STARRING: John Agar, Susan Bjurman, Tony Huston, Pat Delaney, Neil Fletcher, Warren Hammack

1966, 80 Minutes, Directed by: Larry Buchanan

An 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 “progressive jazz” 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 minds.

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 try it.)

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).

As 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.

It 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 glacial pace.

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 . . .



blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest Headlines

Most Popular

Copyright © 1997-forward James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page (unless where indicated otherwise).