Friday, October 21, 2011

Ten Statements About....STRANGE INVADERS (1983)

You may think it sounds silly, but trust don't want
Arthur Newman coming to get you....
"Shouldn't have brought the dog in the first place."

1) Even though it is a stand-alone story, this second collaboration between director Michael Laughlin and writer Bill Condon apparently is intended to be a thematic and tonal sequel to their previous Strange Behavior, down to having the teen stars of the previous film, Dan Shor and Dey Young, in scenes that bookend the film.

2) Boy, Paul Le Mat's Charlie Bigelow is a goofy looking hero, even if he's got a certain quirky charm that fits with the film's tone.

3) I really have to wonder if Nancy Allen was cast as the female lead primarily due to her slight resemblance to Diana Scarwid, who plays Bigelow's ex-wife. It would certainly explain why Allen's reporter Betty Walker and Bigelow get so cozy so quickly...

4) There's a strange fairy tale feel to the first act and part of the second...and it's not just because the denizens of Centreville seem to be eireely frozen in 1958. It's small but obvious touches like the fact that the plane Charlie takes home to New York is devoid of any passengers save for him, or the presence of a small, whitish-blonde boy in the cavernous office of Charlie's mentor at Columbia for no reason. It helps create a sense of unreality that allows us to buy into the recreation of classic drive-in sci-fi we're immersed into in the second half of the film.

Is it just me, or do these alien look like they suffer from
perpetual migraines?
5) However...the second Charlie, Betty and Louise Fletcher's Mrs. Benjamin arrive in Centerville to investigate the disappearance of Charlie's wife, the film seriously loses its focus. We never quite get a handle on these aliens and why they've been hanging around Earth for the last quarter century, or why they're going home, or why they've gone all in with their 50's personas even when they know the culture has changed, or why they've been transforming people into these weird blue balls of electricity, or any of the fifteen other questions the first half of the film raises.

6) While the creatures are pretty cool--they're highly reminiscent of the Lectroids from Buckaroo Banzai only mired in goo and muck--they come off the most effectively while in disguise. Kenneth Tobey, who plays de facto alien leader Arthur Newman, and Fiona Lewis, who plays the world's most aggressive Avon Lady, come off the best due to the way their line readings somehow.

7) And while there is nothing nearly as squirm inducing as the injury to the eye gag in Strange Behavior, the way the aliens convert their human victims into Blue Glowy Balls is pretty effective, as they seem to literally dehydrate and shrivel away into nothingness.


8) I got the impression that the aliens were going to turn out to be some form of insect, especially given how much is made of Charlie's profession as an etymologist. But we never find anything out, and made me wonder how Charlie was able to mate with one of them and produce a daughter.

9) Given the somewhat impressive mothership in the opening and closing sequence, the interior of the spaceship is a little warehouse-rific, innit?

10) I like Wallace Shawn and June Lockhart and Mark Goddard as much as the next person...but their presence here adds nothing. It smacks of the oft-rumored meddling that Orion Pictures made in the film's production.

Overall...not as effectively bizarre as Strange Behavior by any means, and with that frustrating drop in coherence at the halfway mark, the film still has a degree of charm. It certainly makes me wonder what would have happened if Laughlin and Condon had continued their collaboration with their planned third film, The Adventures of Philip Strange.

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