The 1950s were a fascinating time for science fiction. In a decade when technology changed at breakneck speed, it only makes sense this evolution would show up in the science fiction of the era. Like any genre, the “quality” varies greatly, but it should come as no surprise that the 1950 is known for awesome science fiction. Gog is definitely a deep cut in a decade with plenty of essentials. There’s murder, espionage, robots and lots and lots of… radiation. Read on!
Gog follows a government agent (Richard Egan) who is called to a secret military establishment to solve what the base commander (Herbert Marshall) believes might be a case of espionage. However, as he works his way through the complex facility, what begins as suspicions of mere spying quickly turns to murder. As he sets to stop the escalating body count, he must contend with forces above and beyond his human control. Constance Dowling, John Wengraf and Phillip Van Zandt co-star in the film. Herbert L. Strock directs the movie from a script by Tom Taggart.
As I mentioned, Gog comes to the screen as part of the mighty tradition of 1950s science fiction. These movies are a breed entirely of their own. Sure, there’s often a wide variance when it comes to quality; however they are almost always an experience to be savored. You just need to be ready and open to the experience.
The science fiction thriller comes from director of photography Lothrop B. Worth. While this is a name many might not be familiar with (including myself), I dare say, more of us should be. From a visual standpoint, Gog is a cinematic work of art. The film’s use of color is bright and vivid, making this one a true joy to watch.
Worth has credits going back to the late 1920s as a camera operator on a host of studio classics: If I Were King, Wake Island, So This is New York and My Dear Secretary to name a few. Gog is one of his earliest feature length credits as a director of photography, but he showed tremendous versatility throughout his career. While most of his feature work came in horror movies of the ‘good-bad’ variety, he was also a recurring figure on television, from black and white works like The Real McCoy’s and The Donna Reed Show, to the candy colored delightfulness of I Dream of Jeanie. Sure, Worth was a journeyman DP, but in a look over his career, his talent and versatility shows through in the absolutely beautiful aesthetics at work in Gog.
Meanwhile, Richard Egan jumps into this very early lead role which is (thanks to the benefit of hindsight) very “un Richard Egan”. The actor hadn’t quite developed the presence he brings even just a few years later in films like Love Me Tender and A Summer Place. At the same time, Egan is probably the performer most hindered by the film’s script which alternates between loaded down with often uneeded exposition and sounding almost comedically dated.
“In space, there’s no such thing as the weaker sex…”.
“That’s why I’m glad I’m here”.
“The doctor says it isn’t serious, just a little too much radiation”.
It is thanks to the moments like the ones above which drop Gog squarely into the ‘good-bad’ category. Is this a bad thing? Not at all. I will admit to getting a few good laughs and finding myself more than entertained throughout.
The movie is a breezy watch, clocking in at just over an hour and twenty minutes. It spends most of its runtime on the mystery elements, saving the action and horror for the last act. I’m going to go above and beyond here to avoid spoiling this 67 year old movie, but I do have to say one thing. I never knew my life was lacking Herbert Marshall armed with a flame thrower. Boy was I wrong. That’s all. Do with that what you will.
By the end of the film, the script does feel a bit rushed– something which can often happens in movies with a less than 90 minute runtime. From a story telling perspective, the ending does struggle. There could be more development– everything is explained in a hasty final scene exposition dump. However, when all is said and done, I wasn’t there for any real answers. My yearning for excitement was more than satisfied in the final act action sequence. Is that un-cinephile-ey of me?
Gog is a deep cut in the mass of goodness that is 1950s science fiction. Sure, it has some clunky moments in the script and some unintentional laugh-out-loud lines of diaglogue. None of that stops it from being a fun and entertaining sit. If this era of filmmaking is in your wheelhouse, make sure you check this one out.
Gog is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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