Saturday, 8 June 2013

Supersonic Saucer

Made for the Children’s Film Foundation in 1956, seemingly on a budget of £10 2s in old money, ‘Supersonic Saucer’ only runs for 49 minutes, most of which is made up of the same footage played forwards, backwards and then, sometimes, forwards again. Extremely unsophisticated, the film looks and feels as if it were conceived and executed by children, as well as for them, making it almost impossible to stick the boot in: it’s cheap, cheerful and runs for less than an hour, so why bother being nasty?
The story takes place in a boarding school closed for the Summer holidays. There are only three children left, Rodney, the supercilious science loving son of the headmaster, and Greta and Sumac, two girls whose parents live too far away for them to go home. There’s an interesting exchange between the children that more or less sets the tone:
Rodney: What are your names again?
Greta: I’m Greta.
Sumac: I am called Sumac.
Rodney: That’s a funny name.
Sumac: It’s South American.
Rodney: Oh, I See, foreigners.     
Within minutes, a little flying saucer has turned up, landing in a nearby tree. The kids are completely unphased by this and, of course, being kids, their first instinct is not to call in the Army but to simply make friends with the alien, who they christen Meba. Ah, Meba, what a bizarre creation you are. Resembling a turd in a yashmak, all we can see of Meba is his expressive plastic eyes which, when they spin around can turn back time and, when he’s upset, which is quite often, spurt an endless stream of fat, salty tears. Meba is from Venus and has only just learned to fly. Interestingly, Meba has no saucer – he is the saucer, i.e. he can transform himself into a spaceship. It’s an interesting idea in principle, but I have no idea how it would work in practice. I expect he’d implode or something, making it a very different film, I suppose.
Despite the fact that he has mastered space travel, Meba likes the kids patronising him and treating him like some limbless puppy, so he tries to please them in any way he can. When they express a desire for cakes and sweets he flies off and gets a load of goodies. Without paying a penny. That’s right, he’s a thief as well as a foreigner. When the girls good humouredly say they’d have to rob a bank to be able afford to go home for the holidays, Meba immediately goes out and robs that bank and brings them a million quid. This is perhaps the biggest time wasting exercise as all, as we we see Meba’s long journey to the bank, the robbery, and his long return back to the school. When the kids realised what he’s done they order him to return the money immediately, cue a long journey to the bank and a long return to the school where he reveals (by telepathy, did I mention that he communicates using the power of his tiny mind?) that it was too risky to return the money, but he’ll do it tomorrow, thereby wasting even more time later on when we follow his long journey to the bank, etc. In actual fact,  Meba is a massive pain in the posterior, and an appalling liability. When they say they are cold, for instance, he sets fire to the curtains, so he’s not only a thief and a foreigner, he’s a bloody menace.
Eventually, Meba gets kidnapped by a group of criminal masterminds with numbers for names, and this leads to a terribly boring last quarter of an hour as the kids and the villains chase each other around an old house. It all works out in the end, of course, as Meba starts another fire, a fantastic idea in a house full of people, including children who are supposed to be his friends.  As I say, a bloody menace. The crooks are caught, the kids get a reward, the girls use the money to go home and, after an emotional scene, Meba flies back to Venus, pausing only to steal the family silver and set fire to the school before he does so, the thieving little firebug bastard.

Highly enjoyable, especially as the print I saw made it look like it was made about a thousand years ago. If you dispute the truth of that last statement, by the way, please don't write in, I know full well that cinema was only invented in Tudor times. By the Duke of Wellington.

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