Saturday, June 9, 2012

El Professore Movie Review: Invasion of the Saucer Men

El Professore Movie is back with another wonderful review. This week it's Invasion of the Saucer Men!

Director: Edward L. Cahn
Starring: Steven Terrell, Gloria Castillo, Frank Gorshin
* * 1/2
Ultra low budget, studio bound, second billed sci fi film that has achieved a cult following over the years due mostly to it's definitive 50s style portrayal of 'little green men'.

Click through the jump for the full review.

Our story takes place in Lover's Lane where we see a spaceship land. Johnny Carter and Joan Hayden (driving at night with the headlights off) accidentally run over one of the pint sized aliens. After the couple leave to tell the authorities, the alien body is happened upon by local drunk, Joe Gruen. He sees an opportunity to profit off of it, so he plans to keep the dead alien in his refrigerator. However, before he gets the chance, Joe runs into the rest of the alien crew who kill him by injecting him with alcohol via their hybodermic fingernails (!).

Johnny and Joan report their "Close Encounter" to the local sheriff who convinced that this is an elaborate practical joke, follows the two teens back to the scene. Instead of finding the alien, they discover Joe's body. The sheriff plans on charging the confused couple with vehicular homicide. Meanwhile the military (having had a UFO report in the area) are sent into Lover's Lane to investigate. Simultaneously, Johnny and Joan round up their friends to finish the little creepies off after they discover that the aliens cannot tolerate the glare from their car headlights.

Invasion of the Saucer Men is one of those films that works best on 'memory'. It was a film that was aired frequently on T.V. back in the '70s and made for good, semi creepy fun for us kiddies at the time. Seen through adult eyes, it loses a bit (more that is than usual for a '50s sci fi film).

The film's director was Edward L. Cahn who had been at the helm for some of the scariest alien features from this time period, notably 'Creature With the Atom Brain', 'Invisible Invaders' and especcially 'It! the Terror From Beyond Space' (the first film that reeeaaallly scared the crap out of me as a 6 year old). His work here isn't quite up to snuff as for once, the film's budget seems to have been a hinderance that Cahn couldn't quite overcome. Whereas the other film's mentioned required a sort of claustrophobic feel that actually played into the director's strength as well as successfully concealed the budget limitations, Saucermen was an outdoor adventure shot entirely on a tiny indoor set and it shows. This film needed to breathe a little, but couldn't and Cahn was not a skillful enough director to mask this.

Not helping matters was that the 'comedy' usually fell pretty flat. Reportedly, Saucer Men started out as a serious flick, before the decision was made to make it humorous during production. Having the presence of a pre 'Riddler' Frank Gorshin (playing the drunk Joe Gruen) helps, but not enough and he's killed fairly early on anyway.

The main draw of the film (both then and now) remains the Saucer Men themselves. Designed by Paul Blaisdell (who had created many, many beasties throughout the '50s) and manned by dwarf actors, these were some of the most comical and hideous alien designs seen up until this point and are probably the closest vision to the so-called 'little green men' ever put on film. The idea that the aliens can secrete alcohol may seem like a silly and forced plot contrivance now, but made for unusual viewing then and it also led to the film's most famous (and infamous) sequence where the little creepies are attacked by a farmer's bull. They manage to subdue and kill it by repeatedly stabbing/injecting the animal, but not before the bull takes out one of the Saucer Men's eyes with it's horn! It is shown in loving closeup and though seems tame when seen now, it caused quite a jolt to unsuspecting viewers at the time.

Invasion of the Saucer Men is definately a minor '50s sci fi film what with it's crippling low budget and generally uninteresting cast of forgettable teens. But it's not without it's grotesque charms and is worth tracking down, especially by those of us who retained some (admittedly bloated) fond childhood memories of it (of the Saturday afternoon T.V. variety, that is).

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