Aliens as far as the eye can see!

My friend Ross once described John Carradine as the greatest actor to appear in the most bad movies and THE COSMIC MAN (1959) is a good example. A mysterious sphere appears in a California canyon staying in place despite everything the military does to move it. Have we been visited by aliens from outer space? Scientist Bruce Bennett things we have, and that they’re friendly; the military guy on the case disagrees. A shadowy figure keeps wandering around uttering cryptic messages; meanwhile, Carradine in dark glasses and an overcoat (the same fashionable style as the space vampire of Not of this Earth) rents a room from a local widow. You don’t suppose that he’s —?This is a bad knockoff of Day the Earth Stood Still with Carradine’s alien mouthing platitudes about how humanity must grow in wisdom to take is place among the stars. It’s better than the 2008 Day remake but it’s still dreadful. “It’s like gravity but in reverse — anti-gravity!”

Theodore Sturgeon’s “Killdozer” was optioned multiple times for the movies before the KILLDOZER (1974) TV movie finally closed the deal. As in the story, an alien intelligence crashes to a isolated island in a meteor; unearthed by the bulldozer working on a construction project, the entity takes over the machine and proceeds to target the construction crew (who include Clint Walker and a very young Robert Ulrich). Sturgeon did a remarkable job on making this simple premise gripping; the movie isn’t as good, but I found it more enjoyable than when I caught it as a teen. “Maybe we should appeal to its sense of decency and fair play.”

Where Battle Los Angeles is an SF war movie, ZONE TROOPERS (1985) is a WW II movie with a stranded ET getting caught up in the plot. A US platoon in Italy headed by “iron sergeant” Tim Thomerson (I’m guessing he’s a play on DC’s Sgt. Rock) and accompanied by reporter Biff Manard discovers the Nazis have captured the alien and now want its spaceship; can one lone platoon stop them? Hardly A-list, but engaging. “Pinch me Dolan — did I just KO Hitler?”

MARTIANS GO HOME (1987) is a surprisingly entertaining adaptation of Fredric Brown’s same-name novel. Randy Quaid plays the shallow musician whose music invites the universe to drop in on Sol III. Unfortunately, the Martians are obnoxious jerks who can go anywhere, can’t be harmed and so feel free to divulge people’s personal secrets, comment on couples making love and generally drive everyone nuts. A decidedly unusual ET story. “They’re not invaders — they’re tourists!”

The Hasty Hare (1952) was the first Marvin the Martian cartoon following his cameo appearance in 1948’s Haredevil Hare. This has Marvin (unnamed as yet) assigned to drag a specimen of Earth life back to Mars and you’ll never guess who he picks — oh shoot, you guessed it was Bugs, didn’t you? Obviously cashing in on the flying sauce craze of the early 1950s, but amusing; surprisingly it’s the only one of the early Marvin appearances that has him meet Bugs on Earth rather than in space. “Everyone disembark — the ship’s hit an iceberg!”

THE ATOMIC SUBMARINE (1960) launches to investigate a series of mysterious ship disappearances around the North Pole. What they find, though, is not a Soviet plot but Cyclops, an alien underwater spaceship scoping out our planet for colonization (as others have pointed out, the ship destruction draws too much attention for a stealth mission). Can the SS Sea Devil take the enemy down? This is very reminiscent of WW II film tropes about the squabbling platoon/crew that has to learn to work together; the relationship between the sub commander and the scientist in board (son of the commander’s late BFF, but a pacifist opposed to his dad’s military work) reminded me of Sands of Iwo Jima. That film, however, is excellent; this one is astonishingly talky and dull, though the ET in the spaceship looks better than it has any right to (it’s a literal sock puppet). “I’ve seen stranger things happen to heroes in motion pictures and television.”

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