In 1945, Republic gave us the movies’ first alien invader, as far as I know, in the serial THE PURPLE MONSTER STRIKES. It stars Dennis Moore as the two-fisted hero, Linda Stirling as his girlfriend (regrettably not getting the kind of heroic role she did in Manhunt of Mystery Island or The Tiger Woman), Roy Barcroft as the purple-clad Martian invader and James Craven as a human scientist he murders and replaces. The scientist has invented a jet plane that should be capable of travel to Mars (it shows the era that it’s always called a plane, not a rocket); that’s a vast improvement over the Martians’ own technology (Barcroft traveles inside a meteor, possibly a hat-tip to War of the Worlds. Stealing the plans, the Martian recruits a criminal mob and sets out to build the plane, then return with the plans to Mars.
The results are competent, as Republic always was, but they don’t rise above the usual formula (villain tries to eliminate heroes; heroes try to stop villain acquiring McGuffins). Part of the problem is that given the set-up it’s not SF enough, though a female Martian (Marcia the Martian — yes, they went there) does counter that for a couple of chapters. I know it’s fantastic — but that’s just the word to describe the Purple Monster.”
INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN (1957) is very far from art, or even quality, but it’s still more interesting than some of the films I viewed this week (most will be held over to a later post). A couple of fast-buck operators, two necking teens and a grumpy farmer become caught up in the eponymous attack of Little Green Men (I believe it may be the first time that particular cliché appeared on screen) — though we never learn for sure if they’re actually attacking or just stranded and trying to survive on a hostile world. Then again, their ability to frame someone for a hit-and-run accident implies they’ve been watching us for a while … What really makes this interesting is that it foreshadows the full-on paranoia of The X-Files. An Air Force team coves up all evidence of the UFO, then the leader comments that they’re the only ones who know what’s really going on. Do they, his aide asks? Are they sure other teams aren’t covering up other stuff and leaving them in the dark? “You know how savages blame the rain god for every storm?”
NOT OF THIS EARTH (1957) was Roger Corman’s surprisingly effective SF vampire story. A mysterious man wearing dark glasses arrives in a small town to see if Earth’s “subhumans” will make good livestock for his blood-drinking race. He hypnotizes the town doctor into doing some hematology research, hires nurse Beverly Garland to provide him with transfusions and then begins sending human specimens home. I don’t find the character as sympathetic or tragic as some do, but the film does show how good a low budget movie maker Roger Corman was. This was remade three times. “Independent action is on the increase on a 73 degree tangent.”
INVISIBLE INVADERS (1959) is to zombies what the preceding film was to vampires. Invisible aliens animate the corpse of John Carradine to deliver a surrender or be destroyed message to the world. It turns out that their advanced technology doesn’t work on Earth, so they resurrect an army of corpses — all white, all male, mostly wearing suit and tie and none of them too decayed — to commit acts of sabotage until the world kneels. Can a handful of people in an underground bunker find their weakness? I remembered this as So Bad Its Good but that’s probably because I’m mixing memories of Plan Nine From Outer Space in with it; in reality it’s so bad it’s blandly dull. John Agar, a talentless actor with an uncanny eye for a mediocre film to be mediocre in, doesn’t help (he plays the military ramrod hero). “All I know is, we’re just 24 hours away from destruction.”
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