Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


A manic Claude Rains
BATTLE OF THE WORLDS (aka Il pianeta degli uomini spenti/1961). Director: Anthony Dawson (Antonio Margheriti.

"It's a terrible, drawn-out agony for the whole world!"

How the great actor Claude Rains wound up in this Italian cheese ball is anybody's guess, but here he is -- and despite some justifiably hammy moments he's better than the film deserves. One could argue that Rains is giving Professor Challenger from The Lost World one more run, as his Professor Benson in Battle is a similarly rude, gruff scientist who is convinced he's always right. This time there are no dinosaurs [unfortunately] but a large astral body that is heading for the earth -- until it stops at 74,000 or so miles and begins circling the globe. For some reason it takes everyone more time than it should to realize that this satellite must have a governing intelligence behind its movements. In the meantime, there are some awkward romances going on, such as between Dr. Fred Steele (Umberto Orsini) and Eve Barnett (Maya Brent), although Mrs. Collins (Jacqueline Derval), who seems to have no other purpose than to serve coffee, keeps putting her hands all over the hunky doctor. But there are bigger problems when the "outsider," as the professor calls it, begins to send out flying saucers to attack earth spaceships. Battle of the Worlds isn't completely terrible -- Rains is always enjoyable no matter what he's in - but its budget precludes the film's developing some of its scenes and concepts with more impact. The spaceships seem to have been made for ten cents, but there are some effective enough sets for the climax, located on the alien world from which the saucers come. Ultimately it's like one of the lesser Star Trek episodes. With the exception of Rains and the busy Orsini, most of the actors had few other credits.

Verdict: Not quite a "terrible, drawn-out agony," but close. *1/2.


-Alan D Hopewell said...

I remember watching this on Ghoulardi's show back when I was seven, and loving the rocketships. Were I to see it now, I'd probably love the cheese just as much.

You might like this site....

William said...

Thanks for your comments, Alan, and I'll check out the site you mention, sounds like fun.