Friday, April 18, 2008


Motion pictures:

Not at all inclusive. The above clip is from a British sci-fi import called Devil Girl from Mars [1954] staring Patricia Laffan as Nyah who has come to Earth looking to replace the Martian gene pool [much like Mars Needs Women (1967)] Now I know how old refrigerators are recycled. 1953 brought Invaders From Mars the story, sort of, the boy who cried wolf and no one listened as well as Byron Haskin's War of the Worlds with yet another horror of Martians invading Earth.

The universe must be populated with evil intentioned citizens who hone in on Earth as a good target for destruction or exploitation. Might just develop a case of paranoia here. But then we are the focus of the universe. And, it does sometimes provide fodder for interesting fiction. Nevertheless, Martian conquest begins in earnest in New Jersey and in the end, after much destruction and loss of life, the soft-tissue aliens succumb to a common virus. Happy days are here again for mankind. And let's not forget the Oscar winning sci-fi film Mars Attacks [1996]. Jack Warner must have turned over in his grave when this piece of junk was released. But I suppose it has a devoted following. Those actors must have had some "green fees" to pay to stoop so low to be in this film. One of my favorites was The Angry Red Planet [1960] that was one of those American International Pictures "B-grade" films and memorable for one set of lines at the end of the film. After a warning was given to the visitors to Mars, the ship returns to Earth:

Control: "Stand by to check interior radiation."
Treegar: "Hold it, look!"
Control: "Recovery squads, hold!"
Treegar: "Someone's alive!"
Guy: "The girl!"
Treegar: "To hell with radiation, let's go!"

Hollywood and the British film industry did pony up to mass interest in the red planet and the potential horrors that inhabit same. The earliest reference that I can remember are the serials [cliff hangers] of Flash Gordon [Larry "Buster" Crabbe] based on the very popular newspaper panels [Alex Raymond]. Literary license ran rampant and Flash Gordon winds up on Mars battling evil [is this a familiar theme] with the likes of Ming the Merciless [who can forget Charles Middleton's mellifluous Hungarian voice] and Queen Azura [Beatrice Roberts] in the second serial installment Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars [1938]. Maybe the plot set the stage, for the evil doers are perpetually trying to take over or destroy Earth. Here, Queen Azura is interested in stealing Earth's nitrogen to aid in the ongoing war against the Clay People. [The "Clay People" are cool for they can, like a chameleon, disguise their presence by blending into cave walls.] Republic's fifteen part serial The Purple Monster Strikes [1945] aka D-Day on Mars was one of the first instances of alien invasion.

The bottom line--entertaining.


A wide assortment here for just about every sci-fi writer has include some fiction regarding Mars but there are some outstanding representations. Almost lost in my book shelves is a wonderful collection of stories about Mars by Ray Bradbury--The Martian Chronicles [1950]. Ethics, politics, mankind and aliens--all is here.

"The wonders of Mars are so numerous that someone could pile them high and toboggan down them hard. But they're mostly lost on humans, who, like ill-bred houseguests, first come to visit, then begin to colonize. Mars counterattacks in its own, sometimes seemingly-unconcerned manner, but finally yields to the relentless pressures of the Earthlings' mega-weapons -- imported suburbia and myriads of the most common sort of folk.

But while Earthlings can escape Earth, they cannot escape themselves. They erect the new Mars orthodoxy, but build it with the same stale ideas and staff it with the same petty bureaucrats that have led the home world near to nuclear destruction. Both do-gooders and ne'er-do-wells do well enough on the Martian frontier, but ultimately all ripening ambitions are left rotting under the sun. With the news that Earth has finally unleashed its missiles, the Martian colony exports itself en masse back home. Maybe two people miss the exodus, three tops, and all is silent on the dusty Martian horizon, except perhaps for the possible tinkle of Martian laughter, or the breeze of Martian sighs.

The Martian Chronicles is confidently surreal, its aesthetic somehow akin to finding Aunt Tillie's teeth in a glass by the sink in the bathroom in the middle of the night. It's weird, yet fascinating, funny, a little repulsive, and kind of sad. It's nowhere near a straight narrative, it's not quite even a story. Its focus tacks blithely back and forth among a variety of vignettes, like a sailboat turned by easy, changing winds.

There's a lot of atmosphere here that has the potential to date the book, to lame and maim it. There's a clear, post-war sensibility in the simplicity of the prose, and all sorts of references to period doodads -- hot dog stands, Main Streets, beauty parlors and bon-bons. Wildly, it doesn't date. In fact, it's as fresh as a newly mown lawn and is comprised of that peculiar kind of retro-futuristic alloy that is so in vogue among certain SF contingents today."--an excerpted review by Tamara I. Hladik.

Remember Tarzan? Sure you do. But Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote more adventures--on Mars.

A Fighting Man of Mars

A Princess of Mars

Llana of Gathol: Escape on Mars

Llana of Gathol: Invisible Men of Mars

Swords of Mars

Synthetic Men of Mars

The Chessmen of Mars

The Gods of Mars

The Master Mind of Mars

The Warlord of Mars

Thuvia, Maid of Mars

The Ship That Sailed to Mars


William Timlin printed in 1923.

He also did the marvelous colored illustrations.

Part I: "The Ship That Sailed to Mars"

Part II: "The Journey"

Part III: "Mars"

The bottom line--entertaining.

The Mercury Theatre on the Air

"War of the Worlds" [1938 Broadcast]

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