Movies and Film

Pushing Forward – War of the Satellites (1958)

Make no mistake about it, Roger Corman has churned out and continues to churn out a lot of B and Z grade movies, more than any other filmmaker out there. Be that as it may, it does not stop the man from releasing a gem every now and then of which War of the Satellites happens to be. It is a very solid science-fiction film that finds mankind reaching to the stars in their ever-expanding quest for knowledge. By doing so, they have made themselves noticed by an alien race who, whether through intrusion or out of fear, have demanded that they cease what they are doing and go no farther. The nations of the world in response, who on one hand find it amazing that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, refuse to accede to those demands and continue on, refusing to bow down. So it is that the aliens send one of their own to sabotage mankind and by the time anyone realises it, it might be too late.

Like many of his contemporaries hampered by a budget that would not allow for the finest in special effects whether visual or practical, Corman would make his alien a human being, more specifically, one in disguise. It would be a familiar trope seen in more than a few science-fiction films, but one that worked well when done right and surprisingly, it was done so here. Played by Richard Devon, the alien would take the shape of Dr. Van Ponder, the scientist in charge of the project and Devon’s performance would reflect the change in persona admirably. Despite mimicking the human it had taken over almost to a fault, there was a hint of menace present, something that would make the man seem just slightly off. It would soon start to fall apart when Van Ponder would burn his hand in front of a subordinate, a burn that would heal itself in no short amount of time and bring the other man’s sanity into question, not to mention revealing Van Ponder as something other than human. Erratic behaviour would follow and Devon was spot-on with his actions, playing off of his co-stars perfectly until his true nature would show its face. The rest of the cast which included Dick Miller and Susan Cabot as the male and female leads respectively, would do a great job as well, but it is all Devon’s show, at least until that fateful conclusion.

As with every Corman feature, there is a little cheese present, but it is kept to a minimum here and enough cannot be said about how surprisingly well the movie turned out to be. Not only does the acting stand up with the script and effects being quite good, but the film delivers a message as well, one about the indomitable will of the human spirit. It is one of peace and courage, one that pushes mankind forward as a race and a message that was ahead of its time and still has yet to be seen over sixty years later. Yes the movie was about satellites in space and aliens, but that does not mean that once in a blue moon, Corman cannot put a little something in to make the audience think.

3.5 out of 5

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