That simultaneous arrival in the early ’50s of the Cold War and the sci-fi movie boom: coincidence? Or conspiracy? Whichever, most sci-fi films could be read subtextually as a validation of America’s military-insanity complex: that we should prepare to go to war with foreigners who were determined to take us over or wipe us out. In Red Planet Mars there’s no need for scholarship: the message is the text. Seems an ex-Nazi scientist, working for the Commies, is beaming signals suggesting that God lives on Mars. Then citizens overthrow the Soviet dictatorship and make Russia Christian again. Then a U.S. scientist (James Arness’s brother, Peter Graves) discovers that God really does live on Mars. This head-scratcher certainly came with a pedigree: it was directed by top production designer Harry Horner, and written by John Balderston (who worked on the Universal horror classics Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and Bride of Frankenstein) and Anthony Veiller (who, the same year, scripted John Huston’s Moulin Rouge). Recommended for its sonorous, ponderous lunacy, and as a rear-view mirror into the roiling national psyche of the ’50s.