What’s the connection between condoms and Martian invaders?
Find out in today’s Trillion $ Movie, Invaders from Mars. The Martians fit the stereotype. Their leader is a little, green man inside a flying saucer who practices mind control on unwary humans by planting an electrode at the base of their skulls. The Martians don’t wear prophylactics, but body suits with zippers plainly visible on the backs. You can spot the condoms — more than 3,000 of them, all fully inflated — adorning the maze-like tunnels in the sandpit where the alien spaceship is hiding. The prop men first tried out balloons, but then switched to the blown-up condoms, finding they gave off a brighter red glow.
Republic Pictures’ Invaders from Mars, released in 1953, competed at the box office with It Came from Outer Space, Universal Pictures’ first 3-D movie. Invaders was also originally planned as a 3-D movie, but with a production budget of only $290,000, that option had to be scrapped. Still, it’s fun to count how many scenes have protuberances — like test tubes, telescopes and alien probes — jutting out in the foreground.
Invaders has one plot hook that distinguishes it from the many Alien Scare movies that proliferated during the 1950s. The hero is a 10-year-old boy, an astronomy geek, who not only witnesses the Martian landing, but leads the US Army in the counterattack. Talk about wish fulfillment for the kids watching the movie! Jimmy Hunt plays young David Maclean, while Leif Erickson is his father, transformed into an automaton by the “Mu-tants.” Rounding out the cast: Helena Carter and Arthur Franz as David’s surrogate parents, and the avuncular Morris Ankrum as the Army’s Col. Fielding.
The direction is by William Cameron Menzies, better known as a set designer on Gone With the Wind, The Son of the Sheik, The Thief of Bagdad and many other titles. Menzies’ visual flair is much evidence here, as in the scene where David gets hauled into a police station that looks strangely dreamlike and surreal, as if Salvador Dali might have designed it. Enjoy and do return next Friday for another Trillion $ Movie!