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Weird Worlds Collection
Four of the goofiest old-school sci-fi adventures are gathered here in the 4-disc "Weird Worlds Collection," courtesy of Image Entertainment -- guys who'll release pretty much anything on DVD. Despite the moniker, these worlds aren't all that "weird" at all. "Silly Sci-Fi Collection" might have been a better heading, but if you're a fan of antiquated sci-fi schlock, odds are you'll find something to enjoy here.
Destination Moon (1950) isn't actually "weird" at all. It's actually a fairly sober and straight-laced adventure in which four All-American Joes build a rocket and blast off to the moon ... much to the chagrin of the U.S. government! Based on the novel by Robert Heinlein, Destination Moon earns points for trying to tell a non-fantastic sci-fi story, and there's even some extra credit for getting some of the science right. Yeah, the dialogue is frequently ridiculous and the special effects are as goofy as you'd expect, but taken as sort of a pre-pre-pre-historic Apollo 13, I suspect the die-hard sci-fi fans might enjoy this one.
(A reader wrote in asking that I mention Destination Moon's place as a film that "started the 1950s sci-fi craze," and I apologize for having overlooked that trivial tidbit. Indeed, Destination Moon was one of the very first American "space quest" flicks, and as such it deserves to be mentioned as a semi-milestone of the genre. Whether or not such a designation enables one to enjoy the fairly dry, outmoded, and cornball aspects of Destination Moon is up to the individual, of course, but the reader was right that I should at least mention it: Apparently Destination Moon was 1950's equivalent to Star Wars.)
Project Moonbase (1953) is a spy thriller and a sci-fi adventure all wrapped into one brief-yet-ridiculous mini-movie. Also based on a Heinlein story, Project Moonbase deals with a guy-girl "space force" team who find their moon mission interrupted by the arrival of a very stupid Russian spy. Much of the 63-minute flick consists of silly sets, insipid dialogue, casual sexism, and (especially towards the end) outright lunacy. And those outfits! Whose idea was it to give out Peter Pan hats and short-shorts to Earth's first guy/girl astro-squad? Still: simply and consistently silly, but not all that weird.
The Phantom Planet (1961) is, well -- what can one say about a movie that not only languishes, unwanted, in the public domain, but was also savaged with much hilarity by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang? I could say it's laughable, embarrassing, woefully inept, and absolutely Ed Woodsian in style and presentation, but why bother? This one's about a daring space hero who crash lands on a zooming planet, only to discover that the citizens look, act, and behave just like human beings ... only they're really, really tiny. So they shrink Space Guy down to their size and spend the next hour wandering around caves and talking about space. Oh, and there are these moronic-looking monsters that look like the unholy offspring of Pluto the Dog and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Finally this package offers some true weirdness!
First Spaceship on Venus (1962) is known throughout the planet as Silent Star or Planet of the Dead or Der Schweigende Stern, but it's just another low-budget '60s sci-fi-stinker that, not very long ago, earned a wondrous lampooning at the hands of the MST3K boys. Interesting in that it's a Polish-German co-production, if for no other reason whatsoever, First Spaceship on Venus is a dry and periodically non-sensical dub-fest in which a bunch of dry international dolts head out to Venus -- slowly. But, to be fair, in the flick's final 20-some minutes, it definitely does get "weird."
Video: The first three flicks are fullscreen, and the fourth is in widescreen 2.35, but the picture quality is fairly rancid across the board. Some would say the glitches, scratches, and cigarette burns add some kitsch to the package, which makes sense, but ... yechh.
Audio: Dolby grungy no-frills all the way, but be forewarned: Nearly all of the dialogue is perfectly audible.
Extras: Disc 1 has the theatrical trailer for Destination Moon, which runs after the feature presentation. Disc 3 has some trailers for other Image titles: Giant From the Unknown, The Cosmic Man, Teenagers from Outer Space, Carnival of Souls, and the immortal Robot Monster. Disc 4 has trailers for First Spaceship on Venus, Plan 9 from Outer Space (hooray!), Bride of the Monster, Jail Bait, Rocketship X-M, and Destination Moon (yes, again).
One dull-yet-watchable old chestnut, one dry and relentlessly stupid tale, one cave party that lasts forever, and one adventure that devolves into a multi-cultural acid trip. If that's worthy of your 15 bucks, feel free to go weird. Me, I say Skip It.