Review: Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957)

>> Sunday, July 11, 2010

USA/B&W-69m./Dir: Edward L. Cahn/Wr: Robert J. Gurney Jr & Al Martin/Cast: Steven Terrell (Johnny Carter), Gloria Castillo (Joan Hayden), Frank Gorshin (Joe Gruen), Lyn Osborn (Artie Burns), Raymond Hatton (Farmer Larkin)

When the subject of little green men from outer space arises, the picture that appears in many people’s minds is that of the imaginative (albeit floppy) alien costumes created for the low budget 1957 drive-in flick Invasion of the Saucer Men. The image of these critters is ingrained in pop culture; and for every one person that has actually watched the movie, hundreds more have seen promotional film stills or toys based upon the creature designs. As a result, it will take many by surprise to discover that Invasion of the Saucer Men is, in fact, a “booze movie.”

In what purports itself to be a “true story of a flying saucer,” an alien craft lands in the small town of Hicksburg (the first groaner joke of the movie), which leads to a memorable night for a young couple, the military, a promoter looking for easy money, a farmer, and a drunken bull. The couple (Carter and Hayden) are driving back from “Lover’s Point” with their headlights off, to slip past the angry farmer who owns the land, when their car hits something. That “something” turns out to be the body of a bulbous-headed alien. While the couple see the body as an unspeakable horror, Joe Gruin (Frank “the Riddler” Gorshin), a whiskey-slugging con man, sees the extraterrestrial corpse as his ticket to easy street. However, before Joe can put the body on ice, the remaining Saucer Men attack the hooched-up huckster with needle-like nails that inject pure alcohol. Joe’s heart gives out, and the aliens make it look like the kids hit the overdosed alky with their car. It’s up to the young lovers to clear their name and take out the extraterrestrial menace (with a little help from a beer-loving bull).

It’s hard to defend Invasion of the Saucer Men. The writing is subpar, the production values are shoddy, and the performances (with the exception of those of Gorshin and Osborn) are mediocre at best. It’s simply a bad movie-- typical of the teen-oriented cheapies that American International Pictures cranked out in the 50’s and 60’s. Yet, Invasion of the Saucer Men is an enjoyable time waster. Everyone involved seemed to understand that they were making a bad film, and the film has a lighthearted, jokey atmosphere that makes it more engaging than many better-made 50’s sci-fi flicks.

There are even greater pleasures to be had for fans of soused cinema. For a science fiction film, Invasion of the Saucer Men is strangely liquor-centric. The teens at “Lover’s Point” are as engrossed in chugging cans of beer as they are in necking, the farmer’s prize bull is constantly seeking discarded beer cans to get his buzz on, and Gorshin’s character repeatedly downs slugs off his flask-sized whiskey bottle. Most significantly, the alien’s weapon of choice is alcohol, bringing a new meaning to the term “dead drunk.”

While Paul Blaisdell’s alien costume designs are the most significant aspect of Invasion of the Saucer Men, the film itself contains plenty of pleasures for both fans of cheesy, low-budget fare and soused cinema enthusiasts. Of course, your enjoyment of the film may be improved by knocking a few back yourself.

Drinks Consumed--Whiskey, beer, and alien venom

Intoxicating Effects--Slurred speech, hiccups, belching, and death

Potent Quotables--ARTIE: Wow, whatta buzz I got on. Is this some kind of a gag?
JOAN: But how, Johnny?
JOHNNY: Just like his roommate. Do ya get it, Joan? Acute alcoholism. These monsters kill their victims by sticking them with alcohol--pure alcohol!

Video Availability--Invasion of the Saucer Men has not been released on DVD in the U.S. However, if you own a region-free player, you can watch the PAL DVD that is available from Australia. An out-of-print VHS (Sony) was also previously released.

Similarly Sauced Cinema--If you think this film is bad, get a load of the color remake, The Eye Creatures (1965, a.k.a. Attack of the The Eye Creatures (sic)).


Rowen July 13, 2010 at 11:40 PM  

Y’know—I think I met those aliens. (“THAT’S not Everclear! Whadda they been selling you people?”) This looks like a hoot. And anything with Frank Gorshin in it is a must-see.

garv July 14, 2010 at 10:03 PM  

It's definitely not art, but it is fun.

It's also prime drinking game material. Drink every time the Saucer Men expose their alcohol infused nails, or drink every time the drunken bull appears on screen, or slug whiskey along with Gorshin.


Anonymous August 27, 2010 at 1:08 PM  

I saw this movie when I was about 14/15. I was expecting a horror movie, but was pleasantly surprised when it turned into a comedy!

I still remember it fondly after all these years!

Movies at Midnight September 10, 2010 at 4:32 PM  

I'm always ready for some saucer men and alien venom! Make mine a double.

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

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