Saturday, May 19, 2012

"Within Three Days, The Dead Will Destroy All The Living!"

Invisible Invaders(1959)
Director: Edward L. Cahn
Cast: John Agar, John Carradine, Jean Byron

The 1950s gave us many of the most unforgettable sci-fi/horror films of any decade, along with a multitude of monsters, never seen before or since. It also gave us many of the dumbest and silliest films in the genre, making it one of the most lampooned, and yet, oddly revered decades in genre history. Part of the reason is that while films like Robot Monster(1953) and The Brain From Planet Arous(1958) are pretty silly, they also are fun to watch and occasionally had decent plots. I'd argue that the 1950s wins hands down for the sheer amount of guilty pleasures in a single decade.
There's many questionable films from this period that I still find myself sitting through, even if I regret my poor decision making. Invisible Invaders is undoubtedly one of those movies.

Invisible Invaders is one of those movies that has a plot that can't keep up with it's own budget, of which it is severely limited. It's charming, so it's not quite a train wreck, like some of these films, though it's also not as funny as an Ed Wood or Edward Cunha(what's up with all the Eds?), but it's amusing to say the least.
In the beginning, John Carradine blows up in his search for a quick paycheck, only to show up moments later as a zombie at the doorsteps of Dr. Penner(Philip Tonge) who is instructed to contact the leaders of the world, because John is actually an invader from space, ready to take over the earth with the aid of the living dead! We don't see much of John after this, but we do see lots of stock footage as the dead rise from their graves and it's like World War Two all over again(no, I mean it really is. Just look at the stock footage!) and  the zombies chose to interrupt football and hockey games to tell everyone that they are invading and probably to check on the scores.

John Agar shows up right on time, because he's in every other one of these films it seems, as an army colonel, who is to escort Dr. Penner, his daughter, the love interest, and some other doctor, played by Robert Hutton. They are to go to an isolated research base, where they will find a way to defeat the invaders, but not before John shoots a shotgun toting farmer, who was looking for a lift.
Our heroes go to their cave/laboratory, and witness via television monitors, a Nostradamus like vision of Romero-esque walking corpses crawling across the landscape. They actually look quite effective, really and it's my guess that a young Romero may have been inspired by their frightening appearance. Unfortunately, little is done with them, and there's nothing as innovative as what Romero would do with his walking dead creations.

The silliness(and boredom) ensues, before one of the geniuses decides to capture a zombie, which they do, hoping to experiment on it. They do and discover that the aliens inside hate high frequency sound, and that causes them to melt and vanish! We, the monster fans.also discover that the aliens look an awful lot like It, The Terror From Beyond Space!
Meanwhile, John Agar falls for the daughter of the doctor, which we all knew would happen, and the other doctor gets jealous and they fight. However, all is okay and they make up and decide to kill some aliens, putting on radiation suits and using a ridiculous sound gun to kill all the ghouls. In a very comical bit, one of the alien-zombies is walking arms outstretched, grasping a 38. revolver and shoots Agar! It's okay, though, because he was only winged!
In the end, the sound killed the aliens and our "heroes" are in a cheap room, which we last saw at the football stadium, but are actually told is the United Nations. That was probably the most unbelievable thing in this movie.

Invisible Invaders is a very ridiculous movie and not exactly a good one, either. There's a plot here that with a bigger budget and better cast(and script) could actually be effective, and like some of these low budgeters, could actively benefit from a remake.
The shots of the marauding dead are effective, but there's little to no suspense and far too much talk for such a film. In pictures like this, action and forward momentum is key and when there's really no one to root for, it makes the action onscreen appear tedious.
John Agar is especially cranky throughout, not appearing overly heroic or empathetic, far away from his Universal leading man days, and further still from his time with John Ford. The rest are typically unremarkable types, the kind usually shoehorned into these kind of movies, bland and colorless and leaving no impression. Carradine has almost no screen time, save for the very beginning, though his voice does appear throughout, as apparently the only voice of the invaders, and that's something.
I have great affection for the low budget films of the 50s, especially those from the genre of the fantastic, but I can't say that this is a very recommendable title. It's interesting for it's proto-Romero zombies and an interesting plot and a few comical bits, but this ranks low on the totem pole of 50s cheeze.

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