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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Horror > Thriller > Robot > Monster > Labs > Action > Alien > Gog (1954)/The Magnetic Monster (1953/MGM Limited Edition Collection DVDs)/In Time (2011/Fox Blu-ray w/DVD)/Metal Shifters (2010/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)

Gog (1954)/The Magnetic Monster (1953/MGM Limited Edition Collection DVDs)/In Time (2011/Fox Blu-ray w/DVD)/Metal Shifters (2010/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)


Picture: C+/C+/B- & C+/B-     Sound: C+/C+/B & B-/B-     Extras: D/C-/C/C     Films: C+/B-/C/C



PLEASE NOTE: Gog and Magnetic Monster are MGM Limited Edition DVDs available exclusively from Amazon through the right-hand sidebar of this site.



Science Fiction is one of the only genres where you can still enjoy watching it even when it becomes dated or does not work because of the changing nature of technology and the world we could or could not live in.  It is also one genre where more risks are taken than most.  Here are four films with mixed results that show us how this works.


Ivan Tors would eventually make his name with underwater work in movies and on TV, but he was also a producer, writer and director who embraced Science Fiction and even Horror as both Gog (1954) and The Magnetic Monster (1953) demonstrate.  He wrote and produced these films just before his work on TV’s Science Fiction Theater and they are now being issued as part of MGM’s on-line Limited Edition Collection DVD series as originally distributed by United Artists.


The better of the two films is Curt Sidomak’s The Magnetic Monster (1953) in which a radioactive government experiment unleashes a force that only wants to grow in size and eat as much energy as possible.  Despite a limited budget, Sidomak makes this work well in a tight 76 minutes that is always interesting, sometimes amusing and fun.  The stock footage is well chosen, the way this is shot is always interesting and despite the age of the various sets, they are convincing enough to imagine this could have happened in its time.  Though no masterpiece, it is an influential work and the screenplay is well thought out.  Almost 50 years old, this shames most similar films being made today.  Richard Carlson, King Donovan. Jarma Lewis and Jean Byron head the cast.


Herbert J. Strock’s Gog (1954) added color and also takes us to a hidden lab, this time where some kind of sabotage is going on.  Turns out the lab also has built two “advanced” robots named Gog and Magog, but their Biblical references are very loose.  Though not as good as the previous film, it is still fun and a little more hilarious since it has not dated as well, but it is fun and MGM managed to include a trailer this time.  Richard Egan, Constance Dowling and Herbert Marshall head the cast.


Fast forward to new releases in the genre and you can see that too many new tales have not only turned out bad, but worse.


Andrew Niccol has tried to make a name for himself on the Science Fiction genre, but not as well as say, Alex Proyas.  The results have ranged from the overrated Gattica to the horrid, obnoxious and hideous Simone, yet here he is again with In Time (2011) which imagines a future where somehow time is the only currency.  Forget money, a time clock has been attached to everyone’s arm and when it runs out, you get a heart attack.  Time can be earned, added and subtracted in all kinds of ways.


The idea is somewhat metaphoric at least, but when compared to the runners in Logan’s Run (1976) or replicants in Blade Runner (1982), it becomes more of a gimmick and plot device with all of its possibilities unrealized as this becomes more interested in its action storyline.  Amanda Seyfried is the rich girl whose father is a major banker of time and Justin Timberlake (forced to give an acting performance that is not awful) is the young man living in a time ghetto who crosses paths with a man he met who has so much time that he has lived over a century and wants to die.


Just when the film might get good, it gets sidetracked by its somewhat predictable plot, though it is not as jokey as so many such films have been lately, yet the overall result is generic (like Spielberg’s Minority Report), not very memorable and is only amusing at best when you watch.  Too bad Niccol cannot find a breakthrough, because this is not it.  Cillian Murphy Alex Pettyfer and Olivia Wilde are among those who make up the decent supporting cast.


Extras include Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices, BD Live interactive functions, Deleted/Extended Scenes and featurette The Minutes.



Finally we have Paul Ziller’s amusing Canadian production Metal Shifters (2010) which I knew was going to be different when its opening shot was of a quiet satellite (which we have seen floating in space around earth in endless Sci-fi shows) suddenly broken up by an unknown object, then a piece makes it to earth.  Turns out it has some green alien goo on it that can bring inanimate metal objects to life and like The Magnetic Monster can wreck havoc anywhere it goes.


This force too grows in power and a local scrap man (Donnelly Rhodes, best known for his work on the hit TV classic Soap) has made a faux robot that suddenly comes to life in the worst ways, but the carnage goes beyond that.  Of course, this is silly schlock, but the makers actually know this and are having fun.  This could have had more suspense and been even better, but it at least achieves cheesy B-movie status and those looking for such product will not be disappointed.  It is not great by any means, but can be interesting and the Canadian sensibility makes it more watchable than most new schlock we have seen lately, but you’ve still seen most of this before.  A behind the scenes featurette is the only extras.


The 1.33 X 1 black and white image on Gog and anamorphically enhanced 1.66 X 1 color image on Magnetic have disclaimers that they are from the best sources available, but both prints are not in bad shape at all, especially for their age.  I like the look of both and the color on Metal is EastmanColor credited to the Color Corporation of America.  I even liked its use of color.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 AVC @ 34 MBPS digital High Definition image transfer on Time is an all digital HD shoot in the hands of Director of Photography Roger Deakins, A.S.C., B.S.C., and though he tries to give it a look and character, it does not totally work out and he is one of the best in the business.  There are more soft spots here than expected and the anamorphically enhanced DVD version is as weak as the MGM DVDs of films released nearly 60 years ago.  The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Metal was shot on film and though it has some cheesy digital visual effects, it actually looks as good in overall playback.


The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the MGM DVDs are pretty good for their age, but show their age, yet they do not have as many flaws as expected.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Time is enhanced with D-BOX motion bass and it is a good mix and as well is the best mix here.  Too bad despite the consistent soundfield, there is not much more to it, but at least the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the DVD version is lively if not as good.  The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix on Metal is warmer than any of the Dolby Digital mixes on any title here, but its low budget shows and dialogue can be too much in the front of the mix.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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