Mars in Movies -- 08/31/03

It's been a good weekend so far... and there's still another day... I kind of tired myself out with a five mile run late Saturday morning... it had been overcast earlier in the morning but had cleared by the time I set out and the humid low 80's with bright sunshine wore me down... had wanted to go further... actually, I was running a six mile out-and-back course but overheated and had to take a walking break for a while so I was only running for a bit over five of those miles. I don't seem to be able to take sun and heat this summer. After lunch I was trying to read a book in my backyard hammock, but some mosquitoes put up a "Free Lunch" sign so I came inside to read on the couch in my den... and fell asleep for half an hour. Today was cooler, high in mid-70's, an absolutely picture perfect beautiful day. It probably would have been a good day for a run but I went for a bike ride instead, covered fifteen and a half miles. Tomorrow should be fairly nice, cloudy but no rain expected until evening, try to get in a good run before lunch. Nancy's been in tennis heaven this weekend, playing lots of tennis in a local tournament, both singles and doubles, and hours and hours of U.S. Open on cable.

We went outside a little while ago to look at Mars... and then were looking at some images on space.com. And I was thinking about various motion pictures...

So -- Mars in Movies -- One of the first, one that I saw in the theatre (you know, my Mom was really special, taking me to see a grade B clunker, back in those days when I was too young to go by myself) was Rocket Ship X-M (1950) -- Lloyd Bridges and Hugh O'Brien are among the crew members of a rocket aimed for the moon but which goes a little bit off course and lands on Mars. I was young enough that I totally missed the low budget and the silly off-course plot and the silly idea of dangerous rock-throwing cavemen on Mars and was just totally caught up in it, imaginatively, dramatically, emotionally. I knew it was a fictional story, but it felt so real to me.

Invaders from Mars (1953) -- oh, I remember that one -- in 1953, my family was down in Pennsylvania visiting my father's cousin and her family and one night we went to a drive-in movie to see High Noon (yes, that was a 1952 movie, which may be why it was playing in a drive-in, probably on buck night, but there was a coming attraction for Invaders from Mars and oh, how badly I wanted to see that movie! (I eventually did, but if I recall correctly, not until a couple of years later as part of a summer matinee series for kids.)

Capricorn One -- 1978 -- my goodness, I've just looked at the cast -- (Elliott Gould, James Brolin, Brenda Vaccaro, Sam Waterston, O.J. Simpson, Hal Holbrook, Karen Black, Telly Savalas -- like so totally seventies! --- and James Sikking [Lt. Howard Hunter on Hill Street Blues!] ) -- which was a very silly conspiracy theory movie (the government faking a Mars landing on a sound stage) and which I remember for one sharp scene where two helicopters are hunting for the hero and there was a perfect shot where these two choppers actually seemed to be predators radiating menace, otherwise a ridiculous failure of a film.

Total Recall -- the second half of the movie is set on Mars -- I really liked the little detail where off to the side of a spaceport lobby on Mars is a little newspaper stand holding copies of Mars Today (perfectly imitating the layout of USA Today). Mars Attacks! a silly comedy, the kind of thing that should have been funnier than it actually was -- Nancy commented to me that about halfway through it she realized that the coming attraction had been funnier than the movie because all of the really good stuff was in the trailer and everything else was just padding. Red Planet -- oh, there's a real turkey from about three years ago. Yawn. Ah, and right around the same time Mission to Mars was out -- which Nancy and I saw in the theatre and enjoyed -- oh, yeah, holes in plot that get bigger and bigger as the movie goes on (and on) but (as I think I remarked in this journal) the freefall dance sequence with the husband and wife astronaut team was worth the price of admission.

And, just to wrap things up, follow this link to see an animated time lapse shot of Mars rotating.... a real Mars movie!

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