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Friday, September 30, 2016

Invisible Invaders



The Invisible Invaders
1959
Edward L. Cahn

After foolishly exploding himself in a laboratory accident, Dr. Karol Noymann (John Carradine) finds his corpse rudely taken over by invisible aliens. The Alien/Noymann warns his former college, Dr. Penner (Philip Tonge) that unless the Earth surrenders, the invaders will destroy everyone and take over. The US government calls their bluff, and soon enough the aliens are taking over dead bodies left and right, and using them to destroy cities. Dr. Penner, his daughter Phyllis (Jean Byron), fellow scientist Dr. Lamont (Robert Hutton), and grouchy Major Bruce Jay (John Agar) are whisked away to a secret bunker to try and discover a way to defeat the invisible invaders.

Invisible Invaders reminds me most of Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) if all the heart-felt incompetence was replaced with tedium and John Agar being crabby.  The central premise is sound, and the idea that aliens could control the recently deceased is ripe for some interesting situations.  No Survivors Please (1964) takes the idea in some fun directions, while Invisible Invaders forgets to do much with its own story. Some of that (read: most of it) has to do with a very limited budget that reduces our heroes to sitting around a secret bunker watching the world fall to the corpsey hands of the aliens.
"Well, folks at home, let me tell you, this space zombie is really strangling the crap out of Steve.
But first, a message from Gold Bond medicated powder."
One aspect I did appreciate was the slightly hard edge the story initially puts forth. Major Jay brusquely shoots a farmer who is trying to keep everyone alive and dead at bay. There is a no-nonsense quality about the character that is a refreshing change from the usually completely moral heroes of 1950s SF films. Major Jay is pragmatic to the point of being unlikable. The rest of the characters are typical tropes: beset scientists, and the damsel in distress. John Carradine is featured prominently in the promotional material for this film, but he is criminally underused. He’s reduced to exploding in the beginning and being an alien zombie for only a few minutes of screen time.

"Maybe I do need to wash these sheets."
I’m no expert on how to invade a planet, but I think I would come up with a better plan than taking over an announcer’s booth at a hockey game to deliver my ultimatum. Still, this is the start of the aliens’ invasion scheme and somehow they are enormously successful, bringing the word to its knees in a few short weeks. This is mostly relayed to the viewer through stock footage of fires and other disasters, creating a curious disconnect on just how the invaders are accomplishing all this.

Invisible Invaders lacks a lot of the spark other 1950s invasion films posses. There are occasional flashes of a more interesting film going on under all the extremely budget minded choices it makes. There was a real opportunity to turn the film into a base under siege story, a sort of proto-Night of the Living Dead (1968), but the movie never generates the energy or tension to do so.

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