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Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – Princess of Mars

And here are my notes on the other Burroughs adaptation.

‘Someone wiser than me once said “you can tell a lot about a man by what he does”.’

This is billed as ‘photographed, edited, written and directed by Mark Atkins’ – for some reason, Edgar Rice Burroughs isn’t mentioned anywhere in the credits, even though it uses all the character names from his Barsoom books (which are in the works as a bigger-budget film) and is plainly trading on lingering affection for them. It wasn’t until I looked up the publicity that the penny dropped and I twigged this wasn’t a spoiler for John Carter of Mars (due in cinemas 2012 if Roland Emmerich’s disaster doesn’t get us first), but the Asylum’s coattail-riding mockbuster for Avatar: both feature Earthling grunts falling in with aliens on a distant planet, but that’s about it for similarities. It’s possible, whoever controls the ERB rights lobbied to have the name taken off it, but then again if they made a deal they must have known the level of film the Asylum make.

Here, we start in Afghanistan and John Carter (Antonio Sabato Jr) is a special forces grunt who gets killed (sort of) and saved by a process which transports him not to the famous Mars but to the fourth planet in another star system which is sort-of nicknamed Mars-216 by Earth scientists. It turns out that Carter’s archenemy Sarka (Chacko Vadaketh) is also zapped to Barsoom the same way and they pick up their feud later in the film, which means that this crosses the universe just so a Yank and an all-purpose foreigner can sneer at each other. Carter falls in with walrus-tusked asparagus people (Tharks) who have captured Dejah Thoris (Tracey Frickin’ Lords), a humanoid princess, and intend to hand her over to a big boss Thark who’ll kill her. Dejah’s people run the plants which generate oxygen, which means we get a fight scene in the usual borrowed and very Earth-look factory. Carter captures Dejah to save her from slavery, but she is so ungrateful she tosses the contents of her ‘pee cup’ at him through the bars of her rickety cage howdah on top of a CGI beastie.

Stuff happens between huffing and puffing characters, but there’s the usual lack of credible action, watchable effects or decent acting. At 41, Lords is a little too matronly for the Princess Leia slave-girl outfit, and looks sulky throughout—the Asylum seldom bother with star names of any kind, but when they do land them tend to shove them in almost haphazardly. If you had signed Lords for a film, shouldn’t you build a vehicle suitable for her—she’s shown herself a decent enough actress in a range of genres; and if you needed a Burroughsian alien princess, you’d go to a younger hardbody with an exotic look. As with the Asylum’s Sherlock Holmes film, this tries to do bigscale effects scenes without any resources and looks ghastly for it. Random moments seem borrowed from Star Wars, Dune and many other space adventures, but that might be because they all derive from ERB in the first place. Comparing like with like, those cheap, colourful 1970s Amicus Doug McClure Burroughs films with big rubber dinosaurs are much, much more entertaining and at least ran to paperback cover lovelies like Caroline Munro and Dana Gillespie plus proper acting from Peter Cushing. There’s something dispiriting about how ugly these Asylum films look, and how much they waste potentially great material simply by tossing stuff at the screen until it sticks – I get the impression there’s a deal of fannish enthusiasm at work, but I’ve seen better fan films than this.

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Discussion

One thought on “Film review – Princess of Mars

  1. J.P. Harvey …2012 eh? I hope the earthquakes and tsunamis don’t start until after I screen John Carter of Mars…

    Dave Chojin Doug McClure rocks i love the rubber dinos and lizards and crocs with attachments so funny, but Doug McClure he could act sober or drunk just like oliver reed

    Ernest Hogan Sounds horrible. Why do still feel compelled to see it anyway?

    Simon John Ball Doug McClure act drunk?

    Simon Clarke It’s an awful film. I wasn’t expecting much and it didn’t fail to disappoint.

    C. Jerry Kutner There hasn’t been a good Martian Princess movie since AELITA (1924).

    David Flint This does sound awful, but the most depressing part was discovering that Traci Lords is now 41. I suddenly feel very old.

    Fiona Watson Nothing wrong with being in your fortys. (44 and saying it loud and proud!) She still looks good.

    Billy Houlston but david, you, like me, never feel or act your age, so who gives a fuck about a stupid number! xxxxxx

    Anne Billson 41! Why would that be depressing? I am now older than Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard.

    David Flint Yeah, you are all right.. I behave like a delinquent youth, so who cares?

    Austin Ashwell I caught this film entirely by accident on SyFy in the UK; truly disappointing, even for a TV movie budget. The makeup FX are ok, but the acting is pretty poor and one of the major setpieces is clearly taking place at some disused oil refinery! It was nice to see Traci Lords again but Kim’s right… she certainly looked too old (& sulky) for the role.

    Nicolas Barbano Great notes, Kim, thanks.

    George White i always felt that Warlords of Atlantis was intended as a John Carter film, because i remmeber in house of hammer at the time, saying that they had to create an original story as ERB rights got expensive. There’s Martian humanoids, alien grunts, a Carter-esque hero by McClure, a kind of ageing Dejah Thoris essayed by Cyd Charisse

    Posted by kimnewman | April 13, 2017, 6:38 pm

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