly omnipotent state will ever encounter.

 

Concluding Comments

An insightful (if not exceptionally nuanced) commentary on the dangers of worshiping the state as one would a benevolent deity, “The Obsolete Man” will appeal to fans of libertarian philosophy. Also terrific is the acting of Meredith and Weaver, which adds a captivating quality to the main thesis presented by Serling.

 

Overall Quality: 10/10

 

If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.