APES ON FILM: It Never Pours, But It RAINS!

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

BATTLE OF THE WORLDS (Il Pianeta Degli Uomini Spenti) – 1961
2.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Claude Rains , Bill Carter , Umberto Orsini , Maya Brent
Director: Antonio Margheriti (as Anthony Dawson)
Rated: Unrated
Studio: The Film Detective
Region: A
BRD Release Date: August 9, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 16-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (29.28 Mbps)
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 84 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Antonio Margheriti worked as a model maker and special effects artist while making the transition to Director, and his talent for creating dynamic space battles is on display in BATTLE OF THE WORLDS. In his second outing in the big chair, Margheriti delivers a film high on concept but low on coherent storytelling; his directing skills were still being honed, and it shows. With a penchant for working with maquette and models, his lack of experience with actors is obvious – especially in relation to his star, Claude Rains.

Rains had recently starred as Prof. Challenger in Irwin Allen‘s production of  THE LOST WORLD, but was nearing the end of his career. An over-the-top personality, Rains was set loose on a cast of Italian actors and English-speaking bit players and literally chews them up and spits them out all over the screen. It’s like watching a lawnmower approaching a litter of puppies in some scenes. Both director and actor had brighter days ahead; Rains was yet to appear in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD, and Margheriti had better fish to fry in films like THE WILD, WILD PLANET, TAKE A HARD RIDE, and WEB OF THE SPIDER, just to name a few.

The “Outsider,” an interstellar satellite on a collision course with Earth, proves to be a planetoid-sized mothership filled with hostile flying saucers bent on destroying our defense forces so that the alien controllers can colonize our planet. Dr. Benson (Rains) has plans to stop them, but will only share them if he is given complete control of the task force charged with combatting the invasion. It’s all highly melodramatic and the conclusion is a bit disappointing to all involved, but there are definitely entertaining moments in the film. The art direction by Umberta Cesarano —on a shoestring budget— is colorful and appealing, as might be expected in an Italian sci-fi film of the era. Music by Mario Migliardi  is atonal and unsettling, which works some of the time and annoys just as often.

The Film Detective’s presentation of the film is a definite improvement in terms of picture and sound quality than previous releases, but is problematic on other fronts. Approximately nine minutes that was included in a previous DVD release from Reel Vault seems to be missing and, to be honest, this Blu-ray is rife with jump cuts throughout. Though created from a new 4K scan of the source material, the source was a 35mm print that itself needed restoration, though provided the best quality elements that could be found. Though the packaging claims it is “newly restored”, there are numerous analog artifacts present from the original source. I suspect that The Film Detective did in fact do some audio restoration to smooth the dialog during the jump cuts, and possibly ran the new master through several A.I. filters for stabilization purposes.

While I do understand their dilemma regarding a full restoration- which should include new color timing to correct a visible red shift due to the source print’s Eastman-color film stock, as well as a total audio remix – is there enough of an audience for this film to make the cost of restoration commercially viable? It’s hard to say. Should the film be preserved? Absolutely. But as a less than classic offering in the genre, does it warrant a stem-to-stern restoration? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

The disc also includes a new featurette from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, “A Cinematic Outsider: The Fantastical Worlds of Antonio Margheriti” (HD; 30:38) with historian and critic Tim Lucas discussing the director’s oeuvre, as well as a new feature length commentary from author Justin Humphreys. Both are well put together and informative, and worth viewing.

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video WatcH*Dog, and many more.

 

 Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

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