RED PLANET MARS
   Film (1952). Melaby Pictures/United Artists. Dir Harry Horner, starring Peter Graves, Andrea King, Marvin Miller. Screenplay John L. Balderston (1889-1954), Anthony Veiller, based on the play Red Planet (produced in New York in late 1932; 1933 chap) by Balderston, John E. Hoare. 87 mins. B/w.
   Two young US scientists, man and wife, pick up tv transmissions apparently from MARS. These messages (confusingly) take two forms. One class, suggesting Mars is the centre of incredible technological breakthroughs, has been faked by an ex-Nazi scientist and is designed to panic the Western World, which it does, though it pleases the evil Russians. The second class (genuine) tells us that Mars is ruled by a"Supreme Authority" who is none other than God himself. This revelation also causes chaos, and there are accusations of fakery, but religion is ultimately justified and Godless communism (the true villain) destroyed: aged revolutionaries overthrow the Soviet Government and restore the monarchy, choosing an Orthodox priest as their new Czar.RPM is a fascinating (and quite hysterical) product of the Cold War PARANOIA that swept the USA in the early 1950s, and specifically a mirror of the widespread feeling in US society that religious crusades (as led by Billy Graham and others) were a political weapon against communism. Balderston,responsible for the script and the original play, had a distinguished career in genre movies, his screenplays including Dracula (1931), BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), MAD LOVE (1935) and Gaslight (1944), but this essayin patronizing populism did him no credit. The film flopped.
   PN/JB
   See also: GODS AND DEMONS.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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