John Jos. Miller’s CREATURE FEATURE

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SPACE MASTER X-7

SPACE MASTER X-7 (1958) is so obscure that I had never even heard of it before seeing it mentioned in Bill Warren’s indispensable KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. Now that I’ve viewed it, I know why.

Say you’re getting ready to watch a movie called SPACE MASTER X-7. You eagerly pop the DVD into your player anticipating, A) an exciting adventure set maybe on Mars or Jupiter or some equally exotic milieu starring some guy who’s either named Space Master or has a rocket ship called Space Master, or, B) a movie set largely in Los Angeles about a deadly but awesomely non-infectious space fungus. If for some utterly bizarre reason you guessed (B), you’d be right.

So, okay, inappropriately named. There IS a rocket, of sorts, in the movie. Via the magic of stock footage, this rocket goes up into the stratosphere, scoops up a soupcon of very thin air, and comes back down to Earth, where the luckless Dr. Pommer (Paul Frees, who had an incredibly prolific career as a voice actor) puts a dab of the sample (somehow it has become liquified) on a slide and examines it under his microscope, and, sonofagun, his theory is confirmed. There is fungus up there in outer space! You see where this is heading.

A paleolithic version of THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN is not necessarily a bad idea, but the basic problem with this movie is that nearly everyone in it a complete dumbass.

Dr. Pommer is a complete dumbass. He expected the existence of this fungus (which he dubs Blood Rust) from the very beginning (god knows why), but his home lab has less protection against a runaway infectious organism than your basic first grade classroom, which at least has a tube of hand-sanitizer on the teacher’s desk.

John Hand (security guy) and Pvt. Joe Rattigan (who drives a jeep and coincidentally has a Masters’ degree in biology) are complete dumbasses. When they come to check on the mysterious telephone call from Dr. Pommer (which ends in a mumbled “Arrrghhh!”) and find him covered in fungus they go outdoors and BREAK A WINDOW so they can reach in and grab the good doctor’s tape recorder. Sure, then they soak the place with a couple of cans of gasoline and torch it, but they’re a day late and a dollar short when it comes to stopping the spread of the festering fungus. Or so you would think, but the movie forgets about this and moves on to the next subplot.

Later, listening to the tape they realize that a mysterious woman was present at Pommer’s bungalow/biology lab. After a bit of investigation they track down the cab driver who picked her up (before the fungus got out of hand) who turns out to be, of all people, Moe Howard. Surprisingly, Howard turns in a quite credible performance as the cabbie.

He also proves to be the smartest guy in the movie (Really. A stooge.) because even though the ex-Mrs. Pommer (as she turns out to be) had bribed him to forget about her, he spills the beans and tells Hand and Rattigan that he took her to the train station. He even tells them which train she took. Do they have the brains to order the police throw a cordon around the train as it comes into the station to interdict this rampaging Blood Rust? Nope. ( “Ah, we’ll meet her at the baggage counter.”) Of course, if they had, the movie would be over at the forty minute mark.

The rest of the film is an attempt to track down the equally dumbass ex-Mrs. Dr. Pommer, who tries to escape back to Hawaii in an effort to avoid scandal, and, later when she learns by a convenient newspaper headline that her husband “died in a fire,” a possible murder rap.

The brilliant investigative team (Hand gets most of the credit here) further allows her to board the only plane going to Hawaii when THEY KNOW SHE’S GOING TO HAWAII. Jesus, Security Guy, pick up a phone and throw some weight around, would ya?

Actually, the production values of this film aren’t bad (though I’ve seen scarier fungus). The acting is pretty competent too. Direction and the script, however, do their best to prevent any sense of drama and menace as the Blood Rust is shown covering only Pommer (one other person is victimized off-stage) for all it’s supposed ferocity, though it is hell on immobile objects, like luggage.

At least the movie was pretty short (71 minutes). Back to obscurity, SPACE MASTER X-7. 3+

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