Friday, May 10, 2019

Ship of Monsters (1959)

Sometimes you come across something which leaves you bemused and bewildered. Ship of Monsters falls into this category.  I stumbled across this 1959 Mexican movie which incorporates science fiction, monsters and singing cowboys purely by accident.  A fortuitous accident as I really couldn't believe what I was seeing.  As already intimated, it draws upon several US genres and blends them together into an unforgettable experience.  The scenario is simple: Venus needs men.  Badly,  So the solution is to send off a rocketship manned by two young women clad in what appear to be bathing suits to find and capture the most handsome and perfect specimens of masculinity from across the galaxy.  Unfortunately, despite an exhaustive search, the best they can come up with are a huge headed Martian prince (possibly inspired by the aliens in Invasion of the Saucer  Men), an eight legged spider man, a reptilian cyclops and a being that appears to be entirely skeletal, all frozen in blocks of ice for the homeward journey.

Unfortunately, as they head for home, their spaceship breaks down and they are forced to land on Earth for repairs.  Here, the navigator (who isn't actually a Venusian), decides to double cross the commander by releasing the male monsters and plot to conquer the earth with their assistance.  Their conquest starts with the terrorising of the nearest human settlement - a Mexican village. The monsters are sent out with specific missions:  spider guy is told 'I'm sure the children will be to your liking', skeleton dude is assigned the women and cyclops told to deal with the animals.  All of which makes them sound like a bunch of intergalactic sex offenders.  While they are out doing their thing, the navigator canoodles with the Martian prince.  While we don't see what spider dude and skeleton guy get up to, we do see the results of the cyclops' activities - cattle reduced to skeletons.  Skeletons which, bizarrely, are left standing intact.  Said cattle are the property of a local singing cowboy, who first tangles with the cyclops before encountering the Venusian space ship commander, who enlists his support in foiling the rogue navigator's plans.

In a truly delirious climax, the commander, the cowboy and his kid brother and the commander's rickety robot, take on the alien monsters in what appears to be a mass brawl.  The martian is killed after he is hit in the head by a rock fired from the brother's catapult, his huge bonce deflating as a result, the spider dies from his own venom after biting himself, while the cyclops is set on fire by the robot.  The navigator - who, it turns out can fly - impales herself on a branch while swooping down on the commander.  Strangely, we never learn of the skeleton creature's fate - he vanishes from the narrative before the climactic fight.  It's all incredibly low-rent and cheesy, stylistically very much like a pre-war Hollywood cinema serial, (indeed, the focus on a singing cowboy as the hero of a science fiction saga recalls the Gene Autry serial Phantom Empire), even the robot is reminiscent of the ambulatory dustbins which wandered through many classic serials.  The monsters themselves are utterly bizarre, looking somewhat like over-sized muppets, yet curiously effective, while the overall atmosphere is oddly disturbing.  Like all great schlock, Ship of Monsters comes on like a fever dream, with bizarre scenes following one after another.  Immensely enjoyable, the entertainment value of the version I saw was hugely enhanced by the frequently surreal English language sub-titles.  A truly amazing cinematic experience.



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