Gog (1954)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2012-01-29 01:46

Written by: Tom Taggart (screenplay), Richard G. Taylor (additional dialogue), Ivan Tors (story)
Directed by: Herbert Strock
Starring: Richard Egan, Constance Dowling and Herbert Marshall

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

“In space, there is no such thing as a weaker sex."
"That's why I like it here."

This final installment of producer Ivan Tors’s unofficial “OSI Trilogy” dumps the strictly nuclear and radioactive paranoia of its first film, The Magnetic Monster, and trades it in for a general distrust in science and technology that was borne out of the space race and Cold War. The setup once again has mankind’s reach exceeding his grasp, playing as some kind of warning against the destruction that 50s audiences probably thought was imminent, at least if those damned Reds got their hands on this stuff.

When a couple of lab scientists perish (under mysterious circumstances, of course) in a cryogenic chamber, OSI officer David Sheppard (Richard Egan) is called in to investigate. Upon arrival, he’s greeted by lab supervisor Dr. Van Ness (Herbert Marshall) and fellow OSI officer Joanna Merritt (Constance Dowling), who introduce him to the massive subterranean military compound, where scientists are hard at work on technology that’ll help America get to space.

In fact, the first half of Gog feels like a propaganda video or a World’s Fair promo tour, as Egan basically wanders through the compound asking “what’s this” and “what’s that,” with the answer seemingly being “really cool shit as long as it stays in American hands.” The technology we see here is typically quaint (as is one of the scientist’s insistence that mankind would never reach space) but also strangely menacing; the centerpiece here is an elaborate system of mirrors that would be sent up into space to harness and reflect sunlight that would be turned into a laser to attack earthbound targets. Other wondrous inventions include a pair of robots (Magog and Gog, from whom the film derives its title for whatever reason) and a central intelligence computer (NOVAC) that runs everything (like the grandfather to Skynet).

All of this goes on for so long that you almost forget why Egan is here in the first place: to figure out why a couple of scientists ended up on ice. Eventually, one of those big ancient control panels stars whirring and whizzing, tipping us off that something is wrong; suddenly, all the machinery starts to go haywire, putting everyone in danger. This leads to an admittedly fun sequence of events that plays out like a techno-tinged proto-slasher, with people avoiding murder via out-of-control lasers and space travel simulators. None of it is especially vicious, but I can’t imagine that being spun around at 10 RPMs a second until your insides are turned into a milk-shake is a pleasant way to go. At any rate, paranoia becomes the big theme here--obviously, someone is sabotaging NOVAC, so everyone points fingers and distrusts each other for a few minutes before the film eventually pulls the rug out from under it all.

This is because Gog isn’t really concerned with being an intense, paranoiac thriller; instead, it’s harmless sci-fi pap, filled with affable characters acted by capable actors and actresses who had fine careers (well, except for Dowling, who married Tors and retired after making this). At the helm is Herbert Strock, who would eventually find himself under Samuel Arkoff’s wing at AIP, where he’d direct more B-movie junk like How to Make a Monster and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein. Gog actually stands out from that stuff, being delivered in gorgeous and vibrant color (plus 3D during its initial theatrical run!). Tors obviously didn’t break the bank for this quick and dirty shoot (which took all of about 15 days), but it’s got a couple of inventive sets and neat gadgetry, plus the film moves rather efficiently once it’s done showing off all of its toys.

Gog is a much better film than The Magnetic Monster, predominantly because things actually happen. The middle chapter of this “trilogy,” Riders to the Stars, hasn’t been released by MGM yet, but you have to think it’s coming as part of their Limited Edition series. That’s where you can find Gog, which gets a pretty good full-frame transfer that retains the film’s vibrancy well enough, while the mono track is adequately intelligible. No supplements accompany the main feature, but this is another case where hardcore fans should be happy just to have it on a disc. You can also find it streaming on Netflix, which also isn’t a bad option. Gog isn’t quite on the level of the great 50s sci-fi parables since it dwells too much on being a techie-demo before getting on with things, but it’s good, low-rent fun that reminds us of how silly the Cold War could be despite its very real terror. Rent it!

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