That thing up there. It’s a flying coffin.
The first spaceship sent to Mars was believed to have crashed on the surface of the planet. The MR-1 spaceship (Mars Rocket 1) had been missing 61 days. Eventually the ship was found floating in space. Radio communications had failed. The ship once lost is now found and brought back to Earth by remote control. Only two of the original four crew members are still alive. Dr. Iris Ryan (Nora Hayden) and Col. Tom O’Bannion (Gerald Mohr). O’Bannion is unconscious due to an alien creature attached to his arm. The other crew member, Ryan, is traumatized and has blocked out the memory of what happened. To help her, doctors ask her to relate her experiences from when the ship leaves for Mars and going forward. The story is then told in flashback. The mission was to spend 5 days on the planet surface.
The other crew members of the expedition are Professor Theodore Gettell (Les Tremayne) and Chief Warrant Officer Sam Jacobs (Jack Kruschen). When the crew reaches the planet’s surface they begin their exploration. Dr. Ryan is attacked by a carnivorous plant. Sam kills it with a freeze ray gun that Sam calls “Cleo”. The crew returns to the ship to discover that radio signals are being blocked.
The next time they go out they run into a giant rat-bat-spider creature. Sam blinds it with his freeze ray. They next find a Martian lake. Since it’s getting late and they didn’t bring a raft, they return to the ship. They decide not to stay the full 5 days and prepare for takeoff. They are unable to leave the planet due to a force field.
Forced to stay on the planet they do more exploration. They decide to cross the lake that appears to have a city on the other side in the distance. While trying to cross in an inflatable raft a giant amoeba-like creature comes out of the water and chases them back to the spaceship. It kills Sam and infects O’Bannion. Then it tries to absorb the ship. Unable to leave and with no known weapons to defeat the creature the remaining team members must find a way to escape their horrible fate.
This is a 1960 low budget production. Stock footage of course is standard fare. Special effects are also subject to budget and ability constraints. With limited knowledge of space, the movie takes some liberties with life in space. OK lots of liberties with life in space. They eat out of cans. They walk around the spaceship as if gravity is always there. There isn’t even an attempt to show weightlessness.
There are cool things that made me really like the movie. While on Mars the film is tinted red. Yes, done before but, when the name of the movie is “Angry Red Planet”, the red color is a dazzling effect. The shimmer to it does much to hide the cheap special effects. The shimmering was the result of an accidental double exposure of one of the reels and picked up as an effect for the rest of the Mars scenes. The big Cinematic effect was actually a boo boo. Also, loved the rat-bat-spider marionette. It’s really cool. That alone makes the movie a keeper. The marionette was operated by Bob Baker.