Captive Women/3000 A.D. (1952)

Captive Women (1952)‘You are the first of all Norm women to come to a Mutate husband of her own free will.’

More than a thousand years in the future, the atomic war has left the world in ruins. What remains of the population is divided into warring factions of Norms and Mutates; those who escaped the disfiguring effects of radioactivity, and those who have not.

Unusual, low-budget science-fiction from producer Albert Zugsmith (with a title by Howard Hughes!), which was the first film ever to depict a post-nuclear holocaust society. We’re over a thousand years into the future here, and all that remains after the bomb is a twisted New York skyline and scattered scraps of humanity living in the wreckage. Our virtuous heroes are the cave-dwelling ‘Norms’, untouched by the nuclear scourge and busy preparing for the wedding of the chief’s son, played by cult movie legend Robert Clarke.

Our hero’s bride-to-be is dark-eyed Gloria Saunders, who proves to be less than an ideal romantic choice. For a start, she happens to be the daughter of the high priest (not usually a good sign) and she’s carrying on behind the scenes with the ambitious Jason (Douglas Evans), who’s hungry to sit in the big chair currently occupied by Clarke’s father. Across the river (via a hidden tunnel) are the Mutates, led by Riddon (Ron Randell). They’re ugly and scarred and their main preoccupation seems to be kidnapping ‘Norm’ women in the hopes of birthing ‘clean’ children. On the bright side, they’ve kept their faith in God, while the Norms worship the devil! Also mixing things up are the nasty ‘Up River Men’ led by Stuart Randall.

The film opens with more than five minutes of ‘flashback’ stock footage, including planes, trains, the UN building and the inevitable mushroom cloud. Wonderfully self-important VoiceOver Man informs us that what we are about to see might really happen and he seems to be enjoying the possibility far too much. Given that the film only runs 64 minutes, it’s quite a chunk of the film’s total length. When the future finally arrives, it turns out to be a small, poorly-lit sound stage peopled by extras dressed in what appears to be left over costumes from a low budget production of Robin Hood! The dialogue is similarly old-fashioned and formal and most of the women have been relegated to cooking the grub and serving the ale. Weapons of choice are bows and arrows and quarterstaffs, and Clarke tops it all off with a nifty Errol Flynn moustache. His character is even called Rob!

Captive Women (1952)

‘Get Thee to Nottingham Castle, Robin!’

Up-River Randall and his goons conquer the Norm’s stronghold with the aid of the treacherous Evans and bad girl Saunders. Evans gets his predictable comeuppance, of course, while Saunders becomes Randall’s new woman and lords it over everyone including feisty heroine Margaret Field. But, not to worry! Robin and Little John (sorry, Clarke and his anonymous sidekick) team up with the Mutates to restore the balance of power. Because they might be ugly but their quite a nice bunch, despite forcing themselves on kidnapped women for the past few decades. It helps that their leader is the handsome Randell, who’s hardly scarred at all really. So he’s ok.

The script here is by Jack Pollexfen and Aubrey Wisberg and includes a surprising amount of Biblical references. We never see any evidence that the Norms are practising Satanists (no surprise, there!), and a less generous commentator than myself might think that’s just an excuse to give Randell the opportunity to pontificate about his faith in the Lord, although he is quickly interrupted by rabble-rouser William Schallert. However, later on, we get a direct parallel to Moses parting the Red Sea, which Clarke is happy to appropriate as a plan (thought he was supposed to be a Satanist?!) All this action moves along at quite a fair clip, but nothing that happens is remotely surprising.

Writer Pollexfen was used to plundering the classics, given his scripts for ‘The Son of Dr Jekyll’ (1951) and ‘The Daughter of Dr Jekyll’ (1957) and it’s pretty clear this one owes more than a slight debt to H G Wells’ ‘The Time Machine.’ Clarke went on to cult movie godhood with a CV that includes ‘The Man From Planet X’ (1951) (which also featured Field and Schallert), ‘The Astounding She Creature’ (1957), ‘Beyond The Time Barrier’ (1960), the title role of ‘The Hideous Sun Demon’ (1958) (which he also directed!) and a few projects with bad movie legend Jerry Warren, including ‘The Incredible Petrified World’ (1959) and the bat-shit crazy ‘Frankenstein Island’ (1981). Randell appeared in slightly more legitimate productions such as musical ‘Kiss Me Kate’ (1953) (playing Cole Porter!), ‘The Story of Esther Costello’ (1957) and Christ biopic ‘King of Kings’ (1961).

Captive Women (1952)

‘You can get married so long as you don’t play that Bryan Adams song.’

But the real success stories lie elsewhere. Supporting actor Schallert went onto a screen career that lasted over 65 years, only ending with his death in 2016 at the age of 93. His credits include featured roles in ‘Gremlins’ (1984), ‘In The Heat of the Night’ (1967), ‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’ (1969), ‘Charley Varrick’ (1973), ‘Innerspace’ (1987), and TV appearances on ‘Roseanne’, ‘True Blood’, ‘Star Trek’, ‘ER’, ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ and dozens of other hit shows. You may not know the name, but you’d certainly recognise the face.

Director Stuart Gilmore was three times Oscar nominated as an Editor, for his work on ‘The Alamo’ (1960), ‘Airport’ (1970) and ‘The Andromeda Strain’ (1970). He also fulfilled the role on ‘Sullivan’s Travels’ (1941), ‘Journey To The Centre of the Earth’ (1959) and ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ (1967), among others.

This is a production with some points of interest, but not a great level of entertainment value. There are also some very mixed messages about the importance of physical appearance, although the film’s heart does seem to be in the right place. Unfortunately, its moral and physical conflicts result in highly predictable outcomes and the cheesier aspects rob the drama of any real punch.

Watch for curiosity value.


Savage Mutiny (1953)

Savage Mutiny (1953)‘Well, Major, you’ve no doubt been wondering about the scientific expedition I brought in here last week…’

Leading a force of government troops, Jungle Jim wipes out a cell of foreign agents living in the interior. This clears the way for ‘Jungle Project X’; the first atom bomb test to be made in Africa. But some of the enemy spies are still around and plan to disrupt the project by stirring up the local population…

The tenth of the ‘Jungle Jim’ series finds muscle-bound ex-Tarzan Johnny Weismuller in gainful employment as some kind official enforcer for the Anglo-American government. Yes, he’s no longer working as a trail guide (specialising in the discovery of lost cities, fabulous diamonds and missing scientists) but rooting out the Commie threat on behalf of Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam Katzman, that is. Yes, the penny-pinching producer serves up yet another slice of no-budget jungle fun with the help of veteran director Spencer Gordon Bennet and writer Sol Shor.

After clearing out the local Red Threat (or so he thinks!), Weismuller heads back to HQ for to his next mission. Chief of Staff Major Walsh (series veteran Lester Matthews in yet another different role) is under orders too; those of ‘radioactivity expert’ Dr Parker (Nelson Leigh). The boffin is planning to drop an atom bomb on the island of Tulonga (the name of which has been helpfully added to the printed wall map in marker pen). Matthews points out that the island is inhabited, but Leigh assures him that it’s the perfect place to test the effects of radioactivity, so it’s all fine. The native tribe can just come to the mainland for a holiday. They might have never left the island before, but Matthews reckons Weismuller can relocate them all in a couple of days.

Savage Mutiny (1953)

‘Come on, lads, we’re only 4-0 down and we’ve got the wind with us in the second half…’

Obviously, it’s not entirely fair to impose modern day attitudes on a piece of entertainment more than half a century old, but it’s still eyebrow-raising when Wesimuller simply goes along with all this. Especially considering he’s supposed to be a long-time friend of the tribe’s headman, Chief Wamai (Charles Stevens, born in Arizona). Still, I guess that uprooting a unique indigenous people from their natural environment and obliterating their culture and homeland with an atom bomb isn’t that bad, is it? The government are going to rebuild their village and let them move back a week or so afterwards!

Also on the plus side, they’re going to get inoculated against any nasty, civilised germs by Angela Stevens from the World Health Organisation. Unfortunately, she loses her ‘carrying case containing the vaccine’ during the journey. Yes, Weismuller retrieves it from some stock footage hyenas, but the description kind of suggests that one shot of something is all they’re going to get anyway. With that quality of medical care, it’s no surprise they start getting seriously ill once they’ve made the trip, but it’s actually because they’ve been sprayed with radioactive dust by despicable commie trader Kroman (played by Gregory Gaye; a real live Russian, ladies and gentlemen!) All of which goes to show that the nasty effects of radiation exposure were even known to Hollywood scriptwriters at the time. As was the fact that you can survive a nuclear explosion by turning your back and simply looking the other way. You don’t even have to lie down. Which is good to know.

Director Bennet was a Hollywood veteran who spent many years working on movie serials, and there’s a sequence in a burning hut that will ring a bell with any fans of that medium. Likewise, author Shor was a regular on the staff at Republic Studios, contributing with a stable of writers to such classic chapter plays as ‘The Adventures of Captain Marvel’ (1941), ‘The Drums of Fu Manchu’ (1940), ‘The Mysterious Dr Satan’ (1943) and ‘The Crimson Ghost’ (1946). But the presence of these two stalwarts adds little that’s new to the seasoned formula; Bennet having already directed ‘Voodoo Tiger’ (1952) in the series, and going on to helm ‘Killer Ape’ (1953) and final entry ‘Devil Goddess’ (1955).

One of the better entries in the ‘Jungle Jim’ series when viewed today, but most of the enjoyment comes from the dated aspects of the story, rather than from anything that the filmmakers put up on the screen intentionally.

Tamba (the talented Chimp) probably does more backflips in this one than any other, though. So,there is that. You know, for die-hard Tamba fans…

The Rocket Man (1954)

The Rocket Man (1954)‘Keep your eyes peeled for that guy from Jupiter!’

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.

The Rocket Man (1954)

‘Why don’t you just go back to your planet Arous and become master of the universe then? See if I care!’

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!

Invisible Avenger/Tômei Ningen (1954)

Invisible Avenger (1954)‘Yes it seems he was studying these things, experimenting with protein collision using the Cyclot Theory.’

A motorist runs over an invisible man in the street. The authorities reveal that he was one of two survivors of a wartime experiment. Panic grips the country as a gang of criminals take advantage of the situation, blaming their crime spree on the surviving soldier…

Five years after Japanese science fiction got a kick start with ‘The Invisible Man Appears’ (1949), the box office went ballistic for ‘Godzilla, King of the Monsters’ (1954). Tucked away in the Big G’s mighty shadow was another production from Toho Studios; a return to the H. G. Wells story of scientific misadventure and ‘things that man must leave alone.’

As with the first Japanese ‘Invisible Man’, our unseen hero foregoes the usual ‘mad scientist and his reign of terror’ for reluctant involvement in criminal activity, as he is forced out of hiding to prove his innocence of a string of robberies. The gang recruit an elderly watchman to assist in their latest caper, promising him the money he needs for his blind granddaughter’s eye operation. Of course, they dispose of him instead, leaving the girl to rely on her neighbours; a kindly clown and a nightclub singer who spends most of her time resisting the advances of her boss, who might just have some skeletons in his closet.

As per usual in a Japanese film, the drama is played totally straight and the cast take the more outlandish twists and turns in the script in their stride. Principals Seizaburo Kawazu (the clown) and Yoshio Tsuchiya (the reporter) both later appeared in Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Yojimbo’ (1962) and Tsuchiya had already worked with the great director on ‘The Seven Samurai’ (1954). It’s a brisk and efficient production all round, with decent direction and black and white photography. The story does threaten to get a little mawkish at times but stops short of getting too sentimental, although there are few surprises for the audience along the way.

Invisible Avenger (1954)

🎵Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear
I thought that you’d want what I want
Sorry, my dear 🎵

In a way, the film foreshadows the development of the character as a secret agent in the 1970s on US television. The NBC Network launched former ‘Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ David MacCallum as ‘The Invisible Man’ in their 1975 season, who tried to cure his invisibility while working as an operative for the Klae Corporation. When that didn’t take, the network tried again with the unintentionally hilarious ‘Gemini Man’ featuring Ben Murphy working for INTERSECT and turning himself invisible with a digital watch. Unsurprisingly, it was cancelled after only 5 episodes had been broadcast.

The SFX here are courtesy of Eiji Tsuburaya, who provided the same service to ‘The Invisible Man Appears’ (1949) and was head monster-wrangler for Toho until his death at the end of the 1960s. It appears there hadn’t been a huge amount of technical progress in the five years since the first film, but still the usual motifs are efficiently delivered. After all, where would we be without the floating cigarette and the sinking seat cushions? By this point, Tsuburaya was able to use his own name, having been forced to hide behind a corporate identity in the post-war years, due to his work for the defeated regime during the conflict.

Although no great shakes, this is pleasing production, assisted by its relative brief running time of 70 minutes. Further adventures for the Japanese version of the character followed in ‘Invisible Man Vs. Human Fly’ (1957).

Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957)

Daughter of Dr Jekyll (1957)‘We’re not dealing with a man. We’re not dealing with anything human.’

A young couple visit her guardian to celebrate her coming of age, but she has a surprise waiting. She’s actually a rich heiress, but she’s also the child of the late Henry Jekyll, who locals still fear prowls under the full moon as a werewolf…

Dreary, low budget programmer with some quality talent but dismal production values and a terrible script with a mystery so transparent that it’s obvious after ten minutes exactly how the story will develop. Writer-producer Jack Pollexfen must bear the lion’s share of the blame, especially as he was just rehashing ‘The Son of Dr Jekyll’ (1951) which he’d written half a dozen years earlier!

Our leads are John Agar and Gloria Talbott, a couple with extensive histories in these kinds of shenanigans. Agar was the star of ‘Tarantula’ (1955), ‘The Mole People’ (1956) and ‘so bad it’s good’ cult classic ‘The Brain From Planet Arous’ (1957). He went onto deal with the ‘Attack of the Puppet People’ (1958), ‘Invisible Invaders’ (1959) and ‘Zontar, The Thing From Venus’ (1966) among others. He was also Shirley Temple’s first husband. Talbott began her career with bits on TV before graduating to major supporting roles in ‘We’re No Angels’ (1952) starring Humphrey Bogart and ‘All That Heaven Allows’ (1955) with Rock Hudson. But her movie career never took off and she was soon appearing in pictures like ‘The Cyclops’ (1956) (which was released on a double bill with this), ‘I Married A Monster From Outer Space’ (1958) and ‘The Leech Woman’ (1960).

Waiting at the old homestead (seen from the outside it’s a bad model surrounded by twigs) is the usual crew; a flighty maid, the ‘can do’ housekeeper and the sinister handyman. Master of the house is Arthur Shields, an Irish character actor more famous for appearances in John Ford films, specifically ‘How Green Was My Valley’ (1941) and ‘The Quiet Man’ (1952). He was probably more often that not mistaken for his brother Barry Fitzgerald, who won an Oscar for ‘Going My Way’ (1944). He fills in our golden couple on the grisly history of the place, and shows them Jerkyll’s hidden laboratory (a table with some test tubes), which is hidden behind a bookcase that moves when you look inside the helmet of a suit of armour. It appears that the good Doctor was actually a werewolf who can only be killed by a stake through the heart and having his head cut off! A strange mixture of monster mythologies to be sure!

Daughter of Dr Jekyll (1957)

‘Darling, I told you not to wear that jacket…’

The director was Edgar G Ulmer, who has since taken on cult status as a ‘low-budget auteur’ on the back of such interesting projects as ‘Bluebeard’ (1944), ‘Detour’ (1945) and Karloff-Lugosi classic ‘The Black Cat’ (1934), which was his only major studio film.

But there’s little even the most talented director could have done with this hodgepodge of clichés. For a start there’s a lot of talk of ‘trouble in the village’ but we never see that location and the population is almost solely represented by the handyman and a torch-bearing mob, who look suspiciously like they’ve been spliced in from another movie.

There’s also one of the most unconvincing screen murders ever, and Agar wearing a striped jacket that makes him look like he’s changed into his pyjamas or is about to welcome punters to his fairground sideshow. It’s worse for Talbott, who gets a horrible ‘instant victim’ role which sees her disintegrate into an extended bout of hysteria that lasts for most of the film.

Agar once said: ‘Most of my movies didn’t get released – they escaped.’ Perhaps this one would have better remained behind bars!

The Son of Dr Jekyll (1951)

Son_Of_DrJekyll_(1951)‘Legends don’t die – they have to be killed.’

A young scientist whose researches ‘border on witchcraft’ discovers that his father was the infamous Dr Henry Jekyll, who died 30 years earlier. Determined to clear his father’s name, he opens up the old family home and starts poking through his father’s laboratory and his papers…

Minor horror programmer from Columbia Studios that stars former swashbuckler and matinee idol Louis Hayward in the title role. The film opens with a flashback to the death of Jekyll Senior, as he’s pursued down a London Street by a torch-bearing mob who would probably have been more at home chasing Frankenstein’s Monster through the alps around Ingoldstadt. They’re after Hyde because he’s just killed his wife in a cheap boarding house, leaving their infant son behind. Strangely enough, I don’t recall Hyde being married in Robert Louis Stevenson’s original story, but I can imagine that the wedding reception was a lot of fun. The torches come in handy as they burn up Jekyll’s house and the mad scientist as well. Curiously, the whole Jekyll and Hyde situation seems common knowledge 30 years later when young Jekyll faces similar treatment by the public at large.

Although the film retains some level of credibility for the first half hour, the ridiculous contrivances pile up quickly after that, demanding a higher level of suspension of disbelief that the average viewer can hope to attain. A series of crimes and events combine to put young Hayward in the cross-hairs of both police inspector Paul Cavanagh and nasty newspaperman Gavin Muir, as well as the locals who seem ready to condemn with no real evidence at all. Actually, there’s some critique about the workings of the gutter press and mob rule here, but, not to worry, it’s buried pretty deep beneath the overall silliness.

Son Of Dr Jekyll (1951)

‘My god, it was you! You wrote the script!’

In production terms, we’re in definite B-movie territory with director Seymour Friedman (‘Counterspy Vs Scotland Yard’ (1950), ‘Khyber Patrol’ (1954)) and scriptwriter Jack Pollexfen, who, rather brilliantly, turned the same trick again with ‘Daughter of Dr Jekyll’ (1957)!  Cavanagh and Muir were refugees from the Rathbone-Bruce ‘Sherlock Holmes’ series, and Lester Matthews was the hero of Lugosi-Karloff classic ‘The Raven’ (1935). Heroine Jody Lawrence was Marilyn Monroe’s’ foster-sister when they were in their teens.

Although it’s a fairly painless way to spend 78 minutes, it’s often rather slapdash and makes little effort to remain realistic. Young Jekyll is accused of attacking a young boy, arrested the same night, and finds himself in full court facing witnesses the next day! Wow. The wheels of justice sure moved fast in the old days.

Invisible Man Vs Human Fly (1958)

Invisible Man Vs Human Fly (1958)‘Professor Hayokawa Murdered — Insatiable Rampage of Bloodlust’.

An unhinged scientist has perfected a method of shrinking himself to the size of a fly, and uses his invention to revenge himself on former colleagues. An invisible laboratory assistant helps the police to track him down and foil his nefarious schemes.

Daei Studios were Toho’s main competition in the Japan’s Science Fiction arena during the 1950s and 1960s, and here they deliver an unusual mash-up of a mad scientist and a standard police procedural. So, on the one hand, we get familiar crime picture clichés such as tepid gunplay and a shady nightclub, but we’re also offered a floating head and a villain whose miniature size apparently allows him to fly!

Despite the outlandish elements, the script and cast play it completely straight. Things start off impressively with some inexplicable murders, which are slickly edited and quite unsettling. However, it doesn’t take too long before we know what’s going on, and any sense of mystery has been surrendered to some obvious, and pretty goofy, plot developments. Our young hero owes his invisibility to the side effects of a professor’s experiments into the effects of cosmic rays but his presence is a godsend to the local forces of law and order who find themselves up against it when dealing with our microscopic villain. There are some pretty huge gaps of logic if you look at things too closely, but it’s all acceptable enough if you’re prepared to go along for the ride.


(Human Fly not pictured) Probably…

The SFX are predictably variable, given the era when the film was made, although the invisibility is realised in the acceptable manner first pioneered by SFX technician John P Fulton in the golden era of Hollywood. Indeed, the production is professional in every department, and it’s no easy matter to point out any obvious flaws, but proceedings are simply never very creative or inspired. And exactly why the Human Fly makes a buzzing noise is a bit of a puzzle…

The Daei Studio never played more than second fiddle to Toho, despite plugging away for more than a decade. Probably their biggest success came with the ‘Majin’ series, which featured a giant statue come to life, but even that was a pale comparison to the global recognition enjoyed by Mothra, King Ghidorah and the Big G.