Who can resist a film with a title like that? Or Zontar, the Thing From Venus? Robot Monster? Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet? The Atomic Brain?
Clearly, I can’t. I love this stuff. B-films, especially scifi B-films. But I am a tad disappointed with this Mill Creek package.*
I recently received the set of SciFi Classics Collection: 50 Movie Pack, a 12-DVD collection, cover shown on the left. It turned out to be the same set I already had, just with a different cover, and a substitution of four films from the original lineup. Damn, that was $10 wasted.
Okay, I can live with the loss. The original packaged set (the “red box” package from Treeline) came with these 50 movies (as per a review on Amazon, with some alternate titles listed):
- The Incredible Petrified World
- Queen of the Amazons
- Robot Monster
- She Gods of Shark Reef
- The Amazing Transparent Man
- The Atomic Brain
- Horrors of Spider Island
- The Wasp Woman
- Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet
- Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women
- King of Kong Island
- Bride of the Gorilla
- Attack of the Monsters (aka Gamera vs. Guiron)
- Gammera, the Invincible
- Santa Claus Conquers The Martians
- Teenagers From Outer Space
- Crash of the Moons (Rocky Jones)
- Menace From Outer Space (Rocky Jones)
- Hercules Against The Moonmen
- Hercules and the Captive Women
- Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon
- Hercules Unchained
- Lost Jugnle
- Mesa of Lost Women
- Assignment: Outer Space
- Laser Mission
- Killers From Space
- Phantom From Space
- White Pongo
- The Snow Creature
- Son of Hercules
- Devil of the Desert vs. the Son of Hercules
- First Spaceship On Venus
- Zontar, the Thing From Venus (remake of “It Conquered the World”)
- The Astral Factor (aka “The Invisible Strangler”)
- The Galaxy Invader
- Battle of the Worlds
- Unknown World
- Blood Tide
- The Brain Machine
- The Wild Women of Wongo (yeah, it’s really in the collection!)
- Prehistoric Women
- They Came From Beyond Space
- Warning From Space
- The Phantom Planet
- Planet Outlaws (Buck Rogers)
- Colossus and the Amazon Queen
- Cosmos: War of the Planets
- Destroy All Planets (aka Gamera vs. Viras)
Four of these get dropped:
- Robot Monster (1953)
- Devil of the Desert vs. Son of Hercules (1964)
- Zontar, The Thing From Venus (1966)
- Battle of the Worlds (1961)
Instead you get in the “black box” Treeline version with the Gamera cover these four:
- Giants of Rome (1964)
- Moon of the Wolf (1972)
- The Alpha Incident (1977)
- Snowbeast (1977)
Personally, I would have rather kept the 1953 film and replaced the rest with more of that vintage. I think the pre-1970 films are better. Which isn’t the same meaning of better you might use when comparing margarines or colours to paint your bathroom. Better in this case means campier, kitschier, sillier. Most of the time, anyway. Some are real classics, albeit none up to the Day the Earth Stood Still quality.
There are some great scifi/horror flicks of that era. Who can forget Roger Corman’s 1957, B&W masterpiece, The Attack of the Crab Monsters? Not me, that’s for sure. Saw it at a drive-in movie when I was perhaps 9 or 10. Scared the crap out of me. But today I watch it with eager delight. Sadly, it’s not in the collection (although I have it on DVD).
My other disappointment with this package springs from the use of “scifi” to describe what are often clearly fantasy or adventure – the Hercules movies, for example. While I can have a good laugh watching one, I’d rather fill the DVDs with science, or as close to science as some of these get (okay, Gamera versus anything is pretty thin on science…)
I’ve noticed that many bookstores and film lists share this odd inability to distinguish between fantasy and scifi. To me, it’s like the inability to distinguish between, say, cookbooks and gardening books. Or Shakespeare and murder mysteries. If it has magic, elves, orcs, swords or dragons, it’s not scifi. If it has Hercules or Greek gods, it’s not scifi. What’s difficult about that?
Nor is the Wild Women of Wongo scifi, as you can see for yourself:
It’s not even fantasy. Not a single orc or dragon to be seen.
Here’s the IMDB plot summary:
On the tropical island of Wongo, a tribe of beautiful women discover that the other side of the island is inhabited by a tribe of handsome men. They also discover that a tribe of evil ape men live on the island, too, and the ape men are planning a raid on the tribe in order to capture mates.
Unless it’s meant as some sort of parody on The Time Machine, with the women as the Eloi and the apemen as the Morlocks.
Nah. Too intellectual. It’s just a bad movie. But fun. You might like this version with a humorous commentary (really, it’s actually quite funny, but then again it’s hard to take the film seriously even without the commentary… check the sidebar for more commented films from this collection…).
So what’s it doing in a collection of ostensibly science fiction films? I would have put it into a collection of adventure or cult films. Not scifi. Maybe I should apply to the distributor for a job selecting which films go into which set.
Then there’s Mesa of Lost Women, Queen of the Amazons, She Gods of Shark Reef, Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, Hercules and the Captive Women, Prehistoric Women, Colossus and the Amazon Queen… lots of movies about wild women who weren’t in Wongo. Might these titles suggest some misogyny there? Or just a whole genre of B-movies about women in faux-fur bathing suits or faux-classical short robes fighting with one another?
None of these films ever make their way to anyone’s “greatest films of all time.” Not the 50 essential scifi movies (I’ve seen 43 of them, by the way), the 50 Science Fiction/Fantasy Films That Everyone Should See (many of which are fantasy, not scifi, but I’ve seen 42), the 50 Must-See Science Fiction Movies (49), the 50 Best Sci-Fi Movies (46), the 50 Greatest Scifi Movies Ever (48), Top 50 Sci-Fi Movies (45), or even the Top 100 SciFi Films (95).
I have several similar collections; many are from Mill Creek, some of the others from Treeline. According to online forums, Mill Creek was formerly known as Treeline, but has changed its name along with its lineup, adding more films outside their usual run of public-domain or copyright-tossed-in-the-wastebin films. I have their horror classics, warriors set, and at least two mysteries collections. Maybe a couple of others, too (I tend to lose track of which mega-film collections I have stuffed in a corner, since I only watch them after Susan’s gone to bed).
Mill Creek ofers a 50-film scifi “Invasion” package, too. I may just have to get it… and their Nifty Fifties movie pack. Sigh. Moire lonely nights staying up late to feed my obsession with B-films.
* There is a 100-film version of the collection, which I probably should have bought instead, but it’s more than $40. Hard to justify, given that I’m the only one who watches them in this house. Well, me, my dogs and a cat or two. depends on whether the fire is on and I’m eating something they like.