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Gog

MGM // Unrated // December 6, 2011
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted February 9, 2012 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:




In 1953 producer Ivan Tors gave us the underrated SF film The Magnetic
Monster
which introduced the OSI, a government organization that was in charge
of
all things scientific.  The following year he made a sequel of
sorts,
Gog.  This film also featured an agent from the OSI
investigating
some mysterious occurrences but Tors was able to avoid the major
misstep
of the first film:  this one is much more visually
interesting. 
Too bad it's not nearly as exciting and way too talky.  Even
so,
this MGM Limited Edition MOD disc is great and goes well with Tors
earlier
film and they make a great pair.



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At a top secret scientific research station, deep underground beneath
the
southwest desert soil, scientists are dying under mysterious
circumstances. 
The head of the installation suspects that there is a saboteur in their
midst
and calls in brilliant scientist/man of action Dr. David Sheppard
(Richard
Egan) from the Office of Scientific Investigation (O.S.I.).  



The group naturally has a peaceful mission (what else would they be
doing
hidden hundreds of feet under the desert):  to construct a space
station
that will take mankind to the stars.  The first scientists were
killed
in their own deep-freeze chamber, frozen and then broken into a million
pieces
(off camera of course) when they fell.  Soon after the deaths, a
pair
of hypersonic relays was discovered hidden in the base, the type of
device
that could signal the installation's location to a bomb-laden enemy
plane
and lead it right to the scientists.



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The bulk of the movie is taken up with Dr. Sheppard touring the
base. 
He meets all of the major scientists who take time to explain their
research,
tell him why it's important for a space station and they then discuss
the
practical applications. Then he's treated to a demonstration before
moving
on to the next laboratory where the long process repeats.  He sees
the
room where zero gravity can be simulated, the work on solar power, the
nuclear
reactor that powers the lab along with the giant computer that controls
everything
in the base, Nuclear Operated Variable Automatic Computers or NOVAC for
short,
and its two remote controlled robots, Gog and Magog.



After a while (a long while) the scientists start dying again. 
Controls
start operating themselves, the centrifuge that's used to mimic the
high
gravity effects of a rocket blast won't turn off and kills a pair of
subjects,
a solar mirror turns itself on and aims its metal-melting beam at a
scientist,
and tuning forks start to vibrate with enough energy to kill (yeah, I
didn't
really get that one either).  Then, Gog and Magog run wild. 
Who
could be behind these deadly deeds?  The arrogant scientist who
thinks
he's smarter than everyone else?  The jealous female
scientist? 
Or could it possibly be, gee, I don't know, the computer that controls
all
of the devices that viewers see operating automatically?  



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While the idea for the film is very good and the end is entertaining,
there
are some flaws that keep this from being a really memorable film. 
The
biggest defect is the fact that there's just too much exposition in the
first
two thirds.  The concept of breaking the movie up by having
science
demonstrations every few minutes is nice but the execution was less
than
perfect.  The explanations that preceded these flourishes are just
too
long as are the demonstrations themselves.  The zero-g
environment,
for example, has a scientist explaining how his two subjects are
wearing
special metal-meshed clothing and that there is a current running
through
wires in the ceiling and floors.  By controlling the amount of
current
he can simulate different gravitational forces.  So he has the two
acrobats
go through a routine three times, at normal gravity, half gravity, and
one
hundredth gravity.  Obviously using wires, the woman lifts the man
the
last time through.  *yawn*  It isn't that visually
interesting
and the preamble makes the whole scene feel like a lecture in a science
class.



While the screenwriter does try to keep the science more or less
plausible,
he doesn't spend as much time as he should worrying about the details
of
the plot.  While the film tries to generate a sense of mystery
over
who is killing the scientist, it's painfully obvious who is responsible
right
from the beginning since viewers see the various machines acting on
their
own.  What's just as bad is the fact that several mysteries are
never
explained in the movie. (How did the relays get planted all over the
base? 
How did the radioactive element get planted in the chemist's lab?)



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Even with these flaws, the movie does aim higher than most SF films of
the
era and it deserves a lot of credit for that.  Trying to create a
realistic
science fiction film is laudable, and having a scientist whose main
weapon
is his brain (well, that and a flame thrower) is great.  



It's not all dry science either.  The third act is pretty
exciting,
and some of the earlier scenes are well done too.  The robot
designs
for Gog and Magog are excellent.  Just about all of the robots in
sci
fi films up to this point in time (and for decades afterwards) have
been
obviously men in suits: Humanoid in form and walking upright. 
This
movie puts the robots on treads and instead of two arms they have
several
mechanical appendages placed all around its body.  They look much
more
like Daleks (which wouldn't make an appearance for over a decade) than
Tobor. 
Kudos to the design team for actually designing a robot instead of a
suit
for a man.



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The DVD:





Audio:



The mono soundtrack is fine.  There isn't any background noise or
distortion
and the dialog is easy to hear.  Just what you'd expect from an
early
50's film.



Video:



Originally shot in 3D, the film's color elements were thought lost for
years
and the movie was shown on the late, late show on TV in black and white
for
years.  Luckily a color version recently turned up and that's what
we
have here.  What's even better is that the unrestored full frame
image
looks great.  I was expecting faded colors and a scratchy, soft,
print
but that's not the case at all.  The print is clean and clear and
the
colors are bright and bold.  The level of detail is very good and
the
image pretty sharp.  This is a nice looking disc marred only by
some
grain in a few scenes.



Extras:



Unfortunately there aren't any extras.



Final Thoughts:




A film that aims high but doesn't quite hit the mark, Gog is a
bit
too talky in the beginning, but mostly makes up for it with the ending
and
some interesting robots.  An attempt at a realistic SF film long
before
such things would become fashionable; Gog is definitely worth checking
out. 
Recommended.


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