Monday, September 25, 2017

Teenagers from Outer Space (1959)

It’s hard to say how aliens would regard us, if they had any regard for us at all.  When three aliens land on Earth, it’s for the sole purpose of finding a breeding ground for gargons, a delicacy on their home planet.  Thor doesn’t seem to hold Earth creatures in high regard.  When a dog approaches the ship, Thor kills poor little Sparky without so much as a second thought.  Derek, on the other hand, is more empathetic.  He finds Sparky’s tag and realizes that they may have just killed someone’s pet.  At the very least, this was a living being.  What right do they have to make this home to their food supply?  It may not even matter, because the gargon doesn’t seem to be doing well.

Thor very firmly points out that they are the supreme race.  Earth inhabitants are inferior, no matter how advanced we may be, and we can die like the inferior scum we are for all Thor cares.  You see, Thor and Derek come from a planet that doesn’t have concepts like family and friendships.  Yes, they have parents, but children don’t know who their relatives are.  The only reason Derek even brings this up is that he has this book about olden times when their race did have such concepts.

This angers Thor, who tells Derek that he’ll be put to death upon their return.  Thor contacts command, who tells him that Derek is the Leader’s son and is next in line to take over.  He’s to be brought back alive.  One gargan will be left behind, as per procedure, and Thor will chase after Derek, killing him only if necessary.  The remaining crew will take the ship back and return after a set period of time.

Derek wanders into town with Sparky’s tag and eventually finds place that Sparky called home.  He’s greeted by Betty Morgan.  She lives with her grandfather.  They initially assume that he’s interested in being a boarder, as they have a room to let.  Derek neglects to tell her about Sparky.

Betty was getting ready for a date with her boyfriend, Joe Rogers, but he has to cancel at the last minute.  He’s a reporter and has to cover a story about some reports of a flying saucer.  So, Derek goes with Betty instead.  Derek eventually shows the tag to Betty, which makes Betty want to see the remains of her dog just to be sure.

Thor is eventually able to track down Derek because of a gas-station attendant that recognizes the uniform.  After getting the address that Derek went to, Thor ends up killing the attendant for his trouble.  He also kills the guy that was kind enough to give him a ride into town.  (Thor’s instructions did include killing any witnesses.)

Derek falls in love with Betty.  He desperately wants to stay on Earth with her, but he comes to realize that it may not be possible.  He and Thor go back to the landing site where the Leader emerges from the spacecraft.  Derek is allowed to bring the ships in to land, which he does at full speed, thus causing an explosion.  He saves Earth and its inhabitants, who may never know what happened.

So, you may be wondering how I came across this gem of a movie.  Years ago, I was in the habit of buying these packs of movies.  This particular one was ten movies spread across three discs by St. Clair Vision.  What I would later come to realize was that these were all public-domain movies.  They were packaged by theme, with this set being sci-fi movies.  (Another one is a set of Alfred Hitchcock movies.)

The movie was released in 1959.  I’m not sure how the movie ranks among other movies of that year, but it looks like filmmaking has come a long way.  Take Thor’s death ray.  It’s supposed to work by vaporizing the fleshy parts of a living being, leaving only the skeleton.  We don’t actually see the effect on the target.  Instead, we see the target before cutting to Thor holding the ray gun.  When Thor uses the gun, there’s a bright light that looks like a reflection from a small mirror.  We then cut back to the skeleton of the target.

If you’ve ever seen a skeleton up close, you’ll know that the bones aren’t directly attached to each other.  There’s connecting tissue keeping the bones in place.  If everything else is removed, you’ll end up with a pile of bones.  It probably won’t look complete.  Sparky, I could see, as he may have been knocked on his side.  However, any human skeleton would probably scatter, especially if they were standing upright.

There’s also the issue of how a gargon was able to grow so large.  When the aliens first landed, it looked like you’re average lobster silhouette.  After a day or two, it had grown to something huge.  It had supposedly done this on the nutrients in the air.  How is that possible in such a short period of time?

Speaking of which, it’s almost impressive how they managed to make the gargon at all.  In the first scene, it looks like they may have used a real lobster or possibly a rubber mockup of one.  By the end of the movie, it looked like they were superimposing a shadow over regular footage.  It was somewhat fake looking by today’s standards.  It’s forgivable considering the age.

It’s not an overly complicated plot.  If you’re looking for hidden meaning, you’ll have to look elsewhere.  The characters aren’t particularly well developed.  Betty is a normal potential love interest.  Grandpa is a generic grandfather-type character.

I’d say it’s mostly suitable for children.  I think the only objectionable part would be that Thor kills a dog and several people.  As I said, you don’t actually see the death, but it’s fairly obvious that it happened.  The gargon wasn’t that scary to me and was shown only briefly.  It’s kind of difficult to judge how a small child might interpret it.  I suppose there are worse ways to spend 85 minutes.

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