out of ****
here is a difficult achievement: To be the film that inspired
both Ed Wood and George Romero. That Invisible Invaders
manages to be just that is a milestone unto itself, and we must
give credit where it's due. Wood, of course, was the greatest
(or worst?) schlock director to come out of Hollywood, famous
for his hilariously bad B-movies about killer aliens and spaceships
made out of cardboard. George Romero was the creator of the equally
low-budget but nevertheless terrifying Night
of the Living Dead and its sequels, which used the idea
of cannibalistic zombies as a metaphor for deprived human society.
Wood’s work was trash at best. Romero’s was brilliant
at worst. Invisible Invaders is somewhere in between,
but probably closer in spirit and budget to Wood.
we’ve got to hand it to the makers of this film—at
least they sidestepped the issue of cardboard spaceships by making
their monsters invisible! There’s a certain genius to that,
I must admit. In fact, they go on to admit their entire society
is invisible, including their vehicles, weapons, metals, and cities.
Somewhere in heaven, Ed Wood is shaking his head sadly and thinking,
“I wish I’d thought of that.”
plot is formulaic, to say the least. Because the people of Earth
have experimented with nuclear weapons, invisible aliens living
on the moon decide that in order to keep humanity from destroying
itself, they’ll invade the earth and kill every last human
being on the planet. Go ahead, read that last sentence again,
but it won’t help. It still won’t make any logical
sense. (Keep in mind, when this was made in 1959, aliens could
still have reasonably been living on the moon. Makes you wonder
how history would have unfolded had this film been based on fact.
“That’s one small step for man. One gigantic---OW!”)
the alien’s reasoning, we are forced to conclude that the
only reason these extraterrestrials would attack the earth is
because they’re really bored. But really, who can blame
them? After all, if you were an invisible alien, wandering around
up there on the moon and constantly bumping into your invisible
friends, family, pets, and cities, wouldn’t you wake up
one day, turn off your invisible alarm-clock, shake your head,
and think, “There’s got to be more to life than this”?
course, these aliens have a fantastic method of destroying
humanity: They invade the bodies of the recent dead and use
them as a vehicle for worldwide destruction. These alien-zombies
are certainly powerful, unstoppably forces. First of all,
they all wear business suits (chilling!). Secondly, they walk
really, really slow. Thirdly, they all walk with their arms
raised high in the air, as if they had all seen James Whale’s Frankenstein perhaps
one time too many. These slow, inarticulate brutes somehow
manage to overtake most of the planet, sending London, Paris
and other major European cities to their knees in defeat.
But of course, we never see any of that, except in fleeting
moments of burning cities that were purchased as archive footage
from better, bigger movies (minus zombies, darn it all). No,
no, forget the rest of the world; our time is spent watching
the same half-dozen alien-zombies walking up and down the
same hill, trying to get into the bunker where our heroes—two
scientists, a military man, and an obligatory damsel-in-distress—try
to find a way to keep the evil aliens from destroying the
planet altogether. In case any of this might keep you in too
much suspense, here’s
a heads up: We win.
are, I suppose, logical questions we could ask as patrons of film
who actually know what terms like “neorealist cinema”
mean: Why would the aliens walk around in the bodies of the slow-moving
dead, when they would tactically be much better off in their invisible
forms, unseen by their adversaries? For that matter, since we
can see the aliens’ footprints as they walk, we know that
they must have physical bodies. Yet they can leap in and out of
human corpses, like spirits. Do they shrink in size and go in
through the ear hole, making their way to the brain, where they
set up shop?
any of these questions matter? Of course not. Invisible Invaders
is just another low-budget, 1950s alien invasion flick, but on
those terms, it resonates with its own bizarre sort of charm.
It has the decency not to take itself quite as seriously as Ed
Wood took his films, and the acting is at least sincere from the
key players. More importantly (and against all odds), the film
tries to make a statement about potential Cold War-related nuclear
destruction. Such commentary, though vague, certainly is in the
same vein as Romero’s Dead saga. I suppose that
if there is any possibility that Romero’s great works could
have been sparked by this little, low-budget film, we owe it something.
Like about a two-star rating.
John Agar: The gung-ho military dude
Jean Bryon: The chick
Philip Tonge: Her scientist father
Robert Hutton: His jerk-assistant
John Carradine: Leader of the zombie-aliens
MGM presents a Premium (ha!)
Pictures release. Directed by Edward L. Cahn. Written by Samuel
Newman. No M.P.A.A. rating (fine for kids). Running time: 67 minutes.
Time spent writing the script: 67 minutes. Original United States
theatrical release date: May 15, 1959.