The Walking Dead! (Invisible Invaders; 5-19-1959)

What could be better than a trip to the movies?  A trip to a good movie, I suppose.  Well, beggars can’t be choosers.

A few days ago, my daughter and I went out for what has become a routine treat: a night flick at the drive-in.  We arrived too late for the main feature, but the “B” movie was Invisible Invaders, a putatively science fiction film.  I’m sad to report that this was easily the worst of the films I have had the pleasure to report upon since I started writing this column.

The eponymous invisible invaders are rapacious imperialists.  Having conquered the moon and its former inhabitants(!) some 20,000 years ago, they have now turned their sights on Earth.  Before destroying us outright, they give humanity an ultimatum to surrender within 24 hours.  This is easily the best part of the movie.  You see, the aliens, being invisible (not just the creatures, but their spaceships as well), can’t actually impress us with their presence; therefore, they must inhabit bodies to communicate.  This is revealed when the newly deceased Dr. Carl Noymann visits the moral Dr. Adam Penner, who has recently quit his job as a weapons scientist on principle.  Dr. Noymann/invisible alien delivers his threat and lurchingly departs.

Of course, no one believes Dr. Penner, except for his daughter, Phyllis, and her would-be paramour, the wimpy John Lamont.  24 hours later, the aliens start blasting the Earth (after one last warning, broadcast via radio), beginning an impressive string of disaster stock footage, one appearing to go back to the 1871 Chicago Fire!

In desperation, the remaining scientists of the world are ordered into underground bunkers to come up with a way to defeat the aliens.  Enter Major Bruce Jay, a pile of beef assigned as military escort.  He quickly wins his way into Phyllis’ heart (my daughter made gagging noises at this), especially when he cold-bloodedly shoots a nervous farmer just because the farmer asked for a ride.  But the farmer gets his revenge by quickly becoming a member of the aliens’ walking dead brigade.

In the underground bunker, Major Jay hatches a plan to spray acrylic plastic over one of the corpses to capture it.  He ventures out in a beekeeping suit (to ward off radiation–the corpses are radioactive, natch), and secures one of the zombies after a struggle.  Fortunately, the folks inside the bunker get to watch the whole thing on television as there are remote cameras that capture the entire scene.  You know, the kind of cameras that dramatically edit together events for the remote viewers.

It is quickly determined that certain annoying sounds cause the aliens to give up the ghost, quite literally.  Armed with a sound cannon, our heroes drive off into the swarm and defeat them.  Victory for humanity!

All of this is linked with an intrusive and redundant narration, the kind that is inserted when it is realized in post-production that not enough film was shot to make a coherent movie. 

The closing message of the movie is the idea, driven home by our friend, the narrator, that an alien invasion is sufficient common threat to unite the squabbling countries of Earth, though for how long is an open question.  I remember my father telling me long ago that, were he ever elected President, his first action would be to hoax an attack from outer space so as to end war on Earth.  Clever fellow, dear ol’ dad.

So that’s that.  Really just an excuse for a bunch of middle-aged fellows to stagger about menacingly.  It’s a cheap special effect, so I imagine movie-makers will come up with more opportunities to present such spectacles with titles like Day of the Living Dead! or The Dead Walk! Can’t wait.

Next week, my little girl and I will be heading back to the movies; until then, I’ve got plenty of fiction on which to report.  And it’s a damnsight higher in quality than Invisible Invaders!

Stay tuned!

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