Sunday, December 2, 2007

At the Box Office: Red Planet Mars as a Play in Three Acts

Thanks to the blog SF Signal, we learned about Sci-Fi ‘50s, a website devoted to science fiction films of the 1950s. With an opening screen of box office posters and plenty of humor, Sci-Fi ‘50s provides summaries, cast analysis, commentary, trivia, photos, quotes from reviews, and ratings of twenty-one different films, including several that pertain to Mars.

One film, Red Planet Mars (1952), is deemed a "Fake sci-fi film used to flog fanatic anti-commie religious fakery." Set in California starring a young Peter Graves with the screenplay by John L. Balderston and Anthony Veiller, the Sci-Fi '50s "Wow Meter" rates the film “a dismal -4.”

Interestingly, the screenplay for Red Planet Mars was based upon Red Planet, an equally dismal play in three acts, written by Mr. Balderston and John E. Hoare. According to The New York Times, the play, a
"political melodrama" set in London starring Bramwell Fletcher and Valerie Taylor, delayed its Broadway debut at the Cort Theatre in December 1932 because well-known English actor Esme Percy withdrew from the cast. Adding to the play's woes, it received a scathing review in the December 19 issue of The New York Times:
In this Jules Verne fabrication they introduce more ideas than they can finish coherently, and they abandon the whole project to an abortive ending. By imagining what might happen if communication were established with Mars, they turn the theatre into a scientific peep-show. ...

It drifts off into a muddle of scrappy notions, and it tosses the whole story away by proving a hoax at the end. When communication with Mars is established again it is to be hoped that, like Jules Verne, the authors have the courage of their inspiration. ...

Mr. Whorf gives an especially mettlesome performance, and manages somehow to look like Eugene O'Neill. Perhaps that is a good omen. Perhaps Mr. O'Neill will write a double trilogy on the same theme -- with masks.
Red Planet ran for only a few performances at the Cort Theatre before it closed on December 23. The performance of December 27, 1932, scheduled “for the benefit of the Tonsil Hospital at 153 East Sixty-second Street" never took place.

1 comment:

Tim said...

"...What would happen to the state of mind of America's press if Allah (God) orders the Blacks on Mars to show themselves? Yes, Blacks!"—from the book "Closing the Gap: Inner Views of the Heart, Mind, & Soul of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan", pg. 233