(1953) dir. William Cameron Menzies
The final leftover film from my Halloween night movie fest that didn’t happen was the iconic and kitschy Invaders from Mars. The film’s aliens and movie poster seem to have continued to have value in reproductions throughout the years on t-shirts and other spots, keeping the “image” of the movie alive even if the movie itself isn’t so often seen. Oddly enough, I’d never seen it. I say “oddly enough” because I did watch an awful lot of these movies as a kid and I’d even seen the 1986 Tobe Hooper remake when it came out.
The film is truly cornball. It’s closer in many ways to Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) than it is to other real classics of 1950’s sci-fi films such as Forbidden Planet (1956), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), or even It Came from Outer Space (1953). There is this wonderfully campy “aw gosh” 1950’s Americana, a small town in which everyone knows one another, everyone is a stand-up guy, and even the military and other secretive projects are all in for the greater good rather than are totally suspect.
Seen through the eyes of a star-gazing child, and ultimately questioned as a preminitory dream, the film could be looked at through some less critical line of perspective on this slant on the American world of the day. But the film is lots of goofball hokum, whose main strengths are in the strange design of the Martian leader and his henchmen. The film also features more mind control and “otherness” like Body Snatchers that seems to echo a weird paranoid xenophobia of control that may simply be a less sophisticated take on the same theme.
Still, the film was moderately fun. A little milataristic perhaps, and almost more pessimistic, though with the weird little irony of the “it was all a dream” but “oh, here we go again” of the ending is pretty amusing. It’s a hard one to take too seriously, but would still fit beautifully into a more robust analysis of 1950’s science fiction, especially with its social criticisms worn on its sleeves.