Director: William Castle
Script: Edmund Morris
Cast: Christopher George, Greta Baldwin, Henry Jones, Monte Markham, Harold Gould, Philip E. Pina, Lee Delano
Running time: 97 minutes
The government want secret agent, Hagen Arnold (Christopher George), to be revived from his cryo-suspension in order to extract some important information from his brain, which he’s been made to ‘forget’ by an enemy force. The government suspect it might be something to do with a secret germ formula that’s been hidden away for many years. Scientists at the lab are ‘encouraged’, by the military men at the top, to fabricate a world, set in 1968, for Hagen to populate since he’s an expert in Sixties history and they think that they can entice the hidden information out of him if he finds himself back in that particular time and place, but he needs to be under duress too.
Hagen, therefore, finds himself waking up as a bank-robber who’s on the run with his compatriots (actually scientists) who get him to hide out at a farm deep in rural America sometime during the pretend year of 1968. As the experiment goes on the scientists sedate him, from time to time, and try to get him to dream and remember what he’s been forced to forget. But a mysterious phone call to the farmhouse from a guy called Gregory Galleo (Monte Markham) has Hagen questioning who he really is and what’s actually going on, including who the real ‘good guys’ might be…
Project X is quite a trippy movie, one that could have only really been made in the Sixties when cinema was all about experimentation. Parts of the film are animated (by cartoon experts Hanna Barbera) with some kind of rota-scoping effect being used for the dream sequences. These sequences are quite cool and have a psychedelic edge to them.
While the tech seen in the film is quite laughable by today’s standards some of the futuristic sets are mildly impressive, replete with sliding doors that make suitably ‘Star Trek’-like swishing noises. The military guys tend to wear weird fish bowl like helmets, and one of the characters our hero meets in his dreams looks like a ‘Ming the Merciless’ rip-off from Flash Gordon! There’s even a line right out of a James Bond film – “It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr Arnold!’
The acting is a bit mixed (sadly Christopher George seems a bit wasted here) and there’s only one token female character played by Greta (Rogue’s Gallery) Baldwin. There are also a few holes in plot logic to be noted, but the film manages to just about skirt round these with yet more funky music and visuals to fry your brain with.
Although the film has a twist in its tale and a relatively satisfactory ending it’s difficult to see who this film might be aimed at since it doesn’t quite work as a sci-fi film or as a spy thriller, but it does have a kind of goofy charm all of its own.
101 Films has just released this Blu-ray edition of Project X and it looks pretty good for its age. There are also some cool extras to accompany the film. These include:
Money Back Guarantee: William Castle’s Ingenious Gimmicks (36 mins) – A new documentary that looks back at the history of William Castle and the films that he made, including all the weird and wonderful gimmicks he used to promote his B-movies. The likes of Vic Pratt (from the BFI) and Alan Bryce, from The Darkside magazine, explore how Castle operated in his heyday, supported by lots of cool vintage posters and press releases to support their musings.
Audio commentary – with genre journalists Alan Bryce and David Flint