April 12, 2011

Beyond This Point There Be Dragons

First Man Into Space (1959)
Directed by Robert Day
Marshall Thompson
as Commander Charles (Chuck) Prescott
Marla Landi as Tia Francesca
Bill Edwards as Lt. Dan Prescott
Carl Jaffe as Dr. Paul von Essen

On April 12, 1961, a 27 year old lieutenant in the Soviet Air Force named Yuri Gagarin became the first man into space, returning to earth after a flight of one hour and forty-eight minutes. April 12 of 2011 marks the fiftieth anniversary of this historic moment, so let's pay tribute by considering Robert Day's 1959 First Man Into Space.

Today, space flight no longer generates the kind of enthusiasm and wonder it did the early 1960s. The sense of unbelievable exploration is gone now without any hint of return. The age of expansionism, of research and development, of going where no man has gone before; is over for the time being. With regard to government programs, we have become unwilling to spend money on the aged or the poor in recent years, much less on programs that shoot men and equipment into space. To paraphrase B.B. King, the thrill is definitely gone.

Thus it is near impossible today to imagine Gagarin's superhuman courage on that day in 1961 as he strapped himself into his tiny pod attached to a 300 ton rocket, which in turn was going to thrust him under a towering pillar of fire where no man had ever been - out into the frozen stillness of space. One would have to recall the days of early nautical expiration, when sailors traveled into uncharted areas on maps marked "Beyond This Point There Be Dragons," to find an analogy. Even then, the analogy does not quite hold as ship captains and crew were motivated by financial reward; whereas Gagarin did it for glory.

Lieutenant Dan Prescott seeing the stars (Bill Edwards - First Man Into Space, 1959)

After Gagarin, Alan Shepard became the first American into space that same year; and in 1962, John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth. These early space pilots, dressed in their silver suits, were like supermen to me when I was a boy; their courage and ability beyond those of mortal men. At 100 seconds into Gagarin's monumental flight, chief designer of the Soviet Space Program, Ivan Ivanovich spoke to the cosmonaut: "T plus 100. How do you feel?" Hearing obvious strain in Ivanovich's voice, Gagarin said "I feel fine. How about you?"* The Americans certainly weren't short on cool, either: On the day of John Glenn's mission, his parents watched the event on television with reporters from the Glenn home in Ohio. "I'll bet he's cool as a cucumber," said Glenn's father as the countdown started. He was right. At liftoff, the astronaut's pulse rate didn't even rise; registering a steady, calm, normal at 60 to 80 beats a minute.**

Nearly half a decade later, the heroic status of these early astronauts and cosmonauts hasn't diminished for me; nor can I forget how incredible was the excitement over America's space program. Throughout the 1960s, it represented America's prowess in exploration, technology, resources, and competitive spirit.

The movie under discussion today, in fact, was one of the early attempts to cash in on the burgeoning "space age," which had been born officially on October 4th, 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the satellite, Sputnik. Wyott Ordung's original story, on which the movie was based, was call Satellite of Blood; but producers Richard Gordon and Charles Vetter decided upon First Man In Space, hoping not only to strike a realistic tone (perhaps suggesting a factual documentary ala Disney's Our Friend the Atom released the year before); but trying also to distance themselves from the glut of space/irradiated monster movies (sigh) from the era.

Dr. von Essen and Commander Prescott (Carl Jaffe and Marshall Thompson)

Indeed, the opening scenes are deadly somber - realistic and semi-documentary in temper. We see lots of stock footage of Cape Canaveral, and pilots working in cockpits and flying test planes (most notably pilot Chuck Yeager flying an experimental X-1A). We also see a grim, bunker-like control room where a handful of men work flipping dials and staring at bulbous screens before consuls that blip and bleep. Frequently a technician will take his head-set off to report some activity.

The movie is set at a military base in White Sands, New Mexico, which makes for some interesting contrasts as the movie was filmed in England. Consequently, the landscape of the arid desert of White Sands is often portrayed as heavily green and forested; and the principals are often bundled up in jackets with their breath steaming into the cold air of an English winter. Running operations at the base is Commander Charles Prescott (a well cast Marshall Thompson); a ram-rod straight, uncompromising officer who never takes his eyes off mission. As bad luck would have it, his brother, Lieutenant Dan Prescott (Bill Edwards) is stationed in White Sands as well; piloting new test aircraft for the space program. Flyer Dan is the opposite of his stoic, hard-assed brother: He's a hot dog, gung-ho ace that doesn't mind breaking the rules or disobeying orders to promote his own career (Edwards in the role brings to mind Dennis Quaid as astronaut Gordon Cooper in 1983s The Right Stuff).

The battle of the brothers provides the basic dramatic thrust of the picture in the early going, with big brother Charles constantly barking orders and reprimands at his grinning, gum-chewing, go-for-broke sibling. To completely exacerbate things, cocky little brother has a gorgeous girlfriend as well, Italian scientist Tia Francesca (Marla Landi); whom the commander only considers a source of distraction for his easily distracted brother. On hand as well to beef up the pictures' scientific atmosphere is German scientist Dr. Paul Von Essen (Carl Jaffe) - clearly a stand-in for real life German rocket scientist, Wernher von Braun.

Lieutenant Prescott has been testing the first generation of aircraft which have the capacity to fly high and fast enough to exit earth's atmosphere, but as yet Commander Prescott has always ordered him down before that blue dome is breached. The mission, after all, is to collect data on the aircraft, not (as yet) launch a man into space. The picture churns along rather grimly, establishing this push-pull between the brothers; until little brother, starved for danger and glory, breaks one rule too many.

One afternoon while test flying a Y-13 plane, Pilot Prescott reaches the upper ceiling of Earth's atmosphere. The plane is bucking and shuddering, and stars begin to appear around him. His brother, Commander Charles, demands that he come back to earth.

"No, Sir," says the pilot, his eyes alight and his voice nearly giggling with excitement, "I'm going straight up! First man into space!" He fires his boosters and blasts himself right out into the starry, airless black yonder.

After some screaming into the radio's microphone, contact is lost. Commander Prescott resigns himself stoically: "Well, he's on his own now. First man into space. He'll either hit the moon or orbit the earth for the rest of his life" (this either-or scenario actually seemed very possible in the early days of the space program).

At his juncture in the movie, the texture of things change. What was a character driven, semi-documentary endeavor becomes a straight-up horror movie. Once into space, Dan encounters a cloud of what seems to be asteroid dust. Whipping around like flurry of snow, it engulfs Dan's ship. He manages to fly through it, but quickly loses control and has to eject from the craft.

Back on earth, Charles and his team eventually manage to find the Y-13, which has crashed back to earth conveniently close in a nearby field. The craft is covered with a strange, barnacle like coating which seems hard as steel and clearly isn't of earthly origin. Initially, von Essen, despite his German accent, isn't able to determine what the material is. Dan is assumed dead - his body lost in space; and brother Charles is left to comfort his beautiful widow. Charles and Tia have had, at best, a frosty relationship up to this point, but they begin to warm to one another, twined as they are in mutual grief. The scenes between actors Thompson and Landi are very good, with both performing so well their growing attraction seems unhurried and believable. When breaking the bad news to Tia, Charles talks about his brother; beginning rather gruffly but softening quickly, working his hat in his hands. Tia listens to him, her eyes growing warmer the more he speaks.

Tia and the commmander (Marla Landi and Marshall Thompson)

This period of mourning and developing mutual attraction is premature, however, because Dan is not dead. The astronaut has returned to earth, his body covered with the same adamantine material that has encrusted his craft. We see scenes of a shambling, dark encrusted creature (Dan) rumbling over the countryside, killing a motoring couple before breaking into a local blood bank, where he kills a nurse as well. Commander Prescott and local authorities investigate and find the interior of the blood bank a scene of carnage - blood splattered and smeared over the floor and walls, all the glass containers broken - and, horrifically, the bloody smear patterns on the floor and tabletops indicate that a large pair of hands has attempted to scoop up the blood. In addition, local farmers have begun reporting slaughtered livestock.

Back at the base, Dr. von Essen has continued his analysis of the crusty material and has made some startling conclusions. The doctor has determined that the material is a coating occurring naturally in space - a kind of cosmic dust that collects to cover any detected life as a protection against the harsh environs of the cosmos. This amazing hypothesis is made, in true atomic age, sci-fi fashion; apropos of anything resembling evidence or priori knowledge. Further, and even more interestingly, the conclusion envisions the universe as a sort of corporal body, all parts interconnected with relationships, like antibodies and white corpuscles in the human body. In von Essen's theory (which is immediately accepted as fact), the space coating senses an unprotected life (the ship) and immediately rushes to encase it - much like coagulants in the blood rushing to a compromised cell or tear in the flesh.

This coating, the doctor concludes, must have rushed to cover Dan's ejected body as well, encasing him - spacesuit and all - in a protective shell of black, lumpy crust. This hideous armor, which looks like a thick, hardened coating of tar; has allowed Dan to survive the plummet to earth through Earth's atmosphere.

Dan and von Essen make another discover regarding the substance: It not only protects whatever it covers with a invulnerable shell, it has defensive properties as well. In the lab with Essen, Chuck waves a hunk of the substance near a piece of foam rubber. Instantly a clean, deep slice appears in the rubber, sparkling at the edges with a shimmering, flakey substance like flecks of mica (this substance is important as Dan has noticed this same flakey stuff along the wounds in dead livestock and at the scene of the blood bank bloodbath). Thus, it is discovered that the space coating slices and dices whatever it comes near by projecting this mica substance away from itself like a porcupine throwing quills.

Through these discovers, Commander Prescott realizes that his brother is still alive and has been running rogue over the countryside, encrusted with the space material. Eventually Chuck and Dr. von Essen learn that the coating is only meant to exist in the weightless, airless vault of space and is rapidly destroying Dan's mind and body. The thick, black, shapeless coating has left him with only a single eye, looking like white egg in tar, and a small pit of jagged teeth remaining of the once human face. Most importantly, Dan's body has been deprived of oxygen (we have heard him breathing with terrible rasps and hisses throughout the picture). The only way he is able to get any oxygen is to consume blood - thus the scooping and slurping marks at the blood bank.

Eventually,nearly by instinct, Dan hobbles and lurches back to the base, looking for help. Dr. Essen, working on the assumption that the living coating needs to be in a space-like environment, guides the grunting, arm-swiping monster into a high-altitude chamber. Once inside, Dan attempts to work the chamber's controls, but the crust on his hands is far too thick for such intricate work. Brother Charles rushes into the chamber against the protestations of Dr. von Essen. As Charles spins the portal door shut behind him, Dan initially sees his brother as only a threat. He bumbles around the chamber after Chuck, sweeping his lethal hands around, while his brother hollers at him, "It's Me! I'm Charles! Dan, It's Me!" As the two brother's struggle, von Essen is raising the altitude in the chamber, hoping that the pure, simulated elevation will clear Dan's thinking. It isn't until Dan has his brother trapped in a corner, and his hulking shadow covers Chuck's face, that the heightened atmosphere finally begins to restore the function of his mind - his memory. Finally, Dan's ulcerous eye focuses on his brother's face, registering a connection.

"Ch . . . Chuck," he says, his voice a croak. The commander, drenched in sweat, nearly swoons in relief. He lowers his head and gathers himself. "Dan," he says. "We want to help you."

Chuck guides his brother to the chamber's pilot seat and simultaneously straps on an oxygen mask himself. He wraps a blood pressure monitor on his brother's arm. Nearly unconscious himself from the increasing altitude, Chuck slumps back against a wall and draws in huge breaths through the mask. He then directs his brother's attention to von Essen, who is watching through a heavy glass window. The doctor speaks to Dan through a speaker system, telling him he wants to help him.

Dan's speech has become clearer than before, sounding child-like now and pleading: "Doctor. I've been searching for you," he says. "Everything seems strange and dark. I . . . I couldn't find you."

Brothers in the chamber (Bill Edwards and Marshall Thompson)

Dan haltingly tells the Dr. of his experience in space - how the storm of asteroid dust covered him, melting away the visor of his helmet and part of his suit - describing the sensation as like being under machine gun fire. He remembers being ejected from the craft, but little else. Struggling under the effects of his ravaged metabolism, he wasn't sure if he was dead or in limbo. His only consciousness has been an instinctive need to survive. Under his smothering coating of crust, he tells von Essen "I feel like I have been groping my way through a maze of fear and doubt."

As Dan talks, Tia (who is working the BP monitor from outside the chamber) watches as tears stream down her face. The atmosphere is raised higher and higher. Finally it becomes obvious that help has come to late. "It's no good," says Dan at last. With a weakening voice, he calls for Tia, who rushes to the window. Dan stares at her, his eye large and shimmering. "I'm sorry things had to happen this way," he says, his voice now a halting stammer. "But, you see . . . I just had to be . . . the first man into space."

Dan's body slumps and he crumbles to the floor. They open the chamber door, and Chuck stumbles out, trying to clear his head. After von Essen sums things up with a eulogy over Dan's body, expressing admiration for the men that make sacrifice for progress; Tia steps into the hallway and sees Commander Prescott walking away down a hall alone. He is moving slowly, both from the weight of sorrow and the physical trauma of the chamber. Seeing him stumble, Tia suddenly rushes down the hall and wraps her arm in his for support. The two walk along, arm in arm, as the music soars to a fadeout.

All in all, a very well constructed and directed movie without any sag in the middle. There is a certain robust quality to the entire affair - good acting, good directing (there is a build-up and crescendo in the film that works particularly smoothly and effectively), all topped off by a very good script that has just the right amount of sparse poetry about it. A couple of aspects, though, are certainly worthy of further illumination. So, let's get to it.

The Good Stuff, Part I: The Monster

The space-encrusted monster in this movie is a particularly interesting and well thought out creation. The concept of a universe alive as a corporate whole, networked by an interactive web of functioning parts (the asteroid dust that finds and covers unprotected life) is a real piece of brain candy. The coating allows Dan to survive the hardships of space by its hard exterior, and it even provides a system of defense (the shard-like particles that leap off and slice away anything that comes too near). This protection allows his violent return to Earth, but once in Earth's gravity and atmosphere, it begins to kill him by denying him oxygen. The only way he can oxygenate his blood is to consume blood, but he can never really get enough. Under this grotesque, space shell; his body is burning out, consuming itself - nearly somnambulant. Only Dan's will keeps him struggling for survival. The science of this construct is wobbly, of course, but that really doesn't matter a damn. It's multi-layered, imaginative, and interesting - and that's worth a bushel more than scientific accuracy any day.

Dan recognizing his brother (Bill Edwards)

The budget for the picture was so small, actor Bill Edwards wore the monster suit himself; and Mr. Edwards must have been damned grateful the movie was shot in England - and winter at that - instead of the New Mexican desert where the film is set. Even so, it must have been extremely uncomfortable. Despite its simple design (it's basically a suit of rubber), the costume works extremely well. It is so successful, in fact, it is easy to imagine the asteroid/space flurry covering man and suit as a whole, perhaps melting parts of the suit while leaving others; to form an awkward, hardening creature with bulbous extremities. Dan says near the end of the picture that he thought his visor melted during the encasement, and that's obvious in the suit. It looks, in fact, like Dan's face has melted, too, forming a piece with the coating. An eye is left glaring out of the curst - swollen and white as a blister. One can see the shards and ravages of an open mouth as well, a few spikes of teeth. Excellent stuff, all things (budget & shotgun shooting schedule) considered.

The Good Stuff Part II: The Ying and Yang of Brotherhood

The relationship between the two Prescott brothers, Chuck and Dan, provides the First Man with a rich, emotional core that steadily pays dividends throughout the picture.

For starters, the brothers are perfectly cast. First Man producer, Richard Gordon, has commented more than once (on the commentary track for this film and several others) that he used Marshall Thompson so often because the actor was very easy and pleasant to work with - always a professional who came ready for a day's work; and a good actor into the bargain. Gordon has also made mention of the fact that Thompson was an extremely no-nonsense guy - a man who never drank, dallied ever with his female co-stars (he was a very devout family man); and - despite apparent prompting from the producer Gordon himself - never engaged in any after-shooting shenanigans. While his co-actors partied and carried on - Thompson would be in his room, speaking to his wife on the phone. In short - an admirable if straight-backed fellow right down the line. In other words, the part of the ramrod commander, Chuck Prescott, fit him like a starched, white glove.

Bill Edwards, with his crooked smile and space-age crew cut, does excellent work as well. Everything he says sounds like braggadocio and, although everything is said with loud good nature; every word also feels like a challenge or declaration. The two actors (and characters) really capture the Ying and Yang relationship of brothers necessary to make the picture hum. Edwards has the whipcord lean look of an astronaut where Thompson is shorter, more solid. Where Chuck (Thompson) is too cautious, Dan (Edwards) forces things forward. Where Dan would blunder politically or choose his battles poorly, Chuck levels him off. Working in symbiosis, this team of two has become the stars of the fledgling space program. One without the other would either become a competent, reliable functionary (Chuck); or a washout burning his wick too hotly for a sustained career (Dan).

The Prescott brothers (Marshall Thompson and Bill Edwards)

Often, the two want only to give one another a good thrashing; but through their mutual irritation, their brotherly kinship shines through in sudden, subtle moments (a nuanced subtlety exists throughout the movie; credit to director, Robert Day): After Dan is presumed dead, Chuck must break the news to Tia. She angrily blames him for not stopping Dan from making the leap into space. "You only thought of him as a piece of equipment," she says, crying in fury. "Why didn't you stop him?" "I tried," says the commander. "I don't believe you," says Tia, turning her back. The commander steps up behind her, looking at her. For all the cruelty of her words, he isn't angry. "I've been trying to stop him since we were kids," says Chuck. He looks down, away at nothing. He speaks softly, as if to himself: "He was always climbing the highest tree or swimming farther than anyone else. With Dan it was all the way or nothing." Tia, who has visibly softened to the commanders words about his brother, adds softly: "He wanted to be the first man into space," and her words become a eulogy.

The final moments of the film provide the most vivid evidence of the brother's light/dark relationship: As the atmosphere of the chamber rises, Dan thrives while Chuck becomes weaker. Even here, their relationship is twined - reciprocal. And it is in the chamber that the brothers' relationship is stripped away of all peripheral sibling detritus, leaving only the devotion of blood - a bond between big and little brothers that is universal. As his thinking clears, Dan is asked a series of questions about his flight, which he answers, struggling for air and starring at Dr. von Essen through the window. How high did you go? he is asked finally. Suddenly his voice becomes strong, nearly happy with enthusiasm, and his single eye brightens: "About 250 miles! Maybe 300!" for the first time he turns painfully in his chair to face his brother, who is close to passing out in the simulated atmosphere. "Chuck!" he asks plaintively. "Did you hear that?" "Yeah, Dan. I'm listening," says Chuck soothingly through his oxygen mask. And for a moment, the universal relationship of siblings has been stripped to the essence: Dan is simply a little brother seeking approval from his older brother; and Chuck is just the older brother, letting him know he's done well - that he's proud of him.

But even as Dan continues to talk, we hear his heart faltering on the monitor; the beats growing softer - further apart. Dan's voice has become a crackling, piteous whisper. "He can't breath," says Chuck, motioning upward with his hand. "Take him higher." Chuck says this knowing a higher, simulated altitude will cost him his own life. Dan locks his eye on his brother - waits for his big brother to look at him. "Chuck," he says simply. "It's no good. I'm finished." Loving brothers to the end.

The Good Stuff, Part III: The #1 Most Unscientific Beautiful Scientist

As I mentioned last post, atomic age sci fi has more than its fair share of gorgeous, female scientists and lab assistants - Mara Corday (Tarantula, Arnold 1955): Joan Weldon (Them!, Douglas 1954); and Barbara Lawrence (Kronos, Neumann 1957) come immediately to mind. In this long tradition, Marla Landi as Dr. Tia Francesca is easily the least comfortable in a lab coat; which is just fine because the film makers are never foolish enough to put her in one anyway. In fact, despite being a rocket scientist, she projects absolutely nothing in the way of scientific curiosity or acumen (by contrast, Mara Corday in Tarantula genuinely enjoys herself, dressed in a lab coat - and actually seems interested in things scientific). Landi is dressed in nothing but fine, stylish outfits throughout; even in the final scene when she is asked to run the heart monitor (the single technical duty she performs in the movie). She does so by standing next to the machine and placing her hand on a control, looking like a - well, a fashion model touching a stage prop.

None of this is to suggest that she is not good in her role; which she is. Landi was, and is, a beautiful woman who as Tia projects a sincere warmth that adds a great deal to the picture. Her love for hot shot Dan seems completely believable; as does her gradual melting toward Chuck (and, not for nothing, she delivers one world class scream during the proceedings that nearly made me jump out of my chair). Still, the award of Least Scientific Beautiful Scientist must be given to someone, and it goes to Ms. Landi going away.

There is a great deal to enjoy in First Man Into Space. One important thing the film nails is the "right stuff" attitude of the fictional first man in space, Lieutenant Dan Prescott. "Dan couldn't exist unless he was risking his life," says Chuck of his little brother after his presumed death. The same might be said of the real first man in space, Yuri Gagarin. After returning safely from his historic flight, the young cosmonaut became an international celebrity and a hero of the Soviet people. Afraid of losing their "new Soviet man," authorities tried to forbid him from flying anymore. Gagarin wouldn't go for it. In March of 1968, after a three month enforced grounding, Gagarin took off in a MiG-15 in bad weather. He was killed when his plane went down in the woods north-east of Moscow, an adrenaline junky to the end.

Think of an evening spent watching First Man Into Space as a popcorn tribute to those early space pioneers who, with a lust for adventure and glory, first ventured to that part of the map filled with unknown dragons.

* "The astronauts of planet Earth" Financial Times, April 2, 2011
** Jeff Lyttle, "John Glenn: An American Story" Columbus Monthly, August 1998

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  1. Awesome, timely post ! I had no idea a movie with such a boring, matter-of-fact title~ could be rife with so many cool, mind-bending concepts. And the special effects for the crusty astronaut are fantastic even by today's standards ! Thanx for opening my mind once again~ I will be seeking this one out.

  2. You might want to cover Thompson's other sci-fi films, Fiend Without a Face (as a different military character), with a beautiful scientist/love interest and really-kool monsters--mobile brain-spinal cord creatures, and IT! The Terror from Beyond Space, one of the main inspirations for Ridley Scott's Alien!

  3. Lysdexicuss: Yeah, this one's pretty cool with the concepts! Thanks for the kind words.

    BrittReid: I have recently covered Fiend Without a Face (check Movie Index in sidebar). It! The Terror From Beyond Space is definitely postworthy and will find a home here sooner or later.

  4. Love the historicist approach, along with the tie-in of the anniversary of real events. Beautiful work throughout. And that monster is wonderful. I don't know if I've ever seen this, but now I plan too.

  5. You're doing good work here Mykal. Good stuff.

  6. Thanks, Jenn: That monster was effective, and the last scene really twines concept and execution nicely. One of the dying astronaut’s last words are "Underneath (the coating), I feel like my body is dying of some horrible disease." That really creeped me out. And thanks for the kind words.

    Jeffie: Thanks as always!

  7. at one point in time, when all i had seen of this film was it's trailer, i kept confusing it with all the Quatermasses and Mutiny In Outer Space, of all things. i hadn't seen any of them. now that i have seen First Man Into Space, i couldn't mistake it for anything else- quite unique, and Marshall Thompson is always good. at the time, i felt the same way about the space program as you do, Mykal. great article!

  8. Prof.: We are on the same page, amigo!!

  9. I've been mistaking this film for the Quatermass Xperiment for years, too. I haven't seen this since I was a kid. It may be time for a revisit.

  10. Dr.: I hope you do give First Man a try. Thinking over this movie has made me want to see Quartermass again (I haven't seen it in a couple of years). It's such an effective, creepy film.

  11. Just one correction: John Glenn was the first to orbit the earth, not the moon.

    You got it right about the thrill being gone. To those of us who were lucky enough to be sitting in front of our TV sets on July 20, 1969, watching those ghostly images of a man descending a ladder to the moon's surface, there will always be the memory of a transcendent experience. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much desire by the government to do it again.

  12. El Postino: Your right, of course. I glitched. Good catch. I corrected it.

    I rememember that first Moon landing. My family was vacationing in Florida. My parents, I, and my little brother all gathered around the set, watching in wonder. I was about 12 - my brother 6. I remember my father clapped.

    As you say - transcendent.

  13. This is a monster of an article, Mykal! Very informative (as usual), and although this is a film I'm really not familiar with (I too may have been guilty of skipping over it because of the beige title!), your reflections on it would make me curious to check it out.

    Love the new look of Radiation Cinema! by the way. Keep up the good work! :)

  14. James: Thanks! It's worth a check if only for the crisp script and fine preformance from Marshall Thompson. Plus, the monster is a pretty cool invention.

    Glad you liked the new look. I decided to try "lean and understated."

  15. Mykal,
    Another film you might want to compare and contrast this one to is 1965's "Monster a-Go Go". Unfortunately, it doesn't have any familial dynamics underpinning it.