#justwatched Gog (1954. dir. Herbert L. Strock)

(Gog, 1954 – Ivan Tors Productions)

Gog was one of the funniest films I saw at Berlinale Film Festival last week. It’s a film with obvious flaws that it makes no effort to hide, with laughable writing and intrinsic sexism throughout. These flaws may have developed as the time has passed and views have developed and progressed. But, these problems come together as a sort of historical time capsule allowing us to look back at a precise moment in American history, even in American independent productions. It was one of the first set of films produced in 3D, and although the camera moves are gimmicky, it is impressive to see such an early example of this format. Ignoring all the films issues, the plot is well paced and enjoyable, even if the acting is ridiculous and dated.

The film’s opening is effective at creating suspense. Two research scientists are trapped and killed in succession in a cryo-chamber, where they are frozen to death (we learn later that they shatter into little pieces though this graphic image is not shown.What makes their deaths humorous is the windscreen wiper between the lab and the chamber that constantly moves, which makes for a entertaining visual in 3D spectacle but damages the seriousness of the situation. As ever, the handsome american hero turns up to investigate the deaths as more and more scientists perish, some by means of a centrifuge experiment, and some by loud noises. Turns out (shocker…) the mainframe computer NOVAC is responsible, a la HAL, a la Vicky. Science Fiction Cinema hasn’t evolved much in terms of embodying humanities response to the threat of Artificial Intelligence. If the film wasn’t sexist enough, discussions of the “weaker sex” and the female lead fainting in the final battle tip it over the edge. Don’t worry though, she only suffered from radiation poisoning, and at least (according to Richard Egan’s David Sheppard) she still looks radiant.

Though the film  is named after Gog, the robot really have any screen time at all until he goes on a pathetic rampage that the film’s heroes have a great deal of trouble with in the film’s last act. He is silent and has 5 crazy arms, and a flame thrower which looks more for show than to maim, and yes you can see the strings. It’s just another nail in the coffin, an entertaining one at that.

It has made me ambitious about my further study though.


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