ZONTAR THE THING
STARRING: John Agar, Susan Bjurman,
Tony Huston, Pat Delaney, Neil Fletcher, Warren Hammack
1966, 80 Minutes, Directed by: Larry Buchanan
arrogant scientist named Dr. Keith Richie (played by Tony Huston, who looks like an
abrasive Tim Roth) has been in contact with an alien from Venus named Zontar
using what looks like an oversized ‘Sixties stereo system.
No-one believes him of course.
Especially when Zontar’s “voice” is nothing but mere indecipherable static and
unintelligible beep sounds. A colleague played by John Agar asks if he is listening to some
ho, ho. Take that, Thelenious Monk . . . (I suppose that a Yoko Ono gag would
have been more apt, but Zontar the Thing from Venus was made before Ono
broke up The Beatles.)
Convinced that Zontar will
“help save humanity from itself” Richie helps the alien to hitch a ride to Earth
on an experimental satellite which looks more like a flying saucer from a cheap-ass UFO movie than any NASA project we might know of. It must be one hell of a
satellite by the way because it somehow manages to pick up Zontar from Venus and
takes him to Earth in an hour’s time!
When Zontar lands, all kinds of
havoc ensues. No doubt having seen Klaatu do it in The Day
the Earth Stood Still, he somehow manages to stop all human machinery
cars, trucks, trains, telephones, even water taps!
from working. Then he starts taking over key government and law enforcement
officials using so-called “injectapods” (registered trademark) to control their
These are spread and implanted by papier-mâché bats held aloft by clearly
visible wires which attack the actors. I could just picture the special effects
guys off-screen with a fishing pole swooshing these things around. And if you
think these bats look ridiculous, hold on until you have seen the three-eyed Zontar himself (pic included) . . .
"One feels sorry for Tony Huston for having to say 'his name is Zontar'
without cracking a smile!"
One kinda feels sorry for the
actors in this movie. Not just for being stuck in a movie this bad, but for
having to appear actually being threatened by these rather silly-looking bat
creatures. I especially felt sorry for actor Tony Huston for having to say “his .
. . name . . . is . . . Zon . . .tar . . .” without cracking a smile. (Now you
As one critic has pointed out,
this movie is quintessential ‘Fifties Cold War paranoia: sci-fi movies in the
1950’s were filled with egghead scientist types who tried being friendly with
aliens instead of just wanting to blow them out of the sky, not realizing that
the aliens were usually invaders hell bent on destruction. (This being a
metaphor for the clichéd intellectual type who falls for an ideology like
Communism, believing that it will benefit humanity, while it is actually mere a
tyrannical dictatorship.) Except this movie was made in the ‘Sixties!
Richie eventually comes to
insight before turning into a Benedict Arnold for the entire human race, but by
then it is too late: his wife and most of his friends and colleagues are already
dead (death will come as a mercy to this film’s audience however).
far as the History of Bad Ideas go, this has to be one of the worst: getting
Larry Buchanan, the director of Mars Needs Women, to
remake a Roger Corman movie for TV! (The movie in question is It Conquered
the World, which was made in 1956.)
Popular lore has it that
Buchanan was the only director ever who physically edited his films using duct
tape. This may not be true, but it feels as it should be true. Buchanan
was a world-class cheapskate, but worse: he was an untalented cheapskate.
Zontar the Thing from Venus is bad in ways that one simply can’t imagine.
will make you never say another bad word about Uwe Boll and Paul W.S. Anderson
again. Not only does Zontar the Thing from Venus centre on a genuinely
unpleasant protagonist, but to make your movie-going experience even more of a
tortuous ordeal add lousy production values, rotten acting, terrible camera work
(it was shot on 16mm!), a soundtrack that will make your ears bleed and a
The last movie we saw which was this
bad (and no, it’s not “so bad, it’s actually good”) was Mars Needs Women.
Men may be from Mars, and Zontar from Venus, but this reviewer wishes he was on
Venus without any protective clothing instead of in front of the TV watching
this . . .