Aliens and deserts, a match made in the stars?

Keep Watching the Skies says IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953), with its poetic musing on the harsh desert environment, was a major influence on 1950s SF, prompting multiple other movies to go with a desert backdrop (it didn’t hurt that the desert was close to Hollywood and cheap to shoot in). Rewatching for Alien Visitors it strikes me as one of the few where there’s ambiguity on whether the aliens pose a threat: they’re initially presented as spooky, ominous and very alien looking, they’re kidnapping people but it turns out they’re simply as terrified of us as we’d be in the same boat. In its own right, a good film. “A thousand years of work and you’re willing to give up and let it all end here, on this strange planet?”

ALIENS AND GUFORS (2017) is a pointless comedy about a trio of aspiring UFOlogists in a small desert town with a high level of UFO encounters; can they tolerate the annoyances of small-town life long enough to get a book out of it? And when their old fart landlord claims he’s had a close encounter, is it the guys’ ticket to the big time or a hoax that will ruin them? Feels like Doc Hollywood with aliens as the heart of the film is the guys adjusting to small-town life (and like Beyond the Sky it has fake UFO sightings co-existing alongside the real deal). “I am not breastfeeding that thing!”

SEARCH FOR THE GODS (1975) is a TV movie in which a dying Native American gives Stephen McHattie part of a mystical medallion of unearthly metal — could it be a key to the truth about Gods From Outer Space? In the years since I watched this for Cyborgs, Santa Claus and Satan I’d forgotten how horribly dull it is. A big part of that is everyone being so vague about what sort of secrets we’re dealing with, as if they were afraid to say it outright — when they find a hidden chamber at the climax, it’s got nothing in it but Native artifacts, rather than lost secrets of ancient extraterrestrials. The presence of Kurt Russell (amoral drifter), Raymond St. Jacques (ruthless rival hunter) and Ralph Bellamy (archeology expert) don’t help. It was interesting to notice that while one character alludes to passing through Roswell, they attach no significance to it — as I’ve read elsewhere, Roswell’s status in ET lore didn’t really kick off until the 1980s. “It usually is a big mistake to value sentiment too highly.”

Leaving the desert, MONSTERS VS. ALIENS (2009) would probably be a spotlight in the comedy chapter of Alien Visitors except the parody is more 1950s SF films with the alien invasion played relatively straight. Reese Witherspoon provides the voice of Susan, transformed by a radioactive meteor into Ginormica and sealed away with fellow monsters Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie), the B.O.B. and the Missing Link — until the invasion forces General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland) to set them free to fight for America. I’ll probably mention this in the Romance chapter as an example of an alien encounter disrupting the course of seemingly true love, first by blocking Susan’s engagement, then showing what a heel her fiance is. I like this one quite a bit. “Dr. Cockroach, would you mind not giving your mad scientist laugh while I’m sitting in this chair?”

Ginormica being inspired by 1958’s ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN, I naturally checked that one out: Allison Hayes plays a wealthy alcoholic whose mental condition isn’t improved by the way her sleazeball husband is carrying on an affair with Bad Girl Yvette Vickers; when she claims to have had a close encounter in the desert with a spaceship (which everyone refers to as a satellite — this was right after Sputnik), hubby thinks he can send her to the nuthouse, but then it turns out  Hayes’ encounter has had a few side effects (though they do not make her anywhere near as large as the spectacular poster).

This is a very bad movie with no end of dumb moments (Hayes seems perfectly comfortable in her bedroom even after she grows titanic) but it does boast some competent acting by the leads. It’s also interesting in structure — just as Predator is an action movie disrupted by an intrusion SF story, this is a B-movie drama disrupted by an alien. It later inspired a remake with Darryl Hannah and Attack of the 50-Foot Cheerleader is obviously another knockoff, if only in name.  “You’d make a wild driver Harry — with 50 million bucks.”

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