Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Man from Planet X


Doc Quatermass said...

This is one neat little low budget sci fi film. I saw it on TNT at 4 am back in the late 80s and it was the first DVD I bought even though I didn't have a DVD player at the time when that format first started up (I bought it at a Virgin Records in the Chicago area).

The atmosphere of the foggy Scottish moor permeates the film and the alien is one of the most superb of sci fi films (sadly it's not known who was inside the costume).

Nice cast including Margaret Field, William Schallert (Patty Duke's dad on her eponymously named TV show) and Robert Clarke (who my buddy, Tom Weaver co-wrote Clarke's autobiography, "To "B" Or Not To "B," A Film Actor's Odyssey" and interviews of Clarke can be found in Weaver's books, "Interviews With B Science Fiction And Horror Movie Makers : Writers, Producers, Directors, Actors, Moguls, And Makeup" (McFarland; 1988) and "Science Fiction And Fantasy Film Flashbacks Conversations With 24 Actors, Writers, Producers And Directors From The Golden Age" (McFarland; 1998).



To "B" Or Not To "B," A Film Actor's Odyssey, by Robert Clarke and Tom Weaver (1996; Midnight Marquee Press, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland, 248 pages, $19.95). One of the best things about the recent mushrooming of interest in classic and cult horror films is "To "B" Or Not To "B""the fact that artists involved in these films now have venues to record their memoirs, whereas in the past they were simply ignored. Tom Weaver, arguably the top horror film writer, worked with Robert "Hideous Sun Demon" Clarke to put the latter's celluloid career in print and this book is the result. To "B" is chock-full of interesting memories, anecdotes, and behind-the-scenes looks at the career of an admitted minor movie actor who nonetheless was involved in two of the most memorable cult horror/sci-fi films ever--The Hideous Sun Demon (1959) and The Man From Planet X (1951), not to mention schlock classics such as The Astounding She-Monster (1958), whose profitability inspired Clarke to make Sun Demon, and The Incredible Petrified World (1960). This is not to ignore Beyond The Time Barrier (1960), directed by famed low-budget director extraordinare Edgar G. Ulmer (who also directed Planet X). For these films alone, Clarke has earned his niche is genre film history, and To "B" is a fitting testimony to him. This is largely due to Weaver's skillful writing that packs lots of facts and stats in the narrative, yet makes it all appear as if it is Clarke speaking to the reader. From Clarke's beginnings as a contract player at RKO Studios, where he worked with Producer Val Lewton and horror icon Boris Karloff on The Body Snatcher (1945) and Bedlam (1946), the book maps the career of a level-headed and self-effacing actor who truly appreciated the opportunity to act, no matter what the role or the film. Interestingly, Clarke was involved in now-cult director Ida Lupino's (a top actress who was one of the first women to direct in Hollywood) breakthrough film Outrage (1950) which concerned the then verboten subject of rape. Also, when his acting career waned in the early Sixties, Clark married one of TV's singing "King Family" sisters and worked on that show for years. (To think how I fled the TV room back then on Saturdays when my parents tuned to the King Family, never knowing that the Sun Demon was one of the cast!) To "B" is a good "read," and a fun one too. The exclusive photos and stills and Clarke's descriptions of losing his shirt on Sun Demon and working with schlock director Jerry Warren make this must reading for horror and sci-fi cultists.

Bill Crider said...

Sounds like a great book.

Someone told me that Margaret Field is Sally Field's mother.

Fred Blosser said...

Clarke used to do dramatic readings or somesuch on that King Family show. Exact details have blurred. The King Family Show was the ticket for those who thought that Lawrence Welk and the LeFevres were a little too rowdy.

Fred Blosser said...

As details emerge from the murk of my subconscious where many of my memories of the '60s are buried, I realize I should have said that Clarke performed "inspirational" rather than "dramatic" readings. It would be interesting to do a study of viewers' blood sugar levels before and after a King Family Show episode.

Doc Quatermass said...

Yes Bill, Margaret and Richard Field had two children, one of which was Sally. After divorced in 1951, Margaret married Jock Mahoney and they had a daughter, Princess O'Mahoney.