In the Bible, the names “Gog” and “Magog” show up a number of times, but most notably in the book of Revelation. There, the writer talks about Satan gathering Gog and Magog for battle. I’m not Biblical scholar, but it’s not exactly clear just what these two names mean…whatever it is, the fact that they are linked with the devil would probably not be considered a good thing by most folks. So, exactly why would a bunch of scientists working in an underground bunker/laboratory choose to name their robots Gog and Magog? That’s just asking for something bad to happen, and it does in 1954’s “Gog.” Sorry Magog, thou art not worthy of mention in the title.
The film centers on a large scientific research facility which consists of many underground levels. The scientists are testing the various aspects of a planned space station and the effects space travel will have on the human crew. As the film opens, a team is experimenting with freezing, and thawing out, monkeys. They hope to be able to freeze the human space travelers for the mission. But after a successful test, two of the researchers get trapped in the chamber and get turned into nerd-sicles.
Foul play is suspected in the tragedy, so Dr. David Sheppard (Richard Egan) from the Office of Scientific Investigation is brought in to investigate. The supervisor of the facility, Dr. Van Ness (Herbert Marshall), assigns another one of the researchers, Joanna Merritt (Constance Dowling), to show Sheppard around the facility. It turns out that Joanna is actually a fellow OSI agent, and appears to have a romantic relationship with Sheppard.
It doesn’t take long for more disasters to begin happening. It seems that all the lab’s equipment is being used against the scientists. A power source for the space station which uses a series of mirrors is used to try to zap one woman. Another researcher is killed with high-pitched sound waves, and others are spun to death in one of those space age merry-go-rounds all movie astronauts take a ride in. Oh yeah, and we mustn’t forget that the two robots, Gog and Magog, flop their arms around wildly and attack the humans.
Eventually, Sheppard determines that an unidentified aircraft that has been detected flying over the research facility has been transmitting a signal that is causing the sabotage. The identity of our “enemies” is never revealed.
“Gog” starts out very promising. The first two deaths, the ones involving the deep freeze, are legitimately scary. The sequence is done in such a way that we don’t know if we’re dealing with sabotage or something supernatural. It sets the stage well. But, as the film continued, it didn’t live up to the suspense of the first few scenes. There are a lot of dials and blinking lights, but not a lot of excitement.
The core story is good. The idea that an enemy could turn all our hi-tech research tools against us is a great premise. But the villains are unseen to us, we never even know who they are. A good villain can take a story a long way. The audience loves having someone to hate, and that’s missing from this story. The two robots are the only real tangible enemy, and the only thing they really excel at is waving their arms around like Barney the dinosaur. The robots are clunky and slow and cast members like B-movie regular William Schallert become accomplices in their own deaths by essentially jumping into the robot’s mechanical arms.
Now, chances are that this lack of a clear-cut bad guy is exactly what the filmmakers had in mind. Remember, this was released in 1954…World War II was a recent memory, we’d just entered the atomic age, and Russians were our scary, unseen, enemies. The idea that the Russians may be flying overhead, transmitting signals that could turn your toaster against you was probably terrifying at the time. But today, the film would’ve benefited by an evil genius of some sort. I actually kept thinking that Dr. Van Ness would turn out to be working for the enemy…alas it was not to be.
“Gog” is better than many 50’s sci-fi films, but would probably be more effective if we could hop in the Delorean and view it in it’s own time.