Invaders from Mars


Year 1953

Helena Carter   as  Dr. Patricia Blake
Arthur Franz as Dr. Stuart Kelston
Jimmy Hunt as David Maclean
Leif Erickson as George MacLean
Max Wagner as Sgt. Rinaldi
Barbara Billingsley   as Kelston's Secretary
 
Director - William Cameron Menzies
Screenwriter - William Cameron Menzies  

Imagine that you're six years old and at your Grandmother's house on a Sunday. What's to do? Watch TV, of course. It's your lucky day. They're showing Invaders from Mars.

For a five or six year old male, it's got everything a young male protagonist, a slightly older (alright maybe a fifteen or twenty year older) woman who likes to clasp him to her pointy breasts, a flying saucer, a ray gun, tanks, aliens, and credibility among adults so that he can be instrumental in saving the world from an alien invasion.

From a six year old boy's point of view, one where the idea of being physical with a girl is disgusting, the above scenario is the best thing ever. It's so in tune with a boy's idea of heaven, that the sometimes cheesy special effects are easily overlooked. In fact, you can take the point of view that the effects often enhance the pleasure by making the whole thing seem surreal or dreamlike. So what if once in a while a supposed bubble of previously molten lava bobs in the wind like a balloon. Or maybe the zipper on the backs of the aliens is a little too obvious. Forget those things.

Instead, remember the scene when the boy arrives at the police station with its unnaturally exaggerated hallway length and wall height. Remember the sound that plays when the ground begins to open up to swallow another unsuspecting victim.

The director, William Cameron Menzies, had won three, count them, three Academy Awards prior to this film. Granted they were for art direction, but he's the reason the movie still isn't as laughable as it should be. Good sets created in the 50s can still give a slight case of the jim-jams today.

The plot, if you haven't figured out most of it by now, is that a young boy witnesses a flying saucer land and then burrow into the ground in a field behind his house. Then, starting with his parents, humans are taken aboard. When the abductees emerge, they do the bidding of the aliens. The current bidding of the aliens is to trash America's latest space program.

Thanks to a helpful astronomer and a lithe social worker or something, the boy manages to convince the military to take out those illegal aliens. Stock footage of tanks abounds. A Colonel enters the underground passages and does melee battle with the head alien's "mute-tant" minions. The mutants cannot be killed, only temporarily incapacitated.

Released in 1952, this was one of those "Red Menace Science Fiction" films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It's just as transparent and hits the same raw nerves for paranoia, especially if you're about five or six.

Even as an adult, it's worth a look for the sake of "historic significance". With the exception of Forbidden Planet which had its own special aroma of gorgonzola, this movie is as good as science fiction got back then. Even June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley), "Beaver" Cleaver's mom, makes an appearance. And how come brassieres don't "lift and separate" like that anymore?


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