Mon 16 Jan 2017
INVASION OF THE STAR CREATURES. American International Pictures, 1962. Robert Ball, Frankie Ray, Gloria Victor, Delores Reed, Trustin Howard and Mark Ferris. And who the hell are they, anyway? Written by Jonathan Haze, from his original story “Monster from Nicholson Mesa.” Directed by Bruno VeSota.
I’m of two minds about this film. First, it’s lousy. But on the other hand, it’s cheap, witless and banal.
So why (I kept asking myself at the time) did I watch it all the way through? Well I guess it had enough redeeming features to keep me going. Not enough to actually redeem it, you understand, but enough to keep me going.
For those of you who never heard of this bizarre classic, it’s a low-budget farce masquerading as a 1950s monster movie, written and directed by two iconic actors in the genre who don’t act in it. Stars Ball and Ray play a couple of sub-normal Army Privates on an expedition (Led by “Colonel Rank;” that’s the level of wit here.) into a nuclear blast site (The “Nicholson Mesa” of the original title — in those days James H. Nicholson was head of AIP, the chief purveyor of this schlock) to check out a mysterious cave uncovered by the blast.
The scene shifts to Bronson Canyon, the familiar locale of countless B-westerns, where everyone but our heroes gets captured by aliens, and only these two goofballs are left to save the world. Our trepid heroes soon come up against alien monsters that look eerily like guys wrapped in burlap, commanded by two tall, statuesque beauties (Professor Puna and Doctor Tanga, another Noel Coward touch) who knock the boys about a bit before falling madly in love with them. Ooops! I gave away the ending there, didn’t I? Sorry folks.
Okay, so it ain’t funny. Nor is it original. Or very well done. But Invasion has a certain off-the-cuff energy to it that the general ineptitude can’t quite smother. Robert Ball and Frankie Ray put a lot of work into their parts; a little talent would have been nice, but I admired their efforts anyway. Gloria Victor and Delores Reed are easy to look at, and their acting is good enough not to distract from their beauty.
As far as direction goes, Bruno VeSota wisely makes fun of his budget shortfalls, playing around with papier-mâché boulders and the clunkiest monsters ever to blot the screen. There’s a bit with the characters fleeing back and forth across the same set that gets repeated so often (literally a “running gag”) it actually becomes funny. And if Ve Sota and Haze let some scenes run on too long… (Well actually just about every scene runs on too long; I thought they’d never get rid of those Indians!) …well I could forgive it all in the spirit of good fun. Which is about the best way to look at this one.