Friday, August 9, 2019


Herbert L. Strock

A series of deadly malfunctions at a top-secret research facility attracts the attention of the Office of Scientific Investigation (OSI). The investigators soon uncover the fact that the malfunctions are being directed from the facility’s computer NOVAC. Now they need to stop it before NOVAC kills them all.

Unlike many other science-fiction films from the 1950s, Gog strives to stay realistic in its depiction of then-current science while gently pushing towards speculative fiction. As such, it manages to predict both trends in robotics, computers, electronic warfare, and hacking. Much of the film is spent showing off some gee-whiz ideas such as magnetic suits to simulate weightlessness and a reflective mirror that can focus light into a beam of laser-like intensity. There is some fun camera trickery to go along with the ideas presented, this is owed to the fact that Gog was originally released in 3D. Even the use of 3D has a certain groundedness to it, resulting in images that are dynamic but never resort to comically jabbing things at the camera to show off that third dimension.

"Watch out, Doc, this ride has a huge splash radius."
The space-age wonder of this new technology is undercut when people start dying from mysterious device malfunctions. The middle portion of the story almost becomes a horror film as we witness the building tension from the numerous potential deathtraps that fill the facility and the gruesome deaths of many of its personnel. That horror gives way to a techno-thriller vibe as the saboteur is identified and steps are taken to stop it... if the protagonists don’t get murdered by the robots, Gog and Magog.

Gog and Magog are promoted as the big draw here. Like much of the technology presented, Gog and Magog are presented as what 'real' robots might be like. Robots in film are often humanoid, usually, this has to do with the costs to realize something non-humanoid, but more often it is because robots in film are stand-ins for people. They have personalities, quirks, and are basically just artificial humans. Gog and Magog are threatening but it is because of their inhuman nature, they are blank engines of death driven by some unseen force. They have large tank-like shapes bristling with clamps, claws, and even a flame thrower. The best our heroes can do is hold them off until they solve the reason for the murderous turn.

Danger! Summon, Safety Rod!
In what seems to be a continuing issue with a science-fiction film like this, the human characters are not very memorable. They blend together as a mass of bland white square-jawed men, fainting women, and middle-aged scientists. It feels like the people are even more interchangeable than the machines. This may be a way to create 'everyman’ scientist heroes, something that can work in written science-fiction but rarely so in film.

Gog is a colorful and exciting example of a more realistic look at science-fiction from the 1950s. It has robots, space travel, and rockets, but it builds upon them all to create an interesting mystery. I am surprised that this film isn’t more noted and well regarded than it is. If you have an even passing interest in 1950s science-fiction films this is one that is definitely worth checking out.

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