Film: Very Good
Transfer: Very Good
Extras: Very Good
Label: Anchor Bay (Canada)
Region: 1 (NTSC)
Released: January 12, 2010
Genre: Science-Fiction / Comedy / Spoof
Synopsis: Inhabitants of a desert town must fight of a ghota before it replicates and devours all mankind!
Special Features: Optional Introduction (1:30) / Featurette: “Watch the Skies” (8:21) / Full-length “Meet the Person” with Edwin R. Burroughs edit (10:33) / “Breaking News” (1:52) / “Live News Update” teaser (:37) + ‘vintage trailer’ (2:54) / ‘New’ Interviews with Director R.W. Goodwin (6:26) + Actor Eric McCormack (1:56) / Theatrical + Teaser Trailers
“Ted loves Lana.” — “And Lana loves Ted.” — “Hormonal polarity. Yes, I have heard of this phenomenon. Odd sensation.”
– As Lana Lewis displays affections for her egghead hubby, she’s completely unaware her beloved Ted is inhabited by an alien creature named Urp
Crafting an homage from the recombined DNA of fifties monster movies requires a deft touch, particularly when its set in the genre’s peak period of the late fifties. There’s also those dangerous pitfalls where filmmakers can either get lazy and rely on visual artifice instead of a solid script and characters, or be overly earnest and create a film that’s more naïve than the genre they’re trying to embrace.
Both Steven Fisher’s script and R.W. Goodwin’s direction are completely straight-faced, but there’s also a clever comedic touches that imbue Alien Trespass with an amiable lightness.
Bespectacled astronomer Ted Lewis (Eric McCormack) wears tweed jackets and nibbles on his pipe much in the way Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) weighed various theories as Martians were in fact invading Earth in The War of the Worlds (1953), and Urp’s possession of human Ted allows McCormack to sputter precision genre-babble with complete sincerity (see top quote), and transcend lesser scenes where the filmmakers poke fun at fifties teens, an annoying babysitter, and bumbling town cops.
Urp’s goal is to track down a Ghota, a one-eyed, tentacled slug inspired by the Simpsons Halloween episodes, as well as the creature in The Atomic Submarine (1959). The Ghota must be stopped before it splits in two, exponentially boosting its parasitic population until all tasty humans are gone, and Earth is a wasteland. With an ability to drift in and out of invisibility, the Ghota corners its victims and ultimately reduces them to brownish puddles of sticky goo that are initially dismissed by the local law.
As key community folk disappear, both the teens, Urp, and local diner babe Tammy (Jenni Baird) help Urp save the town, thereby preserving the community’s picture postcard lifestyle of a sleepy desert town.
The best scenes involve Urp slowly discovering the oddities of his human host Ted (pity more scenes weren’t written), an attack in a movie theatre showing The Blob (1958), and Tammy’s speech to gun-toting citizens wanting to destroy Urp and his shiny round spacecraft. (Baird delivers a speech in defense of Urp with complete sincerity, and it’s arguably the film’s best acted and funniest moment in the movie.)
Filmed on a low budget, the filmmakers managed to create a vivid, candy-coloured fifties palette that radiates with the saturated colours of both War of the Worlds (1953) and The Blob, and there are many shots where the framing matches the horrified victim poses of vintage bug-eyed monster movies (notably It Came from Outer Space). The actors scream and shake their heads, raise their arms instead of outrunning the sluggish creature, and hairstyles and costumes evoke that weird mixture of perkiness and tweedyness which certainly dominated films like War of the Worlds.
Jody Thompson’s hair and wardrobe are particularly rooted in the era’s bizarre ‘glamorous housewife’ style, and her physical movements poke fun at the genre’s acting style, as well as juicing Lana Lewis’s sex appeal with plenty of hip-swinging and bust-thrusting towards egghead Ted.
The spaceship effects are effective yet appropriately cheesy, and the creature’s giant red eye design gives it a consistently puzzled demeanor, which works for the monster, since it’s struggling to learn and conquer the world while its appetite keeps growing.
Composer Louis Febre (Mr. Murder) creates a good balance evoking vintage orchestral monster scores (including use of a theremin) without mocking the style nor any of the film’s characters.
As Eric McCormack explains in his too-short interview segment among the DVD’s extras, the film was marketed as a genuine ‘lost artifact’ – a singular, surviving print from a movie thought lost when star and studio bigwig had a contractual fracas in 1957, and all copies and negative elements were destroyed prior to the film’s scheduled release.
That allowed the filmmakers to create a faux prologue with the film’s present-day descendents, as well as a ‘vintage’ kinescope, spoofing Edward R. Murrow’s Person to Person series (spoofed as ‘Meet the person’) with interviews of the film’s cast prior to the film’s aborted release. Actors McCormack, Baird, Dan Lauria and Thompson stay in character, and footage of the faux Q&As were given special Photoshop detailing that accurately mimics the high-contrast and flaring inherent to real kinescopes.
There’s also a teaser featurettte with faux news reports of the film’s discovery, a real interview with director Goodwin (himself a longtime X Files director), and a hidden third trailer that’s been edited in the overhyped style of fifties publicity campaigns.
© 2016 Mark R. Hasan
Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review