Cosmic Monsters, 1958. 4/10

Known as The Strange World of Planet X in England.

Giant insects, influences from outer space, black & white, made in England–a promising classic-era sci-fi mixture. This is one that I haven’t seen since it was first on TV in the early ’60s. There’s the requisite American, Forrest Tucker, as Gil Graham; his assistant Michele Dupont (Gaby Andre), more-or-less mad scientist Dr. Laird (Alec Mango), an alien guy, Smith (Martin Benson), and the military and police General Cartwright (Wyndham Goldie) and Inspector Burns (Richard Warner). Also, Jimmy Murray (Hugh Latimer), Helen Forsyth (Patricia Sinclair), and Gerald Wilson (Geoffrey Chater).

Strangely, it’s a magnetic field, and not radiation, that causes the mutation mayhem. Good old weird sci-fi music accompanies the narration of science venturing forth, etc. Aha! a lab at a country estate. Dr. Laird is tooling up something with Graham…while, in London, the Brigadier meets with the Inspector. They discuss the immense sums the government is throwing at Laird for his “baloney…a bottomless piece of folly” Anyway, they discuss some metal blocks. Very interesting.

Michele shows up to take her job at the lab. She learns that the guys are working on “the molecular structure of metal” and the interplay of that with magnetism. They’re astonished to learn that Michele isn’t there just as window dressing. Out in the village, a wandering ne’er-do-well puts in an appearance. Back at the lab, Gil is busy sizing up Michele. Thankfully, we soon go back to the wandering guy in the forest.

No one has really bothered to do anything yet. Michele’s job consists of throwing a switch and announcing “computer: on”. They appear to be microwaving some metal or something. A thunderstorm does something to mess with the experiment. A meteor (ufo maybe) zips by, “The invasion from Planet X” they call it. Cartwright shows the exciting metal bits to the Inspector, they look them over with great interest.

Gil and Michele go over the experiment: they’ve recorded some weird squeeks and shrieks. But they conclude that the power surge during the experiment wasn’t due to the storm itself, but the storm was brought on by the meteor/ufo. Meanwhile, they mess up the mansion’s feng shui by putting up armored barriers. A girl runs into Smith in the forest. Is he an alien? He’s a stranger, and he’s got “funny whiskers” (must be an alien).

He’s curious about Laird, using an alien paging-type device to alert ‘headquarters’. Lurking in the shadows, the hermit goes after the new teacher, Helen. At a pub, fish-out-of-water Smith shows up; Gil, Michele, and Gerald are already there. Murray tells them about the attack on Helen. Just like that, there’s another attack.

Gil has a brainstorm about the mysterious power surge; Laird admits that the experiment produced a super magnetic field. Of course, Laird doesn’t care about the consequences, he’s all about science-for-its-own-sake. Out in the sticks, the latest victim is found; also a rotting corpse; something disgusting emerges from the woods–probably a giant bug.

Michele talks to Smith. The next evening, wanting to slake each other’s curiosity, Smith meets with Gil and Michele. Smith’s message: deadly cosmic rays will drive people crazy. Which will be in a different movie, I guess, since the effects take hold only gradually. But insects are susceptible to more immediate influence.

Naturally, the bug-curious young girl finds a watermelon-sized egg in tbe woods, as creepy giant centipedes and such slither about. Now, at last, there’s a sense of danger. At the Inspector’s office, Gil, Cartwright, and others agree that they have to in investigate Smith. Unaware of the big bug menace, Helen is trapped at the country schoolhouse. The critters are reminiscent of those in 1954’s Them!, especially their cricket-like noises.

Everyone, including a couple of soldiers, come to the rescue. Michele gets stuck in a spider web, and looks on while a bug and spider fight it out. More soldiers pop up; awkwardly the men are shown apart from the monster bugs, so that they may as well not even exist in the same world, which they don’t. But we do see one gruesome bug attack. Back at the lab, Laird is adamant that nothing will interfere with his work, and shoots Gerald.

At the school, Smith confesses that he’s an alien. He explains about himself and Planet X. It’s revealed that the meteor was one of their space craft that Laird’s experiments brought down. His message: stop the experiments. “Yours in the strange world.” Ok, good point. The bugs won’t be an ongoing problem, he says. He fools with his pager/smart phone deal to contact his spacecraft, presumably to get the heck out. But not before the ufo blasts the mansion sky-high, including Laird with all his contraptions. The end.

Very disappointing in just about every way. This is one classic-era sci-fi movie in which I remembered nothing but the title. No wonder. There simply is very little going on. It takes until the last part of the movie before we get to the giant bugs, the so-called “monsters.”

The fundamental problem with Cosmic Monsters is that its parts don’t really fit into a comprehensible whole. Why is the hermit guy’s face burned? Why is he attacked? Why are the various women attacked by him? Who cares whether Michele prefers Gil to Gerald? Why are bugs affected by the weird force and not people? Other than the unfortunate hermit and one soldier, the bugs really don’t do all that much.

Neither do the people. In the first place, it might’ve not strained suspension of disbelief so much if Laird had been doing nuclear experiments involving radiation. The magnetic field stuff doesn’t seem space-age enough up to spark the interests of aliens or to cause mutations. It’s just too obscure. There’s hardly any direct interaction among Smith, the insects, and Laird (excepting Smith’s dispatching one of the bugs).

That issue also touches on the generally disinterested characters. They don’t seem too amazed that there’s a ufo, an alien, or even dangerous experiments (why not just shut Laird down instead of wringing their hands about him?). Conveniently, the bug menace is only affecting that one locale; there’s info that sea creatures are similarly affected, but no one seems to mind that. Given that explanation, I’m not expecting the entire British Army to show to defend the schoolhouse, but one squad of guys isn’t much of a response.

Cosmic Monsters starts out slowly and only builds to a bit of genuine sci-fi stuff towards the end. For a simple plot there’s way too many distractions and subplots that somehow make for a confusing overall effect. Not recommended.

Farmermouse is still busy looking for cool bugs in the forest, so he’s waiting on four bottles of stout at the pub. 4/10

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