GOG(director/editor: Herbert L. Strock; screenwriters: Tom Taggart/Richard G. Taylor/based on a story by Ivan Tors; cinematographer: Lothrop B. Worth; cast: Richard Egan (David Sheppard), Constance Dowling (Joanna Merritt), Herbert Marshall (Dr. Van Ness), John Wengraf ( Dr. Zeitman), Steve Roberts (Maj. Howard), Byron Kane (Dr. Carter); Runtime: 85; United Artists; 1954)
“This sci-fi’er left a lot to be desired.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This sci-fi’er left a lot to be desired. It didn’t work out when shown in 3-D (The public’s taste for that fad cooled), nor when released in the conventional film format. For the first 30-minutes or so I felt I was stuck in a detention classroom for dummies (those childhood memories never seem to go away!). It tried to explain the secret experimental work being done underground in a New Mexico lab equipped with five different levels of depth and a giant mirror out front to deflect the sun’s rays that if directed upon a target would easily burn it up. It was about a weapon that was reputed to be more potent than the H-bomb and something that America, the good guys, were going to put in outer space so that they could control the world from their enemies.
Ivan Tors is the producer whose novel the film is based on. He also foisted his wife, Constance Dowling, on the film as the lead actress. Constance’s problem was that she was stiffer than a real stiff in her romantic role. She is used as a plant from Washington, spying on what is happening at the secret project. She previously had a romantic relationship with the lead investigator, Dr. David Sheppard (Egan), who was just flown in at the request of the center’s director Dr. Van Ness (Herbert Marshall). Constance’s job now becomes to help Dr. Sheppard track down the mysterious malfunctions taking place at the center. This was the last film she appeared in after a brief film career, working previously as a Samuel Goldwyn girl.
During these Cold War years machines were regarded with apprehension by the public, who were worried that the enemy would surpass America in science and have weapons that would destroy them. The plot of the film centers around two robots, GOG and MAGOG, built in a neutral European country, but who enemy agents were able to slip a radio transmitter into that was not detected by American security. This highlights the American paranoia about foreigners and machines controlling the world. Even if these machines could do 1,000 times the work man can do, they were also 1,000 times deadlier than man and this political reactionary story dwells on the negative side of what the machines could do.
Herbert Marshall has an uninspiring role as the man in charge of this project, whose aim is the installation of the first manned space station built. This station will be sent to outer space upon its completion. The base is under the “command” of NOVAC, an anagram for Nuclear Operated Variable Automatic Computer. What all the fuss is about is to see if American know-how can save the world for democracy, as the project comes under attack. Since NOVAC has been compromised by those who’ve reprogrammed the computer to undermine the space-station project and have ordered NOVAC to dispatch the two robots to kill the scientists and the project itself, it’s now up to Dr. Sheppard to stop those robots.
The action in the film — which is none-too-thrilling — is in watching how many of the 150 workers will get killed and in what novel ways. There will also be some action scenes involving the ruggedly handsome B-actor and former school teacher, Richard Egan, putting a flame thrower to the robot, which will enable America to launch its space station uninterrupted.
If the film was funny, or its technology was more interesting, or if the killings weren’t so melodramatic and the acting not so staid, and the patriotic jingoism wasn’t so shrill, I might have found this film bearable. In any case, it was reassuring to know that democracy was saved, that there are still heroes to be found in America, and America still has the best technology in the world.
REVIEWED ON 9/8/99 GRADE: D
Dennis Schwartz: ” Ozus’ World Movie Reviews “
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