A Movie A Day: Quint sees STRANGE INVADERS (1983)
Who takes the train? (Five minutes later) They took the train!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
We jump from yesterday’s early ‘70s exploitation Canadian Film Grant movie VENGEANCE IS MINE (aka SUNDAY IN THE COUNTRY) to today’s early ‘80s sci-fi thriller STRANGE INVADERS via Ken Brooke, who did make-up effects for both flicks.
An interesting factoid about this piece of early ‘80s cheese is that Academy Award winning writer/director Bill Condon wrote the script for Michael Laughlin to direct. I saw another flick they teamed up, their first film (Strange Invaders being their second) called STRANGE BEHAVIOR aka DEAD KIDS (about an evil scientist turning a small town's youth population into homicidal maniacs).
Those two flicks have a lot in common. Both are bizarre, both are very much trying to do different things and both over-reach, showing the seams… either on the talent (at the time) or the low budget and both have a certain charm to them.
I know that sounds like a backhanded compliment, something you’d say about an ugly girl your friends set you up on a blind date with, but I mean it in a good way. Neither STRANGE movie (Behavior and Invaders) fully works, but they both have an earnestness about them that you can’t help but smile as they attempt to pull of a flick that’s out of their reach.
STRANGE INVADERS opens in the ‘50s as a bunch of ‘50s people do ‘50s things, like get a soda at the diner or make out in a truck or cook dinner. A giant cock-shaped spaceship shows up, deposting some off-camera aliens and people start to disappear.
Cut head 25 years to the big city as we follow a teacher (Paul Le Mat, Melvin from Melvin & Howard and John Milner from AMERICAN GRAFFITI) as his really odd ex-wife drops of their kid before disappearing.
I say odd because this lady, Diana Scarwid, is really a horrible actress in this flick. She was nominated for INSIDE MOVES in 1981, but good God she’s terrible here. I understand what she’s going for… She’s supposed to be a bit off (spoiler! She’s really an alien! Spoiler!), but she just didn’t work for me.
Anyway, after a few days Le Mat gets worried and leaves his daughter with his mom (June Lockhart, in a nod to her sci-fi origins) while he goes to investigate his ex’s disappearance, leading him back to the small mid-western town she grew up in.
The interesting twist of the flick is it’s not an alien invasion film. These guys are essentially researching the planet and have no desire to stay, just to finish their job and leave unnoticed. They’ve even made contact with the government and shared knowledge for the ability to have this small town all to themselves.
Of course that doesn’t stop them from doing some fucked up shit.
The effects work on this film is what makes it fun. The practical work on the aliens (who wear human faces and rip them off V style from time to time) is actually really good.
And when they deem you trouble or a threat they’l just hold their hands up in front of your face and suddenly your body shrivels up and you turn into a floating blue glowing orb.
They do this to a little boy at one point in the movie and it really is a freaky effect, like watching the Wicked Witch’s feet shrivel up when Dorothy’s house lands on her, except if it left her skin instead of stockings.
There’s an impressive supporting cast, with recognizable faces like Wallace Shawn (inconceivable!) as a landlord, Louise Fletcher as a government agent who is trying to keep the peace between the aliens and the citizens who stumble into the town, Michael Lerner (who the cool kids will have seen in a great ‘80s cult flick called ANGUISH, co-starring Zelda Rubinstein), Jack Kehler (The Dude’s landlord in Big Lebowski) and Nancy Allen (Murphy… it’s you!) as an editor of a National Enquirer-type rag.
Of them all, only Wallace Shawn and Michael Lerner give good performances, Lerner especially. He plays a cigar-chomping inmate at an insane asylum who has previously stumbled across the small town and watched his kids shriveled up. He tried and failed to expose the town and is now recruited when Le Mat’s daughter is taken.
There are large plot holes (you’ll be scratching your head as to how Wallace Shawn seemingly comes back to life after being shocked to death in the first half of the movie), some horrendous acting, but those are partially off-set by some great effects work and at least an attempt by Condon and Laughlin to add a different twist to the sci-fi thriller genre.
John Addison’s score is big, but clunky. At least it’s fun, though. Addison has scored at least a half-dozen AMADS (past and future, including TORN CURTAIN) and we’ll be hearing more of his work tomorrow.
Final thoughts: It’s a harmless movie that anybody with a soft spot for ‘80s effects or cinematography (Louis Horvath, who shot some ‘70s cheese like Black Samurai and Blazing Stewardesses, seems to have gotten ahold of the same lense that Wes Craven would later use to film A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET… giving everything a milky-white haze) can get some enjoyment out of. But if this type of movie already isn’t your thing, you’ll probably want to punch the screen.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Tuesday, July 15th: SLEUTH (1972)
Wednesday, July 16th: FRENZY (1972)
Thursday, July 17th: KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT (2005)
Friday, July 18th: CADILLAC MAN (1990)
Saturday, July 19th: THE SURE THING (1985)
Sunday, July 20th: MOVING VIOLATIONS (1985)
Monday, July 21st: MEATBALLS (1979)
Holy shit! How could I never have seen that?!? How dare I call myself a film critic!
There, I got it over and done with so you don’t have to bother. In my defense, I watched Meatballs II like 400 times as a kid, it was the one that was on constant rotation on cable, not this one. It was one of those titles that I almost forgot I hadn’t seen it until I started pulling movies for this list. But dammit, it will be seen now!
Tomorrow we hit 1972’s SLEUTH starring Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier (not the remake with Jude Law, although I didn’t see that either… wanting to watch this version first) via composer John Addison! See you folks then!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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July 14, 2008, 10:50 p.m. CST
Have a great life that you get paid to do this.
July 14, 2008, 10:51 p.m. CST
I bet it is.
July 14, 2008, 10:55 p.m. CST
This a preemptive "Don't post your crap here, you douche" post. Also, I recent caught Strange Invaders on On Demand. I never saw it when it came out, but those trailers were really scary when I was 11. I quite enjoyed it, even though I am now way past the age for movies like this to scare me as much as they would have if I was 11. All in all, a pretty decent homage to silly 50's sci-fi flicks, though.
July 14, 2008, 11:16 p.m. CST
How dare he call himself a film critic!<p> I haven't seen it either so good call. I might skip this one there are others on the list to watch
July 14, 2008, 11:25 p.m. CST
by Sir Loin
The whole skin-peeling bit and when the kid gets freeze-dried freaked me out in 83. The film was awesome :)
July 14, 2008, 11:33 p.m. CST
"STRANGE INVADERS opens in the ‘50s as a bunch of ‘50s people do ‘50s things, like get a soda at the diner or make out in a truck or cook dinner."
July 14, 2008, 11:38 p.m. CST
Are You Ready For The Good Times?
July 15, 2008, 12:02 a.m. CST
No way. Turn in your badge. Ha!<p> I bet you've seen, like, every obscure Kurasawa film ever made or something though, tight?
July 15, 2008, 12:03 a.m. CST
I can forgive just about every movie on that list, but "MEATBALLS"???? How in the living fuck can you possibly be alive in the U.S. today and have never seen "Meatballs"? HOW? It's not possible! It's like not having eaten at McDonald's or ever had a Coke. That's just fucking bizarre, man.
July 15, 2008, 12:04 a.m. CST
by JimmyJoe RedSky
July 15, 2008, 12:10 a.m. CST
by JimmyJoe RedSky
"the land that time forgot/people that time forgot" is a favorite - "at the earths core/war gods of the deep" is great too
July 15, 2008, 12:22 a.m. CST
that is just sad...sad, because it reflects a simpler time, when hollywood could make a teen sex comedy without any sex...where bill murray was at the apex of his comedic skills, where you could have a porn star in a mainstream role and she never had to take off her top...i miss those days, and i loved that movie
July 15, 2008, 12:24 a.m. CST
I accidentally read the Spoiler on who's an alien so I can't watch this movie now. <p> You better not ruin Meatballs for me by telling me who the counselors are...
July 15, 2008, 12:32 a.m. CST
How in the name of everything holy on God's green earth did I never see this? We had three friggin' drive- in's in my town at the time too, which I regularly went to on weekends with a girl, some beer, and a bag of weed. I'd drink the beer, fuck the weed, and smoke the girl. High school was a confusing time, man.
July 15, 2008, 12:47 a.m. CST
by JimmyJoe RedSky
i graduated in 1983 - in fact, my classes ceremonies were on may 25 - instead of partying that night, me and a few of my fellow nerd friends saw rotj at midnight - Strange Invaders didnt have a long shelf life - it came and went fast - and in not that many markets - your town probably never got a reel - great movie
July 15, 2008, 12:47 a.m. CST
When you first started this little venture, you were covering some big pictures...and not so big pictures. But the one thing they have in common was they were strongly related to something a moviephile geek should see.<p> But the pleasant thing about this is you're covering hidden a B movie material. Stuff that even a 40 year old geek that was hospitalized all his childhood may never have seen.<p> You might want to rename the Column From Quints DVD Treasure Chest.<p> It's amazing how many great concepts are out there but horribly executed...it boggles the mind.
July 15, 2008, 12:50 a.m. CST
by JimmyJoe RedSky
after meatballs, my bodyguard, vamp and his bit in falcon and the snowman - he was a good actor - what happened
July 15, 2008, 1:09 a.m. CST
by xavier masterson
always bothered me when I watched this as a kid. About the only thing I can remember about the flick. I wonder if that scene is online somewhere? I'd rather not sit through the entire flick, but I haven't thought about how disturbing that scene with the kid was for years and I'm wondering if it would still freak me out.
July 15, 2008, 1:15 a.m. CST
by Napoleon Park
It just doesn't matter.
July 15, 2008, 1:25 a.m. CST
that scene with the shriviling up kid in particular. i was just thinking about it the other day too. used to play on HBO all the time. i also remember that it was shot in soft focus most of the time. but yeah between that and the scene in Superman III where the evil sister is turned into a robot '83 was a fucked up year for movie nightmare scenes.
July 15, 2008, 1:42 a.m. CST
I am looking forward to your opinion on this one, it is one of my favorite movies of all time. I hope you didn't watch the awful remake.
July 15, 2008, 2:22 a.m. CST
by El Borak
but i keep thinking about "invaders from mars". is that the one where the kid's parents die.
July 15, 2008, 2:32 a.m. CST
by El Borak
i remember going to my frien's house next door and seeing all the movies i couldn't watch like vamp, creepshow 2 and the lost boys. my mom would come over and we'd switch over to voltron!! ha ha!!
July 15, 2008, 2:47 a.m. CST
by Boba Fat
Would sir like a slice of ham with his movie?
July 15, 2008, 3:41 a.m. CST
You left out this lady from your review, she plays the menacing Avon lady. She was in Innerspace, Dr Phibes Rises Again, LIztomania, Drum, The Fury, Fearless Vampire Killers, Stunts, Villain and the awful Jaws ripoff Tintorera. Honestly, she has amazing genre credentials and stand out in every movie she's in. And you call yourself a geek...
July 15, 2008, 3:41 a.m. CST
Great film. Meatballs is terrible.
July 15, 2008, 4:01 a.m. CST
I knew I recognized her from something. She's totally Kevin McCarthy's creepy ladyfriend in Innerspace! Good call!
July 15, 2008, 5:37 a.m. CST
I think I remember first reading about Strange Invaders in Fangoria or Twilight Zone magazine, and then I (with my parents help, of course) had to scour the state of Vermont to find a store that rented it. That was before the internet, of course.
July 15, 2008, 5:40 a.m. CST
How dare you call yourself a film critic! ...yeah, so, what the fuck is Meatballs? Just looks like some generic Bill Murray 80's comedy.
July 15, 2008, 7:38 a.m. CST
Wow. So you're telling me there is hope for every shitty filmmaker out there to actually make something of himself. Must look great on his resume: Gods and Monsters, Kinsey, Dreamgirls and... uhm, Strange Invaders. Hey, you gotta start somewhere. <p> slder78, please don't mention that robot lady from Superman 3 ever again. I'm not gonna sleep tonight.
July 15, 2008, 8:06 a.m. CST
Was this also the one that notioned that the Welles' War Of The Worlds broadcast was for real?
July 15, 2008, 8:12 a.m. CST
But you haven't seen Meetballs? Dude!!! I'll say this.. it hasn't aged well.
July 15, 2008, 8:18 a.m. CST
by Sailor Rip
Although Movie Violations with another Murray brother is a guilty pleasure of mine.
July 15, 2008, 8:28 a.m. CST
by the power of GREYSKULL
- unless you've already seen it, I guess - but if not, you don't know what you're missing!
July 15, 2008, 9:07 a.m. CST
A Police Academy wannabe, with a Bill Murray impression from his younger brother...does he sing "Star Warrss, nothing but Star Warrss..." in it?
July 15, 2008, 9:34 a.m. CST
Sorry, Quint. I'm sure you gave a fine review, but the Great Glam ad cycled to the Asian chick with the nice rack in the black titty-strap top. What about Space Invaders?
July 15, 2008, 9:56 a.m. CST
I really like Murray so I don't know why it's taken me so long.
July 15, 2008, 10:16 a.m. CST
came up yesterday, I thought of Meatballs. I could be wrong but I think it too was one of those.<p>I'm not that surprised Quint hasen't seen The Sure Thing or Meatballs. As sex comedies go, there isn't much sex in them (and I don't think any nudity). For someone who probably doesn't remember a time before home video, these movies would seem tame compared to what was available when they began to explore this genre. Now, if he hasn't seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High that would truly be unfortunate for him. Every teenage boy should have had the privilege of experiencing Phoebe Cates in that pool scene.
July 15, 2008, 10:17 a.m. CST
Must be nice. That said, 'Strange Invaders' was one of those that I remember seeing the trailers for as a kid, but never got to actually see the movie. Might have to look this one up...
July 15, 2008, 10:30 a.m. CST
by Powers Boothe
Holy shit, that's one of the 20 worst comedies of the 1980s. Almost as awful as a 1981 Chevy Chase comedy titled Modern Problems.<br>Each film stars one of Bill Murray's less funny brothers.
July 15, 2008, 10:33 a.m. CST
by Powers Boothe
Rumble Fish and Silkwood. 1983 was a busy year for her.
July 15, 2008, 10:38 a.m. CST
by Powers Boothe
I'm 37 and it's damn near impossible to be an American male movie geek of my age and not have already seen The Sure Thing and Meatballs.
July 15, 2008, 10:42 a.m. CST
by Powers Boothe
She was the only reason I rented Moving Violations. I had a thing for her after watching 1941, I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Bossom Buddies. Great comedic actress. RiP
July 15, 2008, 10:47 a.m. CST
by Powers Boothe
Now THAT's a movie I wish Quint had never seen. I'd love to see a Talkback for that mess of a film. I wonder how many times Michael Bay watched 1941 when preparing for Pearl Harbor. <p>Gotta love 70s Hollywood!
July 15, 2008, 11:04 a.m. CST
of Sleuth and Frenzy. The "twist" of Sleuth is pretty evident nowadays, but enjoyable just the same, and Frenzy Is Hitch's last great movie. Family Plot just feels too '70s Universal television, like a really good extended episode of their TV Mystery Of The Week series (Columbo, McCloud, MacMillan And Wife, etc.).
July 15, 2008, 11:25 a.m. CST
And have also seen Meatballs II far too many times. I watched it again recently, like 2 months ago. God that movie's terrible. But I still watched it.I'm a sad man.
July 15, 2008, 11:40 a.m. CST
of meatballs, but you knwo I didn't see any of the Porky's until 97, 98
July 15, 2008, 11:59 a.m. CST
"Is that a bra, or are you expecting an assassination attempt"?<p> Modern problems sucked, but love the part where Chevy makes some guys nose bleed. Reminded me of the Julia Child skit on SNL (and Python's Holy Grail).
July 15, 2008, 1:45 p.m. CST
Moving Violations...god, i wore that VHS tape out when i was a kid.
July 15, 2008, 2:11 p.m. CST
So glad they relesed a widescreen dvd of that a few years ago.... had a bad pan & scan version of "Dead Kids" on vhs that was barely watchable. Love that spacey Tangerine Dream score. Fun, spooky, cult-film title I'd highly recommend. Now I have to check out Strange Invaders.
July 15, 2008, 2:22 p.m. CST
Rewatching Spaced Invaders asap
July 15, 2008, 3:49 p.m. CST
by The Alienist
My friends and I have enjoyed "Strange Invaders" for many years now. Mosty cause of its campy dialogue. There is an amzing scene in the back of a cab between LeMatt, Allen and Louise Fletcher that is priceless. Diana Scarwid. Oh my dear god. Nancy Allen is near and dear to my heart ONLY because of "Strange Invaders". Wallace Shawn talking about his mother dying gets this response from Allen: "Well, you can't criticize her for that." !!!!!!!!
July 15, 2008, 4:09 p.m. CST
You arent a movie critic. Youre a guy who sits around and watches bargain bin DVDs, afterwards writing a couple paragraphs about them.
July 15, 2008, 6:43 p.m. CST
by RICO OLD BUDDY
July 15, 2008, 6:44 p.m. CST
The ending is wonderfully scored. I'd buy this soundtrack if someone like Intrada or Varese Sarabande released it.
July 15, 2008, 8:41 p.m. CST
by wilbur gray
Kenneth Tobey(Howard Hawk's The Thing)is also in this and gives the best performance of his twilight career,before he was relegated to welcome,if brief cameos in Joe Dante's movies.Also look for the late character actor great Charles Lane and another Lost in Space alum in a scene with June Lockhart.You were a little too harsh on this one,Quint,especially compared to the generally favorable reviews at the time.It hasn't aged that badly since.
July 15, 2008, 10:21 p.m. CST
by Magic Rat
The Gate, the 1987 kiddie horror movie starring Stephen Dorff when he was just a kid. It was on cable tonight and I had completely forgotten about it.
July 16, 2008, 12:05 a.m. CST
Scared the shit out of me as a kid. The dude in the walls... the "parents" returning home "Yooouu've beeeennnn bbaaadddddddddd!!!!" That's a really goddamn creepy movie, still holds up. Gate 2 on the other hand... not so much, either then or now.<BR><BR>d_fens. I take offense. I paid top dollar for some of these DVDs! Top. Dollar.<BR><BR>As far as MGM's Midnite Movies series, I fully agree. I wish we'd get more like 'em, especially in high def.
July 16, 2008, 12:30 a.m. CST
by otis von zipper
How can you even discuss this film and not mention these two? It's like reviewing "Pulp Fiction" and talking about every other actor except Chris Walken and Harvey Keitel. Plus you didn't even bother to mention one of the key plot points that made this film a real treat. The town the aliens occupied remained just like 1955 in the year 1985. The scene where the aliens start to surround Paul Le Mat's car and then disappear only to have a bug-eyed alien zap it as he drives off is a classic moment. Forgive my irritation, but this movie is a favorite from this era.
July 16, 2008, 9:49 a.m. CST
Gee whiz, who the heck is Ken Brooke, and why is he credited for my work on STRANGE INVADERS? Anyone who knows anything about STRANGE INVADERS knows that I was responsible for designing and creating the Invaders as well as the other make-up effects for that film. Why Ken Brooke – who I don’t remember, and I can only assume was a straight make-up artist on the flick – should be credited by Quint with the make-up effects work is beyond me. For the uninitiated, my name does not appear on the credits because of an internal disagreement with the director over how he one day decided to shoot the Invaders in broad daylight – even though they were originally created (at his wish) to be shot in low, contrasting light to preserve their mystery. This sudden change of tune forced us to shoot the aliens in a way that I did not agree with, or sign up for. In order to let the powers-that-be know that I was unhappy, I asked that my name be removed from the film. Luckily however, after executives at Orion screened the daylight effects footage, they were as unhappy as I was and agreed to let me reshoot the effects as originally intended. Of course bad blood resulted between myself and the director and my name was never reinstated in the credits. Such is life. That said, I am, and always have been proud of the work that I and my talented crew of up n' comers achieved on STRANGE INVADERS.
July 16, 2008, 9:56 a.m. CST
The special effects were created under the name JAMES CUMMINS. http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0192009/
July 16, 2008, 3:06 p.m. CST
Unlike the wannabe posers who write for this site, dreaming of their "big break"...
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