Gog DVD Review: The Final Chapter in Ivan Tors' OSI Trilogy

A good pick for the fan of vintage '50s sci-fi.
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In September of 2003, I made one of my few trips away from home to attend the World 3D Film Expo I in Hollywood, CA at the historical Egyptian Theater. I wasn't able to afford tickets for all of the movies presented at the nine-day festival -- which really didn't matter since all of the really "famous" films were sold out anyway -- but I was able to see three B-grade science fiction flicks from the '50s: the infamous Robot Monster (one of my all-time favorites), the equally-bad Cat-Women of the Moon, and the critically-complimented 1954 Gog, directed by Herbert L. Strock and produced and co-written by Ivan Tors.

Gog CoverGog is actually the final chapter of Tors' Office of Scientific Investigation (OSI) trilogy, which began with The Magnetic Monster the year before, though there is really no relation between any of the movies in the trilogy other than the fact they feature different characters who all work for the same organization. In the case of Gog, the OSI official is Dr. David Sheppard (Richard Egan, Rod Serling's first choice for the narrator of The Twilight Zone, before contractual obligations resulted in Serling doing the job himself), who is sent to an ultra-top-secret scientific facility somewhere in the desert of New Mexico to investigate two suspicious deaths.

Strange things are happening here. The men and women working around the clock to develop a space station (as well as figuring out how to send human beings into space -- a task best accomplished with goofy nylon outfits) are being killed under mysterious circumstances, leading Dr. Sheppard and his lady-friend OSI colleague, Joanna Merritt (Constance Downing), to conclude there's a traitor in the underground nest. Things really start to get out of hand when the center's computer brain, NOVAC (the Nuclear Operative Variable Automatic Computer -- how's that for scientific?), is taken over by an unknown force and starts to kill researchers with laser beams and a clunky robot named "Gog."

A second clunky robot (everyone pronounces the word "row-bit") is named "Magog" -- they probably should have reconsidered the naming of those two mechanical men, eh?

Seen today, Gog is a rather humorist anti-Communist film that is full of scientific inaccuracies and dialogue that is both sexist ("In space, there's no such thing as a weaker sex," says Downing, to wit Egan replies "That's why I like it here!") and plain ridiculous as times ("You'll be alright, the doctor says it isn't serious: just a little too much radiation."). Co-starring in this fun McCarthy-era classic are Herbert Marshall, John Wengraf, Three Stooges regular Phillip Van Zandt, Steve Roberts, Michael Fox, Aline Towne (the token female in several Republic serials), and the one and only William Schallert as a doomed lab technician (who was an honored guest of honor at the 3D showing -- what a swell guy he was, too).

As it turns out, the print I first saw at the World 3D Film Expo I was a rarity: boasting the only surviving "left-eye" print of the 3D version (the color was a bit faded, but still perfectly viewable). While we may never see it on DVD in all three dimensions, we can at least thank MGM's Limited Edition Collection, for finally bringing us an "official" release of Gog to home video. It's great to see it again after nine years -- even if it's only in a standard 2D presentation. MGM's Manufactured-on-Demand disc gives us a 1.33:1 full screen transfer, though reports indicate the movie was filmed in widescreen (I can't recall if the Expo's print was widescreen or not).

No special features are included, and the artwork is pretty damn generic, but this is still a good pick for the fan of vintage '50s sci-fi.

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