INVADERS FROM MARS
Karen Black, Hunter Carson, Timothy Bottoms, Laraine Newman, James Karen,
Bud Cort, Louise Fletcher
1986, 100 Minutes, Directed by: Tobe Hooper
one evening a small boy sees a UFO landing in the open field behind his
home. He tells his parents who obviously do not believe him. However, the
following morning his father is behaving strangely
— as if he is possessed by an alien intelligence. (What
does his father do that is so weird? He gulps down his morning
coffee in one single gulp
— which perhaps isn’t all that weird . .
behaviour: the boy spies his less-than-favourite teacher gulping down a
bull frog (now that's weird) and his mother serves up breakfast bacon burnt to a
crisp (perhaps not really that weird either) and eats raw hamburger patty meat (not
so weird: maybe she is pregnant
Anyway, all of the people
displaying this weird behaviour have funny wounds at the base of their
necks. Soon it is becoming apparent that Earth is being invaded by aliens
but who would believe a small boy?
If the story sounds
familiar then you have probably seen the original 1953 film (of the same
title) of which this is a remake by producers Menahem Golan and Yoram
Globus. If you haven’t, but the material still seems familiar, then you
have either seen any of the three versions of
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (that’s right: three of them!) or
perhaps read Heinlein’s Puppet Masters.
(Interestingly enough, the original Invaders from Mars actually
predates the original 1956 Black & White
Invasion of the Body Snatchers.)
"'Marines have no qualms about killing Martians, son,' is our favourite
line of dialogue from the movie . . ."
Now, in the 1980s
there was nothing that would strike as much terror into the hearts of film
critics as the words “a Golan-Globus production” scrolling across the cinema screen. Kicking off with
raunchy teenage Porky's-style comedies these two Israeli producers
decided to take on Hollywood when they established their own production
company, Cannon. Cannon would spend most of the 1980s bringing out anything
from low-rent Chuck Norris action flicks such as the Missing in Action
series and Masters of the Universe to the
ill-judged Superman IV – Quest for Peace
Film critics weren’t
the only ones who didn’t take to Cannon’s produce though
— by the time the
‘Nineties rolled around, the company was bankrupt as ordinary audiences
stayed away in droves. Can’t say one can
really blame them judging from this 1986 movie by director Tobe Hooper (of
Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist fame!).
That is, despite
Invaders from Mars being one of Cannon’s better films. The special
effects by legendary John Dykstra (Star Wars,
Battlestar Galactica) aren’t shoddy at all and
the various creatures brought to life by Stan Winston are quite reasonably
acting is suitably camp (you just gotta love Louise Fletcher
Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
— as everyone’s Most
Hated Primary School Teacher from Hell shtick). The dialogue is terrible
though. “Marines have no qualms about killing Martians, son,” is my
favourite. I’ll bet they don’t . . .
But the movie is just
somehow off. The film’s tempo is quick, but that could perhaps be the problem.
There is no brooding paranoia and angst like the 1978
Invasion of the Body Snatchers version
starring Donald Sutherland managed to pull off so well. Much of the
material seems underdeveloped as the story rushes through its paces to a
conclusion. Director Hooper also blows it by revealing the aliens too
soon: a lingering sense of mystery would have served the movie better.
Also, material that
seems fine for the paranoid Cold War-era 1950s seems a bit odd when remade
for the mid-1980s despite Reagan-era gung ho-ism. Viewed today one can
easily see what John Clute meant when he said that 1950s sci-fi movies
were really about anti-intellectualism. In one scene in this movie a NASA
scientist tries to communicate with the aliens. Naturally he is blown to
smithereens with a death ray . . .
from Mars is the sort of movie that you wouldn’t mind seeing for free
late on TV one night, but isn’t worth shelling out any hard-earned bucks
for. Not as bad as the dreaded “Golan-Globus” tag would make one believe,
but not really all that good either . . .
(Some thoughts: why is
the opening title sequence almost exactly the same as those of the
Superman movies? By the way, Dan O’Bannon of
Alien and Dark
Star fame contributed to the screenplay.)