BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Feb 6th, 2012 •

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GOG. Sounds like…

Remember THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL? The giant robot that walks out of the flying saucer, capable of destroying the earth with a flick of its visor? Its name was Gort. Sounds like…

Now, I don’t know that Ivan Tors picked up on the religious undertones of the Robert Wise film. The critics sure didn’t at the time. Neither did Wise or his producer Julian Blaustein. But three years later and we’ve got another robot with a similar moniker. I’m just sayin’….

GOG was a scary flick for kids. I went to see it several times back in ’54 in 3D. The idea of technology turning on its creators as if it were alive was really frightening. The 3D wasn’t great as I recall, still it’s too bad that, according to IMBD (bolstered by the fact that the film has never played in 3D at the Film Forum in NYC), the one remaining matching set of 3D reels is both faded and out of registration.

I don’t remember the color being this lovely, so maybe what we’ve lost in gimmickry, we’ve gained in picture quality. The art department did a nice and dedicated job thinking out the results of all the applied research. Lighting is a bit TV in its generality, but that isn’t overly bothersome, and probably suits an underground installation.

The plot: in an underground advanced science lab, the individual projects seem to be turning against the technicians, resulting in some nasty deaths by freezing, centrifuge acceleration, extreme sound vibrations, etc. Government investigator Richard Egan comes to visit, looking for an answer to the growing threat. There is no second act demarcation, just a long series of visits to the various experimental chambers to observe the scientists work their wonders, followed by instances in which these experiments turn on their creators. The eponymous robot and his twin brother Magog are introduced about 40 minutes in, and once we see them, we know they’re going to figure into the climax in some insidious way.

The oddly episodic nature of the narrative lives or dies on viewer interest in each new experiment, and on the casting choices. For the most part, I liked the casting, particularly stalwart, practically humorless Egan (LOVE ME TENDER, THE 300 SPARTANS) who lends the proceedings some gravitas. Herbert (PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, THE FLY) Marshall as lab boss Dr. Van Ness, and Austrian John Wengraf as a cold, egomaniacal scientist responsible for the supercomputer and his pet robots, are also grounded and engaging. Wengraf is particularly well cast physically – there are veins standing out all over his forehead, which somehow suggests his high intelligence. And even more interesting, unfriendly as he is, he’s likeable. When the Doctor Who-like robots turn on the humans, he keeps his cool to the bitter end.

Even after all those viewings back in the 50s, I thought the suggestion was that some outer space intelligence was responsible for all the mayhem. Now, I’m not so sure. It seems like someone abroad might have been futzing around with NOVAC, the installation’s super-computer. Several homing devices are discovered hidden in the lab, and although the enemy rocket flying over head is destroyed, no one is ever assigned the blame for placing the miniature devices in the lab. I wonder if, in a longer cut, the saboteur was revealed. In any case, in retrospect it seems more like a commie plot, typical of the times, after all.

As with the same company’s previous (1953), smaller, B&W film THE MAGNETIC MONSTER, GOG’s screenwriters take great pride in trying to entertain us with serious meditations on scientific progress and theory. I can tell you that as a ten year old, all that mumbo jumbo didn’t bother me one bit, or hinder my involvement in the story. Today, though the script’s cerebral speculation is hit and miss, it is laudable that Tors was spearheading a couple of sci-fi flicks such as these. Much of the science still holds up (IBM is on display…as is a Coca Cola mcahine – product promotion I would assume) while other aspects have been invalidated, but that’s okay. 2001 will probably have a hit/miss ratio as well when we catch up to its ideas in practice.

If you can take a double-bill of striking sameness, these two titles, released recently, within a month of each other, from the MGM archives (unintentionally, perhaps) would be a kind of ultimate pairing.

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