Sunday, 10 November 2013

Menace from Space (1954)

Although there were 12 'movies' created from compiling episodes of the Rocky Jones, Space Ranger serial, my SciFi Classics boxed set contains only two. Menace from Space (aka Bobby's Comet) is the second, despite it preceding "Crash of the Moons" in the series chronology. Nice work, boxed set compiler!

The sets and the effects in this film are generally more ambitious than those of Crash of the Moons. They're not necessarily better - in fact a few of them are hysterically ill-advised - but they are trying to do more spectacular and varied things. Such elements were probably toned down in later episodes to save on costs.

The story begins with not one but two mysterious rockets launched at Earth from one of Jupiter's moons. The moon is named Fornax in the show, though I'm not aware of a moon named that in real life. Everyone is excited at the idea of life on Fornax, as it had always been considered too hot to sustain living creatures. Rocky Jones and his crew of archetypal companions promptly decide to fly there and investigate. I note that on their arrival, no mention is made of the place being hot at all. The human characters wander around quite freely without any form of protective clothing or breathing apparatus. I know such conceits are common to science fiction serials in general, even today, but perhaps you shouldn't make a big deal about how hot a planet is and then make it, you know, not hot at all.

Anyway, it turns out the people of Fornax have been fed evil anti-Earth propaganda by a wicked human who previously crashed there. However, on meeting Rocky & Co the Fornaxian leaders are smart enough to start having doubts about what they've been told. Soon, everyone is talking about trade and peaceful co-existence and kumbayah. Various bad guys do attempt to prevent this move toward lovey-doviness, or to conquer Fornax for themselves, but frankly their efforts are so ineffectual they probably got laughed out of the next meeting of the Villains Union.

There's not much else to say about this, really. Like Crash of the Moons it's not terrible, but it is pretty formulaic and lacking in any real sense of tension. About the most entertainment you could get from it would be by instituting a drinking game where you had to take a shot everytime someone made a goofy space-based exclamation ("Shining Stars, what a sight!"). Though it would also destroy your liver in pretty short order.

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