Teenagers (are) From Outer Space

TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE is kinda great. A no-budget indie drive-in sci-fi potboiler, it veers from Ed Wood ineptitude to occasional grace notes of actual cinematic skill, makes its naivety endearing, is kind of exciting in places — Fiona attributed this to the innocent appeal of the leads and the nastiness of the baddies — all in all, it’s a lot more watchable than it ought to be.

It begins with good old Griffith Observatory and a couple of astronomers trying to pad the thing out to feature length. One of them is being worn by a false beard. Or it might be a real beard that just happens to be giving a stilted performance.

Then a flying saucer lands, with a cute spiraling jet-ray-exhaust-chemtrail thingy, and some terrible actors in jumpsuits emerge, skeletonizing a cute puppy to show they’re bad characters as well as bad actors. These are invading space aliens Thor, Saul, Moreal and Derek. Derek is actually very nice, it turns out. He disapproves of the dog-disintegration and disapproves even more strongly of the plan to use earth as a lobster farm.

OK, the aliens aren’t really obsessed with lobsters, it’s “gargons” they want to farm here, creatures that will expand to *millions* of times their present tichy size once they start eating. Gargons. They’re just PLAYED by lobsters.

Derek runs off, trying to find the dog’s owner so he can apologise, while the others tether a gargon in a cave using “expandable leg-bands.” For the rest of the movie I have the phrase, “expandable leg-bands” stuck in my head, who knows why?

Derek the nice teenager from outer space is played by David Love, who is also ~

a) Charles Robert Kaltenthaler

b) C.R. Kaltenthaler, production associate

c) boyfriend of writer-producer-director Tom Graeff, who is also

a) Tom Locklear as

b) Joe Rogers, boy reporter/leading man.

It’s a gay teen sci-fi movie, though this is 1959 so David Love dare not speak his name. There’s a female lead inserted between Love and Graeff, Dawn Bender who is also

a) Dawn Anderson, as

b) Betty Morgan, owner of a cute mini-fringe and a disintegrated dog.

Confused? But we haven’t got time for that, since Derek/David/Charles has got to fall in love with Betty/Dawn/Dawn and save the world from an invasion of hundreds of unseen but carefully-described flying saucers packed full of unseen gargons played by unseen lobsters.

Aaaargh, I guess.

This film is really rather adorable. Its heart is in the right place, even if the aliens’ socks are outside their shoes, their single ray-gun was bought from a toy store and the destruction of a UFO fleet is represented by a single stock shot of what looks like a volcanic eruption. Derek and Betty are an attractive couple, and it’s unusual to get an interspecies love story in the fifties, unless the girl is a mermaid. They can’t exactly act but they can sort of act, whereas everyone else is amazing in their bad actorness, really transcendent examples of the type.

The alien leader is played by one King Moody, and he lives up to that name, and that beard.

Most bad movies of the Medved kind are just dull, but Ed Wood and Tom Graeff had VISION, and expressive abilities of a sort, and distinctive takes on the world and their chosen genre. Of course, they’re not GOOD in the accepted sense, but they entertain — this is one of the few turkeys that’s far better watched “straight” than in its Mystery Science Theatre 3000 version/ I found every time a new speaking part showed up, my anticipation concerning which precise form of preposterous acting we were going to see was ELECTRIFYING.

This got a release — from Warner Bros! — on a double bill with GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN. Which would have made for quite a show.

9 Responses to “Teenagers (are) From Outer Space”

  1. Randy Cook Says:

    I saw this double bill, in which GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN was retitled GIGANTIS, THE FIRE MONSTER, with Godzilla as Gigantis. In TEENAGERS, I remember Harvey B. Dunn gets turned into a skeleton with an initial carved on his pelvis. This double-feature WAS quite a show.

  2. chris schneider Says:

    As far as “King Moody” is concerned, let me offer a wild guess. There was a jazz singer of the era named King Pleasure. He had a hit with “Moody’s Mood For Love” (great song, btw). Perhaps King and Moody got squooshed together?

  3. Randy Cook Says:

    Wait. It wasn’t Harvey B Dunn. But it should’ve been.

  4. IMDb offers no clue as to the origins of King Moody’s name — it doesn’t suggest he was ever called anything else. But a few years later he snagged the plum role of Ronald McDonald (easily the most upsetting clown ever — his experience as a space dictator was no doubt invaluable).

    The skeletons — probably ONE skeleton playing multiple roles, apart from the dog — all have a saw-line round their collective cranium, suggesting that everyone in this town was a former patient of Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr.

  5. Joel and the ‘bots covered this one on MST3K, and I remember their remarking on Derek’s resemblance to Harry Connick, Jr. You’re right that this kind of movie has a certain fascination factor in itself.

  6. Joe Dante Says:

    There’s more info on this oddity in my Trailers from Hell commentary here:

    Plus more on Tom Graeff :

  7. bensondonald Says:

    King Moody played sidekick to Bernie Kopell’s Siegfried on the sitcom “Get Smart”. They both affected German accents, and there’d usually be an exchange like this:

    MOODY: Ven der bomb explodes, it’s toodle-loo to Cleveland.
    KOPELL: Schtarker! Dis is KAOS! Ve do NOT “toodle-oo” here!

    He was pretty good as a villain’s second banana.

    I sometimes conflate this with “Mars Needs Women” (1967), in which Tommy Kirk and some other martians trade their scuba diving suits for business casual and go trolling for girls. Kirk abandoned his mission for love of Yvonne Craig. It’s as straight-faced as such a film can be; never mind the Kirk played a comedic martian in “Pajama Party” (1964), abandoning his mission for love of Annette Funicello.

  8. What a sad story Graeff’s life was!

    From Glenn Erickson:
    Hi David —

    To add a comment on your page, it wants me to upgrade flash, which has so far eluded me.

    But I wanted to tell you that, besides seeing TEENAGERS at age 7 (and thinking it great drama, I assure you), we had contact with the filmmaker in the 70s. He insisted that he made the film without sync sound equipment by semi-professionally recording all the dialogue first, having his actors rehearse to the tapes, and then lip syncing to themselves on the set!

    He said he read it in a book on Orson Welles had tried it and thought it a good idea.

    It’s possible that that’s what got him his deal with Warners (or, what prompted Warners to relieve him of it for next to nothing). You’ll have to admit that all the voices are pretty clearly recorded.

    He got the whole idea to make his own Sci-Fi-fi movie after playing a parking lot attendant in Roger Corman’s NOT OF THIS EARTH, the story goes.

    Maybe the pre-recording it’s an apocryphal story, but it accounts for the consistent tone and pace (and stiffness?) of every scene, in a movie clearly shot under primitive conditions.

    Lots of local Hollywood locations, too!

  9. “Ed Wood ineptitude to grace notes of actual skill” Love that line, love that kind of movie. I went through all six movies in Arrow’s American Horror Project sets and and most fit this description.
    Dream No Evil veers between extreme tedium and some moments that are so sad they defy description and almost make ot seem more remarkable than it is, The Witch Who Came from the Sea is a weirdly arty shocker that will often combine the shocking thr beatiful and the just plain awkward in the same scene.
    The Child is a zombie epic with zero budget and even less brains, but with a genuine flair for visual storytelling and style (this ditches the typical no budget trend and actually gets enough coverage!) And then there’s Malatesta’s Carmivl of Blood, an often incompetent but alsp witty oddity that tries to split the difference between Herschell Gordon Lewis and Michael Powell
    If all this sounds dispiriting, there are two genuine good movies too:The Premonition, with an Oscar level performance by Richard Lynch as an evil mime, and Dark August, which plays like an American MR James movie.

    Sorry for the digression, but I need to get the word put on these movies which my not be good , but are trying their ansolute best to be

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