Invaders From Mars (1953)

“David says something landed in the field out back. It doesn’t make sense, but he seems so convinced!”

Poster Invaders Mars

Synopsis:
Young David (Jimmy Hunt) awakens at night to see a flying saucer landing under a plot of sand behind his house. When his father (Leif Erickson) goes out to investigate, he’s sucked into the sand and returns brainwashed; soon the same thing happens to David’s mother (Hillary Brooke), two investigating policemen, a neighbor girl (Janine Perreau), and others. When David finally convinces a kind, beautiful doctor (Helena Carter) that he’s telling the truth, the military becomes involved in a massive effort to stop the aliens.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary notes that while Invaders From Mars is “not as good as… Invasion of the Body Snatchers [or] I Married a Monster” (both films dealing with similar themes), it’s “fondly remembered by those of us who saw it when we were children”; DVD Savant (see link below) is another fan, and his blow-by-blow analysis (he claims to have seen it roughly 50 times over the years!) shows just how deep an impression it must have made on many young boys. Viewers today will likely classify it as yet another low-budget ’50s sci-fi paranoia film (with possible overtones of “an anti-communist political allegory because the aliens use mind control”), and laugh at its uneven acting, campy special effects (those Martian costumes!), and over-reliance on stock military footage during the denouement. With that said, Invaders From Mars is notable both for its effective portrayal of a young boy struggling to make adults believe him (freckle-faced Jimmy Hunt is perfectly cast), and for director William Cameron Menzies’ truly unusual set designs, which add “to the film’s surreal look”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An effectively paranoid portrayal of a happy nuclear family destroyed by alien forces
    IFM Family
  • The stylized low-budget set designs
    Stylized Set IFM
  • Campy special effects and alien costumes
    IFM Campy
  • Several memorable shots
    IFM Memorable

Must See?
Yes, for its historical importance as a seminal alien invasion flick.

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One Response to “Invaders From Mars (1953)”

  1. Ultimately not a must. I would even hazard a guess that hard-core sci-fi ffs, wanting to trace sci-fi history, would find this unsatisfying on the whole.

    On the plus side –

    Design-wise, it does often read like a child’s nightmare, esp. the scenes of large spaces (like the jail) pared down to essentials; the kind of simple decor common to dreams.

    The opening of the film is esp. strong, roughly the first 20 min. (and recommended, even if the rest of the film isn’t). What’s particularly noteworthy here is that Erickson’s dad character is seen initially as someone very close to his son; something of a kid himself. Which makes it all the more tragic and shocking when we see the dad turn into someone who, among other things, actually back-hands his kid.

    The down sides –

    The unending use of stock footage of tanks. This gets into Ed Wood’s ‘use-it-cause-we-have-it’ method.

    All the silliness of falling into the sand.

    Once the ‘mutants’ enter, well…it’s all downhill. Almost unwatchable, really.

    The montage sequence near the end, replaying the film’s major sequences. It reads as filler – as does the eventually ubiquitous ‘tank parade’ – and the whole movie is only about 70+ minutes.

    Tobe Hooper remade this in 1986. I remember thinking – even though I’ve liked a number of things Hooper has done – that that was kind of a dud as well.

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