Wednesday, August 26, 2009


(Above: Peter Graves talks it over with Bugsy "the Mutant" Alien; Below: Martian leader or mutant octopus? You decide.)

Horrendous Film Week continues with 
Invaders From Mars (1953) and Killers From Space (1954), two apocalyptic sci-fi thrillers that feature mutants.

Pronounced “mew-tantz.”

Bob Grant, an extremely crusty radio talk show host who dominated New York drive time for a couple of decades, used to call people he considered unsavory “mutants,” with the same exaggerated pronunciation. I always wondered where he got it from, and now I know.

Anyhoo, of these two “Invaders” is a better film technically, with good special effects and that newfangled thing called “color.”

And the chief Martian is just a head with tentacles, painted green, living in a bubble on a pedestal. The mutants are his henchmen.

When the Martian craft lands in a big sand pit, people start disappearing into it, only to reappear later as surly versions of their former selves, speaking in monotones and trying to sabotage the Free World.

Oh, and they have that thing in the back of the neck.

“Killers” stars a very young Peter Graves (who looks a great deal like my cousin Sam). He’s a scientist who gets kidnapped by the aliens, humanoids from the planet Alpha Delta whose sun burned out, forcing them to live in the dark and develop huge bulging eyes. They also wear ugly jumpsuits; it is not clear if the situation on Alpha Delta demanded such costumes, or it was what the wardrobe department had at hand.

Both films have a Cold War theme — in “Invaders,” like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” people are suddenly not what they seem. Your best friend could be a Commie - er, alien - and you’d never know it — until they march down Main Street in Anytown, U.S.A.

“Killers” presents a much more direct threat, and a cheerful view of the effects of nuclear explosions. (At the end, the cast watches the atomic coup de grace through a window. The shade obligingly blows about a bit to indicate the strength of the blast.)

We’ve got excellent mutants. A Martian leader who looks like a gilded octopus. Bulging eyes. Giant critters (in rear projection) chasing Peter Graves. Sack- suited FBI agents. Lots of pocket squares. Both are short. A terrific double feature.

Three coils.

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