Space Master X-7 (1958)
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One area of interest to film buffs is the films casting. We have Paul ("man of a thousands voices") Frees in a surprisingly large on screen role as a "heel" scientist who accidently unleashes the "blood rust". Of course the person often mentioned in this film is Moe Howard of the Three Stooges, in a rare character part as a cab driver who helps the feds track down a woman who was exposed to the deadly alien fungus. This film was made when the stooges career was in limbo; between the time Columbia dropped the stooges because it was no longer interested in making shorts, and the time before they boys returned to the screen for feature films. Director Byrnes began his film career directing 3 Stooges shorts, and was good friends with the boys, so it was he who probably got Moe a part in the picture.
The image that stands out in my mind is that of the Blood Rust virus. I can still see it in my mind after nearly fifty years. I can still recall the pulse of urgency that ran throughout the movie. In all the years that have passed since I saw this film, I have only run into one person who even recalled it. I was beginning to think that I had imagined its existence.
After reading the review on IMDb, I can only assume that I saw it the same day that I saw "The Fly" in a theater on Solano Avenue in Berkeley, California. (In the 1950's, kids could see two movies and a bunch of cartoons on a Saturday afternoon for a quarter.)
If there is a copy of this movie available on DVD or VHS, I would surely love to purchase one.
The strength of writing is ever evident, as the threat to humanity theme is subverted away from the usual conquering hero routine to documentary-like police procedural, the pursuers taking on near anonymity as our attentions, and sympathies, focus on the fleeing "Typhoid Mary". She's finely played by Lyn Thomas, a mature and intelligent 50s beauty in the Jan Sterling mode. We're told just as much as we need to know about her, that she once was involved in an S&M fling (I kid you not, it's ALL THERE in 1958) with arrogant scientist Paul Frees (Richard Deacon doing Clifton Webb, and does he deliver cutting lines!) Their unholy reliance resulted in a child that she now wants back in her new life of respectability. His experiments with the alien fungus result in his hideous death and the government, knowing that she was with him at the time, has to track her down so that she won't infect the world. However, they can't throw the public into panic (cover-up stuff, another first) by saying why they've put out an all-points bulletin out on her, so she goes into hiding and flees so that she won't be framed for his murder! Now I ask you, how often do you run into plot intricacies (as opposed to absurdities) like this during your typical monster movie round-up?
At the same time SPACE MASTER X-7 is as frustrating as it's intriguing, because get-it-out-on-schedule Bernds never quite takes that extra step ahead of his time. There's a beautiful scene involving Miss Thomas and a cop the predates PSYCHO, where you're rooting for her to get away and the world's fate be damned, and though this perversion of empathy carries on the irony of it is somehow lost in the climactic shuffle. Said climax, stunningly prepared for in both mood and pacing, aboard a threatened air liner complete with children on the threshold of death, is shied away from in terms of intensity when it could've become a Hitchockian runaway carousel. One feels, by the movie's end, that something truly magnificent just didn't quite break free from the shackles of its period's conventions.
I think this one's ripe for a remake and hopefully by someone with brains and taste. It certainly has a plot, very friendly to updating, that doesn't sit still. One thing that gets this film footnoted out of the collective amnesia is the presence of Moe Howard as a cab driver. He's funny as can be but plays it straight, as a regular Joe who finds himself in the midst of things, and makes one wish that, like brother Shemp, he and the rest of those Stooges would've done a little more dramatic character work.
Actually, the movie's pretty well produced for its kind. The location shots lend at least some credibility to the wacky plot. And catch those early versions of protective Hazmat suits in the train yard scene. Williams and Ellis do well as the bloodhounds, but why Ellis remains a lowly Pfc with his officer-level credentials seems odd. Also, I really like the unheralded Lyn Thomas as the nervous blonde.
Note that brilliant screenwriter Dan Mainwaring, e.g. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Out of the Past (1947), collaborated on the screenplay. I'm guessing that promising trapped-in-the-airliner concept came from him. Too bad the full potential of those scenes is not realized by director Bernds. At the same time, the movie ends all-too-abruptly, as though the production suddenly ran out of money. I get the feeling that with better backing and a more perceptive director, this drive-in programmer could have turned into an uptown smash on the order of Alien (1980).
A satellite searching for life in space returns from Earth and a scientist collects samples from it and takes them with him back to his lab where he experiments on them. He wasn't expecting his lover to be there and she leaves later. While experimenting on these samples, they begin to grow into large masses and kill him. His lover has been contaminated and a search starts for her. She goes on the run when she finds about his death, thinking she is wanted for murder. All she is wanted for is to be decontaminated from the Blood Rust. She is eventually tracked down while on a plane to Honalulu and this turns back when she owns up while in the baggage compartment, the mass of Blood Rust is getting bigger. The plane lands safely without its landing gear and everybody is safe and taken away for decontamination.
Space Master X-7 is shot well in black and white and in some ways is similar to The Quatermass Xperiment.
I've never heard of any cast members in this movie apart from one of The Three Stooges, Moe Howard who plays a cabbie.
Space Master X-7 is worth checking out, that is if you can get hold of a copy. Excellent.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
1. Phony narrator claiming this is a "true story" 2. Manmade spacecraft returning to earth with deadly virus/creature 3. Desperate attempt to control spreading of virus 4. Scientist who dies attempting #3
And really, it's not outstanding in its genre, because it has a clunky ending and it tends to veer from true SF to being a chase picture. Most of the middle of the picture has nothing to do with the evil spores from outer space.
BUT...where have you ever seen Paul Frees on camera before? I didn't see his name in the credits, but when Prof. Pommer started talking, I shouted, "That's Paul Frees!" Here's a man with hundreds of credits (and many uncredited roles) but they've almost always been for his voice. Even in this pic, he also "appears" as the announcer voice in the bus station. Space Master X-7 gives him a good reel or more almost by himself, as a scientist attempting to figure out what the virus is. He's not matinée idol material, but the film shows that he could act with more than his lungs.
AND...a couple of scenes with Moe Howard, down on his luck between the demise of Columbia's short film division, and the amazing comeback of the Stooges in the early 60s. When I saw the names Bernds and Maurer in the credits, I almost wondered if the film was going to be a parody, since they're the pair that did most of the Stooges' 60s features. Maurer kindly gave his father-in-law Moe a decent part as a cabby who helps police find the missing (spore-infected) woman.
It was fun to find this film on TV, since it had disappeared for decades. For fans of SF schlock, it's a must. But definitely for fans of Moe and Paul (Boris Badenov) Frees!
I also agree that The Fly was not as scary, but the scene where the fly calls out 'help me' was extremely 'memorable' as well.
The ending in 'Spacemaster' did seem to come too soon, the movie seemed to go by quickly so, to me, that's a sign that it was well written and did not drag by.
nickel to by Cracker Jax (yes, a nickel) and gleefully cried 'help me', help me' .
Remember I was 13.... 'The Fly' did not frighten me at all. Little did I know...'Blood Rust' as the next feature was titled for that release has never left me...the V2 rocket launched from New Mexico with a camera pointed to the incredibly disappearing ground...the filter from the rocket with the odd granular spores being placed in petri dishes...then the Blood Rust spores growing in the bell lab bottle...releasing the puffs of spores as the fungus bubbled like thick slime pudding...the discovery that it fed on human blood and tissue creating uncontrolled growth... the gash on the scientist 's head caused by his wife throwing an ashtray in the divorce argument scene at the lab in the desert... his last desperate phone call for help...His arm and hand slowly sinking into the bubbling Blood Rust ...The wife, thinking the cops were after her for his death, cutting and dying her hair in a hotel only for the viewing audience to see the Blood Rust fungus growing out of the waste basket where she had thrown her locks...She was carrying IT!!...the DC6 pilots flying her home to Hawaii trying to control the aircraft as the fungus breaks out of her luggage and pushes out of the baggage compartment and 'grows' up over the passenger windows and finally over the pilots cockpit windshield...In every scene the hideous growth making a grotesque, slobbery, slime, BLUB BLUB sound. I had to walk home in the dark, across the railroad tracks through old man Jenkins scabrous apple orchard and down the long dirt road that ended at my family's farm house. I couldn't sleep. The well pump kept kicking on going BLUB BLUB BLUB. Now I know this film was just a grade d drive- in film but I could not get it out of my mind. It has something to do with the idea of having some parasitical growth covering you body and eventually your mouth and nose strangling you. But it was just a movie..Right? By the end of the first day of driving on our trip to California (we only made it to Grand Junction, this was before the Interstate system) which was the day after I had seen this movie my parents swore they would never let me see another 'monster' movie again. I was a sniveling, crying, mess. I hadn't slept and to top it all off we stayed in a motel that had another water pump that would kick on with a BLUB, BLUB, BLUB sound.
The whole trip continued in this vein. For years afterwards my older brother( and we all know how older brothers can tease) could get a rise out of me by simply saying BLUB,BLUB. I would love to see this odd, quirky little film re-released. It has never been shown on tv to my knowledge. To this very day I cannot look at a pair of Mickey Mouse ears in the same way that I'm sure others do. My reaction is to think of that DC6, in the last shots of the film, making an emergency landing in Los Angeles and to see a little Blood Rust oozing off the runway toward a housing development in the distance....a distance that back in August of 1958 I thought included the Magic Kingdom.
Overall, an interesting sci-fi film that made the idea seem almost possible. Good acting and production values carry this film and make it worth seeing....really...even if the fungi looks pretty weird. The only negative is the use of stock footage of the plane landing--the markings aren't even the same as the plane you see in the film and it even appears to be a different model of plane!
By the way, Paul Frees, while not a household name, is someone you will probably recognize when I tells you why he's famous. While he acted in quite a few films and wrote music for quite a few more, he's most known for his voice work--such as dubbings of films, TV shows (such as playing Boris Badenov on the "Bullwinkle" show) and the voice of the narrator in the haunted mansions at Disneyland and Disney World.
Also, in an odd cameo, Moe Howard of the Three Stooges fame plays a cab driver. He was between contracts and earned a few dollars in this small role.
Great surprise to see Moe Howard. I didn't see Paul Frees in the flesh (while he had it...), but did recognize his voice at Union Station. As an L.A. native, I'm always looking for scenes with 50s L.A. landmarks. (I didn't recognize the airport as the nascent LAX, though). The scene with Moe at the police station, using the plastic layovers to recreate the face was terrific, straight out of a DRAGNET-style episode.
Sure, by 2010 standards it's hokey. The Special Effects are weak, the storyline is lame, and the ending a bit too contrived. But there are hundreds of movies being shown on the dozens of movie channels that are much worse than this genuine diamond. Hopefully more of you will catch it next time 'round.
My memories are similar to the other notations on this flic, except that I was too young to form an opinion about its artistic merits. My real memory was the term blood rust, and the memory of a scene where detectives were finding it in a boxcar. (Ok, its possible I mixed that one up with a scene from "Them". I remembered it as the b part running with This Island Earth, but it may well have been playing with the Fly, as others indicated. The long and this short of it was that this one bugged me, as I could until recently find no movies referenced to "blood Rust". None of the printed compendiums of Sci-Fi movies helped. A recent call for help on another web site finally gave me the Space Master title, which did the trick! A 45 year mystery solved!
Now I need to find a copy!
Unfortunately the title is something of a misnomer, seeing as this is a purely earthbound thriller with little in the way of sci-fi elements. Instead, much of the film opts for a hard-boiled detective story approach with only a few moments in dingy laboratories or with rampaging monsters. The pacing is fast and the music under worked but effective and the dialogue sharp. Never does the film become boring or outstay its welcome, as the short running means the film is compacted down into a series of short, often gripping scenes. The military investigation into the fungus is kept interesting thanks to the aforementioned characters and events culminate in a thrilling episode on a plane, where the virus gets loose. Sadly this is followed by an unexplained conclusion; one moment we see the fungus covering the plane, the next it has disappeared and everyone is walking away into the sunset happily. What?! I guess they really did run out of budget at the end of the film and just had to tie it up as quickly as possible, no matter how unsatisfactory that might be. Otherwise, SPACE MASTER X-7 is an intelligent, non-campy and effective '50s thriller surprising in its maturity considering the cheesy theme.
Try as I might I could not get passed the fact that the military would let Dr. Paul Frees take home cultures of this fungus taken from outer space. It's a fungus that is rust colored and it is apparently what gives Mars its color. Which begs the question what in that world does it feed on.
After a fight with his ex-wife who is visiting him on custodial issues Paul Frees is killed when that red fungus gets loose. Bill Williams and Robert Ellis representing security for the space program are on a desperate hunt for Lyn Thomas the ex-wife who they know was the last person to see Frees alive as she is unknowingly carrying the stuff.
From that god awful premise the film does in fact become exciting and the climax on board a Honolulu bound flight over the ocean is very well staged.
If this had been produced at a major studio like Fox and given a decent budget this might well have become a science fiction classic.
But the majority of the movie involves his estranged wife, supposedly a carrier of the fungus; she is constantly on the run, believing she's criminally involved with his death. We never ever see the monster in action, we only glimpse it a few anticlimactic moments. The stuff shows up in a freight car, in her apartment, but illogically, she is never affected by it; nor do we ever see it attack anyone. The film ends with stock footage of an airplane making an emergency landing.
And that's all you get. If you want better fare along these lines, try MUTINY IN OUTER SPACE. This one's totally forgettable.
Reading the synopsis for SPACE MASTER X-7 II was entirely convinced this was going to be an American B movie version of THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT with a spaceship returning to Earth containing rubbery fungus monsters which was a popular theme in 50s science fiction when humanity were sending probes in to space . . There are blobby monsters of sorts but in some ways this movie resembles a precursor to THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN with scientists fighting an alien menace in much the same way as they'd fight an evolving Earth bound mutating virus . It is produced in a documentary style detective type story but you're never able to consistently buy in to this style or scenario . As I said it's definite B movie pulp SF no matter what pretensions the film has and this is reflected in the rather cheap production values and not very good cast as they try and make the fantastic seem plausible and everything about seems dated