Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gog (1954)

NetFlix 2.8/5
IMDB 5.3/10
My Rating: 6/10 *Qualified

At a secret US underground military/space/research base, a series of bizarre deaths occur which may have been caused by the supercomputer that runs the installation.   Or a pair of killer robots.

Gog is a forgotten gem, if you love 50's sci fi.  Heaven help me, I can't imagine getting most modern people to sit through this, but while I acknowledge that it's a fairly tedious film, I also really enjoyed it and especially loved its retro-future look at "Tomorrow's world" as envisioned by the folks of 1954.   It's a great mix of the prescient (Everything is controlled by the central computer, from nuclear reactor to door locks), the "We're still not there yet" (Robotic lab assistants), and the outright wacky (Building orbital space station heat beams...err, wait, I think that was tried already...). 

Gog gets a cracking start when some scientists performing one of those typical "Let's freeze this monkey and then re-animate it" experiments all end up dead in mysterious ways, if you can call being locked in the freezing chamber mysterious.  A square-jawed, non-nonsense hero-type is packed off from Washington to the underground base to set things in order, punch bad guys and woo the women.  Although in this case, our heroine Joanna is...Well, slightly more terrifying than sexy:

Fortunately she's a proper 50's woman, and ends up delicately fainting in lace by the film's end.  The first half of the movie will either fascinate or drill through your skull with boredom, depending on your level of interest in what the 50's thought the future would be like.  It's a 30+ minute crawl through the base, introducing our hero to the various scientists and eggheads and potential baddies that work there.

Probably my favorite bit here is where we are introduced to the concept of the near-future orbital space station, which will run on solar power capable of directing a giant solar heat beam from space down to incinerate any godless communist city we want, thus finally making "the world safe for the USA".  I have no doubt that the engineering wonks who worked on the Death Star were equally enthused about the positive uses of their discoveries.

The main chunk of the film is a Whodunnit.  The base is being sabotaged in ways small and large, and those who look into events too closely have a tendency to meet extra-sticky ends.  I think I am safe in non-spoilering this for any modern viewer when I remark on how the characters repeatedly puzzle over how someone could be killed by radiation in a sealed room, or how someone else could be electrocuted with no one else in the lab, while we're simultaneously told that the entire installation is completely controlled by NOVAC, a computer that runs everything from the AC to the sound system to the pair of killer robots.  Oh yeah, and speaking of them...

These guys, Gog and Magog, are great in that 50's robot way, which means that they wobble like plywood, they're pretty useless at everything, and yet despite this they are somehow unstoppable ninja monsters that are probably behind your chair RIGHT NOW.  Gog and Magog are controlled by NOVAC and are completely above suspicion because NOVAC is good and he's only a computer, anyway... A charming bit of 50's computer trust that will induce twitches in anyone who's spent days trying to install a printer driver.  So the movie crawls along at its slow pace and we're treated to a medley of random murders and artificial gravity experiments until things inevitably go tits-up and Buck Squarejaw has his big chance to defeat evil by punching it in the face with an all-American baseball bat.

While I may be making light of it (And frankly, it's hard not to get some chuckles out of people randomly walking into a room beside the guy in the radiation suit, or someone being told they got a bad case of radiation and need to go lie down for a couple of days), I still enjoyed it a lot.  It's not in the class of 50's masterpieces like Forbidden Planet, but it's an enjoyable romp with a prototypical SkyNet+Terminators, and I give the filmmakers big credit for how original this was...  I mean, Trekkies go all "iPAD, iPHONE!" over Star Trek's tech, but in 1954 Gog gave us an entire base with centralized computer control, computer hacking, wireless access, wireless robot control, and women in jumpsuits.  This was the future, baby.    It's probably a solid 5 as a movie, but for me it was more of a 7, so I'm splitting the difference.  Your mileage may vary. 

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