June 09, 2002
Gog (1954) is one of the, if not the, earliest science fiction “Cyber-Thrillers”. Yes, that’s right, a cyber-thriller in 1954; the story of a computer that runs amok and tries to eliminate everyone connected with the film including the catering company that brought lunch to the cast. While not exactly on the plot and special effects level of other cyber-thrillers such as Forbidden Planet (1956) and Colossus: The Forbin Project (1969), Gog has an early era charm of its own. Filmed not only in color, but 3-D as well, it boasts a very creative plot that includes an unknown enemy spurred on to nefarious deeds in order to destroy an American space station project. There is also the threat to use an atomic bomb against the project - but then again, almost all movies of those times were subject to some sort of “atomic threat “ via something-or-other!Our story tonight begins inside a secret laboratory hidden beneath the desert floor. Scientists are experimenting with freezing and reviving monkeys, with the intention of doing the same to human beings so that they may survive the dangers of space flight…radiation, meteors, zero gravity, g-force, etc. (Back then they had a “freeze dry in order to fly” mentality). Well, the test succeeds and the monkey lives. While everyone goes different directions the head scientist, Dr. Hubertus, goes inside the freezing chamber to check on something… bad mistake. The door automatically shuts, the chilling apparatus activates to maximum, and within seconds we watch the good Doctor become “Dairy King”. Dr. Kirby, an associate, returns to the lab and finds the hypothermic horror of a frozen colleague. While she stands there screaming…you got it…the door closes, the chilling system cycles on, and we fade to black to the sound of a scream… ice scream… (Sorry, couldn’t resist it).
Switch to 200 feet above the desert floor… enter Dr. Sheppard by means of helicopter. As he does a flyover, we see a “solar mirror”…this is a telegraphing of nasty things to possibly come from the “mirror”. The chopper lands and Dr. Sheppard is escorted down to one of the four laboratory levels underground. We find that he has been brought in to find out who, or what, caused the deaths of the scientists in the lab. In addition, they have discovered “code transmitters” hidden in the lab. Code transmitters are “homing devices that could help an enemy target the laboratory with a rocket carrying an atomic bomb payload. This would be bad. Dr. Sheppard is taken to a locker room where he changes into his lab clothing. Here we find that he and Joanna Merritt, the leading lady, are not strangers. In fact, they are an item, though no one else knows it. Now…she takes him on a tour of the facility.First stop is the chemistry lab on Level II, where Sheppard asks for an analysis to be performed on some strange powder found on the code transmitters. Marna Roberts, the chem.-lab tech says she’ll get right to it. Next, he is taken to a room where Dr. Ness discloses the intention of putting a space station in orbit around the earth. A solar mirror will power this station. We are now treated to a demonstration of the solar mirror as it burns up a model city and lake that just happens to be there in the room. Now we know that the mirror will be used as a weapon later on. Next is a visit to the control room that has a set of large tuning forks in its center. It is explained that the lab has detected a jet plane at 100000 feet with the use of sound waves. Furthermore, we are informed that sound can be used as a weapon if the decibels are high enough… a demonstration shows how sound can burn a hole in a chair. (Yes, this is scientific fact!)Now we’re off to Level III to meet N.O.V.A.C. – Nuclear Operative Variable Automatic Computer. This is the central brain of the entire lab. Whoever controls NOVAC, controls the lab. Slaved to NOVAC are two mobile robots – Gog and Magog.
For those who are biblically oriented: [At the appointed time (Ezekiel 38:10-12) there would have been a king named Gog who would rule over a territory in the far north called Magog (38:15). This evil king would stir up all the nations against Jerusalem (38:14). Gog would surround the people of God to destroy them and God who would be dwelling among them. God would then send fire, hailstone and burning sulfur upon all the wicked and Gog and destroy them. (39:11).] This passage has absolutely nothing to do with the movie, but it IS culturally informative – something that the rest of this article is not!
Ok…so…Gog and Magog are the two robots under NOVAC’s control. They are identical, and look very similar to Swiss Army Knives on square skateboards. They have lots of attachment arms with strange looking features...no giant corkscrews though! These robots are the creation of Dr. Zeitman who believes that they, not man, should pilot the rockets to the stars. This is an obvious conflict of interest with the rest of the scientists, particularly those who are, or at least were, trying to freeze the monkeys.
Moving along we go to Level IV, where the nuclear reactor is housed. Here it is explained that if the solar mirror power system fails on the space station, everything would switch to nuclear power via a small reactor. (I would have thought it would be the other way around!) SQUAK – SQUAK – SQUAK An alarm goes off and everyone heads back to Marna’s lab. Too late. She’s dead from radiation poisoning. Of interest is the fact that Dr. Burden is the only one in the group wearing a radiation suit… Burden finds a radioactive isotope in a potted plant that was in Marna’s lab. That was the killer. Still in his Rad-suit, he proudly holds up the isotope with forceps so that the others can see it…. (Why the group is not blistering with “rad welts” is beyond me!)
Things start to pick up now. In the Centrifuge Test Room, a man and woman are spun to their death as the equipment takes on a life of its own and will not respond to human intervention. Next, Mme. Elzevir is tracked in her lab by a miniature solar mirror that tries to burn her up with heat rays. Quick thinking has her throw a jar at the mirror to break it. Upstairs Major Howard pushes everyone out of the tuning fork room as the forks start to become a sound weapon. Of course, the major goes back in by himself to do “Gog” knows what (my pun, not theirs), and gets himself burned up … for no good reason!
Now it occurs to them that the jet plane at 100000 feet is controlling the lab equipment by means of the code transmitters.
Back on Level III, Magog is discovered missing. Gog kills two scientists while Sheppard and Joanna head for Level IV with a flame-thrower, where they believe Magog has headed to start a chain reaction in the atomic reactor. In the reactor room, Magog has started the chain reaction… rather than putting rods out of the reactor to make it go critical, you see two carbon rods come together, back off slightly, and make a bright electrical arc. (In reality, they are the carbon rods of a 35mm film projector. Those of you who worked on a projection crew in school during the 50s and 60s remember how to “arc-up” the movie projectors for the school movie theater.)
Back on Level II, an urgent message is sent to the Air Defense Command for them to scramble their fighters and take out the enemy jet aircraft. Two F-86L Saber Jets are sent up to engage the enemy. (At least they look like F-86L Saber Jets.) Somewhere in route to the enemy aircraft, they turn into two F-80 Lockheed Shooting Star Fighter Jets! (They must have run out of F-86L film footage and had to make do.)
Back on Level IV Sheppard and Joanna turn the flame-thrower on Magog and toast all of his attachments including the bottle opener. But they’re not finished yet, because in comes Gog (remember Gog, the movie’s namesake?). Well… as Gog moves towards Sheppard and Joanna, the flame-thrower sputters out. Sheppard wields the unit like a baseball bat, and smashes Gog’s vacuum tubes and ends the threat. (Younger readers may now go to www.metagopher.com, where they can look up “Vacuum Tube”. Next week we’ll introduce you to the “Transistor”.) The danger past, Van Ness tells how he is ready to launch the space station – RIGHT NOW, and how it will have a TV camera that will look down on the earth and be able to see everything. (A prophetic remark that will someday find its reality in “spy satellites”.)
His concluding comments are set to a backdrop of a spaceship being launched with the first parts of the space station… the problem is, that the footage used shows the launching of a German WWII V-2 rocket that was more than likely targeted at England!!!