The Ship Of Monsters
(La Nave De Los Monstruos)
Directed by Rogelio A. González
The Camden Collection Region 0
Warning: There are spoilers in here but, seriously,
are you actually going to watch this one anyway?
I finally got around to watching this rarely seen (at least in this country) Mexican sci-fi horror B-movie from 1960 the other day in a subtitled version and all I can say is that two words will always come to mind when I think of this movie in the future. Fantastic and terrible.
Depending how you use these two words, will determine whether you are interested in ever seeing this movie yourself, if you haven’t already done so. I would have to say that my personal arrangement of these words is not, as some might favour, to report that the film is “terribly fantastic”. Instead I have to confess, and I’m sure some of you would prefer this anyway, that the film is indeed... fantastically terrible.
So Mexican, black and white, released and probably made in 1960... to me this means it’s pretty much a 1950s movie in concept and, indeed, you couldn’t find that many better 50s B-movies which inscribe all the right check marks, if you tried, than this one does. Starting off with a prologue about “the atom” and man’s prowess (or lack of) at harnessing it (yes, 50s B-movie paranoia already in the first minute of the movie), the film then takes us straight to the matriarchy of the planet Venus. Matriarchy, in fact, because all the Venusian males on the planet have died from their own “atomic meddling”... how or why this has left a planet full of only women is not made clear. Two young ladies, Gamma and Beta are given the mission of roaming the galaxy and kidnapping the finest male specimens they can get from different planets to kickstart the Venusians back into shape with their specially devised breeding programme. You can see from the pictures of the aliens at the top of this post that the two Venusian beauties may not really be thinking quite straight... as these are the best they can come up with after the credits sequence which suddenly jumps us, after a few minutes, to the end stages of their mission.
However... something is wrong with their 1950s cool, rockety shaped spacecraft (I’m sure I’ve seen the interior set of this in at least one of the Santo movies) and they have to land on this strange planet called Earth, so their newly acquired, noisy but extremely intelligent robot can make repairs. The two ladies step out onto the earth’s surface and then conclude that the air and atmosphere are enough like their own that it can sustain life...
What the @$%&*!
Let me just repeat that. The two ladies step out onto the earth’s surface and then conclude that the air and atmosphere are... are these gals stupid or what? A ship full of technologically advanced alien technology and instead of checking the atmosphere’s chemical composition etc... they step outside and see if they choke themselves to death to ascertain whether they can breathe in the Earth’s atmosphere or not. There’s no way these girls are going to be smart enough to succeed in their diabolical yet sexy mission! Anyway... enough of that. Cut to...
A singing cowboy, riding his horse and singing to the camera at what a misunderstood but lovable rogue he is. OMG! Within ten minutes of the movie starting, this has turned into a sci-fi western. This is brilliant. And this guy is satisfying the dual elements of hero and comic relief in this movie! This is great.
It gets greater still, when our melodious young hero bumps into the two women who get interested in him as a potential “male specimen”, ripe for their breeding programme. Obviously the cultural void left on Venus by the dearth of “singing cowboys” is something that has been weighing heavily on their minds. Maybe it’s the fact that this guy doesn’t have a giant brain sticking out of his oversize head, is not covered in stretchable fur, doesn’t have a cyclopean eye that wiggles about overactively on a stalk and isn’t, in fact, an animated animal skeleton, that makes him a more attractive proposition to the ladies in question... if their other "male specimens" are anything to go by. So later on, they go to visit our hero, Lauriano, and his kid brother and Lauriano explains to the ladies... and their big lumbering robot... the meaning of love by singing the lyrics of a bizarrely karaoke instrumental record from his juke box and, also, by giving them a kiss. Once they understand the concept of love, of course, both the Venusian girls want him for herself. Even the robot gets a bit frisky when he admires “the valves” on Lauriano’s “sexy” jukebox.
The gals go back to their ship of monsters to hasten repairs and argue about who gets to “do it” with Lauriano but somehow... and you have to believe I’m not making this up... one of the two wanders off somewhere and when the other (and don’t ask me which is which out of these sexy Italian women.. I kept getting them confused) monitors her on her unfeasibly all-seeing video screen in the ship... she discovers the other’s closely guarded secret.
Yes, that’s right. You guessed it didn’t you?
One of the girls is really an undercover, bloodsucking vampire from the planet Uranus. What’s that? You didn’t see that startling juxtaposition coming? Neither did I? What the heck? This movie just turned into a science fiction/western/horror movie for, as far as I can make out, absolutely no apparent reason whatsoever!
But of course (of course... eh?) bloodsucking vampirism is illegal on Venus and so Gamma, or possibly Beta, makes the other her prisoner so she can execute her later before getting back to the business in hand. However, our fanged and flying vampire escapes and captures the other. She then frees the alien monsters and strikes a deal with them to destroy the earth... promising to marry the big headed geezah with the brains that spill out decoratively from the top of his head. Some of the dialogue in this movie, if not all, is absolutely hilarious.
After all this happens, it’s a matter of intrigue and adventure as the loving Venusian who wants to marry Lauriano is rescued by him. After this, Lauriano manages to distract the Vampire lady, who wants him too, by singing at her and dancing until she is distracted enough to allow him to steal the robot control unit and the tables are turned. This is followed by a massive chase and punch up with all the principle cast until the aliens and vampire are vanquished and the true message of love is broadcast to the doomed female population of Venus. The robot, alone, returns to Venus... accompanied by Lauriano’s juke box, who dances and sings a song with him. True mechanical love is found!
This movie is, frankly, nuts and I enjoyed every minute of it. There is even some not too subtle dig at a famous Italian star of the time. Lauriano has a cow who he says bad things about and who he has named Lollabrigida. ‘nuff said.
There’s also some great special effects amidst the truly terrible ones. The aliens are laughable but the prosthetics on them, such as the cyclops’ overactive eye-on-a-stalk, are really quite good. The furry creature's stretching (like Mr. Fantastic) arms work surprisingly well (better than in Corman’s version of The Fantastic Four, reviewed here, that’s for sure) and the animation in the fight scenes of the animal skeleton creature is truly amazing. You won’t see any operators or strings here!
All in all, then, it’s an absolutely terrible sci-fi/western/horror mash up which has so much tackiness and fun in it that I couldn’t help but be absolutely charmed by it. I’m pretty sure the robot and aliens in this one probably turned up in other movies... either before or after... but I don’t know which ones. If you’re a fan of the absolute tackiest of 1950s and 1960s “atomic age” B-movies though, then you’re in for a treat. Try and get a hold of this one... it’s worth it’s weight in valves.