1953 was a good year for Martians. Along with George Pal’s brilliant adaptation of H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds, this campy little classic helped put the scare in moviegoers with its creepy depiction of what it would be like if men from Mars landed in your backyard. While Pal’s film highlights world destruction on a grand scale, INVADERS director William Cameron Menzies goes for a more domestic approach. Staging his invasion through the eyes of a squeaky clean adolescent, Menzies creates a more visceral experience that plays off of common childhood fears.
Whereas the Martians in WAR OF THE WORLDS simply want our planet as their own and will blow us to hell to get it, Menzie’s green men are more defensive in nature. As one of the film’s protagonists theorizes, they are simply here to put an end to the construction of a possibly destructive missile at a research establishment. Unluckily for us, they have to brainwash humans through electric implants to do it, creating mindless saboteurs who will backhand an inquisitive child if he asks too much. Similar in note to Don Siegel’s INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956), INVADERS pulls the sci-fi blanket over our eyes to help expose its obvious references to the red scare that was haunting America at the time. Spacemen from the red planet seemed a safe stand-in for those human bad guys who were red of a different nature.
Though not as visually striking as the Pal film due to a lower budget (the overuse of a handful of shots featuring the shambling Martians is a real eyesore), the flick plays just as creepy. Particularly effective is Raoul Kraushaar’s haunting score, supposedly ghost written by Mort Glickman, which uses a human chorus to double as a sound effect for when the Martians capture their human prey through a trapdoor. The cast of familiar B players (many of whom were alumni from Abbott and Costello movies) includes Arthur Franz, Hilary Brooke and Leif Erickson; each with enough acting chops to help ensure the film doesn’t drop into Mystery Science Theater territory. Jimmy Hunt, who plays the child lead, went on to appear in Tobe Hooper’s 1986 remake.
Interior decorators may want to take note that the bubbles lining the caverns surrounding the Martian ship were inflated condoms. DG’s very own Creeper was so inspired by this that he decorated his entire living room in the same manner.
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