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Invasion U.S.A. (1952)

When a group of American strangers gather in a bar and are interviewed by newscaster Vince Potter (Gerald Mohr) about their attitude towards their country, they quickly reveal their ambivalence towards helping the government in the day-to-day fight against communism. That is until they hear from the psychic Mr. Ohman (Dan O'Herlihy), who tells them to be wary — and is proved right when, shortly after he talks, the United States is invaded by men who speak with a blend of Russian, German, and Transylvainian accents. It then appears that every laissez-faire ideal the people had taken for granted comes into question, while Potter falls for fellow bar patron Carla Sanford (Peggie Castle). Directed by Alfred E. Green (who had helmed over 100 films before this one) 1952's Invasion U.S.A. is the kind of picture Ed Wood would have made if he had more talent. Well, not too much more talent — the traits that sank his films are evident here, including cheap sets, bad dialogue (a flight attendant tells a woman that no flights will ever go to her hometown again since it was nuked), and an inordinate amount of stock footage (so much so that the picture should be re-titled Invasion Stock Footage). Nonetheless, since the movie is so entrenched in a McCarthyite-inspired insanity, and because the invasion is laughable, it becomes compelling through its unintentional comedy (and it's no surprise this showed up on "Mystery Science Theater 3000.") What is perhaps most interesting about Invasion U.S.A. (and the included short Red Nightmare) is that the thesis of the film — if the screenwriters were even trying to do more than make a quick buck — is that the main characters aren't doing enough for their country: By being too rooted in their own self-interests, they have ignored the needs of America, which seems to suggest that Americans need to behave a little more like communists (sacrificing the needs of the individual for the betterment of the many) than capitalists. Which, of course, is just a little bit ironic. Synapse's DVD presents the film in a fine windowboxed (1.33:1) presentation and monaural Dolby 2.0 audio, with the transfer in solid shape (though the stock footage shows more wear than the rest of the film). For supplements there are two Civil Defense Department audio recordings: If the Bomb Falls — A Recorded Guide to Survival and the much wackier The Complacent Americans; the theatrical trailer; a film encyclopedia of the 100 best atomic films ever made; and contemporary interviews with O'Herlihy, William Schallert and Noel Neill. But the best of this bunch is Red Nightmare, the short film made by Warner Brothers (under the supervision of Jack Warner) starring Jack Webb, where Webb shows how lousy America would be under Communist rule. It is an insane piece of propaganda that owes more to Kafka than Marx for its vision of communism. Keep-case.
—DSH



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