Zontar
ZONTAR, THE THING FROM VENUS. 1966
Director: Larry Buchanan

IT CONQUERED THE WORLD. 1956
Director: Roger Corman

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



"Though his name is untranslatable in any language, it would sound something like Zontar." Thus sayeth the only scientist, Keith Ritchie, who realized the space program was a danger to Earth. Fellow scientists wouldn't listen to him, first because he offers no bases for his theories & therefore sounds like a loony, & second because he's an incredible dork. Keith is the kind of guy who was beaten up on the playground by other kids & has grown up depressed & socially inept.

Even though as an adult Keith has a couple of friends & a bewilderingly devoted beautiful wife (Susan Bjurman), it's too late for him to have learned how to bond, having grown up a maltreated geek & never getting over it.

He feels so unutterably alone that when a parasitic monster from another planet begins communicating with him over his Earth to Venus crystal set, telling Keith what a wondrous joyous intellectual chap he is, Keith's minute ego swells & he decides that the alien's plan to enslave the Earth would be a blessing for humanity to be taken over & controlled.

That, at least, is my understanding of this character who, as portrayed by Tony Huston, walks through the role like a depressed zombie who has just experienced his first delusions of adequacy & is instantly addicted. Keith's most revealing line of dialog is, "The days when people made fun of me are over!"

It may only be me trying to make sense of nonsense & bad acting, as the script for Zontar, the Thing from Venus aka Zontar, Invader from Venus (1966) would otherwise require us to believe a rational scientist without mental health issues could be easily duped into believing mind-control & slavery is neato-winkies.

ZontarThe fact that the native Venusians became extinct due to the predatory nature of parasites like Zontar (who looks like a cross between a miniature version of Gappa the Triphibian & a plucked chicken) is not evidence that maybe mind-control & enslavement ain't such a blessing.


Fortunately there is the buff & stalwart hero, Dr. Curt Taylor (John Agar), who has been tearing into nerds since grammar school & is just as willing to kill his best friend Keith dead if that's what it takes to stamp out a nerd's dream of being best pals with an alien master of the solar system.

Heck, Curt Taylor is so stalwart that when Zontar enslaves his wife's mind, he doesn't think twice about giving her a kiss farewell & shooting her in the belly, though for all he knows killing Zontar would've released her from the slavery, not something that was ever tested.

But instead of killing Keith as initially planned, he gives him a verbal thrashing & the guy caves in, looking at his shoes & going oh gee well maybe enslaving the earth ain't a good thing. Then Zontar kills said bewilderingly devoted wife (she goes down bravely in between comedy relief sequences with useless Army grunts) & that's when Keith reveals that he possesses a secret ruby laser, the only thing on Earth that can kill Zontar.

This formerly unmentioned device fortunately ain't no bigger than three dildoes stuck end to end, so Keith can carry it up to the caverns & die a noble death. I think a better fate would've been for Curt to stick Keith's head in a toilet forcing him to lick it clean.

To give the film its minimal due, there are one or two images of Earth's double-saucer-like satellite in space that are quite lovely, though how anything came out lovely in this shoddy production is a puzzle. It could be because it cost "Fifty million dollars & a million hours of work," according to the general (Neil Fletcher) & wages like that bought a hell of a lot in 1966.

It Conquered the WorldWhen Zontar diverts this satellite in order to hop a ride on it to come & conquer the Earth, he purportedly landed it in a cavern which had an environment which Keith promised was "much like that on Venus." But when we eventually see Zontar in his cavern, there's no saucer-satellite there, nor enough room to park it if it even existed. There's barely room for some goofball in a rubber suit to flap his floppy batwings.


This laughable film is a remake of another laughable kitsch classic, It Conquered the World aka It Conquered the Earth (1956). What could be more maximumly fannish than a really bad filmmaker remaking a really bad film? And doing it worse!

The better actors in It Conquered the World aren't necessarily less unexciting that the merely adequate cast of Zontar, & the remake is engaging despite that it's almost all dialog with very little actually happening on screen. Yet It Conquered wins hands down the so-bad-it's-good contest because of the riotously ridiculous carrot monster, which Zontar, no matter how uglyass a rubber suit, could never equal in idiotic whimsicality.

It Conquered the WorldPaul Blaisdell created & wore the carrot-monster suit which has gone down in cinematic history as the coolest of idiotic monsters ever dreamed up, & which Paul himself named Beulah.

Paul was inside a couple other of his creations, in films like The She Creature (1956) & Voodoo Woman (1957), but he never did anything so foolishly appealing as It the carrot man.

In It Conquered the World Lee Van Cleef plays Dr. Tom Anderson who supports the parasitic alien's desire to rule the world. Van Cleef can be very convincing as a pissed off paranoid s.o.b., so no wonder he's a traitor to humanity.

The heroic Paul Nelson is ably played by Peter Graves, a treasure to Z-horror & science fiction of the era. While he confronts Crazy Tom, Tom's heroic wife (Beverly Garland) sets out for the cave to destroy the alien. Tom finally realizes it can't possibly be of benefit to him if the alien enslaves everyone with bat-winged mind control devices (they're more like flying lobsters in the remake).

Different cast, different character names, but same story. Of the two directors, Corman is certainly better than Buchanan, but Corman didn't do his best work here by any means & both films are pretty damned weak.

Even so, every one of us who saw that carrot monster when we were kids have never ever forgotten either its appearance or our disappointment, & I do believe Roger was jester enough to know that would be the case.

If anybody ever wants to make a sequel, may I suggest the title: Wrestlemania: Beulah vs Zontar.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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