An alien spaceman gives a young orphan a special ray gun with the stipulation that it can only be used in the service of good. The boy is sent to live with a kindly justice of the peace just as an evil local businessman makes a move to close the orphanage.
Underwhelming, unambitious juvenile shenanigans that boasts a surprisingly noteworthy cast and production credits. The action kicks off when local TV stars ‘Captain Talray and his Outer Spacers’ pay a visit to a small town orphanage and hand out presents to the little boys and girls. Seven year-old mischief-maker Timmy (George ‘Foghorn’ Winslow) is at the back of the line and only gets offered a couple of model spaceships from the bottom of the box. Oh, golly! He wanted a space gun instead like every self-respecting, red-blooded young American would. Luckily, a mysterious ﬁgure in a spacesuit obliges! Oh, boy!
Later the same day, Timmy is sent to live with kindly magistrate Spring Byington, who knows he’s a good boy at heart, even after he steals a quarter out of the church collection plate. She also takes in parolees from the local prison, despite living alone with pretty young daughter Anne Francis. Yes, she’s a trusting old soul but this is Small Town Hollywood USA after all, so there’s really nothing to worry about, especially when the jailbird turns out to be handsome hunk John Agar! Unfortunately, even this paradise has a serpent and the slippery snake in question is local politician Emory Parnell, who has (somehow) discovered that the orphanage is sitting on a rich oil field! So it’s up to Timmy and kindly Mayor Charles Coburn to foil his dastardly schemes! Gee whiz, it sure is lucky that Timmy has his magic ray gun, isn’t it!?
Of course, you don’t have to watch this picture to know exactly how everything will turn out. This is formula kiddie entertainment from the 1950s, and only one step removed from an episode of a TV sitcom. And what is that step? Well, mostly it’s the cast. Coburn’s comedy ‘grouchy old man with a heart of gold’ routine had been popular for decades and had even nabbed him an Oscar for ‘The More The Merrier’ (1943). Byington had also been nominated by the Academy for Frank Capra’s ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ (1938). Both were seasoned professionals and highly respected within the industry.
Even the younger players are worthy of note. Francis went onto science fiction immortality having a dress made by Robby the Robot on the ‘Forbidden Planet’ (1956) and television success as ‘Honey West’ in the 1960s. Agar did not reach those heights but remains a cult figure after extended wrestling matches against ‘The Mole People’ (1956), ‘The Brain From Planet Arous’ (1957) and ‘Zontar, The Thing From Venus’ (1964) as well as several other unwelcome visitors to our little planet. He also married both the ‘Daughter of Dr Jekyll’ (1957) and Shirley Temple, although only one of them in real life.
Further down the cast we find Beverly Garland, who became legendary producer Roger Corman’s go-to girl when facing extra-terrestrial threats. She faced down giant crustaceans (‘Attack of the Crab Monsters’ (1957)), an alien in a suit and dark glasses (‘Not of This Earth’ (1957)) and, most impressively, an intergalactic carrot monster in ‘It Conquered The World’ (1956). Winslow earned his ‘Foghorn’ nickname for his deep voice on the radio but, despite having teamed up with Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Russell for ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (1952), he never made the transition to screen stardom.
But the biggest surprise here is the participation on script duty of a 29 year-old Lenny Bruce! Yes, the notorious, ground breaking comedian whose provocative standup routines landed him in hot water with conservative America and eventually in jail after being convicted on obscenity charges in 1964. There’s no evidence of anything like that here, of course, apart from perhaps the presence of a corrupt, blowhard authority figure who needs to be exposed and forced from office. Bruce flirted with the movies a little before he found his true calling, scripting three other low budget films, and even acting in ‘Dance Hall Racket’ (1953) with then wife Honey Friedman.
This is simple, inoffensive entertainment for kids. The science fiction element is little more than an incidental plot device, but it’s an undemanding watch, even if you have to bear the entirely predictable plot developments.
I wish Captain Talray and his Outer Spacers would come to my town. They never have! It’s just not fair!