the latest batch of MGM Midnite Movie DVDs is a double feature
disc pairing two schlocky sci-fi films, Invisible
Invaders and Journey To the Seventh
Planet, both headlined by that stalwart of '50s B-grade
cinema, John Agar (Tarantula,
The Brain from Planet Arous).
These flicks fall squarely into Category 'Z', as they're very
cheaply made and virtually oozing with cheese. You're guaranteed
a fun time provided you're into the 'So Bad It's Good' experience.
(God knows I am.) And so, without further ado... On with
could anyone not enjoy a sci-fi movie in which hostile extraterrestrials
announce their plans to conquer Earth... at a hockey game?
I'm not kidding. Invisible Invaders
contains just such a scene, along with a host of other kneeslappers.
You know you're in for an amusing ride when John Carradine is
blown to atoms within the first three seconds of his appearance
scientist Dr. Karol Noymann (Carradine) is killed in a huge
lab explosion that contaminates the surrounding area. Jolted
by his friend's death, fellow scientist Dr. Adam Penner (Philip
Tonge, in a sincere performance) renounces Cold War weapons
research and stops working for the government. Only a few hours
after Noymann's funeral Penner receives a knock on his door.
It's Noymann or rather the body of Noymann, resurrected from
the grave by an invisible alien with the express purpose of
contacting the scientist. Which leads to a conundrum... Carradine
is blown to bits, see? Only a few scenes later his recently
buried corpse quite intact and undamaged in any way
is occupied and animated by an invader. (????) The alien tells
Penner that he must convince world leaders to surrender Earth
within 24 hours or face a war of annihilation. "We cannot be
defeated!" the hostile ET boasts, explaining that his race
based for thousands of years on our neighboring "planet", the
moon and their invading spaceships are totally invisible to
humans. (How can they see to operate the controls then?)
The bodies of the dead will be inhabited by the invisible aliens
and used as a conquering army to slaughter humanity. Penner
has 24 hours to convince Mankind to hoist the white flag...
fails, of course, even after enlisting the aid of his protιgι,
Pentagon-connected Dr. John Lamont (The
Slime People's Robert Hutton), who doesn't really believe
him. (In a humorous scene pre-dating the CNN age of instant
communication, Penner is shown to be the butt of jokey tabloid
headlines before the day is through.) Because he wants to get
into the pants of Penner's attractive daughter Phyllis, Lamont
humors his old mentor and accompanies them to Noymann's grave
to attempt further contact with the aliens. Lamont is forced
to 'see' reality when an invisible invader (voiced by Carradine)
speaks to them at the gravesite. In a polite gesture by such
a genocidal enemy, the aliens decide to give humanity one more
chance. Warnings will be given by the aliens proving their existence,
and if not followed by surrender, the war of the worlds will
begin... So the aliens declare their existence and lay down
their ultimatum at a pro hockey game. This is accomplished by
the invader-occupied body of a plane crash victim, who strangles
the booth announcers before taking the microphone for his own
little PSA. (Amusing to note here that the plane crash supposedly
near Syracuse, New York is footage of a WWII bomber being
flown by radio control into the side of a desert mountain. With
a huge target marker on the slope.)
So much fun, and John Agar hasn't
even shown up yet! And did I forget to mention the narrator?
He pompously presides over montages of stock footage (fires,
earthquakes, and other disasters), explaining that with the
nations of Earth refusing to capitulate, the aliens have begun
a worldwide campaign of terrorism and sabotage. This is committed
by the "occupied" dead, with their invisible inhabitants controlling
their actions. For some reason the aliens' weapons don't work
on Earth (though all their other equipment apparently does),
so they use dead bodies to turn Man's own weaponry against him.
We see shots of the zombies: always the same pasty-faced guys
in their suit-and-tied funeral best, looking like Republican
Rotarians staggering out of a 3-day Tijuana cantina crawl. It
seems doubtful they could knock over a convenience store, much
less throw the world into chaos. But they do.
Fear not, America
Major Jay is on the way! Amid the calamity, veteran air force
officer Bruce Jay (Agar) arrives in a jeep at the Penner home.
Under official orders he is to escort Penner, daughter Phyllis
and Dr. Lamont to a hidden government bunker outside the city.
There, like other teams of scientists scattered across the country,
Penner and Lamont will work on devising a means of resisting
the aliens. As they near the bunker their jeep is almost hijacked
by a panicked, gun-toting farmer (Hal Torey) out to save his
own skin. The dead are everywhere, he says, "a-walkin' and a-killin'."
Major Jay drops him with his .45, but no sooner is the Penner
party on its way that an invader occupies the farmer's corpse.
(In his first "zombie" scene, Torey looks amazingly like Harrison
Ford! The farmer, incidentally, is the flick's "featured" zombie
and the only one not seen in a suit and tie.) Sealed in their
fully equipped, atom bomb-proof bunker, Penner and Lamont immediately
begin to work on a solution, still keeping their ties on. Major
Jay stands around smoking, making time with a receptive Phyllis
and barking orders. Lamont proves himself to be a yellow-bellied
coward and a craven one at that. (Hutton plays this nicely.)
His yellow streak may well end up costing them their lives and
humanity a chance to save itself from destruction. The alien-possessed
farmer has led a horde of zombies to the vicinity of the bunker.
They know the humans are hiding somewhere close by...
I like the movie a lot. Made in a few days on a shoestring budget,
it's a fun, delightfully silly concoction with a heady mix of
choice cult ingredients. It's got a ridiculous, illogical premise
the same one, basically, as Ed Wood's Plan
9 from Outer Space played totally straight by a fine cast
of B-movie actors. The action is backed up with chintzy special
effects and lots of stock footage. Paul Dunlap's martial, theramin-flavored
score easily rivals the most bombastic works of Albert Glasser.
(And was recycled again a year later for The
Angry Red Planet.) Director Cahn (It!
The Terror from Beyond Space) keeps things moving at a brisk
pace; with its short running time of 77 minutes the movie never
slows down for an instant. The plot elements detailed above,
for example, all take place in the first forty minutes or so!
Like all good junk food, it goes down quick.
And now, let
us Journey To the Seventh Planet...
Uranus, that is, which the actors are careful to pronounce as
"YUR-ah-nus", and not "Your anus." Too bad, too. The movie would've
been much funnier otherwise. ("We are now exploring
your anus..." and so forth.)
Capt. Don Graham, second-in-command of a United Nations space
mission to Uranus in the year 2001. (The only American among
the cast, it's painfully obvious the others are reciting their
English lines phonetically.) In orbit over the planet the crew
experiences a temporary blackout during which an alien entity
probes their minds. Upon recovering their senses the mission
commander (Carl Ottosen, the asshole army general in Reptilicus)
orders the landing to proceed as planned. But instead of the
frozen, inhospitable terrain they expect the astronauts touch
down in a lush and very green Scandinavian forest, complete
with oxygen. The alien a giant, disembodied brain that resides
in a cave has created the landscape from the memories of one
of the crew. It also generates old girlfriends, seemingly in
the flesh, for the horny space jocks to lust over. The explorers
are able to penetrate a force field separating their 'fantasy'
enclave from the planet's actual surface but are otherwise trapped
at the alien's mercy. After much of the running time is consumed
with wandering about on extremely cheesy, piss-poor sets, the
crew are left with no alternative but to confront and destroy
the alien or be marooned on Uranus forever.
a Danish-U.S. co-production, was filmed in Denmark by those
perpetrators of Reptilicus, Sid
Pink and Ib Melchior. This movie is just plain awful, sometimes
painfully so. The plot, of course, borrows from Forbidden
Planet and Bradbury's Martian Chronicles. The
stiff, wooden acting is exacerbated by poor dubbing. Special
effects range from the merely unfortunate to the truly horrible.
(The alien brain looks like a big sponge with a car headlight
for its cyclopean eye; beams from the crew's toy laser rifles
are simply scratched onto the film stock.) A poorly-articulated
stop-motion reptile/rodent creature shows up at one point, while
the wheezing, asthmatic arachnid from Bert I. Gordon's Earth
vs. The Spider also makes an appearance courtesy of stock
footage. Inexplicably, a ridiculous lounge ballad is crooned
over the closing credits. Only a few choice howlers amid the
dialog keep it from being a complete waste of time. Some potential
for a good episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 perhaps,
but on its own the flick will prove an endurance test for most.
If only they had pronounced it "your anus"...
always a treat when a new slate of Midnite Movies hits the store
shelves, usually in April and August. The new Invisible
To the Seventh Planet
disc maintains MGM's standards of high quality DVDs at a low price,
with colorful, attractive packaging. There's
one film per side of the DVD, each accompanied by its respective
theatrical trailer. Invaders
is presented fullframe while Journey
is slightly letterboxed at 1.66:1 (the correct aspect ratios).
In terms of A/V quality this is unquestionably the best these
movies are ever going to look and sound on home video.