Professor Bigelow (Paul Le Mat, American Graffiti) follows his estranged ex-wife (Diana Scarwid, Mommie Dearest) to her hometown of Centerville, Illinois, after she abandons their daughter without giving any explanation. Once he arrives in the town, he is confronted with strange, extraterrestrial manifestations.
Reaction & Thoughts:
With the fall of the studio system, many filmmakers were free to tackle topics of social relevance. Using the science fiction genre as camouflage, many movies explored important subjects like world peace (The Day the Earth Stood Still), radioactivity (The Incredible Shrinking Man), environmental issues (Them!), political paranoia (The Invasion of the Body Snatchers), and invasion (Invaders from Mars). As a kid I watched many of these films, enjoying every second of the twists and turns of their fantastic stories. As an adult, I can clearly see how these movies captured the ideas and fears of the ’50s.
Released in the 1980s, Strange Invaders, written by Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) and Michael Laughlin (Strange Behavior), based on the story by Walter Davis, Condon and Laughlin, and directed and co-produced by Laughlin, is a tongue-in-cheek homage to that culture, and its science fiction films. Using every cliché known, Laughlin tries to pay tribute to those simple, but imaginative sci-fi films of a by-gone era, and I must say he almost pulled it off. Did I say almost? Sadly, the movie suffers from some sloppiness.
I was certainly rooting for the movie to succeed — I loved the concept. Strange Invaders does have many good things going for it — specifically the fabulous cast, John Addison’s (Tom Jones) spirited music score, etc. — but the script lacks cohesiveness and there isn’t enough humor (the satire needed a bit more attention).
That being said, the movie is tailor-made to please B-movies hardcore fans. And it has a surprisingly stellar cast.
Besides Le Mat and Scarwid, the film’s cast includes Nancy Allen (Dressed To Kill) as an unscrupulous reporter, Oscar-winner Louis Fletcher (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest) is a government official, and Michael Lerner (Barton Fink) plays a supposedly crazy man. The inclusion in the cast of such science fiction stalwarts as June Lockhart (TV’s Lost in Space) and Kenneth Tobey (The Thing From Another World) help accentuate the film’s overall nostalgic feeling for the pop science fiction culture.
John Addison’s (Tom Jones and Sleuth) music score is appropriately whimsical. The visual and make-up effects are playful.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Although Laughlin doesn’t completely succeed in giving Strange Invaders a life of its own, he did manage to create a fairly entertaining movie that has achieved cult status since its debut in movie theaters. Color, 93 minutes, Rated PG.