Welcome to a new section on NITRATE FROM THE GRAVE called SILVER BULLETS. These will be shorter, rapid fire reviews of items that would otherwise get ignored (some for good reason) or mixed in to a longer article. They are still enjoyable for a watch or as a curiosity. You usually get to see some major stars late in their careers; people that never made another film or others who started and moved on. Clint Eastwood, for example, was in both REVENGE OF THE CREATURE and TARANTULA in 1955.
First up, it’s THE INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN or THE INVASION OF THE HELL CREATURES from American International Pictures in 1957.
The picture offers the teenage story of a ‘make out’ spot invaded one evening by aliens. Segue to some of today’s horror films and you have the goalie masked behemoth invading a cabin or a resort to do exactly the same thing without the charm. The picture features one of my favourite stars, Frank Gorshin as Joe Gruen, a ‘drifter’ with Lynn Osboure as Artie Burns, who are bent on having a good time. Gorshin is a brilliant, frenetic performer who seems always on the edge as he became famous for as an impressionist on the Las Vegas club circuit. Audiences today know him as The Riddler in the 1966 series BATMAN. I have had an opportunity to see a short live performance at a club and can say it was showmanship the classic way. Gorshin owned the room with his ever present cigarette and black tux. You don’t see that in comedy clubs today.
The picture begins with Johnny Carter (Steve Terrill) and Joan Hayden (Gloria Castillo) planning to elope- you can’t have teenager being amorous in cars without the proper intentions. They turn off their lights to exit causing them to hit what they think is a little boy in the dark, which turns out to be an alien who has exited a nearby ship. The place they go in their cars is a dairy farm. Subsequently, you have the irate farmer – literally. Farmer Larkin is played by screen veteran Raymond Hatton, who supplies human menace with his shot gun and rock salt threats to trespassers. Made at the height of the UFO craze, you have numerous references to ‘crazy people’ sighting flying saucers and ‘little green men’ by the authority figures.
The police, parents and doctors in the film ridicule the kids as they try to seek help yet never believe what they say till the end. Defeat happens when the teens get their vehicles together and organise an attack with headlights. The menace is gone with no help from the authority figures.
INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN is in black and white with running time a little over an hour so things move at a fast pace. You get to see good creatures, in spite of the status of the picture in later years becoming a cult of their own. The saucer man figures and likenesses are all over the net along with the lurid poster design. It’s a bit naïve the way the teenagers react to people but that is part of the charm of the time as you also had the rise of the ‘beach’ movie and the ‘delinquent’ movie. Still, you have cars with enough steel in them to make four of today’s vehicles. Enjoyable creatures with dripping sharp fingers that are still unpleasant to me when you see what they do to skin in an attack are also there. The end credits have an ending that raised the hackles of the younger me when I first saw it.
One cannot help saying without giving too much away that there was also a lesson against alcohol consumption in this picture. It’s a fun film if you don’t mind a drunk dairy cow as a comic relief vehicle. INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN (1957) is available. Sit back with a can of your favourite brew and enjoy. Then toss it away in disgust as you have been warned.