27TH DAY, THE
(director: William Asher; screenwriter: based on the novel by John Mantley/John Mantley; cinematographer: Henry Freulich; editor: Jerome Thoms; music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff; cast: Gene Barry (Jonathan Clark), Valerie French (Eve Wingate), George Voskovec (Prof. Klaus Bechner), Arnold Moss (The Alien), Stefan Schnabel (The Soviet General), Ralph Clanton (Mr. Ingram), Friedrich von Ledebur (Dr. Karl Neuhaus), Paul Birch (Admiral), Friedrich von Ledebur (Dr. Karl Neuhaus), Azemat Janti (Ivan Godofsky), Marie Tsien (Su Tan); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Helen Ainsworth; Columbia; 1957)
“Makes you wonder how the film could be so terrible … .”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s based on the novel of Canadian writer John Mantley, who also writes the screenplay. Mediocre film director William Asher (“Beach Blanket Bingo”/”Movers & Shakers”/”Fireball 500”), known primarily for his television work as producer and director for such works as the popular Bewitched TV series, lives up to his rep as someone better suited for TV than movies. This 1950’s Cold War sci-fi film tells us the world’s destruction can be caused not by the alien invaders but by the earthlings (like those dirty Commies). It’s clumsily executed, the acting is dreadful, there’s basically no action and the denouement makes little sense. Maybe as a 30-minute TV show it’s passable entertainment, but not as a full length movie.
Aliens from an advanced unnamed dying plant wish to colonize earth but live by a moral code that prohibits violence. They have their agent (Arnold Moss) arrive by spaceship and he randomly kidnaps five subjects from different countries on earth and gives them fatal capsules to destroy the world. The five diverse subjects chosen are an attractive upper-class English woman from Cornwall, Eve Wingate (Valerie French), a newspaper reporter from Los Angeles, Jonathan Clark (Gene Barry), a German scientist named Prof. Klaus Bechner (George Voskovec), a Russian private in the Red Army named Ivan Godofsky (Azemat Janti), and from China a Buddhist worshipping peasant woman named Su Tan (Marie Tsien). The catch is that if the capsules are not used after 27 days they become harmless and after 35 days the aliens will cease to exist as their world will end, but if used the capsules will only destroy all the humans and leave the earth unharmed and in move-in condition to be inhabitated by the aliens.
When those evil Reds get hold of the capsules and want to use it to control the world, it’s up to the good guys in the good countries to make sure the capsules are used only for a peaceful purpose. The problem is the muddled end-of-the-world scenario is so bland, preachy, confusing and ridiculous, if you will, a right-wing neo-cons fantasy (that is until the liberal ending where a now peaceful world invites the aliens to immigrate), that it makes you wonder how the film could be so terrible if the novel got some good reviews and was even chosen a Book-of-the-Month Club selection.
REVIEWED ON 4/9/2009 GRADE: C