Movie Review: The Gamma People (1956)
“Gamma-ray creatures loose!”
The Gamma People (1956)
Director: John Gilling
Cast: Paul Douglas, Eva Bartok, Leslie Phillips
Synopsis: An American reporter and his colleague finds themselves stranded in a remote European country in which a dictator is brainwashing children using Gamma rays.
Leslie Phillips’ (Crooks Anonymous, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) screen persona was already fully formed as far back as 1956 it seems, judging from his performance in The Gamma People, a cheap and inexcusably dull SF drama from MGM-UK. One can almost imagine him emerging from his mother’s womb to greet the world with the words ‘hello, there’ with exactly the same silky insinuation with which he introduces himself to 19-year-old beauty Jackie Lane here. Phillips isn’t the star of the movie – that onerous duty falls upon the bulky shoulders of American character actor Paul Douglas (Fourteen Hours) – and neither is the lovely Miss Lane, although it might have been a whole lot livelier if they both had been. Unfortunately, as welcome as he is, Phillips’ light comic touch contributes to The Gamma People’s uneven tone. Its trashy storyline about the dictator (Walter Rilla) of the tiny mid-European republic of Gudovia whose experiments on the minds of children turns them into either precocious genii or zombie-like imbeciles has no place for humour, but director (and gentleman pig farmer, apparently) John Gilling and co-writer John Gossage repeatedly try to shoehorn some into the plot, anyway. The manner in which one particular kid bullies less able children and spies on the parents of those less dedicated to their dictator’s cause is reminiscent of the Hitler Youth of the 1930s but, if anything, the similarity is down to the Hitler Youth serving as an inspiration rather than a deliberate attempt to deliver some political or sociological subtext. The Gamma People is as cheap and boring as its title would suggest; if the rambling plot doesn’t put you off, the insistent, overbearing and frequently inappropriate score surely will.
(Reviewed 12th January 2017)