Tuesday 2 January 2007

Invisible Invaders (1959)

Atom supremacy is the name of the game in 1959 apparently, and every day mankind is rushing headlong towards destruction by building bigger and more outrageously powerful weapons. John Carradine gets blown up in an atomic explosion in his lab literally within about two seconds of us first seeing him, but of course that's not it for big bad John. He has to come back as a resurrected corpse controlled by an alien being to tell these evil scientists that if we carry on destroying each other they'll do it for us. The Carradine zombie is necessary because these aliens, who have been occupying our moon for 20,000 years, are invisible.

There's a conspicuous lack of explanation of how they managed to raise the body of a man who was very recently at the centre of a nuclear blast, but then this is 1959 and we're dealing with aliens resurrecting the dead to stop us harnessing powers that might threaten the universe. Sound familiar? Could someone really have ripped off Plan 9 from Outer Space in the same year it came out? Certainly the rest of the plot suggests a sheer ineptitude to match that of Ed Wood but without his insane inspiration and his unparalleled cast of characters.

Tor Johnson couldn't act but at least he looked like Tor Johnson; Bela Lugosi may have been dead but at least that's him in the archive footage; Vampira and Criswell and Bunny Breckinridge and all the rest of them are fun to watch through virtue of just being themselves. Beyond a couple of minutes of a wooden John Carradine, this one has a lot of stock footage of natural disasters, a bunch of nameless zombies and what looks like the trails of a couple of arthritic gophers. This film is so cheap that people had to strangle themselves to get out of it.

Well a quick check suggests that this film came out on 15 May 1959 and Plan 9 didn't see release until July, but of course it had been shot in 1956 but saw a three year delay in finding a distributor who would touch the thing. The only other date that may have importance is 28 Jan 1959, which is when one of the key actors, Philip Tonge died at the age of 61. Presumably he didn't want to live to see this turkey released. And talking of turkeys, the Golden Turkey Awards may have famously labelled Plan 9 from Outer Space as the worst film ever made, but right now I'm not even convinced it's the worst film of 1959.

B-movie mavens have plenty to look out for at least. What seem like the only three people left get driven around by a major played by John Agar who was a regular in films this bad and was the nominal lead here. Leading lady Jean Byron had a well regarded TV career in series like The Patty Duke Show, but her few film credits show that she'd graduated to this from movies like Jungle Moon Men, The Magnetic Monster and her debut, Voodoo Tiger, opposite Johnny Weissmuller. Director Edward L Cahn was also responsible for another 123 movies, from Our Gang comedies in the forties to terrible scifi movies like It! The Terror from Beyond Space and Invasion of the Saucermen in the fifties and on out to westerns in the sixties.

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