Those Cinematic Crate Diggers over at Warner Archive have over the last two years been releasing a number of classic B movie gems on blu-ray. Two of their most recent releases of 1950s sci-fi tinged schlock are 1956’s “The Cyclops” and 1958’s masterpiece of camp “Queen of Outer Space.” Both films from studio Allied Artists, who made a string of low budget sci-fi thrillers during the 1950s including that all-time classic “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.”
Directed by Bert I. Gordon (AKA Mr. B.I.G.), a man who knew his way around a low-budget giant thing attacking movie, “The Cyclops” is a hit it and quit it B picture thriller chocking in at a mere 66 minutes. Susan Winter (Gloria Talbott) organizes an expedition, including a pilot played by Lon Chaney, Jr., to the olds of Mexico in search of her navigator fiancé—whose plane crashed somewhere near the mountain regions.
What the team finds is a radiation-heavy area, with mutated animals that have grown to massive sizes, and a mutated human with one eye, some 25 feet tall! In some ways, this movie feels like a dry run for what Gordon would direct the following year, the giant man rampage film “The Amazing Colossal Man”—featured in a particularly good episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” “The Cyclops” has Gordon’s impressive effects work for his limited budget, and it looks great in the new blu-ray from Warner Archive. If you’re a fan of Gordon’s work or giant “radiation run amok” films, pick this one up.
What can one say about the amazing movie “Queen of Outer Space?” What makes it so amazing? Is it a work of great technical merit? No, but it is a hoot and a half as one of the most gloriously campy 1950s Sci-Fi films ever made. Set in the far-flung future of 1985, an expedition of men set off to a space station, but after the station is destroyed by a beam of unknown origin, the rocket carrying the men crash-lands on Venus—a planet that is ruled entirely by women.
The ruling queen of the planet captures the men and vows to destroy the Earth—this is after one of the men have the prerequisite fight in a cave with a giant spider, mind you. During its 80 minute running time we see a bevy of recycled costumes and props from films such as “Forbidden Planet” and “Cat Women on the Moon.” Starring no other than Zsa Zsa Gabor herself, along with Laurie Mitchell as the queen, “Queen of Outer Space” is pure fun from start to finish. It’s ridiculous in the best way a 1950s sci-fi film could be. It takes itself just seriously enough for there to be lots of unintentional humor, but you can also tell people were having a good time making the film.
I first saw “Queen of Outer Space” in 2007 when it hit DVD from Warner Brothers, Warner Archive brings the film to blu-ray with a brand new 2K scan that bests the 2007 DVD in every way. Colors are much brighter, and the picture quality of the film overall is sharper. Ported over from that 2007 release is a commentary track between historian Tom Weaver, and Laurie Mitchell (who sadly passed away last month at the age of 90).
“Queen of Outer Space” is one of those fun titles that you think “boy, wouldn’t it be great to see this one on blu-ray” while never thinking that it’ll happen. Step in the wonderful folks at Warner Archive to remedy that with a fantastic looking disc of a super fun film that I’d give my biggest recommendation to one and all to watch. Both of these make for a fun double feature of 1950s sci-fi fringe, but if you can only watch one, it’s “Queen of Outer Space” all the way that gets my vote. See you next week.