INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN
(director: Edward L. Cahn; screenwriters: Al Martin Gurney, Jr./Robert J. Gurney, Jr./Al Martin/from a book by Paul W. Fairman, “The Cosmic Frame”; cinematographer: Frederick E. West; editor: Charles Gross/Ronald Sinclair; cast: Steve Terrell (Johnny), Gloria Castillo (Joan), Frank Gorshin (Joe Gruen), Lyn Osborn (Art Burns), Don Shelton (Mr. Hayden), Sam Buffington (Colonel), Douglas Henderson (Lt. Wilkins), Raymond Hatton (Larkin), Jason Johnson (Detective); Runtime: 67; AIP/Malibu; 1957)
“A film that can never go out of style because it is so bad that it never was in style.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A teenage couple making out in lover’s lane accidentally runs over a little green alien. The aliens in retaliation kill a drunken opportunist who was looking to cash in on finding aliens, Joe Gruen (Gorshin), and they will substitute his body for the alien’s. The teen couple are not believed by the police when they try to explain to them what happened and are charged with killing Joe; the kids say that an adult would not have had the same problem with the police.
This is an excellent example of a bad low-budget movie coming out of the ’50s sci-fi genre, one that is funny without intending to be funny.
The plot centers around a spaceship that lands in Hicksburg (Middle America) and is about to attack the town for no reason. The Army has a secret unit, which happens to be stationed where the space craft lands, and they react to the alien sighting by blowing up the ship but telling the police and the public that it was a jet plane that crashed. This should feed the government cover-up advocates and the conspiracy theory junkies with some ammo to make their case that the government is always lying when it says there are no such things as flying saucers.
The aliens do their killing by injecting a person with alcohol, but you only die if you had a few drinks in you. That is why Joe died. This has to be one of the stupidest ways ever thought up of how aliens kill people. These slow-moving, goofy looking creatures who can’t be shot are finally squashed by the lover’s lane teens, who take a brief respite from necking to shine their headlights on these creatures, as the strong light makes them evaporate. The assumption is, even though they saved the town, no one will believe them because there are no traces of the aliens left and because no one believes teenagers anyway. This brings out some great paranoia between the older and younger generations of that time period.
The story shifts from the teen couple back to the two drifters, who have been in town for a month. Joe, who has been heavily drinking and is frustrated over having no job and not having a date on Saturday night, goes riding by himself in the woods and discovers the dead creature. When he phones his pal, Art (Lyn), who is the narrator of this tale, Art doesn’t believe him and goes back to sleep. Later Art will be taken by the teens, who need to prove their story, to the woods where the aliens are and he will survive an alien attack after he is left in a drunken state. From this experience, he will write a book complete with photographs of the aliens he photographed.
Edward L. Cahn, a master in low-budget schlock, splurges on papier-mache heads for his creatures, and features a disembodied hand that grosses out the young couple who are about to get married without their parents’ approval. Johnny (Terrell) works in a garage, his girlfriend Joan (Castillo) is the daughter of the city attorney (Shelton). He opposes the two dating because he considers Johnny not good enough for his daughter. This little subplot never gets resolved, but adds to the confusion. The story was so confusing, that the film could have been seen in any of the following ways: as a typical teen dating flick, a sci-fi movie, or a comedy spoof of the horror genre. Cahn raises no serious questions about anything — he seems to have a money and brain outage problem when he made this one. He could have certainly used a much tighter script, better actors, and more imagination.
There’s also a farmer (Hatton), who has a shotgun and is running around threatening to shoot everyone who is on his property. His property stretches across lover’s lane. The farmer also has a bull that the teens love to get drunk, by leaving their beer cans in the meadow. The bull gets so drunk that he gores an alien to death.
Somehow, I got a few laughs and that’s good enough for a film that can never go out of style because it is so bad that it never was in style. This film was originally released on a double bill with “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.”
REVIEWED ON 12/30/99 GRADE: C-