Peter Graves and Andrea King in Red Planet Mars (1952)

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Director Harry Horner and United Artists delivered Red Planet Mars to movie theaters in 1952. Peter Graves has the starring role of an intepid American scientist, with Andrea King playing his wife.

Harry Horner Directs Red Planet Mars

John L. Balderston and producer Anthony Veiller wrote the screenplay for Melaby Pictures Corp. Harry Horner (Vicki, A Life in the Balance) directed. Mahlon Merrick created the original music score and Joseph F. Biroc was the cinematographer.

Peter Graves (Chris Cronyn), Andrea King (Linda Cronyn) and Herbert Berghof (Franz Calder) head the cast. Other players include Walter Sande (Admiral Bill Carey), Marvin Miller (Gaspardin Arjenian), Willis Bouchey (President), Morris Ankrum (Secretary of Defense Sparks), Orley Lindgren (Stewart Cronyn) and Bayard Veiller (Roger Cronyn).

Red Planet Mars Filmed in Hollywood

Red Planet Mars was filmed at Motion Picture Center Studios for the newly-formed Melaby Pictures, Inc., founded by Anthony Veiller and Robert Hyde. Shot in black and white in late November 1951, the movie’s working titles included Miracle form Mars and Red Planet.

Red Planet Mars Science Fiction Movie

Scientists Chris and Linda Cronyn contact Mars via an experimental radio designed by renegade Nazi scientist Franz Calder. The transmissions from the Red Planet reveal a superior race living there, one whose members possess fantastic technology and who can live nearly three centuries.

The Martians’ messages are later broadcast to the masses. Religious in tone, they warn that mankind has embraced evil rather than goodness. A worldwide panic ensues, with the stock market crashing and the Russian proletariat toppling the Soviet government. An era of peace eventually follows.

Meanwhile, Franz Calder emerges from his hiding place in the Andes Mountains. Armed with a duplicate hydrogen-valve transmitter, Calder claims it was he who was sending the “Martian” messages.

Film Analysis: The Red Planet Meets the Red Scare

Combine religious evangelism and the Red Scare and one comes up with the aptly named Red Planet Mars. There’s plenty to digest in this B-picture from the McCarthy era: disguised Bible passages, a genius Nazi scientist, a cunning Russian agent, grim American military men and a heroic husband and wife team who plug into Mars via a high-tech transmitter.

For those who missed the early Billy Graham crusades of the 1950s, fear not, as Red Planet Mars delivers a similar sermon. The clear message to mankind: either shape up or eventually ship out (to hell), with the Martians subbing for the fiery evangelist.

The concept of Red Planet Mars is downright intriguing, and one that would be repeated decades later in Contact (1997). That being the origin of the extraterrestrial messages, making one wonder whether they are actually emanating from Mars or from somewhere on Earth.

Red Planet Mars Release, Reviews, Movie Memorabilia, DVD

  • Red Planet Mars was released on May 15, 1952.
  • “Despite its title, Red Planet Mars takes place on terra firma, sans space ships, cosmic rays or space cadets. It is a fantastic concoction delving into the realms of science, politics, religion, world affairs and Communism,” reported Variety.
  • “Peter Graves and Andrea King are serious and competent, if slightly callow in appearance, as the indomitable scientists,” opined A.H. Weiler of The New York Times (6/16/52).
  • Auction results for original Red Planet Mars movie material, courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries: one sheet poster ($35), half sheet poster ($507.88), three sheet poster ($65.73), insert poster ($299), set of eight lobby cards ($388.38).
  • Red Planet Mars is available on DVD (Cheezy Flicks, 2006).

“It’s the Sermon on the Mount…from Mars,” Andrea King declares in one scene.

Just what we need, alien evangelists…

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