BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE BUBBLE (Kino Lorber)

By • Nov 22nd, 2014 •

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I didn’t miss many horror/sci-fi films in the 50s and early 60s, but by 1966 I was in college and less glued to the theater screens, and I missed this one.

I definitely heard about it, however. The writer/director’s name – Arch Oboler – was as fascinating as the film’s title. Never caught up with it until last week, when Kino released a dual 2D/3D BluRay.

I’d heard mediocre to poor things about the film over the years, but seeing it now, the only aspect of the production that uniformly suffers, and probably did then, is the acting. Odd, since the actors are not neophytes. Therefore I attribute their uniform inadequacy to the director’s hand.

The story, however, is compelling…even upsetting. A pregnant woman (Deborah Walley) and her husband (Michael Cole) are flying to a hospital in a small private plane piloted by a testy character (Johnny Dismond), when they unexpectedly enter an area of serious turbulence. Walley goes into advanced labor, Cole tries to keep her calm, and just as suddenly as the storm appeared, it passes, and Desmond, unable to raise anyone on the radio, lands his plane on a deserted highway.

The town they enter is populated by zombie-like humans, who keep repeating simple sentences as if they’ve been programmed to act like who they were in formerly normal lives. Walley’s baby is born without complications, but getting out of town proves a far more difficult task.

Creepy shades of 1956’s INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS pervade the film, and at times I was quite unsettled. We never do learn the identity of the aliens who have manipulated the town and its inhabitants, but the weeks and months pass and our protagonists grow more impatient with each other as their plight seems never to improve.

As to the screenplay, inner logic seems periodically to have been abandoned, and yet Oboler is constantly making the Walley ask Cole for explanations about what is going on, and he continually obliges in long-winded replies that often offer more than one theory. Oboler tries to make it all hang together on a narrative level by doing this, but me thinks he tries to hard. Anticipating audience disbelief, he has gone to great lengths to counter them.

It was amusing to hear occasional music cues culled from Igo Kantor’s vast music library. I recognized two from THE PROJECTIONIST, a film I co-produced back in 1968/71. Maybe Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter wrote them, but we recycled them.

Seven seems to be Oboler’s number. He was born on the 7th (of December), and died in ’87, at the age of 77. His output wasn’t vast, and similar themes crop up over his career. The SciFi film FIVE finds a handful of post-holocaust survivors holed up in a Frank Lloyd Wright house and, as in Harry Belafonte’s THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL, as long as more than one person has survived, dissent prevails. This theme is certainly a key aspect of THE BUBBLE. Oboler had also dabbled earlier in 3D with BWANA DEVIL (1952), the first feature using the dual-projector system. An interesting, consistent guy, and the BUBBLE, with its expanded Twilight Zone-ish story, is a curiosity piece that film buffs might want to catch up with.

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