Now here's a film that would never be made nowadays, with its remarkable confluence of science fiction and religion and an ending that is literally "The Beginning." You won't see any Martians here, nor any rockets, spaceships, or other images you probably associate with science fiction. Red Planet Mars is all about "the message," one that modern audiences will likely resist much more strongly than the original 1952 American audience. The film's somewhat open-ended conclusion allows for rejection as well as acceptance - another strong point in the movie's favor -and one person's outright dismissal will be another's inspiration. Red Planet Mars is very much a thinking man's movie from the Golden Age of science fiction.
A young Peter Graves plays scientist Chris Cronyn, who has spent years working alongside his wife Linda (Andrea King) constructing a communication device powerful enough to reach Mars. As astronomical observations begin to reveal highly provocative changes on the Martian surface, Cronyn finally gets a response to the signals he has been sending toward the Red Planet. They're just the same signals being sent back his way, but he eventually figures out how to communicate with the aliens, making him an instant celebrity. Unbeknownst to him or the now heavily involved American government, the man who first came up with the technology, German war criminal Franz Calder (Herbert Berghof) is listening to all of Cronyn's messages with his own transceiver, developed with the help of the Soviets who got him out of jail. For the Soviets, hearing all of Cronyn's questions and the replies he receives is just as good as communicating with the Martians themselves.
This contact with Mars quickly results in sweeping, fairly ridiculous changes. Learning that the Martians need no fossil fuels to produce more energy than they know what to do with and can feed a thousand people for a year off of one acre of farmland, the whole American economy all but collapses overnight, American generals contemplate a nuclear first-strike attack on the Soviet Union, while the Soviets themselves sit back and happily watch Western society crumble. Then, the messages from Mars suddenly take on an overtly religious theme, leading to even more sweeping changes across the entire globe.
But are these messages truly coming from Mars? And if they aren't, do you dare let the truth get out after all of the transformative changes that have just taken place? Some viewers, especially liberals and those of the anti-Christian persuasion, will dismiss this film as a product of crazy right-wingers and Cold War paranoia, but those who choose to take the film at face value can't help but appreciate the very big questions it asks - in terms of both personal responsibility and the agents of social change. Many will also find it very inspirational in not only a spiritual but an honest-to-God, unabashed Christian sense. Red Planet Mars is truly a unique science fiction film that deserves more notice than it has received over the years.