The Gamma People (1956)

Journalists Mike Wilson (Paul Douglas) and Howard Meade (Leslie Phillips) are on their way to a music festival when, due to a prank, their car is detached from the rest of the train and sent down a forgotten spur which winds them up in the country of Gudavia. The Gudavians are just as surprised, as no train has arrived there in five years.

As soon as they step off the train they are arrested by Commander Koerner (Philip Leaer), the chief of the Gudavian security forces, who fears they may be spies. They are, however, quickly released, and begin seeking a way out so they can continue on. Wilson tries get use of the country's only car, while Meade attempts to contact the outside world - only to find out that the telegraph building is only for show and all phone lines have been cut. It also turns out that Gudavia had a king until five years previous when his mysterious death led to the country's rule being transferred to the mysterious Dr. Boronski (Walter Rilla).

To complicate matters, it seems that the country's children all seem to be geniuses, and seem to be led by a cold and calculating boy named Hugo (Michael Caridia), who appears to report directly to Boronski. After receiving a note from the daughter of the local innkeeper, the Wilson gets the feeling that there is more going on than meet the eye, and he and Meade begin to investigate, leading Meade to a nocturnal encounter by a number of hollow-eyed adolescents that seem to be controlled by Boronski.

The next day during a formal meeting with Boronski Wilson reveals that he knows the doctor's secret. He is in fact a biologist named Macklin who had disappeared five years previous and was presumed dead. It turns out that Macklin took on the new personality and began running experiments to advance the human race intellectually by bombarding children with gamma rays - only not all have gone to plan. However, he has found a use for his failures as a mindless army to keep the Gudavians in line and prevent them from escaping while he steals their children from them.

To further complicate matters, the children's teacher, Paula Wendt (Eva Bartok) knows what is happening, but is reluctant to do anything until matters come to a head.

It all sounds rather interesting and it has a great mix of actors. And, yes, there are some rather interesting parts scattered throughout. Unfortunately, The Gamma People doesn't know if it wants to be a straight sci-fi thriller or a dark comedy. Many of the comedic moments (most of them involving British journalist Howard Meade) fall flat, serving to make one more annoyed at his character than anything.

Paul Douglas of course does his best with the material, but the standout is young Michael Caridia, who plays the creepy little kid to the hilt.

Still, there is not a lot that makes this film stand out, and what there is that makes it unique also makes it quite frustrating and, in the end, it devolves into a rote mad scientist plot that Hammer could have done many times better.

The Gamma People (1956)
Duration: 78 minutes
Starring: Paul Douglas, Leslie Phillips, Eva Bartok, Walter Rilla, Michael Caridia
Director: John Gilling

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