Call Me A Conformist...
Consider me just another face in the crowd among the throng of people who have endorsed the following material as worthy of your time. I feel comfortable in my evaluations here as everything here has received glowing reviews by people far more learned and probably better smelling than myself. First off is Stake Land. To the five or six of you out there that haven't seen it yet all I can say is go see it. If a post apocalyptic countryside controlled by a maniacal vampire cult is your idea of a good time then you'll dig Stake Land. Also of note, it was announced back in June that Stakelander, a for-SyFy channel produced sequel, had wrapped up its production. Needless to say I can't wait to see Martin and Mister reprise their harrowing adventures through the doomed world of Stakeland.
Stakeland's trailer is the perfect foil if you're having a good day...
Sure to inspire doom in the most glowingly happy people.
"America has fallen. A vampiric scourge sweeps the nation, turning brother on brother and parent on child as the blood-hungry beasts take deeper and deeper hold upon the land. It s hard for the survivors to know whether to be more afraid of the creatures themselves or the violent religious groups that have sprung up in response, but there is clearly only one choice: fight or die."
Stakeland is streaming on Netflix as of this writing or available for purchase in all formats from Amazon.
Next in this hit parade is the The Colossus of New York. The wise cracker in me is tempted to describe the movie as an early Sky-Net revenge homage with weird piano music about a Howard Stark looking dude who goes buck- wild on his sicko family, but the movie deserves better than that. While everything in the previous description is true, I would also say that the Colossus of New York is very good and fans of 1950's sci-fi movies will enjoy it wholeheartedly. It has all of the genre standards: Nobel prize winning scientist who gets struck down chasing his brat kid's toy glider, re-animation gone awry, cyborg revenge, the wife and son caught in the middle, and finally redemption, but not until a bunch of innocent bystanders are vaporized. Script lines like, " we must get rid of the humanitarians!" by the cyborg colossus really won me over- I can't agree more. The colossus himself is the real deal. He has laser eyes, immense size and strength, utilizes ESP and hypnosis to control others and he operates flawlessly in air-less environments like underwater. The film features an outstanding array of production and acting talent not the least of which is Ross Martin starring as Jeremy Spensser-the brilliant scientist turned into maniac cyborg. Ross Martin's filmography is no slouch with appearances in Experiment In Terror (love that one), Geronimo, and The Great Race. It is his TV credits, however that reads like a who's who of classic series; name a show from the fifties to the eighties and he was probably on it at least once. The real stand out was his portrayal of Artemus Gordon on 95 episodes of the classic series, Wild Wild West which still has some of the best opening credits for a TV show to this day. Our lead's love interest was played by veteran actress Mala Powers whose credits are equally exhausting. Interestingly and a credit to her strength is the fact that the bulk of her work was done after a near life ending bout with a blood disease that was further complicated by an adverse reaction to the medication which resulted in her losing much of her bone marrow. The film's stars are rounded out by the prolific Otto Kruger and Charles Herbert (the child actor most remembered for his role opposite Vincent Price in The Fly).
Admit it, he kinda looks like Howard Stark.
Charles Herbert with Vincent Price in
The Fly. Coincidentally also released in 1958.
The Powerfully Gorgeous Mala Powers
Perhaps even more impressive than the cast is the production team of director Eugène Lourié and producer William Alland. Their combined efforts amount to arguably the most impressive array of sci-fi movies ever made, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), The Colossus of New York (1958), Behemoth, the Sea Monster (1959), Gorgo (1961, Crack in the World (1965), It Came From Outer Space (1953), This Island Earth (1955), Revenge of the Creature (1955), Tarantula (1955), The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), The Mole People (1956), The Deadly Mantis (1957), and The Space Children (1958) to name most, but probably not all. Finally a discussion about The Colossus of New York would not be complete without some discussion about the previously mentioned weird piano music by Nathan Van Cleave. The haunting soundtrack is a study in the use of piano as an instrument of terror; pure misery and delight all at once. Further inspection into Van Cleave's work didn't yield as much as I would have liked, especially in the for sale realm. That was not unexpected as the vintage soundtrack market has been hot for what seems like forever now and with good reason when you factor in rarity and the simple fact that the music stands out. Bottom line here is if you got the duckets, buy these soundtracks when you see 'em. I'll continue to add my two cents about movies that already have had more than their share of pennies written about them in this column so please check back from time to time. As the saying goes, "you can never have too much of a good thing" and lucky for us there's a lot of good pop culture to behold.
Next Time, Escapement aka The Electronic Monster!