Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Invaders from Mars

When I was a kid, my mother didn’t want me to watch horror or science-fiction movies because, in her words, “They’re too scary. They’ll give you nightmares.”

Well, it’s true that I was prone to nightmares (I still am, although they haven’t bothered me much recently), but I managed to see quite a few scary movies anyway. And let me tell you, INVADERS FROM MARS is right up there when it comes to movies that’ll scare the crap out of a little kid.

Start with the fact that it’s told from the point of view of a kid, a boy who sees a spaceship land in a nearby sand pit. His parents don’t believe him, of course, but to humor him, the kid’s dad goes to check it out anyway and comes back . . . changed.

That’s just the start of an almost surreal movie that’s filled with Fifties paranoia. The young protagonist comes to realize that nobody can be trusted, not even his parents or the cops, and sometimes even the most bizarre, otherworldly threat can be real.

This movie has a solid cast of B-list actors and great direction and sets by William Cameron Menzies. As some of the people who have left comments on IMDB point out, it helps to see it for the first time when you’re nine years old. I watched it again as an adult and while it’s still great to look at and has a lot of nostalgic appeal to it, it’s impossible to recapture the excitement and nightmarish thrills it gave me when I was watching on the old black-and-white set in my parents’ living room. Still, if you’ve never seen it, it’s well worth taking a look at. There’s a remake from 1986, but I’ve never bothered with it.


Anonymous said...

Great choice! I loved this movie as a kid and when I saw it again a few years ago I still enjoyed it.

I remember it vividly, like the scene of the kid standing in front of the desk in the police station, for instance.

The remake was beneath contempt.

Jeff M.

David Cranmer said...

The scene when the boy looks at the back of the father's head after he has been changed always creeped me out. The ethereal music was another factor in this film that adds to the scary factor.

Ed Gorman said...

Major movie of my third or fourth grade summer.

Charles Gramlich said...

I didn't see it until I was much older but I thought it was really well done. Quite creepy.

michael said...

I saw it from a film student point of view and loved the camera work and script. The ending has inspired many.

I also enjoyed the trailer using words like "UNUSUAL" to hype the film.

Randy Johnson said...

Remember this from when I was a kid. Fond memories. Not so much the remake.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

With all the positive reviews I must watch this film soon as i can lay my hands on it unless, of course, TCM runs it for me. I recall seeing a little-known 1950's film called Flight to Mars about a US expedition to the red planet and the subsequent discovery of, well, Martians. I don't remember the rest.

Todd Mason said...

I didn't hate the remake, but the original has the advantage in every way except perhaps in the lack of real threat displayed by the villain when we see it. The Menzies sets and production design and cinematography genuinely mark this one, and give it the kind of dreamlike quality that even something like NIGHT OF THE HUNTER doesn't quite match.