The 101 Sci-Fi Movies brought me this film, that is simply the height of B-movies in a time when American xenophobia seemed to be at its height. The fear of the other, the Cold War, and nuclear destruction are hard at work in this film.
But sometimes you just need a giggle.
All of the sets are re-used and re-dressed at least once in the course of the film, our heroes and the mutant martians (big guys in furry jumpsuits and goggles who seem to lope when they run) run through the same corridor over and over, and it’s all cut against stock footage of tanks, and army vehicles doing their thing.
It all begins when young David MacLean (Jimmy Hunt) sees a flying saucer land out in the sand pit behind his house, conveniently hidden by a hill (which sadly, blatantly looks like a set against a painted backdrop). He then loses track of it, as it seems to sink beneath the surface.
On his return, his loving father is gone, replaced, by a cold, abusive and frightening man with his father’s face.
And he’s not the only one who’s different… the Chief of Police, police officers, a little girl, and some high-ranking military officers and poor David’s mother, Mary MacLean (Hillary Brooke).
Wherever young David turns, he seems to come up against these familiar but no-longer friendly faces. Finally he convinces Dr. Pat Blake (Helen Carter) and Dr. Stuart Kelston (Arthur Franz) that he must be telling the truth. In fact Kelston believes they may be retaliating for the presence of what we would term SDI weapons in orbit around Earth. They would pose not only a threat to America’s enemies, but could be directed against our closest neighbor, Mars. Why shouldn’t they try and stop us?
With this deduction as a stepping off point, they realize that almost all of the people taken over to this point were somehow involved with this project.
Now, it’s up to the three of them, some stock footage, and military officers, who aren’t even in complete uniform to save the day.
But then of course, comes the big reveal at the end of the film, and if I was young David, I don’t think I would be saying “Gee Whiz!” I think I would be closer to having a mental breakdown and running screaming for the hills while I still had time.
I imagine that this film was directly marketed at younger viewers, ones with a suspension of disbelief big enough to allow them to simply not see all of the films flaws, including some rather shakey sets.
It would also prey on those fears that I’m sure occupied the thoughts of a lot of their parents.
So, I’m sure at the time, this film probably scared a lot of little kids, a practically faceless enemy, ruled over by a tiny tentacled thing with a giant brain, and the idea that your parents, and authority figures had been replaced, or controlled.
Yeah, that’s kinda creepy.
Still, this one is pure Saturday afternoon matinee popcorn entertainment. Check it out if you need a bit of a giggle, and stay for some of the themes and ideas if you can find them under the ham.
Oh those crazy 50s… we’re just getting started…