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[WIW] Old Black & White Sci-Fi and Horror flicks

Snow Goon

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One of the things that makes this good fodder for game usage is that the EvtFS aliens are actually a small group of survivors--arrogant as hell as you note, but its not like the Martians where there's a massive number. They're more comparable in some ways to the stories where a modern aircraft carrier gets dropped into the 9th Century; they've got enormous amounts of firepower and other advantages the locals can't match, but there aren't all that many of them (its actually possible from context that there's only something like 50 aliens total, and there's only, what, seven saucers?)
I agree. The scenario maps very well to gaming. A limited number of enemies, but obnoxiously advanced technology, is a good opportunity for a handful of PCs to take center stage.
 

AbjectQuestioner

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I forget where I read it, but there was a good-natured criticism directed toward Ray Harryhausen made in regard to this film, in that he stop-motioned the actual spin of the Flying Saucers. "There're saucers," someone said, I paraphrase. "Isn't that a lot of work for such a small detail, considering they look pretty much the same from any angle?"

And Harryhausen just looked at the critic, as if he couldn't even understand the question.

Bah? Not spin the Saucers? Are you out of your mind?

Harryhausen is great.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
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The only problem with Ray was that while he wasn't a bad storyteller and was a great SFX creator, he couldn't direct actors for crap; if you got decent performance out of someone in one of his primary movies, it was all on the actor because Ray would provide no help.
 

Snow Goon

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I forget where I read it, but there was a good-natured criticism directed toward Ray Harryhausen made in regard to this film, in that he stop-motioned the actual spin of the Flying Saucers. "There're saucers," someone said, I paraphrase. "Isn't that a lot of work for such a small detail, considering they look pretty much the same from any angle?"

And Harryhausen just looked at the critic, as if he couldn't even understand the question.

Bah? Not spin the Saucers? Are you out of your mind?

Harryhausen is great.
That's hilarious, and he was correct. Spinning gave the saucers a real sense of dynamism that they wouldn't have had if the ships were just static frisbees.
 

Snow Goon

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23287
39. The Lost Missile (1958)
Starring Robert Loggia, Ellen Parker, Phillip Pine, Larry Kerr, and Marilee Earle

Plot in a Sentence: As an unidentified flying object scorches its way across the Bering Sea and Canada en route to New York City, can a handful of American scientists come up with a plan to save the city?

Quotable Quotations:
"The world is one minute away from the start of a Hydrogen war."

"I’d rather have a wedding than lunch any day."

"Doesn’t she know we’re in a boat headed for Niagara Falls and you’re trying to stop us?"

"After Pearl Harbor it took us months to get ready for war. Against attack by missiles we have only minutes. There may be no tomorrow. There may be no this afternoon."

"So long as you have your faith, you’ll be alive and well. So, keep your faith."

"Some may live, only to remember for the rest of their lives the most horrible moment of destruction man has ever known."

General Thoughts:
The Lost Missile fascinates me. It is the first movie that I've watched for this thread that I really wish I could have seen back in the '50s. It's plot is surprisingly direct: After being detected and knocked off course by the Russians, a missile-like object settles into a nearly 4,000 mph 5-mile high orbit that will take it straight to and past New York City. Anything beneath its path is instantly burned to the ground. Only Dr. David Loring (Loggia) might be able to figure out how to save the city and the rest of humanity.

What really impressed me about The Lost Missile is that it just kept getting more and more interesting as it went. It begins with the UFO screaming at Earth and only being forced into an orbital trajectory by a Russian missile. Burning across the sky at 4,000 miles per hour, it flash boils who knows how many millions of gallons of seawater in the Bering Sea before vaporizing a small USAF base in Alaska. This sets up the primary concern, the craft is dead on to hit Ottawa and then New York City. But wait, it was originally going to just strike the Earth? That would have to have been cataclysmic, so we can be sure that whoever fired the lost missile didn't have humanity's best interests at heart. At least not if we assume that it was fired on purpose at the Earth. One thing that I loved about this movie was that at no time was the UFO ever explained at all. No one communicates with it, no one pieces together where it came from or what it was meant to do. No, it's a destructive enigma right to the last.

Mixed in with this incredible threat is an impending wedding between Dr. Loring and his fiancé, Joan Wood (Parker), and a co-worker's wife going into labor. While I found these to be rather mawkish attempts at increasing the tension by putting a couple faces to the tragic ends that might happen if NYC gets burned right down to the bedrock, I can't deny that the film needs to put a human face on the impending doom. I just think this part could have been handled better.

Another aspect that I really enjoyed was that The Lost Missile is damn near presented in real-time. Once the UFO is knocked into orbit, we're told that it will arrive above New York City in 63 minutes. The rest of the movie takes about that long, adding a real sense of tension as the object draws ever closer. Poor Ottawa never had a chance, not in a Hollywood movie. As soon as I heard that a Canadian city was going to be hit first, I knew that it was a goner. Maybe NYC could be spared, but those Canadians were going to be vaporized to prove how big the threat was.

That's pretty much it, as far as the plot goes. The US and Canada both try to destroy the craft or change it's course, all to no avail of course. At the same time, Dr. Loring has been working on a hydrogen missile that might just be able to do it, if they can get it working in time. It's a fun ride and by the end I was genuinely invested in Loring's plight.

Should You Watch It?
I think that The Lost Missile is a really interesting artifact from the 1950s. The whole thing starts with the fear of a nuclear war and goes to great lengths to portray the US military in action against an implacable foe. The fact that the plot itself is so quick, also adds to the duck-and-cover feel so common to stories of thermal nuclear war. Since you can find it free to watch on YouTube, give it a look.

Gaming Potential:
I wonder if you might not be able to use The Lost Missile as inspiration for something like Traveller? Maybe the UFO is a mysterious craft racing out of interstellar space. Its markings and build is like nothing seen before, as if it could be an artifact from a long lost alien species. The PCs would need to be grounded on the planet, maybe without access to a ship or at the very least waiting on repairs so they can't just flee as soon as the craft is detected.

Rather than use some Russians or other NPCs, the alien object could be knocked into orbit by some kind of autonomous orbital defense platform. Like in the movie, it should be sent tearing through across the planet on a collision course with a number of small settlements as well as the starport. Unfortunately, their defenses just aren't up to the task of destroying the ballistic threat.

I'd give the PCs a couple different options to deal with the threat. For example, maybe there is a weapons platform that might be able to shoot down the craft, but it's not operational. The PCs could get the components to fix it up and go get it ready. This might necessitate dealing with the black market or local military.

Or maybe there's an abandoned ship somewhere near the starport and the PCs could try to get it up and running. If so, maybe its an old colonial transport and can get everyone out of harm's way or they can rig it to collide with the craft to knock it back into space. Again, this process would lead them through a number of different steps before completion.

Depending on their actions, maybe they could save the starport. Maybe not. Maybe they can only save some people. Regardless, it would be interesting to see how they handled it.

Next up... Behemoth the Sea Monster!
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
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The Lost Missile is a pretty deep cut for such things; it's pretty obscure. Its a little lacking in technical quality, largely saved by an unusual plot and the strength of the main character and the man playing him.

As to the Missile itself--I've seen speculation that the heat emission was a malfunction of what was supposed to be a fly-by probe, triggered by the weapon hit. But honestly, as you note, its not important in the movie--its just a threat and if someone doesn't deal with it, New York burns.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
Also, Snow Good--where are you located? If you next movie is the one I think of (a copy is sitting in one of my DVD files about ten feet from me) that's a variation on the name I've usually seen it with, and I'm curious if it was a foreign variation.
 

The Fiendish Dr. Samsara

The elegant assassin
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Wikipedia, for what it's worth, says that The Giant Behemoth is also known as Behemoth the Sea Monster. Whatever you call it, I call it an unusually good member of a genre that is largely awful.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
Wikipedia, for what it's worth, says that The Giant Behemoth is also known as Behemoth the Sea Monster. Whatever you call it, I call it an unusually good member of a genre that is largely awful.
That's why I wondered where he was; I'd seen reference to the latter name before, but I'd never seen someone actually refer to it by that version.

(I'd also disagree that the genre is largely awful, though it certainly has some truely awful examples (I think we went over The Giant Claw earlier in this thread as I recall...))
 
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