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"
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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.
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Wow. 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.
What’s a CLOWN you ask? Well, it is a Continuously Lurking Omniscient Wearisome Narrator. You know the type…they chime in unexpectedly, more often than not at a film’s beginning, to impart some piece of obscure arcana that the film’s producers thought was vital information relevant to the movie’s story. This is usually comprised of references to some past event involving atomic bombs, twisting known scientific principles into near unrecognizable technobable to better fit the movie’s ideas or just prattling on aimlessly about a whole lot of nothing. CLOWNs have been known to interject their often near incoherent ramblings into the film in question at all manner of junctures – the beginning, throughout the middle as well as the end. In essence, they represent the producer’s contempt for the audience, personifying their efforts to explain things for the idiots the filmmakers perceive the audience to be (and often they are quite right). Thusly, CLOWNs infest B-Movies from the 1950’s at only a marginally lower degree than white trash at your local Walmart.
Of course CLOWNs are not to be confused with another breed of annoying narrator – the type that physically shows up in the film, usually only once and at the very beginning. Most times they are located within a laboratory or library of some kind and lecture the audience on all manner of pseudo scientific mumbo jumbo, occasionally opening a book or playing with their nearby chemistry sets in order to stress a point. These narrators are known as a PAIN or Pontificating Attendant Irksome Narrator. There is of course that rare specimen that is a mixture of the two breeds, but they are so seldom seen and heard that a name has yet to be coined for them.
Anyway, the CLOWN says, “Since the first revelation of the atom bomb at Hiroshima in 1945, the United States, England and Russia have been experimenting with more and more increasingly deadly weapons. Every day there’s more concentration on the race for atom supremacy. Sometime machines and men, such as Karol Noymann, are driven beyond the line of endurance. And when that happens…”
This speech is accompanied by a shot of men standing around what looks to be an ancient particle accelerator. When Karol Noymann’s name is mentioned we see him working in his lab with his chemistry set. As the CLOWN’s last sentence trails off…BOOM. Noymann and his lab go up in a big explosion. The CLOWN’s words would seem to indicate that the explosion was a result of either human error or equipment failure, but as we watch Noymann, the fiery ball that destroys his lab seems to originate from his upper chest and throat area! I don’t know what the lab’s commissary was serving for lunch that day, but it sure resulted in the mother of all heartburn. This has also got to be some kind of record for the fastest a top billed (Okay…near the top) actor is killed in a movie. John Carradine didn’t even get to utter a single word before giving up the ghost.
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.
Now that the film has demonstrated to us that the chances of Hamlet (let alone B-Movie websites) being pounded out by a simian at a word processor are actually within the realms of possibility, we get some aerial stock footage shots of The Pentagon. Mr. CLOWN is back: “In Washington, the accident became the subject of an intense discussion by high ranking officials.” Ya think? I doubt a government lab that is developing new atomic weapons and that goes BOOM is something that’s gonna get glossed over in favor of bantering back and forth over who’s intern has the biggest boobs. At least, eventually it won’t.
In his office, Lt. General Stone is talking to Doctor Adam Penner. Being a bleeding heart, the Doctor advocates limiting atomic experimentation to peaceful avenues. After the accident at Noymann’s lab, 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. He also mentions how radioactive particles have been blown into space and no one knows when they will come back down, or what effect they will have on the space around the Earth. The General asks Penner to reconsider, but the Doctor’s mind is made up. He will be flying out of town to attend Karol Noymann’s funeral and he does not plan on returning to Washington. The two men shake hands and the Doctor leaves.
We now jump to the funeral service for the late Karol Noymann. Doctor Penner is delivering a eulogy, going on about how he knew the deceased since they were both wee lads and how they both grew to adulthood with a love of science (which makes them both geeks). As he speaks, we see that his daughter Phyllis as well as Doctor John Lamont are also in attendance. I have a question right about now. After the explosion that killed Noymann, a newspaper featured the line, “High radiation in area makes immediate investigation impossible.” The dangerous levels of radiation produced by the atomic lab accident and the concern over them are referenced a couple of times in the film. My question is this: if the area was so saturated with such radiation that going in and investigating the cause is just too damn dangerous for anyone…then how in the hell was Noymann’s (or anyone else’s) body retrieved from the accident site for burial?
Now we see a really odd sight. A figure is walking nearby, but we only see them from the thighs down. Whoever it is must have a serious glandular disorder (either that or has fallen asleep in a tanning booth set to its highest setting) as their skin is hard and scaly. Additionally, this person must be hopped up on some serious sedatives, as they are literally dragging their feet through the dirt. So much in fact, that the loose soil is actually covering the tops of their feet. Alas, we cannot see much else, as this figure suddenly becomes invisible! All that remains to mark their presence is the dirt being pushed around by their dragging feet and the two long tracks left in their wake. We see the bushes part by the hand of this invisible person and we can discern the sound of labored breathing. No one at the funeral seems to notice these things and soon enough Doctor Penner finishes up his speech. We then fade out.
Now we’re at the Penner home, where Phyllis has just seen her father to bed. Doctor John Lamont is there as well. He notes how Doctor Penner’s resignation from the commission and anti atomic stance now puts him on the other side of the table from his own position. Phyllis agrees that her father seems to have developed a new obsession in campaigning against atomic research. Lamont then gets up to leave, citing the need for sleep and an early plane back to Washington. Phyllis thanks him for coming to the funeral and we get the impression that these two have known each other for many years. She offers to drive him downtown. One assumes that must be where he is staying. They head out the door and the camera zooms in on a clock that reads about seven minutes past ten (presumably PM).
We shift our attention back to the cemetery and Karol Noymann’s grave. There is a large mound of dirt with flowers on it, marking his final resting place. Then we see the nearby bushes move and we hear the deep breathing of that invisible person. Whoever it is, they must have been hanging out here in the cemetery ever since the funeral ended. No doubt they were taking the opportunity to exploit their invisible qualities and scare the shit out of passerby’s out to visit the graves of their loved ones. Imagine the fun! Sneaking up behind people and making moaning sounds or rattling the coffins as if someone wanted out. That would be too funny to pass up. Anyway, we soon see the dirt move as this invisible being drags his feet towards the grave in the same manner shown earlier. Then the flowers over the mound of dirt are moved and the image fades away…
…to the clock in the Penner home, which now begins chiming the eleven PM hour. A newspaper on the table has a picture of the late Doctor Noymann and a small headline that reads, "Karol Noymann Buried Today in Simple Rites." A hand is now seen knocking slowly but forcefully on the front door, and Doctor Penner, arisen from bed, walks over to answer it. He is shocked to discover Karol Noymann standing at his front door. I’m surprised he doesn’t just crap himself and then have a heart attack, Fred G. Sanford style. I mean, if somebody who I knew for a fact was dead and who I had seen buried that same day suddenly showed up at my front door…well, I’ve seen far too many zombie movies to not start boarding the place up right away. In fact, the person at the door might end up suffering some serious head trauma as I instantly launch into an attempt to smash their skull with the coat rack, hoping to disable their brain functions.
Penner calls out his friend’s name in surprise and then concludes aloud that the figure before him cannot be that of his deceased pal. Penner backs away while Noymann walks into the house and explains the situation to the frightened Doctor. It turns out that this is only the body of Karol Noymann and he isn’t going door to door trying to drum up encyclopedia sales. The being talking claims to be from another planet “outside your galaxy,” which means he has come a really long way. Penner is confused, so the corpse of Karol Noymann explains further that the good Doctor can save the people of Earth from total destruction. Unless the Earth surrenders within twenty-four hours, the alien’s brethren will launch a “mass invasion.”
Naturally, Penner isn’t buying into it; so the alien goes on to say how twenty thousand years in the past, his species came to the Earth’s moon and destroyed the lifeforms there. Then they built a civilization there, no doubt centered on the harvesting of all that cheese. It is also there that they have constructed a base for their fleet of spaceships. Doctor Penner doesn’t believe any of this either, saying that if such a civilization existed, Humans would have seen signs of it through their telescopes. The alien covers this plot hole by revealing that they are invisible, having learned long ago how to change the “molecular structure” of their bodies (though he doesn’t explain how their cities and buildings are invisible nor does he reveal how they have managed to hide all their energy emissions). This particular alien is using the dead body of Karol Noymann to communicate with Penner.
The Doctor now wants to know why the aliens want Earth to surrender. Mr. Exposition claims that they have always left Earth alone, due to man’s slow scientific progress, but now that Humanity is nearing the space age, they feel it is time to bring the Earth under their rule just as they have brought other planets under their control. Being the freedom-loving Human that he is, Penner balks at this idea. The alien states that they cannot be defeated. Indeed they have never been defeated. Just as he has done with the body of Karol Noymann, others of his kind will come to Earth and possess the bodies of the dead in order to wage war upon the living. This is the message the aliens want Penner to share with the rest of the planet. Well, I have news for Mr. Alien. The soulless dead are already waging war upon the living. They’re called Republicans.
Penner inquires into the reasoning behind choosing him for such an assignment and Mr. Exposition says that it was due to Penner’s voice being the loudest for peace. Showing a little spunk, Penner now claims that Humanity will fight, destroying the alien spaceships as fast as they can land. The alien now reaches into his pocket and pulls something out. I was really hoping that it was a gun and that he was going to shoot Penner in the leg for being such a smart-ass, but no such luck. Instructing Penner to hold out his hand, the alien drops an invisible object into it. He explains that it is a sample of the material they use to construct their spaceships. There is an odd buzzing sound and suddenly the chunk of material in Penner’s hand can be briefly seen. The alien boasts that since their ships are every bit as invisible as they are, Humans would be unable to locate them in order to destroy them. Then he grabs the invisible chunk and pockets it again. You know, it’s quite funny how that invisible chunk of tin foil doesn’t produce the slightest bulge in Noymann’s coat pocket. It’s almost as if there was nothing there! The alien turns to leave, Penner complaining that no one will believe him. The alien just says that he has had his warning and then walks out. Penner then collapses to the couch and buries his face in his hands. I would too if I had been in this movie.
Next we see a car pull up with Phyllis and Lamont. She is driving, yet when the car rolls to a stop, both exit the vehicle from the driver's side. I’ve seen this same thing in countless films from the era. Didn't anyone in the 50’s know how to use the car door right next to them? The two get out, but before entering the house she cautions Lamont to be patient with “him.” No doubt she means her father as further dialog makes it clear that she returned home and heard the elder Penner’s story about walking dead people possessed by aliens from a planet beyond this galaxy. Not believing such a tale (I mean, c’mon…a planet beyond this galaxy, when there are no doubt millions to choose from right here in the Milky Way? That alone stretches credibility to the breaking point) she hopped back in her car and fetched Lamont from his hotel.
They head on in where they confront Doctor Penner. Lamont tells the elder Penner that what he experienced was just a nightmare…something his mind invented (I’m still trying to convince myself of the same when it comes to Cop Rock). Of course the Doctor disagrees and is adamant that the corpse of Karol Noymann was in that very room earlier that night and that he himself is perfectly normal and sane. He stresses that they are all just twenty-four hours away from some serious trouble. Lamont is now playing the part of skeptic and does not believe it. Further, he is surprised that Penner wants him to go back to Washington and warn the governmental authorities of what is transpiring. Lamont asks Penner if he truly believes people will buy such a story. The Doctor admits that coming from him – the biggest proponent of disarmament – the message will most likely fall on deaf ears, but coming from Lamont it might have a chance.
The other man isn’t thrilled with making a fool of himself, but Penner nags some more. With a look that denotes that he’d rather wipe his balls with fish paste and then dangle them in a pool of Piranha, Lamont reluctantly agrees to pass on the message to the higher ups in the capitol. He heads on out, though I don’t know where in the hell he thinks he is going since he arrived in Phyllis’ car and does not have a vehicle of his own to use. Perhaps he’s just gonna mope and pout in the passenger seat until she comes out to drive his ass back to the hotel. Doctor Penner then drops to the couch once again and laments the fact that the corpse of Karol Noymann left nothing with which to prove the fanciful tale…other than a putrid smell left wafting through the air, I reckon.
Next we see the reaction to Doctor Penner’s claims in a series of newspaper headlines. “Charges of Space Attack Branded Ridiculous” announces one while another proclaims, “This Time It’s INVISIBLE Saucers From Space.” Uh...what was it last time? The funniest is the third, which reads, “Little Man Who Wasn’t There Here From Space.” Underneath the headline is a large blank area and the caption, “First Photo of An Invisible Invader.” HAHA! Judging by this response, I’m guessing people didn’t exactly believe Penner. Poor Lamont must be ready to jump off a bridge for being associated with a perceived loon and having his credibility shot out the proverbial airlock. Either that or for being in this movie. You decide.
Plus, you really got to hand it to these journalists for being so quick. Let’s look at the timetable involved: Penner received the message from the alien-possessed corpse of Karol Noymann shortly after eleven PM. That same night he tells Phyllis and Lamont of his experience, extracting a promise of help from the latter before Phyllis takes him to the airport. We can assume that Lamont caught an overnight flight and arrived in Washington D.C. by early the next morning and tackled his unwanted assignment to warn the higher ups as soon as was feasible. This means that Lamont made his case, the news of the warning got out and all the papers got wind of the story in time for it to make their evening editions. Pretty fast! You know…it really must have been a slow news day for such a story to garner such big headlines on so many papers.
Penner is no doubt disappointed that his warnings not only went unheeded, but were laughed at with the enthusiasm usually reserved for shots of guys getting hit in the balls with plastic baseball bats on America’s Funniest Home Videos. A pile of discarded newspapers is taking shape on Penner’s living room floor and the old guy is wandering around the place muttering prayers, hoping that he really is insane and that everything will be just dandy come the next day. Phyllis and Lamont come in and seeing that Penner has already read the newspapers, fill him in on the obvious: no one believed the tale, despite Lamont’s concerted efforts. Lamont announces that all Penner has done is make a laughing stock out of both of them. “I hope you’re satisfied,” he tells the elder Penner, with just the slightest trace of bitterness in his voice.
Penner appeals to his daughter now, asking her if he was not rational all day long. She admits to Lamont that she was with her father for most of the day and not once did he display any signs of having a screw loose, though given his age, I’m sure he had to pee at least fifty times. Lamont doesn’t know what to say or think. Penner reminds them that the twenty-four hour period imposed by the aliens is almost up and that the invaders “must” give them more time to convince people of the truth. Lamont then asks him how he could contact these invisible creatures and Penner hits upon the idea of visiting the cemetery since the alien that spoke to him was hijacking Karol Noymann’s body. Again, Lamont is skeptical but Phyllis persuades him to try, so off they go to the graveyard.
At the cemetery, they gather around a gravesite. Since it looks pretty fresh, I’m guessing that it’s Karol Noymann’s grave. However, since we know the aliens dug up and co-opted his body, they must have been real sticklers for detail and filled the grave back in again. They even placed the flowers back atop that mound of dirt. In what appears to be the cheapest, cheesiest graveyard séance in all of moviedom, Doctor Penner now looks around and, directing his comments into the air, pleads with the invisible aliens to show up and talk to him. Nothing happens at first but then after a few seconds we hear breathing that I imagine the Wolf Man sounds like when gargling. Everyone looks around and sees nothing, especially not the bushes that are parted by someone invisible. Eventually, they do see the foot-dragging tracks made in the dirt by their invisible visitor (which is just the same recycled footage from earlier in the film). More bushes move and a second invisible foot-dragger shows up, while the three Humans stare wide-eyed and slack-jawed.
A disembodied voice now commands Doctor Penner to speak. Amazingly, this voice is that of Karol Noymann, despite the fact that his body is nowhere to be seen. How can the aliens use his voice if the body is elsewhere? Anyway, Penner begs for more time to warn the Earth. The aliens concede that his efforts alone are not enough to carry the message and that the Earth will get one more warning. Penner asks what that may be, but the labored breathing soon fades. Ever the Sherlock wannabe, Lamont notices that the breathing has stopped and concludes that the invisible aliens are gone (why didn’t they see foot-dragging marks in the dirt as the aliens walked away?). Penner now asks Lamont if he believes him and the other guy shamefully asks what they can do. Penner says that things are out of their hands. The warning will come and then it will be up to the world.
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.” Um…first 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.
Now we see the plane’s pilot laid out on flat ground and twitching, despite the fact that:
A) Never did we see anyone bail out of the aircraft.
Before we can determine if this guy is somehow related to Bruce Willis for having survived all that in one piece, the poor shmuck finally stops twitching and the CLOWN announces, “The pilot had been killed.” Gee, ya think?! After all that, I’d have been surprised if there was even a freakin’ fingernail left of the poor bastard. As we see nearby bushes moving, the CLOWN continues: “But within minutes his lifeless body was inhabited by one of the invisible invaders.” How in the hell did they get there so fast? Within minutes according to the CLOWN! Were they tailing the plane in one of their invisible ships, hoping it would crash? Or did they cause it to go down? Who the hell knows and who the hell cares.
Now we see stock footage of a hockey game at some big arena. Up in the announcer’s booth, said announcer is busy giving the play by play, while some other guy (a sound man or engineer of some kind) sits behind him at a desk. Neither sees the door open to the booth and the dead pilot from the plane crash come shambling in. Mr. Clown returns: “The invader, using the pilot’s body, had come to issue the first public threat to the people of Earth.” The corpse reaches out and grabs the engineer guy by surprise, strangling him. Then he flicks a switch on the sound equipment and proceeds to strangle the announcer into unconsciousness. Picking up the discarded microphone, the dead guy now addresses the assembled crowd.
“People of Earth, this is your last warning. Unless the nations of your planet surrender immediately, all human life will be destroyed in a war you cannot win.”
The reaction on the part of the crowd is instantaneous. They all begin to panic and run screaming from their seats. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that Yanni had entered the building. Next we see the announcer awaken and check on his buddy, who is either very, very dead, or knocked out to such a degree that violent shaking simply will not rouse him. On the floor is the bloodied body of the airplane pilot. Mr. CLOWN chimes in again. “The invader, finished with the corpse, left and again became invisible.” As he speaks, both the announcer and we the audience see the door open and close. Hey, at least the invader was polite and closed the door when he left!
Before we move on, I have one question…why was the invader issuing his threat at a hockey game? I can see appearing before the United Nations or Congress or even stumbling into the White House to make such a declaration, as any one of those places might take the message very seriously, especially when security fails to put down the intruder with a barrage of bullets. Hell, showing up at any event that has a worldwide audience woud work as well, but a freakin’ hockey game? The only odd thing I’d expect at a sporting event is some idiot proposing to his girlfriend via the P.A. system and getting unceremoniously dumped on the big viewer screen for the whole arena to see and laugh at. But warnings of an alien invasion? Nope. Plus, what kind of chickenshit morons are these people? A voice comes over the loudspeaker and talks about invading Earth and they buy it hook, line and sinker? By the looks on many of their faces, they were going to be needing a fresh change of underwear quite soon. I don’t know about you, but without any sort of display of power to back up such threats, a lone voice on the P.A. is not going to sway me. Yet this collection of imbeciles looked like they were ready to dive into their bomb shelters.
Now we see a car careening out of control along a road at night. Sensing that what this movie really needs is yet another voiceover, the CLOWN returns once again. “The second warning came in California.” The car crashes and despite never seeing anyone thrown from the vehicle, we are soon shown some poor shmuck laid out on the ground, all bloodied up and eyes wide open in death. Then there is that same stock footage of an invisible invader dragging his feet through the dirt and the next thing we know, the possessed corpse is standing in another announcer’s booth, holding a microphone and making the same speech that the dead pilot gave in New York. Nearby are the two guys who had been working in the booth, either dead or out cold. This corpse seems to be addressing a much larger crowd than the one at the hockey game. This venue happens to be a huge outdoor stadium loaded with spectators. Just like their counterparts back east, this group promptly shit their pants and run for their cars upon hearing the dire message. It is also quite clearly day as this takes place, yet the car crash occurred at night. So either the dead guy was walking for hours to get to the stadium, or he hitchhiked, got there early and then sat around and waited for the crowds to gather before barging into the announcer’s booth.
Something just struck me…how does a dead guy – especially one that is dripping blood all over the place – make his way through public places and into the announcer’s booth at a sporting event without anyone taking notice of him? Seeing some dork stumbling down the street or amongst stadium crowds with more blood on the outside than the inside is not something you tend to overlook. Shouldn’t somebody have noticed these walking corpses? You’d think someone would have tried getting either one of them to a hospital, assuming (correctly) that they had been in an accident of some kind. Evidently, that is not the case. Dead people apparently have no trouble whatsoever in gaining access to any location they choose. I realize that the announcer’s booth at a sporting event isn’t exactly guarded like Fort Knox, but there has to be a few levels of security around it. Hell, how did they even get inside the stadium without a freakin’ ticket? Did they grease the palms of a few workers in order to ease their entrance?
Now it’s time for more newspaper headlines (I suddenly feel like Jay Leno) superimposed over shots of panicked crowds. “Earth Warned of Mass Attack From Space,” reads one. “Panic Grips U.N. As World Gets War Warning,” another displays. “Dyslexia For Cure Found,” screams a third. Okay, okay…that last one was from one of the Naked Gun flicks. Finally we see the U.N. building, where no doubt the politicians of the world are crapping themselves along with the rest of the planet. After the headlines, we see a guy at a desk talking into a microphone. I’m guessing that he is either a TV or radio newsman. As he speaks, we get images of large crowds gathered to listen to what he is saying. He lays out the current situation: 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!!
Now comes the weird part. There is an explosion (I’m assuming that it was not in the newsroom we just left and was in fact thrown in for dramatic effect) and superimposed over the resulting cloudy smoke is the image of a rotating Earth. Maybe this is supposed to visually represent the world proverbially going from the frying pan and into the fire? Who knows. Not to be left out of this whole voiceover thing, the aliens now decide that they want in on the CLOWN’s action and launch a preemptive monologue of their own. In the co-opted voice of Karol Noymann they say, “People of Earth, our warnings have been ignored. The invasion of Earth has started.” Isn’t it so nice when the bad guys provide an itinerary?
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.
At this point I don’t know what is more frightening, the fact that the mighty invasion from outer space is coming off more like an extended Public Works project or the fact that I’ve used the word “superimposed” in each of the last three paragraphs.
Not to be outdone by the invaders from space, the CLOWN now returns for one of his longest speeches yet. “By late that same afternoon the invaders had instigated a world wide reign of terror with sabotage. Buildings and industrial plants were hit by explosions. Large dams in the United States, Holland, Finland and Russia were blown up, flooding the areas around them, inundating towns and cities, killing thousands. Bridges leading to key military installations were destroyed, stopping all traffic to these vital centers.” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. All the while we see images of natural disasters: fires, floods and more floods. Also, it would seem that the United States, Holland, Finland and Russia have the only dams on the entire planet that are worth blowing up.
Now we return to Doctor Penner and Phyllis, who are watching events unfold on TV. The newscast relates how all over the world, the dead are crawling out of their graves to attack the living. Fear has turned people into howling mobs and civilization is pretty much circling the bowl for the last time. The television shows images of civic unrest in various places across the globe and the announcer remarks on how the death toll is unknown given that many news offices and correspondents have gone silent the world over. Suddenly, there is breaking news (aside from the fact that this film SUCKS) from Washington. The announcer relates how Doctor Adam Penner has once again taken charge of the atom commission. He and other top scientists are being sent to laboratories that have been set up in underground bunkers nationwide where they will pool their high IQ’s and try to determine a way to combat the invisible invaders.
You know, this unseen news announcer apparently pioneered the Geraldo Rivera style of news reporting, as he just gave away vital information to any enemy forces that may have been monitoring the broadcast. I think there is sufficient cause to have him taken out and shot (the news reporter, not Geraldo. Although…).
Um…question….if Penner is in charge of this group, then why the hell is he sitting here on his damn couch?! Shouldn’t he be on his way to a bunker? As if on cue, a horn sounds from outside and Phyllis notes that it should be Doctor Lamont. They head out and it is indeed Lamont, riding shotgun in jeep being driven by Major Bruce Jay. It’s about time John Agar got his ass into this film!! Lamont introduces the Major to the Penners while our resident CLOWN, under the mistaken belief that the sound equipment has failed - loosing all the scene’s dialog in the process - launches into another snooze-inducing piece of needless expository verbiage. “The Pentagon had assigned Major Bruce Jay of the Air Force to escort the group to one of the underground bunkers twenty-seven miles outside of town.” Everyone piles into the jeep. That is, everyone except the Major. He heads on into the house and closes the door behind him. Maybe he had to go take a crap after the long drive? Nope, he just went in to retrieve the Penner’s luggage. Lamont reveals that they are heading for bunker number six, as number four has been cut off. He also tells Penner that all the remaining scientists of the atom commission have already been set up in their own bunkers and are working on the problem at hand. Major Jay loads their suitcases into the vehicle and off they go.
The jeep tears through Bronson Canyon and I half expected to see a gorilla in a diving helmet waving a fist at them in rage from the distant hillside. Suddenly, HE is back. You know who. “Major Jay, who had been briefed thoroughly in the operation of the complex underground bunkers, was to afford whatever protection he could for the scientists. The walking dead were everywhere now, a vast army of destruction that could not be killed.” As the CLOWN finishes, the jeep comes to a halt in the middle of the road. Before them is a lone man aiming a rifle at them.
The man tells them all to reach for the sky (or words to that effect) and says that he has no way to escape this part of the country except on foot. He wants the jeep. Major Jay says that they are on an official mission and that he should clear the road. This naturally incenses the guy with the rifle, who questions Jay’s right to live over his own. He starts blabbering on about seeing dead people walking around and then gives them to the count of three to get out of the jeep. The Major advises the others to do as the gunman says and to not do anything to make the guy nervous. They exit the vehicle, but nobody notices the telltale signs of an invisible foot dragger moving through the dirt nearby. However, when the invisible alien disturbs the bushes, the gunman is distracted and looks away. Major Jay takes this opportunity to magically produce a pistol of his own from somewhere on his person and then proceeds to drop the other guy with a single shot.
Naturally, Phyllis screams when this happens. This is wholly expected as most women in 50’s films were 99.9 percent useless (there a few exceptions, like Dr. Patricia “Pat” Medford in Them!), contributing nothing more than some T & A to ogle, lots of screaming to add tension to any given situation and someone for the monster/alien/whatever to jeopardize at some point. “You killed him!” Phyllis screams, pointing out the obvious. The Major makes it clear that their group represents hope for the country (screw the world, evidently) and that he was not about to let that guy hold them up. He mentions that they are just a few miles from the bunker and tells them all to get back in the jeep. When they don’t move fast enough for him, he yells, “I said get back in the jeep!” Every one jumps to obey, perhaps afraid of who might be the next recipient of a lead souvenir. Once in, the Major steers around the dead body and continues on down the road. One is left wondering why he didn’t run over it several times, just to make sure that no invisible alien could use it, but apparently the Major does not possess that much foresight.
Behind them, the invisible invader that distracted the gunman now inhabits the guy’s corpse, animating it and making it shuffle down the roadway in the same direction the others went. As the corpse rises, we clearly see the big red (or what is supposed to be red in a B & W film) spot on the forehead that denotes the lethal gun shot meted out by Major Jay. That bullet must still be in there somewhere, cuz as the stiff turns, we see no corresponding exit wound on the back of his head. Considering how close Jay was to the farmer when he shot him, I would certainly expect to see an exit point for the bullet…along with brains and skull fragments blown all over the road. Then again, this film is from the 50’s.
The son of a bitch is back again. I think I’ve nearly reached the freakin’ snapping point! I’d like to think that I’ve been extraordinarily patient throughout this film, but I have finally had it with this bastard. We are not even to the halfway point of this movie and this moron has already chimed in eleven times! Well, Mr. CLOWN is back now for a twelfth. “The jeep arrived without further incident at the camouflaged entrance of bunker number six, which had been built to be bomb proof, in the event of an all out atom bomb war.” It would appear that the cleverly disguised bunker entrance is in fact camouflaged as a cave. Yep, nothing says, “there is nothing to see here, please move along” like tire tracks leading up to a big dark hole in the side of the hill.
The jeep drives into the cave and somewhere deep in its recesses, a large metal door slides open to allow the vehicle into the bunker. The first chamber is a garage, with other cars parked close by, a fuel pump and all sorts of tools hanging on the walls. Jay orders Lamont to close the big sliding door and then stomps off, stating that they will meet up in the lab. I am left wondering at this point as to exactly how they got the big sliding door open. There was no one already inside the bunker to open it from within, so did Jay have a remote or something to trigger from the outside?
Not long afterwards, the group gathers in the lab where Major Jay uses the radio to contact General Stone in Washington. The General gives him an update on things. Basically, the entire world is in a state of emergency. In the United States, the federal government has been evacuated and total military and scientific mobilization has been ordered. Attempts at negotiating with the aliens have proven useless while the ongoing efforts by the military to destroy the invaders have failed.
Right about now an alarm sounds within the bunker, forcing Major Jay to put the General on hold while they figure out what has happened. It seems the Geiger counter has detected increased levels of radioactivity outside. On Jay’s command everyone starts flipping switches like mad and soon the alarm stops. Jay explains that the bunker is now hermetically sealed and they are safe for the time being. Doctor Penner wonders about the high radioactivity. Lamont explains that they would hear or feel any nuclear explosion close enough to produce a reading like the one outside. They babble some more about the problem until Jay finally activates a television monitor tied into some security cameras. Outside are dozens of alien-controlled dead people walking around. Phyllis is worried that their location has been discovered, but Jay realizes that the corpses are still in the process of looking for them. One of the corpses is that of the farmer the Major killed earlier and Jay realizes that this particular alien is the reason why all the stiffs are congregating in the canyon outside.
At this point in the film, I have no idea how long it is going to take the aliens to discover the location of the bunker. Realistically it should not take them too much longer. Even if they did not possess advanced scanning technology that would enable them to detect the presence of the underground bunker, I’m sure those tire tracks leading right up to the cave entrance are a dead giveaway that something is close by. That and all the security cameras that are now filming their every move. I don’t who is the bigger group of morons – the Humans for thinking that the bunker is in any way hidden, or the aliens for being unable to find it despite literally stumbling over the clues.
While the group stare at the images on the monitor, 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.
Remembering that General Stone is still on hold, Major Jay returns to the radio and updates him on what just happened. Stone then addresses Doctor Penner and Lamont, telling them that they are on their own in developing any weapon to use against the invaders. So far, everyone else has failed. After some last instructions to Jay, the General signs off. Lamont isn’t too happy with the situation and begins to bitch and moan. The Major recognizes his behavior for what it represents: fear. He tells Lamont to relax, as they cannot afford for either he or Doctor Penner to go off the deep end. The Major’s attitude rubs Phyllis the wrong way (just give these two time and he’ll be rubbing her the right way) and she protests, but the Major just reminds her that they have a job to do and he’s the one in charge. Seeing as how the four of them are all the personnel they are going to get and that the work cannot stop, Jay thinks they should sleep in four-hour shifts. He leaves Doctor Penner and Lamont in the lab to get started while he and Phyllis go off to check their supplies.
Next up is yet another installment in Superfluous Exposition AKA the Return of Mr. CLOWN. “Meanwhile, the sabotage by the invaders went on in ever increasing fury. Government buildings, communications units, warehouses, army supply depots, railroad and air terminals…were the victims of incendiaries, completing demoralizing the high commands of the armed services of every nation in the world.” While he drones on, we see numerous images of buildings in flames with fire units desperately trying to extinguish them, all of which look like they were culled from various old news reels.
Returning to bunker number six, General Stone is calling to get a progress report. Alas, there has been no luck in the lab. However, the General does have something to share with Major Jay and the others. It seems that the aliens either have no weapons of their own, which is quite unlikely, or none of their weapons function in Earth’s atmosphere. Doctor Penner questions the means by which all the sabotage has occurred and the General informs him that the aliens have thus far used mankind’s own weapons against him. A Russian scientist theorizes that this is due to some molecular flaw in their materials stemming from their invisibility. Penner is excited; as this might also mean a flaw in the invader’s own bodies. The General then signs off, so Penner can pursue this new avenue of research.
We must pause a moment to reflect on the implications of that last revelation and how it shows these aliens are the biggest morons in the entire universe. Why didn’t the aliens annex the Earth twenty-thousand years back when they conquered whoever was living on the moon? Why set up shop on a dead place like the moon and not a scenic (and more importantly – untouched by civilization) place like good old Terra? Humans were probably no more than scattered tribes at that point. The aliens could have assumed control with total ease. Even if the battle for the moon and the subsequent establishment of any facilities there taxed their resources or industrial base, forcing them to wait a while before assuming control of Earth, they should have long ago brought Humans under their dictatorial heel. Why wait until mankind has advanced to the point where they can represent a viable threat before doing anything? It just goes to show what utterly pathetic long-term planning and tactical thinking these people possess. These morons had twenty thousand years to prepare the invasion of a planet they had been living virtually on top of all that time…yet still failed to realize that their advanced technology would not work in Earth’s atmosphere until it was time to attack. It was either that or they already knew such a defect existed and they chose not to correct it. Either way, their actions belie their inherent idiocy.
Speaking of idiocy on the part of the aliens, they 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.
The Major asks Penner if he still feels the same way about atomic weapons, to which the Doctor says yes. He waxes idealistic for a moment and talks about how the nations of the world can work together rather than try to destroy each other. The current crisis has proven it. I nearly expected to hear Glory Glory Hallelujah strike up in the background and rise in volume as he spoke.
Phyllis now enters and talks with the Major. They share a smoke and he confronts her about her animosity towards him. She mentions the farmer he gunned down earlier in cold blood. Then he goes on about serving in Korea and never seeing the faces of those he killed. Looking the farmer in the eye as he shot him was a whole different experience and it seems to be haunting him somewhat. They discuss the Major’s actions up to this point and she begins to see things from his perspective. I’m assuming that this whole exchange is supposed to “humanify” the Major a bit more. Make him more vulnerable and likeable now that we understand his past and motives more. BORING. It is also the door being opened for he and Phyllis to eventually make goo goo eyes at each other on their way to porking up a storm after the movie is over. He inquires into her status with Doctor Lamont, but before she can answer, her father calls her over to where he is working.
Penner has Phyllis fetch the sleeping Lamont. When they are all present, Penner reminds them about the device the alien-possessed corpse of Karol Noymann used to make a piece of the invaders’ metal visible for the Doctor to see. Penner believes that it projected a ray of some type that either changed the light spectrum somehow or altered the molecular structure of the invisible material. Before he can test either theory, they will need to capture an invader and bring it into the bunker – a pretty tall order according to the Major. Lamont wants to know how they can catch something invisible, so Penner outlines an idea 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.
Everyone thinks the idea is worth the potential risk of letting an invisible invader loose in the bunker. That is, everyone except Lamont. He now begins to whine, bitch, moan and whimper about the idea with all the anxiety of a man about to receive a vasectomy from a known epileptic. He is fast becoming a first class Chickenshit. He tries to play off his obvious fear as concern for Phyllis, but she sees through his act. She doesn’t quite roll her eyes at him, but it’s plain to see that she has lost some respect for him.
Now it’s time for more stock footage of burning buildings and narration by the CLOWN. “By eleven-thirty of the first night, the nations of Earth were close to total defeat. All through the night Doctor Penner and Doctor Lamont labored to manufacture the acrylic formula. Meanwhile, Major Jay with the help of Phyllis Penner, converted the fire foam gun so that it could use the liquid plastic, By dawn, they had succeeded.” After the burning buildings, we see everyone at work in the lab at their respective projects, though all Phyllis seems to be doing is handing the wrong tools to Jay.
Morning comes and the Major is now decked out in a containment suit, the tank holding the acrylic spray strapped to his back. He is talking to Phyllis, telling her that if he doesn’t come back from this corpse-snatching trip, the others will have to try again. Phyllis now confesses to Jay that she and Lamont are just friends. This is woman-speak for “I am not totally unreceptive to the idea of having sex with you at some point down the line once you have satisfied my emotional needs.” The Major, perhaps knowing the true meaning behind her words, announces that he is glad he asked about her status with Lamont.
In the lab, Doctor Penner is monitoring the outside radiation levels. He radios to the bunker’s entrance that it is all clear. The Major dons a funky helmet with a large clear faceplate while Lamont opens the big sliding door. Jay marches out and the door is closed behind him. The others watch him on the security monitors as he stumbles around outside. The Geiger counter readings reveal that an alien is drawing close. On the view screen, a corpse comes shambling along. Major Jay hides behind a really thin bush and lets the dead guy go past, then jumps out and fires the acrylic spray at him from the rear. However, Jay didn’t use enough of the spray and the alien was able to escape. A quick shot of invisible foot dragging follows, then Jay is assaulted by the invisible creature, the foam gun thrown form his hands. Then the Major grabs at his throat as if someone was choking him.
Inside, the others are about ready to bolt for a truck in order to go save Jay when they notice that the alien has returned to the corpse. The body gets up and stalks off back the way it came, leaving an unconscious Jay on the ground. When it has cleared the area, Penner and the others rush out to retrieve the Major, who is beginning to come around.
Once they have him back in the bunker, a coughing Jay says that the foam gun isn’t fast enough to capture an invader. When he hit the corpse with it, the alien inside “took off fast.” However, he still thinks the acrylic spray is the answer to capturing one of the invisible beings. He has an idea on how to proceed but it depends on Lamont’s nerves. Lamont is about to get all snippy at such a comment, but the Major stalls him, saying that he needs his help and doesn’t want the other man to loose his cool under pressure. Jay then explains his belief that the reason he was not killed just now is because the invader wanted to return to its spaceship and report that the Humans were working on something that could possibly harm them. This will make finding the bunker and destroying it a priority for the aliens, so the entire area is sure to be crawling with dead people before very long. The Major has a plan for capturing a walking corpse that involves more of the spray as well as both he and Lamont leaving the bunker in a truck. Naturally, Lamont balks at this idea, citing the fact that there is only one radiation suit, but Jay reassures him that the cab of the truck will be protection enough for Lamont.
Now we see an old truck navigating a dry dirt road. That thing is supposed to protect Lamont from the radiation? HAHAHAHAHA! Yeah right!! In the real world that poor guy would be toast, literally. However, in the reel world…he’ll be just dandy. The CLOWN returns briefly again at this point to once again explain something that we already freakin’ know. The makers of this film must have had a really low opinion of their audience to go to such great lengths to spell out the damn obvious. Anyway, Mr. CLOWN says, “Knowing the invader’s spaceship must be in the area, Major Jay chose a likely spot to set his trap for catching one of the enemy.”
The truck comes to a halt and inside, Jay consults his Geiger counter. He tells Lamont to stay in the truck and to be ready to warn him of any approaching dead people with the horn. After a brief exchange which one again points out Jay’s manliness over Lamont’s cowardice, the Major gets out to bait his trap…with himself. In the back of the truck are six large fifty-five gallon drums, no doubt filled with Doctor Penner’s acrylic solution. Jay grabs a shovel and walks off into the trees. Soon we see a large hole in the ground that is filled with the acrylic. Once again, dipshit is back to point out the blatantly obvious: “A deep hole had been dug and now it was being filled with the acrylic liquid. The next step was to set a noose beneath the liquid, for once the acrylic hardened the encased corpse would have enormous weight.” I’m getting to the point where I am realizing (somewhat reluctantly I might add) that unlike other movies where the announcer vanishes after the first few minutes, the CLOWN is going to be with us throughout this entire mess. It should also be noted that despite a deep hole (deep enough for a full-grown man to fall completely into) now having been dug, there isn’t a single handful of dirt nearby. Did Jay haul each shovel full of dirt somewhere else when digging the hole?
Soon enough the Major has covered the acrylic-filled hole with some loose branches and we see the corpse of the Farmer stomping through the trees. Having detected the approach of the dead guy with the Geiger counter, Lamont alerts the Major with a honk of the truck’s horn. The CLOWN again: “The plan now was to lure one of the walking dead into the area where the pit had been dug.” Really? No shit? I would never have figured that one out!! “A direct attack by Major Jay was the quickest though most dangerous method of baiting the invader.” The Major runs up to the corpse and shoots it a few times to get its attention. Once it has turned and begun its pursuit of him, he runs back in the direction of the pit. Well, maybe not run. Given the limited speed of the shambling corpse, it’s more like he power walked back to the pit. Eventually, after several shots of both he and the dead farmer floundering through the woods, the corpse falls into the pit with a small splash – though it’s an obvious stunt double doing the actual falling. Using the rope that he placed there earlier – the other end of which is affixed to the truck – Jay and Lamont use the vehicle to pull the body of the farmer from the pit. It is now encased in a shell of hard plastic and resembles Quintillus Aurelius from Curse of the Faceless Man.
Within the bunker, Doctor Penner monitors the approach of the truck. He radios to Phyllis who opens the big sliding door for Jay and Lamont and then closes it once the truck is inside. Take note that when she opens the door, the interior shot shows the approaching shadow of the truck, but when we cut to the truck itself, it is still outside. Then we go back to the interior view that shows us the vehicle entering the bunker’s garage area. Bad editing. In the lab, Penner sees scores of dead people converging on the area and runs to warn Major Jay. No sooner has he done so than banging can be heard on the other side of the big bunker door – dead people who badly want inside. Jay theorizes that they must have followed the truck. If that is true then this lot must be the fastest zombies ever. Considering that the truck just arrived a moment ago and that the hills were clear when the vehicle made its approach to the cave entrance, then these dead people must either have teleportation powers like that one dead Nazis in Zombie Lake, or these guys run so damn fast that they make the uberghouls in the Dawn of the Dead remake look positively like a collection of gimps. Naturally, Lamont begins to spaz out, but Jay assures him that the bunker is secure, having been constructed to withstand an atom blast.
They take the acrylic-covered corpse to a pressure chamber where they hope to crack open the plastic shell by increasing the pressure. After a few seconds, nothing is happening and Lamont begins to freak out again, this time over the idea of an invader within the bunker while the others are at their door, trying to get to them. This time Phyllis tells him quite frankly to shut up. A few more seconds pass and the plastic shell on the body begins to crack. The body moves and sits up, denoting the presence of an invisible invader. Before it can take a single step, it collapses again. The Major realizes that the alien has left the body and hopes that they can keep it locked within the chamber. Then the chair inside the chamber is pushed over to the desk. Note that the chair is far too close to the desk for anyone to sit in it. A depression can be seen on the chair’s surface where someone invisible has just sat their ass down on it. A wider shot now shows the chair a few inches from the desk. Those aliens must have tiny waists and skinny legs.
Invisible hands activate the radio on the desk and the alien addresses them over the intercom: “Do not think you will succeed. There is no way on your Earth to make us visible. Your people are being destroyed country by country. My unit has already received reports that many of your nations are considering surrender.” The Major accuses the alien of lying, but it just tells him to check with his commander. They trash talk each other some more and the alien offers to spare their lives if they surrender to it now. The Major reminds it of who exactly is the prisoner at the moment and then tells Penner to get started with his tests.
It should be noted that the alien addresses them in the voice of the late Karol Noymann. How in the eff can it do that? If anything, it should sound like the dead farmer whose body it just vacated. It’s not even possessing the body of Noymann. Hell, it’s not even possessing a body at all when it talks to them. Is Karol Noymann the “official” voice of the invasion? Too bad he’s already dead…he might have been due some royalties.
The CLOWN: “Doctor Penner and Doctor Lamont began immediate experiments in a desperate effort to make the invader visible to the Human eye. The vast scientific knowledge of the two men was put to the test in a race against time, for they knew that with every moment of failure, thousands more people all over Earth would die.” This is accompanied by shots of the group working in the lab and monkeying around with various scientific instruments – except for Major Jay, who just scratches his head in frustration. Then we get more stock shots of things on fire. “Time was running out for the defenders. The world was nearing the end of its ability to fight back, for this was the third day. By midnight, the Human race on Earth would cease to exist.” The Human race on Earth, eh? As opposed to all those Humans living on other planets, I’m sure.
In the lab everyone is looking pretty pooped. Major Jay returns from the entrance to say that the invaders outside have stopped banging on the door, but he is sure they have not gone away. 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. Then the Major asks Penner if he agrees with Lamont. The Doctor admits that they have tried everything to make the invader visible, but nothing has worked. Not getting an answer to his question, Jay once again asks if Penner agrees with Lamont, only this time his voice is much harder. Penner says he is too tired to think straight. 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. Some technobabble follows that would even make the writers of Star Trek: The Next Generation cringe. 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!
We now see that Penner and Lamont have devised 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. A twist knob on the gun has settings from one to ten (neither one goes to eleven). Penner turns it to one and a humming sound is heard. Nothing happens in the chamber. Gradually, Penner adjusts the knob and each time the humming raises in pitch. Lamont is ready to give up, but Major Jay tells Penner to keep going.
Then when he sets the gun to a higher setting, there is a horrible screeching from the pressure chamber. 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! By the way, the costume used for the alien is easily recognizable as being recycled from It! The Terror From Beyond Space.
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. The call is barely put through when the airwaves are filled with high-pitched squealing and other noises. 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, adding that Phyllis should offer up any prayers she may have for the success of this mission.
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. Doctor Penner is wearing the other one. Jay tells him that once they are outside, to head for the transmitter and relay the information to General Stone just as soon as the jamming signal ceases. Then 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 it’s 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. The truck continues on its way and the CLOWN returns after a whopping ten-minute absence. “The radio jamming set up by the invisible spaceship was the only key to the location of the ship. The directional finding equipment on the truck operated by Doctor Lamont had to use this key successfully or all hope would be gone.” While he speaks, the truck circles around trying to determine where the alien ship may be. We get a quick shot of Doctor Penner back in the lab before returning to the truck driving slowly around and the CLOWN blabbering on once again. “Slowly but surely, the radio jamming led the truck to the immediate area of the invisible ship used by the invaders.” Yeah, you wouldn’t want to get it mixed up with the invisible plane used by Wonder Woman.
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. Oddly enough, one of the stiffs is played by the same stunt man that doubled for the Farmer zombie falling into the pit of acrylic. 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.
Something occurs to me long about now. Why do the recently dead walk around all stiff and slow even before rigor mortis has had time to set in? The onset of rigor mortis may range from ten minutes to several hours, depending on various factors such as temperature. Maximum stiffness is usually reached between twelve and twenty-four hours post mortem, yet some of the dead people here walk around like they have poles up their asses and wooden planks strapped to their backs, despite being possessed by an alien within a couple minutes of giving up the ghost. Since rigor mortis lasts about seventy two hours and the timetable for completing the whole invasion of Earth and annihilation of the Human race was revealed beforehand by the aliens to be limited to three days (did they have a lunch to go to on Alpha Centauri IV or something?), it’s no wonder none of the corpses that did go stiff ever went soft again during that time. Still, surely some of them - such as the farmer - should have been more pliable at first?
Other than the pure shock value, for what reasons did the aliens use dead people for their armies? While the dead may be resistant to certain types attacks, they can still be easily destroyed. Blow them up, burn them to cinders…hell, even pumping enough bullets at them will eventually shred their bodies. They’re not exactly invincible. Plus, they are extremely slow moving. It would make much more sense for the aliens to remain invisible and use that tactical advantage in their war effort…but we’ve already established that these extraterrestrials are morons that make Larry, Curly and Moe look like Sun Tzu in comparison
Quick cutaways show Phyllis and Lamont in the truck and Doctor Penner back in the lab. Then it’s back to Major Jay lumbering through the trees. 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.
Why did natural and other loud sounds not reveal the invaders’ weakness before? I’m sure a specific frequency must be used to make them visible, so loud jets, explosions and other such noises might have proven useless for the task, but surely there must be some type of noise our society creates that would have betrayed their abilities? Personally, I’m thinking that playing a few Yanni albums and then broadcasting it worldwide could have easily sent them all packing.
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.”
Seemingly begun with the infamous UFO incident at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, American culture quickly developed an interest in extraterrestrials and flying saucers that only increased as the decade came to a close and the 1950’s dawned. This interest would rapidly became a near national obsession by the time the 1960’s rolled around, though the fervor would have waned quite a bit by then. Perhaps recalling the thrilling outer space adventures from the old serial and pulp magazine days, movie producers saw obvious box office gold with such themes and soon the silver screen was overflowing with lifeforms from other worlds. Given the political climate of the time as well as the paranoia that was sweeping the nation over the Red Scare, and it is easy to see why most of these aliens took the form of potential conquerors. Playing upon the fears of the American viewing audience, filmmakers crafted villains from beyond the stars that were definitely here to squash the good old U.S. of A…as well as the rest of the world when they got around to it. Few ET’s were ever portrayed as benevolent and those that were, were still often shown to represent some type of danger to American culture and civilization, even if said danger was completely unintentional. In short, aliens were bad. They represented the fears the country possessed over foreign powers here on Earth that were scheming to put an end to the freedoms and personal liberties enjoyed in the West.
Invisible Invaders, while arriving near the end of the “alien invasion” era of 50’s science fiction films, still did its best to live up to the epic scale set by earlier films of the decade that centered on testy aliens hell bent on taking our planet Earth as their own. However, the budget was no where near what previous forays into the subgenre had enjoyed and it showed. The use of stock footage to represent the devastation visited upon Human civilization by the invaders only serves to cheapen the story. Making the invaders invisible is another obvious cost-saving maneuver that ultimately only annoys the audience – who are there to see monstrous aliens in all their cheap foam latex glory. Perhaps in an attempt to overcome this liability the filmmakers hit upon the idea (or “borrowed” it from Ed Wood) of having the aliens possess the bodies of the dead so as to have something on screen to menace the protagonists.
The film was produced by Robert E. Kent (who was relatively new at the producing game but who had been a writer in the industry since 1937) for Premium Pictures Incorporated. Having previously worked with Kent on six films including It! The Terror From Beyond Space and Curse of the Faceless Man, director Edward L. Cahn was brought on board the project. Cahn was no stranger to cheap genre films, having helmed several for the kings of the cheapies - James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff’s American International Pictures. Headlining the cast were John Agar and John Carradine, two actors who had once enjoyed notable careers but who now found themselves relegated to the realm of cheap Scifi and horror films. The end result is a film that is usually glossed over in favor of the better efforts of the time period. If anything, its use of the walking dead is seen as a blatant rip-off of Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space and not as the precursor to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which is a pity for the film seems to have many things more in common with the Romero flick than the earlier Wood film.
After working on this page on and off for the better part of two months, I now find myself in front of the computer, ready to finish off the last thing that needs to be completed for it – this review section. Alas, even with this movie on my brain for weeks, I find that I really cannot think of anything to say about it at the moment. If the truth be told, having focused so much of my conscious mind on this film for such an extended period of time, I am discovering that the experience has deadened the higher functions in my brain and coherent thinking often eludes me, let alone something as basic as speech. I find that out of nowhere, images of falling, burning buildings and flash floods spring to life within my mind’s eye – all in glorious black and white of course. Then there are the voices I keep hearing. I’m not sure whether this film has accomplished what no other has managed to do and driven me insane or…I am just suffering from the “rollercoaster effect” (named for the sensation of movement you will experience while laying in bed trying to sleep after a day of wild rides at your favorite amusement park) and re-creating inside my mind the experience of the CLOWN’s incessant voiceovers. Who knows. Whatever the case may be, I won’t soon forget the experience of pounding out this page.
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.
When examined closely, I really have no problem with the structure of the storyline. It unfolds rather logically, given the fantastic situation and the characters upon which the movie chooses to focus. Despite the aliens being nice enough to give a warning to we Humans, in hopes that we’ll oblige them and surrender, when that doesn’t happen they pull a GW on us and invade. A small group of people in isolation struggles to find a way to fight the invaders before Humanity goes the way of the dodo bird and the Betamax. The film follows this small group of people and their exploits as the invasion is taking place, rather than focus on the extensive devastation and the massive battles that are no doubt occurring elsewhere – though we do get several shots of stock footage that is supposed to represent the catastrophic events around the globe. I “get” that this use of a smaller cast may be an attempt to Humanize the characters more (in addition to an attempt at saving money) by limiting the number of people with which the viewer can empathize, thus making their plight more personal. However, I just don’t think there was anything transpiring in this film that really made me feel the slightest sense of concern for them. The film’s short running time is a probable contributing factor to this viewer apathy – the movie simply doesn’t take the time to really develop the characters aside from a few broad strokes. Yet, it may be more than just a lack of thrills and characterizations that ultimately spell doom for the film’s storyline.
By 1959, alien invasions were not exactly new to the cinematic worlds of Scifi. Hell, they were probably considered old and trite by many fans and producers alike after such classic examples like The Thing From Another World, War of the Worlds, Invaders From Mars, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers as well as smaller ones like The Man From Planet X, Devil Girl From Mars, It Conquered the World and Invasion of the Saucermen. Then there were the real crappy ones like Killers from Space, The Astounding She Monster, Robot Monster, Plan 9 from Outer Space and Teenagers from Outer Space…and that is by no means all of them from that particular decade. It seems that one of the things that may have helped fuel the production of so many similarly themed films was the then current fascination with UFO’s, which itself may have been an offshoot of America's new obsession with technology and the competition with the Russians. By the time Invisible Invaders came along, the entire subgenre had already produced both the best and worst the filmmakers of the day could cobble together. Because there are so many alien invasion films that are so much better as well as considerably worse, both in terms of story and characters, this film often gets lost in the crowd. Indeed, this film at times seems more like an afterthought to the decade that spawned such movies rather than a last gasp of a dying genre. That (dis)honor might go to Larry Buchanan’s The Eye Creatures, the horrible television remake of Invasion of the Saucermen…though Mars Needs Women was also pure shite.
While they are all pretty thin, the least effective character is that of Phyllis Penner. Simply put, she accomplishes nothing in this film. Nothing. It is never even confirmed if she hooks up with Major Jay after all the trouble they go through together, nor does she require rescuing at any point. That would be fine if she contributed something in a professional capacity, but she doesn’t even do that. Even the strong, capable females in other Scifi/horror flicks of the time needed help from the males on occasion. Cut her from the film and the story changes in no discernable way. Call me shallow, but she isn’t even that easy on the eyes. I’d have an easier time accepting her presence if she was at least somewhat hot. As it is, I really have no idea why her character exists aside from the notion that the producers figured they ought to have at least one broad in the film.
More effective, but positively on the dull side is Adam Penner. Despite the emotional rollercoaster this guy is supposed to endure – seeing his friend die and then return from the dead at the forefront of an alien invasion then being laughed at for his desperate warnings and seeing civilization damn near collapse forever – he never really seems too bothered by it all. Sure, he tries to show how depressed and worn out he is, but somehow he never comes off as the tired old man he claims to be. He is more like a science teacher that is a week away from retirement after spending forty years in the public education system, eager to put everything behind him and then finds he has six weeks of summer school to teach: annoyed – yes, but not to the point of having a breakdown. Likewise, the moral quandary he finds himself in is not emphasized too much...or at all for that matter. Here is a man who resigns from a well respected government position to work towards peaceful ends, but who then is forced to put his skills to work in devising weapons of mass destruction – the very thing from which he was trying to escape. Does this conflict of interests ever arise in the film? Nope. One day he’s crusading for peace and the next he’s hell bent on figuring out a way to exterminate any and every alien on the planet. At the very least, the film should have shown him agonizing over his predicament somewhat.
On the flip side of the Penner coin is Dr. Lamont. Lamont is much more animated than his mentor, Penner…especially when his precious reputation or his even more precious ass is at stake. While not quite on the same level as the whiny, spineless cowards that appear in other films who practically need a fresh change of underwater every fifteen minutes, Lamont is still governed by his emotions, and in this film his main emotion is fear. More than once he is ready to capitulate to the invaders based on nothing but his own fright and the prospect of being on the receiving end of an alien ass-beating. Maybe he figures if he cooperates, they won’t anally probe him. His worst moment comes when he tries to hide behind his cowardice by pretending that his colossal yellow streak is nothing more than concern for Phyllis. Needless to say, she sees right through him and loses some of the respect she had for him (if she ever had any). Amazingly enough, Lamont survives the film in stark contrast to the fates of most B-movie cowards. In fact, despite his periodic bitchfests, he actually contributes quite a bit to the effort to devise a weapon for use against the invaders.
And then there is Major Jay, played so well by perennial B-movie favorite John Agar. The Major is the last main character to show up and doesn’t even arrive in the film until the twenty-five minute mark, but once he does, he positively dominates both the film and the other characters. It’s as if Agar is reminding everyone as to just whose film this is. Agar seemed to specialize in playing men with an obvious and overly developed appreciation for the ladies. Even in this film, where such qualities are somewhat subdued, there seems to be a connection made between him and Phyllis. Then again, he’s obvious the Alpha male of their little group and compared to the overly cautious Lamont, he is positively manly. The fact that he desperately needs to take some anger management classes doesn’t hurt. Despite all talk to the contrary, we know women always gravitate towards the “bad” boys and Jay’s occasional outburst qualifies him for this group. To give him credit, he does have some brass balls – venturing out of their bunker on two occasions in order to capture an alien and then a third time to locate and destroy the ship. He willingly goes, but Lamont has to practically be shamed into getting his ass in gear for such trips. In the end, Jay is the hero of the film and he acts as if he knew this all along.
The worst aspect of the stock footage is the stuff utilized to depict the invasion. The film wants us to believe that Human society is on the verge of extinction, with most military and civil authority having collapsed in the face of the threat from outer space. The only problem is…what threat? The alien’s own technology doesn’t work all that well in our atmosphere, forcing them to hijack corpses and commit acts of sabotage to bring about the fall of mankind. WTF? If I didn’t know better, I’d think someone from the current Bush administration had traveled back in time to make this movie for propaganda purposes. Think about – illegal aliens have entered our nation and are working to destroy it from within, going as far as to commit terrorist acts against the populace. Talk about a Republican’s worst nightmare. All kidding aside, how are we the viewers supposed to accept the fact that civilization is literally hours away from being destroyed when all we have to show for it are flash floods and some burning buildings? Now, if we had seen entire cityscapes reduced to rubble or shown thousands laying dead in the streets, I would be more willing to suspend my disbelief. Hell, even some flying hubcaps dropping firecrackers on a model train set would have worked, but firemen putting out a fire? Sorry, but no. While there are a couple shots of miniature dams and buildings going BOOM, they are too few to lend any sense of epic catastrophe to the movie. On top of that are the stock shots used for other moments, like the footage of a controlled military aircraft crash or a car wreck lifted from another film. And don’t even get me going on that bloody hockey game. Ugh.
As for original work created for this film, we have the semi transparent aliens being forced from their host bodies and turning into big piles of goo…even if the costume for the ET’s was recycled from It! The Terror From Beyond Space. There is the glowing tiara…er…space ship that we glimpse briefly at the end and the subsequent explosion that destroys it. We also have the optical effect used to depict the sonic rifles in operation – which is basically the same thing used whenever sound is supposed to be depicted on screen – expanding circles. None of it is all that special, but it’s not total crap either, given the standards of the day. Additionally, we get all the “live” FX they used on set, which are basically just tricks used to convey the idea of an invisible person moving around – disturbed bushes, doors opening by themselves, objects being lifted by unseen hands, etc. This is all done adequately enough, though a wire can be spotted a time or two if you look close. However, the worst element is the effect used to show an invisible invader walking through the dirt. These guys apparently don’t lift their feet at all, but just drag them wherever they go. This effect, showing the dirt being moved by their feet and the long tracks left behind them, is just ridiculous. If the producers of Forbidden Planet could show an invisible creature actually taking steps, why couldn’t these guys? Was it that difficult an effect to achieve on set? The end result only serves to make things more unintentionally comical and cement the invaders as morons and gimps rather than lifeforms to be feared. FX should enhance the story and make the unbelievable real, not manage to throw credibility right out the window, which is what the repeated use of this effect does.
The world-spanning invasion by outer space creatures is definitely made out to be the greatest event in Human history…as it should be, but it still comes off as nothing more than a grand inconvenience for most of those involved. This may be due to the fact that the invasion is never really seen first hand by our characters (and in turn we the audience) and seems to mostly occur off screen, only referenced in dialogue by the CLOWN and shown through the use of stock footage. This makes the film almost seems like a cheap ass documentary. When the greatest threat to face our characters are a few pasty-faced dead folks stumbling through the woods, it's kind of hard to develop any concern for the entire planet. Indeed, the central group of protagonists never seem to find themselves in a predicament that a couple of machine guns and a few hundred rounds of ammunition could not remedy. On paper the idea of a horde of alien-possessed corpses overrunning the planet sounds quite frightening, but the end result is more like a group of vagrants protesting their shanties being knocked down by a storm.
It should be noted that the camera work, cinematography and the lighting are all on par with most other Scifi and horror films of the time. In other words, they’re horribly mundane and pedestrian. It seems the modus operandi for shooting a scene was to point the camera at the actors, call action and roll the camera until the required lines of dialog were spoken. It is very hard for me to think of very many examples from the film that actually made any use of moving shots. Hell, the cameras barely even moved, period. This certainly creates a static look and feel that does nothing to liven things up a bit. It certainly isn’t helped by the cinematography, which cannot add too much since most of the footage actually shot for the film takes place on small, rather plain sets. Framing a shot seems to require nothing more than ensuring the boom mikes and lighting equipment are not in the shot.
Still, despite all the crap I seem to be heaping upon the movie, there are a few things it does somewhat well. First up are the zombies. Unlike the plain pancake makeup applied to extras in other films, the makeup used for these dead folks actually makes them look dead and scary. Not only are they recently departed, but a few of them, most notably the plane crash and car crash victims, are banged up something fierce and sport numerous scars and stains of dried blood. This lends a certain genuineness to their deceased status and increases their overall creepiness. Another thing the film tries to pull off, but only partly succeeds at, is portraying the mounting tension within the underground bunker. Being confined to limited quarters for an extended length of time is difficult for anyone, but when part of a disparate group of people and under apocalyptic circumstances, it can only go from bad to worse. Things do get strained on occasion, especially with Captain Chickenshit AKA Doctor Lamont second guessing every proposed course of action, but again, rather than a feeling of barely restrained violence permeating the proceedings, we get the impression that the tension is no more than what a mild family argument might produce. It’s certainly nothing like the similar situation seen years later in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Perhaps if the timetable had been changed and the small group had been underground for weeks rather than just a handful of hours, such tension would have been more of a necessity.
Call me over thinking things, but a part of me still has to wonder if Major Jay’s obvious heroism and his willingness to point out Lamont’s chickenshit factor was not some subtle social comment at the time. Something along the lines of pointing out the need for quick, decisive and martial decision making when dealing with America’s enemies and how the more liberal (AKA socialist) approach will accomplish nothing but lead to our eventual demise at the hands of invading foreigners. No? Maybe it’s just me. One positive message the film tries to convey is that in spite of whatever differences we may have, Humans can work together when the need arises. Even though this is the 50’s – when the Red Scare was truly born, the movie makes mention of a Russian scientist and his contribution to the efforts in repelling the invaders. It’s very subtle and many viewers may miss the reference, but it is still that small reminder that hope exists for our species. Maybe not much, but it exists.
When boiled down to its core components, the film really cannot be considered good, but it cannot be classified as total crap, either. There are several other alien invasion flicks that are much more dull, plodding and lifeless. Indeed, despite the miniscule budget, Invisible Invaders has a wee bit of that special quality that is so sorely lacking in many other films: Spunk, or what others might deem spirit. And while the Lou Grants of the world may not like spunk, I think such an element helps elevate a cheap production that runs the risk of putting its audience to sleep, into a film memorable for its sense of fun. The short running time and lively pace really help keep it (subjectively) interesting and enjoyable if not hard to follow at times. That is, if this type of movie is your bag, otherwise nothing will keep you from visiting Snoresville. Since this kind of movie is no longer watched for the special FX – at least, not in terms of how good they are, but rather for the “cheeze factor” appreciation – the lack of fancy FX and the abundance of super cheap FX should come as no surprise to anyone.
The presence of B-Movie hero John Agar doesn’t hurt. Seeing his name in the credits is always a good thing in my opinion. If ever there was a man’s man of the B-movie kingdom, Agar would have to be at the top of the list of candidates. I swear the man could play a Saint (the religious kind, not a football player) and still instill him with a subtle lascivious demeanor. I don’t think the man ever played a character that was capable of not noticing anything remotely female and then trying to determine his chances of scoring – and doing so openly and admittedly in front of others. He was ready to spring into action, either the fist-swinging or lip-locking kind, at a moment’s notice. Who can ask for more? Sure, in today’s world we’ve pussified men into talking about their feelings and trying to be gentle, so such qualities would seem archaic and caveman-like in comparison, but I have to smile at a time when men were allowed to be men and for me, Agar’s many characters personified such an individual.
In the end, the film is worthy of a B-movie fan’s attention, but be prepared for a more median product of the 1950’s and not a glossy, stylized example of that decade’s science fiction epics. Also, you might want to be ready to be talked down to, as the numerous interruptions by the CLOWN not only become annoying quite rapidly, but also somewhat insulting when he starts explaining the story as if you were some type of idiot possessing a learning disability or a short attention span. Because let’s face it – if you’ve made it to this point of my review, you’ve proven yourself to be willing to go that extra mile for a healthy dose of cinematic Cheeze (not to mention horrid writing and poor grammar).
(Just a small bit of personal trivia: from the time I sat down and began this “review” section without quite knowing what to say, two full weeks have passed and I’ve pounded out over forty-nine hundred words – quite a bit for being rather clueless. This ended up being the longest “review” section I have ever done (by over 1900 words) and in turn makes this the longest movie page I have done yet. No wonder it has taken me so long and I now feel like I need a month-long nap.)
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.
4 seen, thousands implied
*Yes, I counted every single one of them. I’m a glutton for punishment.
Min - Send in the CLOWN.
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