[box cover]

Strange Invaders

Are the words "It Was Really, Really Lame" enough to make up an entire movie review? Probably not, and that's a shame, because anything else we could say about MGM's 1950s science-fiction throwback, Strange Invaders, would be merely a distilled way of expressing this much more accurate and potent sentiment. Although director Michael Laughlin and screenwriter Bill Condon (yes, the same Bill Condon who penned the screenplay for the Oscar-winning Gods and Monsters) obviously had the best of intentions, this tedious, cliché-filled offering fails to entertain, and does so with a vengance. It's a bad "B"-movie, but lacks the ineffable charm (i.e., the "so-bad-it's-good" syndrome) that allows so many of its brethren to rise above their budgets and ensnare viewers. The storyline is pretty much the same as every other movie of this type: It's 1958, and flying saucers are invading a small Midwestern town, and who really cares? The minimal backstory is that, 25 years after their landing (in the far distant future of 1983!), a college professor, played with admirable spunk by Paul Le Mat, has lost contact with his wife Margaret (Diana Scarwid). While searching for her, and after a series of events too tedious to relate here, he eventually discovers that many of the townsfolk are aliens disguised as humans (wow... bet you never saw that plot twist coming!). With the help of a sympathetic tabloid reporter (Nancy Allen), the good professor attempts to expose the conspiracy. In retaliation, the poorly costumed visitors take his daughter hostage, and ol' tweedsuit has to get her back before the critters return to their own planet. The movie's main problem is a significant one: Strange Invaders tries to mask its gross ineptitude by claiming to be a parody of the alien popcorn flicks of bygone years. Unfortunately, the filmmakers forgot one important consideration: To parody something, one must paint the original subject matter in an amusing light. Strange Invaders, however, doesn't feel like a ribbing; it seems, rather, like it's trying to be one of the films it claims to be mocking. There's precious little humor in evidence here, and one can't help but feel that the filmmakers have not so much satirized sci-fi genre conventions (as Scream did with horror movies) but merely tried to incorporate as many of these very situations as possible. (Tim Burton's Mars Attacks got much the same criticism in some circles, but make no mistake — compared to this, Mars Attacks is Citizen-freakin'-Kane.) MGM's DVD edition of Strange Invaders features an acceptable but overall unremarkable anamorphic widescreen transfer, with soft colors and a small amount of damage to the source print. Laughlin and Condon share yakking duties on a commentary track (they were recorded separately, but have been edited together well here), and both appear surprised to learn that this film has, astonishingly, become something of a cult-classic. Not half as surprised as we are. Dolby Digital mono (English), theatrical trailer, Spanish and French subtitles. Keep-case.
—Joe Barlow

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