Director Ib Melchior and producers Sidney Pink and Norman Maurer tried for something different with The Angry Red Planet, and they got it. With Stanley Cortez (best known for The Magnificent Ambersons, Night of the Hunter, The Naked Kiss, and Shock Corridor) lensing the film, the makers incorporated a process called Cinemagic, which tinted everything on the Martian landscape red, but also gave it an eerie 3-D quality. The result is a genuinely odd-looking film, in those segments where the space explorers step out of their "normal" environment on the ship and into the Cinemagic settings. Coupled with some surprisingly good, straight-faced performances by Gerald Mohr, Nora Hayden, Les Tremayne, and Jack Kruschen (playing the astronauts), and very effective model and puppet work, The Angry Red Planet works well as 83 minutes of adventure. The effects are a combination of costuming, model work, and puppets, with Bob Baker's giant (puppet) bat-rat-spider moving off in the distance perhaps the best shot in the movie. Danish-born director/screenwriter Ib Melchior brings a surprisingly light, deft touch to the proceedings, allowing the actors a chance to have fun with their roles -- especially Gerald Mohr, still looking and sounding a bit like Humphrey Bogart, as the stalwart mission commander, and Jack Kruschen as the good-humored technician in the crew -- without losing sight of the adventure and the story line, and meshing it all seamlessly with the special effects-driven sequences. The only real flaw, within the context of this kind of genre film, is in the opening segments, when the returning spaceship is first sighted and brought down -- these scenes, which may have been derived from the opening sequences of The Creeping Unknown and 20 Million Miles to Earth, seem both rushed in execution and leaden in their slow pacing and lack of tension, but after ten minutes it's into the flashback sequences that make up the bulk of the movie, which are entertaining and exciting. Those lucky enough to see the trailer (which appears on the DVD) may marvel at its cleverness, as it promotes Cinemagic while stating that it can't show what the process looks like on the screen, thus using the prospective viewers' own imaginations to lure them in.
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The United States space program reports that its missing, overdue manned Mars probe has returned to Earth orbit, but that they haven't been able to make radio contact with it. When it is brought down by remote control, they find three of the four crewmembers aboard: one of them, Professor Gettell (Les Tremayne), is dead; another, mission commander Colonel Tom O'Bannion (Gerald Mohr), is in a coma and suffering from some kind of alien infection; and the third, exo-biologist Iris Ryan (Nora Hayden), is in a state of shock. The ship's tape library seems to have been wiped clean of any record of what took place on the mission, and the doctors can't begin to save O'Bannion until they know what happened. In desperation, they decide to put Iris Ryan into a state of hypnosis, forcing her to recall the events of the mission. The bulk of the film is an un-narrated flashback in which we see the voyage to Mars and the quartet of explorers -- rounded out by technician Sam Jacobs (Jack Kruschen) -- proceeding successfully to a landing. As they draw closer to signs of intelligent life, however, the group also encounters increasingly dangerous creatures, including a man-eating plant, a giant bat-rat-spider, and a huge amoeba-like creature that consumes anything in its path. Sam is killed in an encounter with one of these menaces and O'Bannion is infected with an alien microbe, even as the ship is held fast by a powerful magnetic force. Gettell figures out a way to launch, at the cost of his own life, and Iris is left alone with the stricken O'Bannion on the journey back to Earth. The film concludes as the scientists find the one piece of information left on the ship's tapes, a warning from the Martians that the primitive, war-like people from Earth may not visit the planet again, except at risk to their lives. One of a relative handful of 1950s sci-fi films done in color, The Angry Red Planet did its rivals one better with the use of a special effects process called "Cinemagic," which gave the entire screen a deep red tint but also created the illusion of dimensionality (i.e. 3-D, sort of), and made the monsters look particularly eerie. The mixture of better-than-usual special effects, coupled with more than competent acting (Mohr, Tremayne, and Kruschen were veterans of mainstream films and television) helps make this one of the more entertaining space-flight stories of its period, though not quite in a league with It! The Terror From Beyond Space for sheer suspense.
All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder