This entry is an unusual one in the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list, set in the 50s as the Cold War was ratcheting higher and higher, it’s actually a rather positive story, despite the fact that none of our heroes seem to initialy realize it until the end.
Based on a story by Ray Bradbury, it’s a different kind of science fiction film, especially when you take into account when it was made.
The genre favorite theremin is put to use in this film, creating eerie mood music as an innocent astronomer John Putnam (Richard Carlson) and his girlfriend, local school teacher Ellen (Barbara Rush) witness a meteor plunging out of the sky.
Upon investigating the impact site, Putnam discovers a ship, and an open hatchway, through which he’s sure he glimpses ‘something’. But the ship is buried in a landslide, and no one will believe his tale that the aliens are here.
We see glimpses of them, on occasion, large massive things, with a pac-man iris, that leave glittering trails behind them, but for the most part, they begin assuming the shape and form of the local townspeople.
Not to take over the world.
Not to cause havoc and destruction.
But so they can move about town easily, gather the supplies and material they need to affect repairs on their ship and leave. They aren’t interested in contact with us at all, because they feel we aren’t ready for it, and we would react in fear to their appearance.
They try and explain all of this to Putnam, who despite being a man of science reacts exactly as they predict with fear, and consequently violence.
Doesn’t say much for us as a species does it?
I like the fact that this take on the alien invasion story shows us as the villains of the piece, considering the mindset of the States in the 1950s, this movie must have seemed downright un-American.
A superior form of life who simply isn’t interested in talking to us at all. They just need time to repair their craft. However when things go sideways, mainly because Putnam just can’t let it go, he was belittled by the townsfolk, and he won’t stay out of the way of the aliens (going so far as to shoot the one that looks like Ellen!) despite being asked to.
The visitors decide maybe it’s better to destroy themselves and the ship so the technology won’t fall into the wrong hands, ours. Putnam says he’ll try and hold off the townsfolk, who’ve become wise to them, as long as he can, if only they’ll free Ellen and the townsfolk.
In the end Putnam realizes that the visitors are right, they weren’t ready to meet yet, but someday, perhaps they’ll be back.
You can see throughout the film, overtones of a film that shows up in the 1970s and again presents the idea that perhaps we don’t have anything to be afraid of when we say Watch The Skies, one of my favourite Spielberg films, Close Encouters of the Third Kind.
Yes, the effects are hokey, and I’m willing to bet the 3D was terrible, but for me, it was an interesting little movie.
Have you seen it?