What, you might ask yourself, could possibly be more cheap looking than the upside-down carrot monster from Roger Corman's legendary It Conquered the World? Well, let me introduce you to Zontar, the three-eyed bat-thingy from It’s made-for-TV remake.
Produced on a micro-budget as filler material for AIP’s Saturday afternoon television syndication package, Zontar takes the previous film’s script, rearranges some of the words, and replaces Peter Graves with John Agar. Other than that, the movie is a spot-on reproduction of Corman’s original… just, you know, much worse. At least in the original you couldn’t see the strings attached to the flying mind control Injecta-Pods. Not all the time, anyway.
But despite the fact that the effects in Zontar make the giant spider from Gilligan’s Island look like something out of Avatar, the core of the story survives the transition to the tube. Both films chronicle the story of a scientist so intent on solving the world’s problems that he strikes a deal with an unseen alien who promises to save humanity from itself. As you might expect, it all goes to hell by the end, with half the cast either dead or lobotomized, and the scientist himself forced into self-sacrifice in order to clean up the mess he’s made. You’ve seen it all before, and not just in It Conquered The World.
Overdone tropes though they may be, however, these kind of Faustian bargains probably keep popping up in stories because, ultimately, we’re all subject to them in real life. As this week’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom points out, “Who can know God's counsel, or who can conceive what the LORD intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans. For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.” Or, in short, we get so tied up in figuring out how to handle our legitimate earthly problems that we often forget to look for what God really wants from us.
We Christians are as guilty (maybe more so) of this as anybody. Whether it’s something big like getting so focused on accomplishing broad social goals that we lose sight of the Catholic principles which are supposed to lie behind our actions (bite me, politicians), or just something small like passing over prayer time in order to meet a deadline (Beam in my own eye? Ummm, maybe.), how often do we go about “saving the world” while forgetting to care for our own souls. And as Zontar shows us, doing so has its consequences. Now, I’m not saying that rushing out the door in the morning before we’ve said our morning prayers will necessarily result in a bulbous headed, three-eyed Venusian showing up to suck away our free will with paper mache bats. But there are worse things than that in store if we don’t stay focused on what’s really important.