Friday, January 17, 2020

Invasion of the Star Creatures

Invasion of the Star Creatures
Bruno VeSota

Comedy is, of course, very subjective. What is considered humorous by a culture at large shifts and ebbs over time. The core elements of comedy persist, surprise, wordplay, slapstick, irony, etc,  but the particular flavors and mixes of those things change often. I find it interesting that certain kinds of genre films such as horror or suspense can still resonate after decades of cultural change, but comedies often have the hardest time staying relevant and funny. Perhaps this has something to do with what horrifies us being so deeply fundamental to us as living beings while what is funny is more situational. Either way, Invasion of the Star Creatures wasn't funny when it premiered and it is even less funny now.

Invasion of the Star Creatures takes a standard (especially by 1962) SF plot featuring an alien invasion and a few monsters. The invaders, in this case, are two very tall women named Dr. Puna (Gloria Victor) and Professor Tanga (Dolores Reed). Their plot is uncovered by two dopey soldiers, Philbrick (Bob Ball) and Penn (Frankie Ray).  The monsters are bargain basement vegetable men. I’m going to be charitable and assume these monsters were made to look deliberately terrible.

"I don't know what a giantess fetish is, human, but it sounds awful."
The humor in the movie leans heavily on absurdity and physical comedy. The film never manages to pull-off either very well. There is an artificial wackiness that never gels and only manages to irritate. Philbrick and Penn are mildly amusing as lazy Privates on the army base but once they are pushed into being the heroes of the story there is nothing compelling or fun about them. The aliens are played relatively straight which works fine, and even though the vegetable men are silly looking they are more often than not are shown to be an actual threat. Possibly the biggest issue the film has is that there is no real plot to speak of, soldiers uncover a cave with some aliens in it and everyone runs around for an hour. I will credit this movie for having some pot jokes in the third act, which seems daring for a production like this.

This is a low budget comedy from 1962 so it should come as no surprise there is sexism and racism in the mix. The female aliens are capable of physically dominating Earth men but it is only by being kissed can they be frozen in place and defeated. Later they become stranded on Earth and are completely dependent on the men to exist. Worse off is the introduction of some Native American characters who whoop and holler and pull knives on everyone. It's a joke that wears out its welcome quickly and then is brought back for one final cringe filled bow. It’s a deeply embarrassing element in an already embarrassing movie.

This is what happens when you don't eat enough fiber.
Comedic science-fiction is a tough genre to get right, it requires a commitment to both being funny and offering a science-fiction element beyond just the surface trappings. The pitfalls are numerous and there is possibly no better bad example of this subgenre than Invasion of the Star Creatures.

No comments:

Post a Comment