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Monday, March 31, 2014

THE SPACE CHILDREN (1958)

Best remembered for Universal Horror pics like CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON/’54 and THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN/’57, Jack Arnold popped up @ Paramount for this neat quickie, handsomely shot by Ernest Laszlo, about some kids who band together to sabotage the initial launch of a new nuclear missile program. They’re all children of the program’s scientists & technicians, armed with secret info (or is it orders?) from an ‘intergalactic brain’ beamed down to earth via space rays. Sounds dopey, but it’s unusually well handled, with an easy-to-swallow Peace-Nik Message familiar from THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL/’51 and dozens of lesser Sci-Fi moral fables. Michel Ray has a doe-like quality as the kid’s leader, he’s Peter Pan to these Lost Boys & Girls, though he nearly loses the oldest of the group who’s just turning puberty corner. (A darn sharp reading of the Peter Pan myth that.) The cast is much stronger and more interesting than typical in these things, with significant once & future credits on the likes of Chaplin’s THE KID, Hitchcock’s NORTH BY NORTHWEST, Lean’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA; plus iconic tv shows like THE RIFLEMAN, THE ADDAMS FAMILY & GILLIGAN’S ISLAND. Pop culture spotting of a very high order.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The MST3K gagsters used this film for one of their snark fests which presumably explains a misleadingly low IMDb score. So be sure to get the recent Olive Films DVD edition. Taken on its own terms, this is quite a success.

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