One of my favorite experiences at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival had absolutely nothing to do with a real classic movie. Although I skipped the first midnight screening, seeing a 3D 1950s movie in actual 3D was too cool an opportunity to skip. So, I went to GOG, a hilarious ’50s sci-fi movie that’s completely inept when it comes to storytelling but still creative.
GOG comes from an era when science fiction movies were obsessed with making even the silliest thing feel realistic. Most of GOG is actually about the technology behind it – there’s a master computer called NOVAC (spoiler: it doesn’t look like Kim); two robots with flamethrowers sticking out of them; a secret government base; and plans to launch a space station. David Sheppard (Richard Egan) is given a tour of this base that goes on far too long before we finally get to the disaster.
The disaster in question has the scientists losing control of the robots, named Gog and Magog (because what’s a good sci-fi movie without biblical references?), and NOVAC because a mysterious plane is sending ultra-high frequency radio signals to control NOVAC. The movie, written by Tom Taggart, Ivan Tors and Richard G. Raylor, doesn’t care about who is behind that plane. All that’s important is that David and the rest of the scientists get the robots under control.
GOG features countless unintentionally funny scenes. For example, did you know that a “little radiation” is OK? It makes you feel “radiant,” as Constance Dowling’s character learns. Also, how is it possible to take anything a 64-year-old Herbert Marshall says in this movie seriously? (Yes, that was me laughing hysterically at his every word. Can you blame me? It was 12:30 a.m.!) Here’s an actor beloved for his roles in sophisticated ’30s comedies spewing on about nonsensical science jumbo. In the film’s climax, he even picks up a flamethrower! Now, that is one of the most unforgettable images from TCMFF.
The film also had easily the best digital presentation I saw. 3D film gurus Bob Furmanek and Greg Kintz showed a restoration demo before the movie, revealing just how much work went into it. While Warner Bros. spent $300,000 to restore House of Wax, Furmanek and his team could only spend $10,000 on GOG, which is owned by MGM, but you couldn’t tell. It was like a movie made yesterday. Sure, GOG doesn’t have as many 3D gimmicky shots as you might hope for, but it was still fantastic to see in the format Strock made it for.
Moral of the story: Don’t build a robot with a flamethrower sticking out of its chest.