Mars in the Movies

A History

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About the Book

Films about Mars have been a science-fiction staple for more than a century. From Thomas Edison’s 1910 short film A Trip to Mars to Ridley Scott’s 2015 smash hit The Martian, the red planet has captivated audiences worldwide. This comprehensive survey describes 98 significant (and not so) films, television movies and miniseries, and direct to video productions focusing on Mars. The author discusses them in their historical context and details the development of special effects and cinematic approaches through the years. Cast, crew and production information are provided where available, along with plot summaries and quotes from critics.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Kent Miller is a former employee of NASA and a retired magazine editor. He has written for The Weird Tales Collector, Faunus: The Journal of the Friends of Arthur Machen, Wormwood, HarperCollins, Borgo Press, and Wildside Press. His interests include science-fiction cinema, Victorian and Edwardian ghost stories, 19th-century Hudson River School landscape paintings, and home theater. He lives in Southern California.

Bibliographic Details

Thomas Kent Miller

Foreword by Michael Stein

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 292
Bibliographic Info: 43 photos, appendices, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9914-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2626-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Foreword: “Enigmatic Mars, Take Me Home!” by Michael Stein 1
Preface 3
The Concept of This Book and Its Organization 8

Chapter One—The State of Mars Cinema Before 1950
Introduction  17
The Silent Era—
A Trip to Mars (1910)  18
A Message from Mars (1913)  19
Himmelskibet/A Trip to Mars (1918)  20
A Message from Mars (1921)  21
M.A.R.S. (1922)  22
Aelita—The Queen of Mars (1924)  22
The One Talkie—
Just Imagine (1930)  24
In a Class by Itself: A Radio Broadcast to End All Radio Broadcasts—
Orson Welles’ CBS Mercury Theater on the Air ­Radio-Play Adaption of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (1938)  26
The Serials—
Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (Mars Attacks the World) (1938)  28
The Purple Monster Strikes (D–Day on Mars) (1945)  32
Flying Disc Man from Mars (Missile Monsters) (1950)  33
Zombies of the Stratosphere (Satan’s Satellites) (1952)  34

Chapter Two—The Head of Zeus: Destination Moon (1950) 36

Chapter Three—Voyages to Mars
Introduction  45
Rocketship ­X-M (1950)  46
Flight to Mars (1951)  51
Jack Rabin (1914–1987) and Irving Block (1910–1986)  58
Conquest of Space (1955)  59
George Pal (1908–1980) by Gail Morgan Hickman  70
“Mars and Beyond” (December 4, 1957, Disneyland Episode)  71
The Angry Red Planet (1959)  76
Ib Melchior (1917–2015)  81
Battle Beyond the Sun (1963)  82
Mechte Navstrechu (1963)  83
Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964)  85
Nathan Van Cleave (1910–1970) by Dirk Wickenden  89
Byron Haskin (1899–1984)  91
The Wizard of Mars (aka Horrors of the Red Planet) (1964)  93
The X from Outer Space (1967)  96
Mission Mars (1968)  96
The Astronaut (1972 TV Movie)  98
Capricorn One (1978)  99
The Martian Chronicles (1980 TV Miniseries)  101
Escape from Mars (1999 TV Movie)  103
Mission to Mars (2000)  105
Red Planet (2000)  108
Stranded (2001 TV Movie)  111
Crimson Force (2005 TV Movie)  113
Race to Mars (2007 TV Miniseries)  114
John Carter (2012)  117
The Last Days on Mars (2013)  120
Last Sunrise (2014 ­Straight-to-Video)  123
The Martian (2015)  125

Chapter Four—Invasions from Mars
Introduction  131
Haredevil Hare (1948)  131
The Thing from Another World (1951)  134
Red Planet Mars (1952)  137
Invaders from Mars (1953)  139
The War of the Worlds (1953)  145
Duck Dodgers in the 241/2 Century (1953)  153
Devil Girl from Mars (1954)  153
It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)  158
The Day Mars Invaded Earth (1963)  161
Queen of Blood (1966)  162
War of the Planets (1966)  165
Mars Needs Women (1967 TV Movie)  167
Five Million Years to Earth (aka Quatermass and the Pit) (1967)  168
Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds (1978 Rock Opera LP)  174
Star Crystal (1986)  177
Invaders from Mars (1986)  179
Sandkings (1995 ­Feature-Length TV Episode)  181
Mars Attacks! (1996)  183
Species II (1998)  186
Close Encounters of the 4th Kind: Infestation from Mars (2004 ­Straight-to-Video)  188
Destination Mars (2006 Straight-to-Video)  189
War of the Worlds: Goliath (2012)  190
The Great Martian War 1913–1917 (2013 TV Movie)  192

Chapter Five—Still More “Wars of the Worlds”
Introduction  196
War of the Worlds (TV series, two seasons 1988–1990)  196
H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (2005 ­Straight-to-Video)  198
H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds (2005 ­Straight-to-Video)  200
War of the Worlds (2005)  201
War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave (2008 ­Straight-to-Video)  204
Alien Dawn (2012 ­Straight-to-Video)  204

Chapter Six—Inhabited Mars
Introduction  207
Total Recall (1990)  208
Mars (1997 Straight-to-Video)  209
John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars (2001)  211
DOOM (2005)  212
Princess of Mars (aka John Carter of Mars) (2009 ­Straight-to-Video)  213
Red Faction: Origins (2011 TV Movie)  214
Martian Land (2015 ­Straight-to-Video)  215

Chapter Seven—Invasion of the Slapstick Comedies
Introduction  218
Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953)  219
The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962)  220
Pajama Party (1964)  221
Martians Go Home (1989)  222
Spaced Invaders (1990)  222
Rocketman (1997)  223
My Favorite Martian (1999)  223

Chapter Eight—Homages, Parodies, Satires, ­Send-Ups and Spoofs
Introduction  225
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)  225
Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (aka Mars Invades Puerto Rico) (1965)  226
The Alpha Incident (1978)  227
Attack from Mars (aka Midnight Movie Massacre) (1988)  227
Lobster Man from Mars (1989)  228
Lost on Mars (2002 ­Straight-to-Video); Empire of Danger (2004 ­Straight-to-Video)  229
Scary Movie 4 (2006)  230
Interplanetary (2008 ­Straight-to-Video)  230
Cave Women on Mars (2008 Straight-to-Video)  231
Christmas on Mars (2008); A Fantastical Film Freakout Featuring the Flaming Lips  231
Mars (2010)  232

Chapter Nine—The Children of The Martian
Introduction  234
Citizen Mars (2015 Web TV series)  237
Tom Sachs Presents: A Space Program (2016 art film)  238
Approaching the Unknown (2016)  239
Passage to Mars (2016)  240
The Space Between Us (December 2016)  241
Mars (Cable Channel Miniseries November 2016)  242

Appendix A: Animated Mars 243
Appendix B: Mars Episodes in Television Anthology Series (1951–1998) 246
Appendix C: Mars in the Movies Chronologically by Decade 249
Afterword 253
Bibliography 255
Index 261

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “one of the more entertaining and informative guides to the genre in some time…. What really makes this work stand out is Miller’s occasionally hilarious commentary. Fans of the genre should absolutely purchase it…highly recommended”—American Reference Books Annual
  • “wonderful…from the beloved to the obscure, Miller holds great love for the genre and many of the films featured. If there was not already a book on this subject, there needed to be one. Miller has written it…and the definitive one at that”—Flick Attack
  • “carefully researched accounting of a century’s worth of films invoking Mars as the location of the narrative…a typically handsome McFarland book, printed on quality paper stock, and with sterling photo reproduction. Generous use is made of stills, frame grabs, and promotional art. I read Mars in the Movies with considerable pleasure. A cover to cover read is illuminating”—Filmfax
  • “Miller is authoritative on this topic and it is refreshing to read his insightful comments and, in some cases, his second opinions after re-watching certain works…excellent addition to the science fiction and/or film section of any reference collection”—Reference Reviews