Invisible Invaders: Attack of the invisible no-see-ums

Invisible Invaders directed by Edward L. CahnInvisible Invaders directed by Edward L. Cahn

Invisible Invaders directed by Edward L. CahnOffhand, I can think of few actors (other than perhaps Richard Denning) who have gone up against so many 1950s sci-fi horrors and monstrosities as Chicago-born John Agar. From 1955 – ’58 alone, the former husband of Shirley Temple battled The Creature in Revenge of the Creature, a giant arachnid in Tarantula, a lost subterranean race in The Mole Men, a floating alien cerebrum in The Brain From Planet Arous, and a mad scientist in Attack of the Puppet People, all of which I had hugely enjoyed. There WAS one film of Agar’s from the late ’50s that I had never seen, though, to complete this list of sci-fi menaces, and that film is Invisible Invaders. Fortunately, I have at long last caught up with this one, and can report that it is yet another fun (although undeniably shlocky) outing to add to Agar’s roster. The film was released in May 1959 and thus has been stunning and amusing audiences for over half a century now. And although the editors at the Maltin Movie Guide predictably call the film “cheap, silly and boring,” I would argue that though they might be correct as far as those first two accusations go, the film itself — fast moving and clever as it is, at a breakneck and compact 67 minutes — is never boring.

In this one, an eminent nuclear physicist, Dr. Karol Noymann (the great John Carradine), is killed in a lab explosion. At his funeral, his friend and colleague, Dr. Adam Penner (Philip Tonge), stands in sorrow next to his pretty daughter, Phyllis (Jean Byron). But soon after, imagine Dr. Penner’s surprise when the corpse of Dr. Noymann appears at his door, standing erect and seemingly alive, and issuing a warning. It seems that the deceased’s body has been revived by the invisible invaders of the film’s title — aliens who have been observing us Earthlings for centuries from their hidden base on our moon. Penner is told that Earth must surrender within 24 hours or the invaders will begin their forceful conquest of our planet. Penner, through his friend and fellow atomic scientist Dr. John Lamont (Robert Hutton), passes the word along to Washington, and is understandably disbelieved and mocked.

While Penner awaits word from D.C., the film treats us to its most somber moment, perhaps, as the aged scientist stands at a window and whispers, “Dear Lord, I pray that I am insane, and that all that happened is only in my mind. I pray that tomorrow the sun will shine again on living things, not on a world where only the dead walk the Earth.” Soon enough, however, the conquest begins, with the invisible aliens resurrecting the dead and using the reanimated corpses to destroy dams and carry out assorted mayhem. The Feds, now fully convinced, decide that Penner, Phyllis and Lamont are to be sequestered in a hidden mountain bunker so that they might figure out a way to combat the unseen invaders and their invisible mother ship, and thus Major Bruce Jay (Agar, who finally makes his initial appearance almost a full 1/2 hour into the film) is tasked with getting the trio to that bunker. But can the group both hold off the advancing zombie hordes AND come up with a way to defeat the aliens, as the clock ticks?

Invisible Invaders was directed by Edward L. Cahn, who also had a most impressive track record of ’50s horrors, including such films as Invasion of the Saucer Men, Curse of the Faceless Man, It! The Terror From Beyond Space, The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake and The Creature With the Atom Brain, and indeed, the business suit-wearing cadavers in the film in question, with their effective zombie makeup, DO resemble the reanimated corpses of the Atom Brain picture. Invisible Invaders also features fairly competent acting from one and all, and as I mentioned up top, the film is extremely streamlined and fast moving; indeed, the aliens begin their conquest of planet Earth within the first 20 minutes of the opening credits! The special FX on display are quite decent enough, considering the film’s obvious low budget, and the picture is a bit surprising in that its love triangle remains nicely UNresolved by the close. And, as has probably been pointed out elsewhere, those zombies banging on the walls of our quartet’s mountain bunker can surely be seen as precursors of the great touchstone zombie film of almost a decade later, Night of the Living Dead.

To be perfectly honest, though, the film’s ending DOES feel a bit rushed, and the omniscient narrator who tells us what’s going on as events proceed eventually becomes annoying, useless and obtrusive. And how silly is it that despite the widespread radiation that surrounds the aliens, Lamont is deemed safe in his pickup truck’s cabin, even when Major Jay opens the truck’s passenger door to the open air?!?! And that trick of placing a noose at the bottom of a camouflaged mantrap and expecting a fallen alien to be tied up in it … how convincing is that? But these are quibbles. From the sight of the cadaverous John Carradine issuing the aliens’ pronouncement at the movie’s beginning, to the sight of John Agar going up against a horde of lurching zombies and the alien mother ship at the end, Invisible Invaders delivers good old-fashioned, matinée-style fun. It is a perfect film to see with your favorite 8-year-old, munching popcorn at your side. And yes, it is another winner from ’50s stalwart John Agar!


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SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

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