They Came From Beyond Poverty

INVISIBLE INVADERS was one of a mere handful of movies (how many movies can you fit in a hand?) still to be viewed in my demented ongoing quest to se every damn film illustrated in Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies, a quest I have termed See Reptilicus and Die.

Reader, I watched it.

Edward L Cahn was a Z-list schlockmeister with a mildly redemptive actual interest in sci-fi, leading him to make the above-average space monster outing IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE. Consequently, his 1959 invasion from space cardboard epic has a few intriguing ideas floating around in it, albeit all mismatched and ill-thought-through.

As Joe Dante points out over at Trailers From Hell, II shares a plot motor with the legendary PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE — alien invaders (who have colonized the moon) reanimate the dead, turning our own deceased relatives against us. Since this is an available location + stock footage kind of epic, the visual effect here is a little more like the later NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, so we can say that the movie has combined two cheap tricks of the B movie: monsters you can’t see, and monsters which are just zombified guys in suits. For some reason, the possessed corpses in this movie are all male.

A very special episode of  Little House on the Prairie…

Immediate problems are apparent: the aliens attack by sabotaging us and turning our own weapons against us — “Holland, Finland and Russia have been blown up!” — which means they’re only really effective when invisible. The possessed corpses are a cumbersome add-on who seem to add nothing to the invasion beyond a bad odour. It’s also not clear how the aliens can become intangible enough to enter the corpses, but leave dragging footsteps in the dirt, and can be sealed inside locked rooms.

Similar confusion arises when our heroes fight back with an acrylic spray. This might easily be used to make the invisible invaders visible, but instead they use it to seal one into his futile corpse-vehicle, transporting him back to their underground lab (shades of Darabont’s Walking Dead show, and indeed the phrase “the walking dead” is used throughout), where they crack the plastic shell with high pressure and attempt to destroy their prisoner with a battery of experimental techniques. Finally, sound waves reduce the poor invisiblite to a soapy mound of foam.

What’s not clear is why they assume the alien will survive being hermetically sealed in an acrylic coating. Wouldn’t they go the way of Shirley Eaton in GOLDFINGER?

John Agar wears a terry-cloth hazmat suit.

Ah, John Agar, his very presence the stamp of low, low quality. In biology class, agar means is a jelly used to cultivate germs. In movies, it’s roughly the same. Agar’s last movie, THE NAKED MONSTER, came out three years after his physical death, which is always a sure sign of a very special kind of career. Also, he was married to Shirley Temple. In my book, that makes him a pedophile. That may not be fair, or true, but since when did that stop anybody?

True star of this movie is wattled scientist and pacifist Philip Tonge, in a dignified and sincere turn that manages to inject a bit of humanity into the thing. He’s joined, briefly, by John Carradine as the first victim of alien resurrection, Dr Karol Noymann — a name previously assigned to Edgar Barrier in writer Samuel Newman’s earlier THE GIANT CLAW. Again, this info comes from Joe Dante. It was nice to see Carradine as he’d just appeared, via stolen clips from VOODOO MAN, in Craig Baldwin’s MOCK UP ON MU, which I watched not five minutes earlier, thus adding to my ongoing sensation of being trapped in an uncanny web of coincidence. This is the feeling that’s held sway since I started reading Ulysses, “the book with everything in it,” and I wondered if the invisibility theme encountered in Cahn’s film and Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentleman and another film I watched, THE AMAZING MR BLUNDEN (directed by Lionel Jeffries, who’s also excerpted in MOCK UP ON MU) had anything to do with Joyce. It does!

“For I’m the boy / Who can enjoy / Invisibility!”

Thanks to the mysterious Andrew deSelby for pointing this out.

Observe the sonic death ray. It’s clearly made of wood. Since it’s been hastily improvised in response to an unexpected alien invasion, that’s actually reasonable. But the wily humans, not wishing to give away their ultimate weapon’s jerry-built origins, have painted it silver.

Smart.

Can anyone explain why I find the above image so funny?

Joe Dante also claims that the zombie motif is reprised from Cahn’s CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN (scripted by Curt Siodmak), “but without that film’s squibbing” — in the print we saw, the squib effects were present and correct, providing some slight added value as little explosions puncture the zombie army’s business suits.

Usually Hollywood movies with pacifist characters exist in order to show the pacifist either learning the error of his ways and wading in, fists a-flying, or getting disintegrated, thus illustrating the necessity for violent action. This movie’s take is more nuanced, or one might say fucked up, since the pic ends with Tonge’s dewlapped peacemonger uniting the nations of the Earth — against the common enemy, those invisible bastards from the Moon.

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10 Responses to “They Came From Beyond Poverty”

  1. It’s funny because the guy on the right has a startling resemblance to Peter Boyle.

    Shirley Temple was a fully-functioning adult when she married John Agar. Iconographically, of course, she’ll alwaya be a child. A valiant attempt , by Sidney (The Other Side of Midnight) Shledon was made to reconfigue Shirley as an adolescent in The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer. In it she has a “crush” on Cary Grant. But Cary isn’t tempted as he’s easily snapped up by her older sister, the great Myrna Loy.

  2. According to wikipedia, Agar married Shirley when she was barely 17. He’d met her when she was just 15. I’d suspect that, even at 15, she was already pretty mature mentally, though.

    First seeing Shirley Temple in Fort Apache caused me quite a bit of cognitive dissonance. My first thought was ‘Why, she’s gorgeous!’ Second was ‘But she’s acting just like Shirley Temple!’ Perhaps that’s why her adult career never took off. She just made everyone feel too creepy.

  3. Jason Hyde Says:

    The most interesting thing to me about Invisible Invaders is its similarity to Day of the Dead with all of the arguing in the bunker while living dead run rampant outside. It’s considerably less interesting than Day, of course, but I’d be willing to bet that George Romero caught Invisible Invaders at his local drive-in.

    Creature with the Atom Brain is probably the best thing Cahn ever put his name on. It’s a nifty little crime/horror hybrid with a very enjoyable lead performance from Richard Denning and a pretty good pulp story from Siodmak.

  4. David Boxwell Says:

    Cahn also made one of the most incoherent film noirs in the classic period, the neatly titled DESTINATION MURDER (50), with two of the creepiest smoothies ever: Hurd Hatfield and Albert Dekker.

  5. Oh, those both sound fun! I do like It!, although my plan to double-bill it with Sh! has always been rejected. It all depends on the running order, I feel.

    The Peter Boyle resemblance is part of it, but also the fact that those corpses just look bored.

    Yes, there’s certainly a Romeroesque aspect to this, though I didn’t seize on Day of the Dead. It almost seems like NOTLD latched onto the film’s more interesting aspects and stripped away the guff.

  6. I believe that the most usual to thing to say about Cahn the Director is that his best film came at the beginning of his career: “Law and Order,” a western starring Walter Huston with scriptwriter John Huston adapting a novel by W.B. Burnett. But I’m also interested in a certain “Main Street After Dark,” a picture made at MGM during the ’40s. The plot dealt with a family of pickpockets during WW2 (or so IMDb assures us), and the cast included: Dan Duryea, Edward Arnold,Audrey Totter and Hume Cronyn, Script was by John C. Higgins, of “T-Men,”

    Alas, I’ve seen neither film.

  7. More intriguing Cahn product! I’ll keep my eye out for both of those too.

  8. More Cahn, with a cast including El Brendel as Olaf the Butler

    There’s a script by Lou Rusoff, who wrote Corman’s IT CONQUERED THE WORLD. One of the many Bridey Murphy-inspired films (among which you might number VERTIGO, for that matter). Good monster. Rather better written than directed.

  9. Mystery Science Theatre does a great job on this one. “I command you to SLEEEEEEEP!” “Look into my moustache” ” You will find yourself strangely attracted to neck wattles.”

  10. And “Gimme the damn Snausage!” They’re very good with dogs on MST3K.

    They really give old El Brendel plenty of rope in that one. But he fails to do the decent thing with it.

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