Red Planet Mars Blu-ray Review: Peter Graves and Andrea King Put Some Life into a Surprisingly Religious Story

Red Planet Mars by director Harry Horner is a strange beast. It would like to be a sci-fi/thriller plopped down directly in the Cold War with the Iron Curtain stretched taut through the middle. It is based on a 1935 play called Red Planet, and it is directed like a play filled with talking heads and static camera movement. We never go to Mars, never see a Martian; heck, there isn’t a spaceship or rocket anywhere to be seen. As for thrills, the last ten minutes try to make up for all that is missing beforehand. It is not enough.

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Chris Cronyn (Peter Graves) and his wife Linda Cronyn (Andrea King) play husband and wife astronomers who have spent the last year attempting to contact the planet Mars. One of their children has the great idea of sending part of the string of numbers that make up pi to see if it garners a response. We are not sure what sort of communications were being sent previously, but the assumption is that it was something like, “Hi, we are humans, and we speak English. How’s it going on your side?” Pi works, and a mostly one-sided, the Martian side, conversation ensues.

Mars claims to be a nuclear-powered utopia with no threats of war. The news that Mars no longer uses coal or iron causes worldwide catastrophes on Earth, especially in the United States as workers revolt at what clearly looks like the death of their livelihood. Then the messages become plainly religious, specifically Christian, recalling the Sermon on the Mount. Russia falls at the news and becomes a theocracy, which appears to bring no end of joy to the United States.

One German holdout, Franz Calder (Herbert Berghof), was the inventor of the mode of communication with the Martians and comes to the Cronyns with the news that he has been making up the stories from Mars in an attempt to bring down the United States. He has also lost his ability to communicate, as an avalanche has destroyed his lab high up in the Alps. This is the scene where Graves, King, and Berghof shine, arguing mostly to the audience that only one side can be telling the truth. The Cronyns are willing to destroy all their work if it keeps Berghof from the ability to send messages, but, surprise surprise, Berghof has his own destructive agenda.

Red Planet Mars might think of itself as a religious allegory, but it is an in-your-face Christian tract. One completes the film with the understanding that the New Testament of Mars will be transmitted through the space-waves at any moment.

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Greg Hammond

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