The Gamma People starts off innocently enough. Two journalists, Mike and Howard, are on a train, off to cover some festive European festival of some sort. On the way there they enjoy, what I can only assume to be, a riveting game of chess…
Who’s turn was it again? I zoned out.
Because on the way to their destination their car gets dislodged from the rest of the train. Having no sense of fluctuating momentum they don’t realize this and what’s worse some village kids decide they’re going to have some fun, so they pull a lever and switch the tracks, sending the reporters cart off in another direction.
Kids: Screwing up traveling since the dawn of time.
When the train finally stops, the hapless travelers find themselves in Gudavia, a country that’s so small it’s not even on the map. They’re initially arrested, but then released with an apology. They want to let the whole thing go and just head off to their original destination, but there’s no car to leave town, no incoming or outgoing trains, and the telegraph office is just there for show. They’re promised a car eventually, but the powers that be don’t seem to want them to leave with a bad impression.
It’s quickly evident that something funny is going on in Gudavia. Howard runs across a bunch of dead-eyed, moaning men who spontaneously attack him one night and then just as quickly leave him alone. And then there’s a group of school boys roaming around town like a pack of wild dogs.
The two men quickly find out that the townspeople’s leader, Boronski, is up to no good and experimenting on the children. Once they realize what’s going on they take it upon themselves to save the townspeople and save Hedda, a young girl who has been taken, before Boronski can perform any more experiments on her.
Oh, look, the birth of Devo. Neat.
Released in 1956, The Gamma People was filmed just a few years after the war and had it been made any earlier it could have been used as propaganda. You’ve got two men, an American and an Englishman, infiltrating a European village filled with monstrous goons who’ve been brainwashed by a madman with a whistle. The kids all wear the same outfit, one that has obvious nazi influences, and speak constantly about striving for perfection. If anyone tried to say that there weren’t WW2 influences in this movie they’d be lying through their teeth and doing a poor job of it.
The movie was directed by John Gilling, an English film director most known for his horror movies, most notably those he did for Hammer Films. If you’re at all familiar with Hammer films than that should give you a pretty good idea about the movies tone. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not a Hammer film, but it is very close in concept: a quasi-science fiction/political/comedy. A quasi-Hammer, if you will.
As for the actors, Leslie Phillips plays Howard, a stereotypical Englishman. He provides much of the comic relief. Most of it is pulled off with his familiar catch-phrases, so whether you find him amusing or gratingly annoying depends on your sense of humor.
Mike meanwhile is played by character actor Paul Douglas. Douglas is the no nonsense, straight man to Phillips humor. He does a commendable job of trying to give the film some seriousness, but like I said it’s a Hammer-type film, so it was probably a lost cause. Even his attempt at kicking ass comes off as a bit campy.
KAPOW!…..Wait! Stop! It’ll hurt if you punch him without closing your fist first.
He’s also given a sort of love interest in Eva Bartok (That woman you see in the picture below), but instead of coming off as romantic or heroic is just sort of comes off as awkward and icky.
But if there’s one person you’ll quickly want to punch in the face it’d be Hugo, played by Michael Caridia. And it’s not just because he’s the perfect little quasi-nazi. It’s because the kid’s just a brat, pure and simple. If it weren’t for the outfit and the historical context he’d be the stereotypical bully you’d see in every 80’s movie. His supreme attitude, his cocky actions, everything he does is done for the sole purpose to piss you off.
Even his art projects.
Overall, I enjoyed The Gamma People. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, what with all the sci-fi and comedy and political situations, but it was fun and animated. It has a serious tone to it, but at the same time it doesn’t feel like it’s taking itself too seriously. So if you’re looking for something a little more straight forward and serious, you may want to avoid this. But if you enjoy lightheared 50’s Sci-fi and Hammer films, give this one a try. You’ll probably get some amusement out of it.
Also, as side-note, something I found interesting about this movie was the appearance of the Goons, the pale, dead-eyed youths who didn’t turn out so well due to Boronski’s experiments. Every time I saw them I kept thinking they looked familiar, but couldn’t quite place it.
Opps. Sorry. Thought you were someone else.
Then a couple days later I realized what they reminded me off.