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CREEPING HORROR... From the depths of time and space!

See - Teenagers Vs. The Saucer-Men!
See - Disembodied Hand that crawls...!
See - Night the World Nearly Ended...!
See - Earth Attacked by Flying Saucers!

Also known as Hell Creatures, Invasion of the Hell Creatures, and Spacemen Saturday Night, Invasion of the Saucer Men is a classic among classics.

As a boy, I was an absolutely rabid monster fan. On the verge of fanatical. The books at the library about mythical creatures and old monster movies had few other names on the checkout slips except mine. So, when I thumbed though the huge black and white "Compendium of Sci-Fi Films (1937-1962)", I fell in love. The poster for Invasion of the Saucer Men was one of the few printed in full color in the book, but it was far superior to them all. It had everything: Bug-eyed aliens with giant heads, UFOs blasting a burning city with death rays, crowds fleeing in terror, and a damsel in full distress, clutched in slimy green alien hands. I could imagine no better scene.

Flash forward to the days of video rental and internet shopping. I buy Invasion on VHS and unwrap it like a drug fiend clawing at a pound of coke when it arrives. What I got was far more entertaining than I expected.

Director Edward L. Cahn, like most of his contemporaries in 1957, knew that his target audience was teenagers, primarily those that frequented drive-in theaters. Cahn entered a market filled to the brim with monster movies, such as the classics 20 Million Miles To Earth, The Amazing Colossal Man, Kronos, The Unknown Terror, The Curse Of Frankenstein, and The Deadly Mantis, all released the same year. These films took themselves very seriously, using pseudo-science and pipe-smoking scientists to verify their horrible plotlines. Cahn stood this concept on its head. Forgoing the serious tone, his film walked the line between comedy and horror, with amazing success. With just enough tongue in cheek, Invasion of the Saucer Men is a classic that jibes its genre, while still fitting in to the stereotypical template it lightly spoofs.

Synopsis

Welcome to Hicksburg. Even the announcer pauses to say "Yes... Hicksburg". Local hood Joe is out cruising when he happens to see a UFO land outside of town. He rushes back to tell his friend Artie, passing Old Man Larkin’s Farm. Meanwhile, teenage lovers flock to a pasture behind Old Man Larkin's farm, the local Lover's Lane, for a little private time. Johnny and Joan, a young couple returning from their night of fun, sneak away from the farm in the dark, only to find themselves in the middle of a nightmare: Alien Invasion! Johnny, driving without headlights, runs over with he first fears is a child. The small green monster that they find stuck in the bumper freaks the young couple out, to put it mildly. They make a run to Old Man Larkin’s to call the authorities, but nobody listens to teenagers. These are the 1950s after all. The kids decide to go back into town to show the cops the smashed-up bumper as proof of their accident. But, wouldn't you know it, the alien isn't really dead. His severed hand, complete with eyeball and retractable finger needles, pops the tires on the car and runs off in the night to raise the alarm to the invaders. They return in short order to hammer in the front to Johnny’s car. Why? Well, it seems they have also killed Joe, by injecting him with alcohol from their needle fingers. So, add a dead drunk, a big dent and two teenagers out late at night. Bingo. Those monster brains aren't just for looks, kids. The frame job goes off without a hitch and Johnny and Joan are off to the police station. On a side note, the part of Joe the corpse was skillfully played by Frank Gorshin, better known as the Riddler on the campy Adam West Batman television series.

The film continues on this track, with Johnny and Joan, along with Joe's roommate Artie, trying desperately to prove to the authorities that the aliens are real, and meeting defeat at every turn. The teens meet up with the Army, who are covering up the invasion, and they grow desperate to gain some proof. They amass a small army of young lover's from the farm and confront the invaders with the headlights of their cars, which prove surprisingly effective. Add in a drunken bull and some running 3-foot tall rubber-headed monsters and you have a classic that plays it straight faced to the end, with glorious results.

Based on the short story "The Cosmic Frame" by Paul W. Fairman, Robert J. Gurney Jr and Al Martin packed the screenplay for this film to the hilt with the hallmarks of 1950s monster movies. Blatant sexism, grotesque monsters as a stand in for godless communists, dated vernacular, and mind-numbing stupidity on the part of adults, who religiously defy believing anything some punk teenagers tell them: its all there. The key difference between Invasion and its contemporaries is that the writers did not travel the same road of ultra-seriousness, and as such, they created a classic semi-spoof that shows a wit seldomly attributed to the genre.

There was also a terrible remake, The Eye Creatures (1965). I continue to hunt for it.

Cast overview:

Steven Terrell as Johnny Carter
Gloria Castillo as Joan Hayden
Frank Gorshin as Joe Gruen
Raymond Hatton as Farmer Larkin
Lyn Osborn as Artie Burns
Russ Bender as Doctor
Douglas Henderson as Lt. Wilkins, USAF
Sam Buffington as Col. Armrouge, USAF
Jason Johnson as Hicksburg Chief of Police
Don Shelton as City Attorney Hayden

Runtime
69 minutes

Resources:
IMDB entry
Rotten Tomatoes Review
Compedium of Sci-Fi Films (1937-1962)
My own personal review

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