War of the Satellites (1958) – By Duane L. Martin

And continuing my reviews of jerky aliens whose only goal in life seems to be to screw over the people of Earth, we now have War of the Satellites.

In this film, man kind is finally venturing out into space, but there’s a certain race of aliens out there who doesn’t want us to. In fact, they see us as a disease that’s trying to spread, and in an effort to keep us contained, they manifest a Sigma Barrier, which is basically an energy barrier that stops our space craft from passing through it…by destroying them. After many repeated attempts to break through the barrier, a message in the form of a small rocket is sent to Earth from the Master Nebula Ghana. Basically it explains why the aliens are preventing us from passing through the barrier, and tells us to stop trying.

Undaunted, Dr. Pol Van Ponder (Richard Devon) and his team, which consists of a female scientist named Sybil Carrington (Susan Cabot) and Dave Boyer (Dick Miller) as well as many others who have been working on trying to break through the barrier, and have lost many astronauts along the way in their attempts, now have a plan to construct a satellite in space that will use photon propulsion to travel toward the barrier at the speed of light, and once they achieve photon speed, they believe that will allow them to break through the barrier once and for all. However, there’s a problem. The aliens know about the plan, so they cause all kinds of natural disasters. Earthquakes, fires, floods…the whiners at the U.N., who I’m assuming was supposed to be a Russian guy, wanted to give up on the attempts because the aliens were wreaking havok with the planet. So not only are they facing resistance from space, but from home as well. When this plan doesn’t work however, the aliens cause Dr. Van Ponder’s car to run off the road, killing him, and then replace both him and his car with an alien duplicate. Once the duplicate is in place, his job will be to continue working on the mission, but then to sabotage it at the last minute, and hopefully once and for all end the humans’ attempts at space travel.

The alien can actually split himself into two separate copies of Dr. Van Ponder, and it’s this ability that starts raising suspicion, especially with one of the technicians and Dave Boyer. However, when Dave REPEATEDLY tries to tell Sybill about his suspicions, she absolutely refuses to listen to him and thinks he’s talking crazy. Notice I put repeatedly all in caps. That’s not only to emphasize the fact that he tried to tell her something was going on with Dr. Van Ponder several times, but that she was utterly irritating in her refusal to listen to him. I mean seriously, at some point you just want to grab the idiot by the shoulders and give her a good hard slap. Talk about aggravating! Anyway, if you want to find out how the movie ended, you’ll have to see it. I’m not going to tell you any more about it here.

This film relies on two elements for it’s suspense. First, a super powerful alien race that you never get to see, and second, an alien that has infiltrated our efforts to stop them in the guise of one of our top scientists. Honestly, the first element would have been good enough to make the film entertaining, but when you put both elements together, you have classic movie magic. I mean, you know the humans are almost always going to triumph over the aliens in these types of films, so that part isn’t any big mystery. It’s how they achieve that that gives a movie it’s entertainment value, and the harder a time they have in succeeding, the more it draws the viewer into the story, which is exactly what this film does.

Effects-wise, there are quite a few special effects scenes sprinkled throughout the film. The alien energy barrier, rockets flying into space with a three stage separation, the assembly of a satellite, a satellite trying to break through the barrier, etc…. They didn’t skimp on the special effects, and what special effects there are, actually look quite good. The use of special effects however didn’t detract from the story at all. They only served to enhance it. Some films can go overboard with the effects, but this one didn’t. The blend of effects and story was nearly perfect, and it created a very enjoyable viewing experience with a suspenseful story that really draws the viewer in and doesn’t let go until the very end.

Like the other films in this Roger Corman Sci-Fi Classics release from Shout Factory, this one has an excellent transfer, with great visual quality and sound. As I mentioned in my reviews of the other films in this triple feature, aside from getting Attack of the Crab Men and Not of This Earth, you also get numerous special features, including interviews, commentary, trailers, and more. This is a really quality release from Shout Factory and it’s definitely one you’ll want to have in your collection.

If you’d like to find out more about this release, or to pick up a copy for yourself, you can check out it’s page on the Shout Factory website here.