Title: Invisible Invaders
Year Of Release: 1959
Running Time: 67 minutes
DVD Released By: MGM Midnite Movies
Directed By: Edward L. Cahn
Writing Credits: Samuel Newman
Starring: John Agar, Jean Byron, Philip Tonge, Robert Hutton, John Carradine
1. How can you stop what you can't see?
2. An unearthly enemy defying modern science in a
war to the death of all civilization!
3. Unearthly enemy defies modern science in a war to the death!
Review Date: 9.3.06 (updated 1.1.10)
Shadow's Title: "Plan Nine-B From Outer Space"
Dr. Karol Noymann – This guy was just your average, everyday atomic research scientist…that is until his lab went KABOOM. Since this fatal explosion occurs barely two whole minutes into the film, you’d be inclined to think that he wouldn’t be showing up any further, but you’d be wrong.
Dr. Adam Penner – The head of the atomic research commission. After his pal Noymann goes boom, he quits and crusades for peace. Before he could get his picket signs made up or don his hemp jacket, Noymann's corpse returns and warns him of an imminent attack from outer space.
Dr. John Lamont – This dork works with Dr. Penner on the atomic research commission and has the hots for his daughter, Phyllis. Does more whining, bitching, cowering and crying than anyone else, ready to surrender to the aliens at one point. This earns him a major ass beating from Major Jay.
Phyllis Penner – Dr. Penner’s useless daughter. Not that she causes trouble or makes things difficult, but she contributes nothing. Not even the cliched running, screaming and getting attacked by the monster that chicks seem contractually obliged to do in these old films.
Major Bruce Jay – Tasked with keeping Penner's group safe underground. A bit of a hothead when he wants to be, going so far as to yell at people and even shoot someone who is hindering his mission. He recognizes Lamont for the chickenshit that he is and relentlessly insults the guy.
Lt. General Stone – Jay’s commanding officer. He sits around in a nice, neat and well-lit office, yet talks about how bad everything is and how the situation is looking pretty damn grim. I’d buy that whole end-of-the-world story more if the place was dirty and he was in a torn uniform.
The Farmer – Just some country bumpkin the others meet while on their way to the underground bunker. He tries to hijack the jeep with a rifle, but Major Jay won't allow this guy to stand in his way...so he shoots him. He returns later on as an alien-possessed corpse that stumbles around.
The CLOWN – Continuously Lurking Omniscient Wearisome Narrator. Genre movies from the 50’s were loaded with them. This one is especially annoying because he pops up so often and adds nothing to the movie. NOTHING. He even has more dialog than some actors! That is just wrong.
Plot Hold your cursor over an image for
a pop-up caption
No preamble or prologue here. Nope, the film jumps straight to the title
card and fires up the theramin-heavy music. Then it’s right into
the credits, which appear before a starry background. Once all that
is out of the way, we fade in to a shot of the desert and suddenly,
KAPOW! We see the mushroom cloud resulting from an atomic bomb test.
Out of nowhere, a CLOWN can suddenly be heard.
Seemingly disproving the notion that an explosion at a printing press cannot result in a complete copy of the dictionary, now appearing out of the fiery cloud is a newspaper with the headline, “Noted Scientist Killed In Atom Lab Explosion.” True, it was an atomic research lab that went kablooey and it only resulted in a newspaper, but I think that this is substantial enough reason to not preclude the possibility of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition popping out of a massive percussive detonation at the printers. At the very least, some random, haphazard and mostly nonsensical assemblage of words ought to result. Something along the lines of Dianetics.
Noymann’s (no doubt) glowing corpse is laid to rest in a simple ceremony, the eulogy given by his scientist bud Adam Penner with Penner’s daughter Phyllis and fellow geek…er…scientist John Lamont among those in attendance. Penner has decided to resign his position in the government’s atomic research commission. He cites the fact that the area around the destroyed lab is so soaked with radiation that people won’t be able to live there for years.
taken note of mankind’s unsafe practices in the field of nuclear
research, and perhaps not desiring to see such lax regulations perpetuated
across the stars, invisible aliens who have been living on the moon
for the last two hundred centuries decide to ignore the immigration
laws and visit Earth so they can conquer it. To really help sell their
message they dig up the corpse of Karol Noymann and through some weird
osmosis process, possess it and use it as their mouthpiece (please note
that centuries later the Borg would do something similar with Jean-Luc
Picard, obviously convinced of his deceased status by his stiff demeanor
and lack of personality). The corpse of Noymann visits Adam Penner and
orders him to warn the people of Earth that if they do not surrender,
the invisible dudes will become surly and get Metalunan on their collective
asses. Penner enlists Lamont’s help in warning the authorities,
but they only get laughed at…and not just for their dorky haircuts.
When they come to check on his progress, Penner appeals to the aliens for more time. They concede that his efforts alone are not enough to carry the message and that the Earth will get one more warning. They will provide more time, but only so they can issue their own warnings to the Earth. This they do by possessing people recently killed in stock footage and then announcing their intentions at American sporting events. For example:
We now see an airplane soaring through the sky. Suddenly, the CLOWN returns. “The first warning came in the wake of a fatal air crash outside Syracuse, New York.”
warning? I thought the aliens said there would only be one
more warning? Perhaps they had a different script than the CLOWN? Anyway,
a completely different plane is then seen flying straight into a hillside,
a huge white X marking the spot where it impacts. Now, I realize that
the producers didn’t have the budget to stage a real airplane
crash nor did they want to go the super cheezy route and use a plastic
model (a la The Giant Claw), but couldn’t they have tried
to find some less obvious stock footage? That huge white X makes it
plain to see that this particular plane crash was conducted purposely
by the military. That is, unless Death himself is getting forgetful
and is going around painting these things for his own records. So the
plane crashes and is completely obliterated, a huge burning cloud of
vaporized fuel spewing into the sky from the resulting collision with
the ground. It is obvious to anyone with functioning eyes that NOTHING
WHATSOEVER could have survived that explosion intact. NOTHING.
Yes, you heard right…the aliens unveil their plans for world subjugation at a hockey game. A second man, killed in a stock footage car crash, performs a similar task at a much larger gathering in California. Unswayed, and perhaps because no one watches hockey in the U.S., the people of the Earth do nothing, a TV or radio newsman announcing that every world government is in emergency session, discussing the alien threat. Apparently, there is no indication that any Earth nation intends on surrendering. Not even the French!!
So the aliens act on their threat to attack. This mass invasion on a planetary scale is apparently heralded by the playing of stock footage, as now we are subjected to loads of it. A toy truck flies off a road and collides into a miniature dam, exploding, destroying the structure and no doubt releasing a catastrophic flood of water. Clearly, for the small vehicle (in relation to the large dam) to cause such a devastating explosion, it must have been hauling something along the lines of freaking anti-matter! Next another toy dam goes kablooey and then a real building that was obviously being brought down for renovation purposes is seen collapsing. The alien spokesman is heard again at this point: “Within three days the dead will destroy all the living and we will rule the Earth. For the human race, this is the end of existence.” Now we get more stock footage of buildings falling down, going up in flames and lots of smoke billowing through the air – all superimposed over images of pasty-faced dead people slowly walking through Bronson Canyon.
Naturally, Humans fight back, but they cannot accomplish anything against the aliens, as the invader’s technology is just as invisible as they are…though for some reason that most certainly tops the list of short-sighted invasion moves, the alien tech does not function all that well in Earth’s atmosphere. D’oh! Not to be deterred, and no doubt not wanting to look like cosmic idiots, the aliens decide to utilize our own weapons against us and use bombs (thank goodness they never got their hands on a Yanni or John Tesh album) to blow up dams, old buildings, dams, bridges and more dams. Did I mention how they blow up lots of dams? Wherever they are from, these people really hate dikes! And they are morons.
These aliens seem pretty willing to commit genocide against mankind if Humanity fails to surrender to them, yet they go about accomplishing it in the most inefficient way imaginable. Possessing the dead and using them to murder the living and sabotage the planet into ruins? What are these morons thinking? Surely a species that has mastered intergalactic space travel for centuries upon centuries and has subjugated other species has the technological capability of nuking the Earth from orbit…right? Hell, we have that capability right now and we aren’t even a spacefaring society. Once again it just shows what colossal imbeciles these aliens happen to be. It makes one wonder just how inept and pathetic were all the other races they did manage to conquer. I wouldn’t be surprised if more than one of those races committed mass suicide at the overwhelming shame of being conquered by idiots.
Hoping to exploit the fact that the aliens can only cruise around in their invisible spaceships and not deploy any of the super duper weapons they no doubt have at their disposal, as well as devising a way to somehow make the interlopers visible to the naked eye, the government sets up scientists in underground bunkers so they can play with their chemistry sets, argue over who is stronger – Superman or Mighty Mouse and attempt to come up with a weapon with which to fight the invaders. To this end, the Air Force’s General Stone assigns Major Bruce Jay to escort Dr. Penner, Dr. Lamont and Phyllis Penner to one such location. Along the way they run afoul of some poor Farmer who just wants to get out of the killing zone, but Jay solves that problem…by killing him, providing the aliens with yet another corpse to animate. Coupled with their monopoly of, and willingness to recklessly use, stock footage and this may very well make the invaders invincible.
at the bunker, the small group can only stare at the images on the monitor.
Then the CLOWN returns. *sigh* I guess I’m just going
to have to deal with this prick barging in like this throughout the
film. “The walking dead, inhabited by the invisible enemy, had
left their spaceship nearby to search for the scientists.” The
Major points out that the dead people have given no indication that
they have found the bunker while Doctor Penner mumbles something about
the aliens inhabiting those bodies being highly radioactive.
Try as they might, Penner and Lamont can make no progress, at least as far as science is concerned. However, Lamont is steadily loosing his cool and comes closer to surrendering by the minute. Penner then hits upon the idea of capturing an alien-possessed corpse in order to have a test subject. He outlines a plan for modifying a gizmo that sprays fire foam so that it now emits an acrylic spray. The spray would solidify on contact, forming a hard shell around whatever it covered. Since Penner believes that the aliens enter the corpses of the dead through the pores of the skin, in what is in essence an osmosis-like process, he thinks encasing a possessed body in such a shell would prevent the alien inside from escaping.
After much effort, mutual recrimination and a little flirting with Phyllis, Major Jay manages to bag the body of the dead Farmer with Lamont’s help. Rather than use a gun to spray a zombie (which didn’t work fast enough to trap the possessing alien presence), Jay hits upon the idea of filling a hole with the acrylic material and luring a zombie to it. Once it falls in, it will be totally encased and unable to leave the host body. They then bring the body back to the bunker, but other zombies follow and learn where their underground sanctuary is located.
They take the acrylic-covered corpse to a pressure chamber where they crack it open by increasing the pressure. The invader vacates the body and threatens them over the intercom. Working feverishly, they then attempt to make the creature visible, but nothing seems to work. The captured alien even offers to let them live if they choose to surrender.
Being the weakest link of the bunch, Lamont is close to snapping. Jay asks him if he really thinks they will be permitted to live if they were to surrender. Lamont isn’t sure, but is up for trying. Coward! Jay says that they will not be giving up. Lamont suggests taking up the alien on its offer, but Jay thinks the creature is bluffing. It knows they are close to discovering something and is trying to confuse them. Lamont is not buying it and announces that he is going to let it out of the chamber.
Lamont barely takes two steps before Jay is all over him. The two men struggle and Lamont is actually able to land several good punches on the Major, sending him reeling each time. At one point Lamont grabs a beaker of some liquid and hurls it at Jay. The Major ducks and the container hits some electrical cables bundled together on the wall and then lands on an instrument panel. Every machine in the room begins to spark and the fire alarm goes off. As everyone is covering their ears and dodging sparks, Doctor Penner looks into the pressure chamber and sees the corpse begin to twitch. Jay finally gets the alarm to stop and the sparking machines seem to follow suit.
Penner is now all excited and tells the others that the loud alarm provoked a response in the dead body. He declares that they have been on the wrong track all along. What they need to be looking into is a way to use sound to make the invaders visible. Lamont now remembers that Penner’s description of the device that the Noymann Zombie used to make its sample material visible generated a humming sound. Major Jay points out that the short circuit just now has damaged their entire air conditioning and filtering system. They only have about ninety minutes of air left inside the bunker. After that, in order to breathe, they will have to open the bunker door…and be sitting ducks for whatever is waiting outside. Lamont tries to apologize to Jay, but the Major just shrugs it off. He tells Penner to make sure that sound is the answer…and to do it FAST!
Note - It is at this point that the movie enters its final segment, so if any of you really feel the need to watch this film and not know the ending ahead of time, skip the rest of this section.
Penner and Lamont devise two identical doodads with which to combat the aliens. Each one is made of two distinct pieces: a large box with an antenna-like protrusion on the top and a long rifle-like thing that ends in a sound emitter. Penner straps on the box like a backpack and then aims the gun through the clear glass window and into the pressure chamber. There is a horrible screeching from within. They look inside and see the ghostly form of the alien, now slightly visible, as it is forced from the dead body. It tries to stand but collapses to the floor and melts into a big puddle of goo. Not only does the weapon negate their invisibility; it destroys them as well!
Major Jay wants to know if the army can produce such weapons in a hurry. Penner says that he can pass along the necessary details in a matter of minutes, so Jay rushes him over to the radio and calls General Stone’s office. A quick cutaway shot shows a glowing alien spaceship that has landed nearby. Why it is suddenly visible is a mystery at this point. Jay realizes that the invaders are jamming their broadcast, not wanting the knowledge they now possess to get out. He even deducts that one of their spaceships must be close by. My question is…how in the hell did the aliens know these particular Humans had stumbled onto a weapon? Do they share some type of mental/psychic link with each other and thus the dying alien in the pressure chamber was able to warn his cohorts? Or are the aliens just really, really, good at guessing?
Doctor Penner suggests using the jamming signal to locate the spaceship, by tracking it with the direction finding radio in the truck. Jay agrees, saying it is their only way to stop the jamming signal and get their vital information to General Stone. Phyllis asks about any invaders that may be outside and the Major says that they are just going to crash right through them. A few minutes later in the garage, Jay is suited up once again in his radiation suit as well as sporting one of the new sound weapon systems. Phyllis gets in the driver’s seat of a SUV-like truck that has appeared out of nowhere and which features some funky round antenna thingie on its roof that rotates (this must be the direction finding radio). Inside Lamont is fooling around with some equipment. The Major climbs up on top of the truck and lies down, aiming his sonic rifle forwards. Jay gives the signal, Doctor Penner opens the door and the vehicle cruises outside.
Immediately they encounter a trio of corpses out for a leisurely stroll in Bronson Canyon. Phyllis stops the truck while the Major aims his weapon and cranks up the knob to the proper setting. In short order all three alien-possessed dead people are taken down. The aliens within try to escape but all they can do is stumble a few feet before collapsing into piles of goo. They continue on their way, trying to determine where the alien ship may be.
Lamont gets a reading on his Geiger counter and has Phyllis stop the truck. Major Jay hops down from the roof and walks off into the woods. Meanwhile, a large group of walking corpses is closing on his location. Jay uses his sonic rifle and begins dropping them one by one, but fails to notice that one of the dead people has a pistol and is aiming it at him. The dead guy fires and Jay takes a hit to the leg, despite the corpse having had the gun aimed much higher. Jay falls to the ground and rather than take the opportunity to pump the remaining rounds into him, the corpse just continues to stumble along, gun held high, until the Major can point his sonic rifle at him and take him out. Nobody ever credited these invaders with having any brains.
He spots the alien spaceship and levels his weapon at it. Naturally, there is no indication given as to why it is suddenly visible. After all of three seconds of firing at it, the craft explodes. With the vessel now destroyed, the jamming signal is gone. Doctor Penner quickly gets on the radio and makes that important call. No, not ordering a pizza – though I’m sure that was his second call. Rather it was the one to Washington with the information on how to construct the sonic weapons. Outside, Phyllis dashes from the truck to help the fallen and stunned Major Jay. Nevermind the radiation that is surely still in the area. She helps him up and they exchange quick but meaningful glances.
Now we jump to New York City (New York City?!!) and the United Nations building. Mr. CLOWN returns for the last time, thankfully. As he speaks the image shifts from one of the building exterior to one featuring our four main characters seated together at a large desk in a room that looks uncannily like the announcer booths from earlier in the film. That eventually fades to a shot of all the national flags outside of the U.N. building. “In the United Nations building in New York, a special meeting was called. Present were Doctor Penner, his daughter, Major Jay and Doctor Lamont to receive grateful thanks from the countries of the world. Earth had been on the brink of disaster, but out of the holocaust of war in which a dictatorship of the universe had been defeated a lesson had been learned. The nations of the world could work and fight together, side by side in a common cause.”
Invisible Invaders is a difficult film for me to classify. Is it science fiction? Well, in that there are hordes of aliens from outer space hell bent on conquering Earth and wiping out the Human race, yes it is. Yet, a case could be made for it being a horror film, with the abundance of dead people walking around – something that is generally thought of as exclusive to the worlds of horror. So which one is it? Well, both…kinda. The style and approach are definitely those of a 50’s Scifi film, whereas there are many subtexts and undercurrents that are more familiar as something found in a horror movie. However each person decides to view it, there is no denying that the movie is cheap. While not as horribly inept as most inexpensive films of the period, the lack of a budget certainly gives the movie a constrained, muted feel – despite the epic scale of the plot, there is just not enough happening on screen to support such a far-reaching story.
would I sum up this film? Four words: big ideas, no money. While many
other words could be used to describe the film – fun, crappy,
cheap, short, silly – those four seem to sum it up best and are
practically the hallmark of 50’s Scifi and horror. You cannot
get much more epic than a planet-wide fight for survival, but this movie
has all the scope of a backyard family BBQ, complete with slow moving
(and probably very bad smelling) old folks, lewd gazes from weird uncle
Bob and plenty of arguing amongst siblings. This was pretty much the
same problem that befell many such films of the time period (the lack
of scope, not the stinky familial bickering). Movie posters and preview
trailers would readily advertise the Earth-spanning invasions carried
out by a multitude of blood-thirsty, Human-hating aliens as well as
mentioning destruction on a global scale…and then audiences would
eagerly rush to their local theater, end up getting some stock footage
and a few extras bumbling around Bronson Canyon and leave bitterly disappointed,
and in the case of a generation of Monster Kids, horribly disillusioned
by the false promises and dashed hopes. So, do not expect to actually
see too much on the screen when viewing this movie for the first time.
Don’t expect things to change if you decide to watch it a second
time, either. The third time is also not the charm, trust me.
Action - The description for this icon includes plane crashes, which this film does have along with a single car crash, but I hesitate to call such scenes exciting in any sense of the word.
Aliens - This film has millions of them! Of course, every single one is invisible so I wouldn’t strain my eyes too hard trying to see them. A brief glimpse of a ghostly form is about it.
Monsters - This icon is for the recycled monster suit from It! The Terror From Beyond Space, which is hauled out to show us what the aliens look like when they are not invisible.
Science - Lots of gibberish here as “science” plays a big part in solving the crisis. Just cross connect the Molecular Displacement Regulator with the Thermal Feed Equalizer.
Spaceships - There are entire fleets of spaceships here…but just like the aliens inside them, they are quite invisible. What a money saver for the FX department!
Stock Footage - Quite a bit. In fact, anything and everything related to the massive “invasion” is just footage of natural disasters and demolition projects taken from old newsreels.
Technology - There is much talk about the invader’s technology and how it gives them invisibility. Nullifying this advantage is the main goal for the protagonists.
Underground Hijinks - Half the movie occurs in an bunker where little actually happens other than endless conversations, mild flirting, mutual name calling and lots of cowardly whining.
Violence - Not really too much. One Human is shot dead, a few more are strangled into unconsciousness and dozens of walking corpses are taken out with the new sonic guns.
Zombies - Having read the Ed Wood book on how to conquer Earth, the aliens possess the bodies of the dead and send the walking corpses out as an army to wage war upon humanity.
seen, thousands implied
counted every single one of them. I’m a glutton for punishment.
01 Min - Send in the CLOWN.
02 Mins – I wouldn't mix those chemicals...ah…too late.
06 Mins - Wow, most zombies don’t bother to knock.
20 Mins - Stock Footage alert!
26 Mins - Ah, scenic Bronson Canyon.
30 Mins - We've got movie sign!
33 Mins - Stock Footage alert!
36 Mins - You’re supposed to smoke after sex.
39 Mins - I think Lamont just shit his pants.
42 Mins - How are they managing to receive so many different angles?
47 Mins - An obvious stunt double.
53 Mins - Stock Footage alert!
54 Mins - A fistfight! Finally, some action in this film.
58 Mins - Doesn't it go up to 11?
65 Mins - He just killed 4 out of 5 zombies. Where did the other go?
66 Mins - Happy fourth of Jul…er…wrong film. Roll credits. Get me a drink.
Shadow's Drinking Game: Every time the CLOWN breaks in with a voiceover, take a drink. Believe me, after the fifth or sixth voiceover, you’ll be needing them. For safety purposes, you may have to limit yourself to beer. Anything stronger and you risk alcohol poisoning and the need for a liver transplant.
for larger image
The possessed corpse of Karol Noymann on the aliens’ advantages.
Noymann: “We are invisible. We are invisible, Adam Penner. Long ago we learned to change the molecular structure of our bodies. You cannot see us.”
Shadow’s Comment: Too bad they aren’t silent as well. Talk about annoying.
Dr. Penner quietly praying.
Penner: “Dear lord, I pray that I am insane. That all that happened is only in my mind. I pray that tomorrow the sun will shine again on living things. Not on a world where only the dead walk the earth.”
Shadow’s Comment: C’mon, the Bush administration is bad, but it ain’t that bad. Quite.
of Major’s Jay’s inspiring motivational speeches after gunning
down the farmer.
Major Jay: “Then you’ve
got some answers this country needs. Anyway, we’re only a few
miles from the bunker. I wasn’t gonna let him stop us. Everybody
get back in the jeep.”
Shadow’s Comment: I see that Prozac is really working wonders for him.
Film & Me
This was another one of those films from the 50’s that eluded me for a very long time. I had never even heard of it until the early 80’s when I saw a listing for it in a book on movie monsters. That particular book opened my eyes to many films from that same era that I had never seen and it was the eventual impetus that got me actively looking for such titles on VHS a few years later. Alas, Invisible Invaders was one of the few that I never managed to track down in any form, whether it was a cheapie VHS copy or a late night TV airing. It wasn’t until 1999 or 2000 (I know this because I was living in my first house at the time and it was before a particular female came into my life) that I first caught the film on the Scifi Channel – back in the days when that channel showed such older material. Naturally, I taped it when it aired, but never did get around to watching it all the way through again. In fact, I think I lost the bloody tape! Still, despite never giving it a second look, I still wasted no time in scooping up the Midnite Movies DVD when I saw it and giving the movie another look. In preparing this review, I think I have watched the film from beginning to end about four times – more than all total previous viewings combined.
Shadow's rating: Four Tombstones