Saturday, April 16, 2011

In short: Terror In The Midnight Sun (1959)

Original title: Rymdinvasion i Lappland

The Swedish cut and the US cut of this Swedish/US co-production are completely different. Since the US-version has been touched by the appendages of Jerry Warren, I opted for the Swedish one that is (and I do believe the Internet in this case) supposed to be superior in every way.

A meteorite has crashed down on the ices of (the Swedish) Lapland, but there's something rather strange about it. The object seems to have landed rather than crashed, really, getting the Swedish Royal Academy of Science all a-tizzy. They send American scientist Dr. Frederick Wilson (Robert Burton) and Swedish geologist and professional lady killer Erik Engström (Sten Gester) up there on a little expedition.

Turns out that Wilson's niece, Olympic figure skater Diane (figure skater Barbara Wilson), is also in the skiing resort that will be the base camp for the whole investigation. She's also very much interested in becoming part of the expedition and of Erik's harem. That's a happy coincidence, because we'll need a woman to run away and scream soon enough, because a big, hairy monster in need of American women to threaten has stepped out of the meteor. I see squashed Lap tents and minor avalanches in the future.

I have certainly seen worse examples of the 50s monster movie genre than Terror in the Midnight Sun, but I've enjoyed many of these quite a bit more than the film at hand. Yes, we are in the realm of boring competence again (though some of the film's editing might stretch the definition of "competence" to a problematic degree), where no goal is achieved beyond ticking off checkmarks on a list of features every other film of a given time and genre includes too. If you've seen any of this film's brethren - and everyone should have, there are birds as big as battleships to find - you know all there is to know about its characters, their relations, their icky romances and about the film's ideas about women.

What features Terror has beyond that are mostly not of the kind gladly mentioned, because they consist of an overabundance of filler, especially during its first two thirds. So there are ten minutes of a documentary about radar (I wish I were kidding), a figure skating scene, a musical number, horrible "flirting" and lots and lots of skiing - none of it needed for or relevant to the film's actual plot, such as it is. The furry monster's somewhat cute, at least, and one can't blame director Virgil W. Vogel for having tried to make it look more impressively large than it actually is through forced perspective and low-angled camera shots; for my tastes, he does at least beat Bert I. Gordon here.

The film's other positive is the Swedish landscape, that at times (when it is not misused for more skiing) promises a much bleaker and more interesting film than Vogel is able to deliver.

Now, an okay monster and a lot of snow are probably not enough for most people to wade through the rest of Terror in the Midnight Sun, but I do appreciate that everyone (except writer Arthur C. Pierce) were honestly trying to make a decent monster movie.


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