“Mystery Science Theater 3000” still ranks as one of my favorite TV shows of all time. It satisfied my love of old B-movies along with my love of bizarre humor. I love the way the makers of this show turned so many films into comedies, yet I still love watching the original versions of the films…without the riffs. Today’s movie is one that is unique in the annals of B-science fiction. This film is a cheap and cheesy as any, but it was played for laughs on purpose. Whether or not 1962’s “Invasion of the Star Creatures” actually succeeds at being funny is debatable, however.
The film concerns two Army privates, Pvt Philbrick (Bob Ball) and Pvt Penn (Frankie Ray). One day, Colonel Rank (Mark Ferris) sends a platoon out to investigate a strange cave that has formed in a crater caused by a recent nuclear test. As the men investigate the cave, Philbrick and Penn are separated from the group and end up encountering some strange, plant-like creatures. It doesn’t take long for the two men to end up captured, strapped to tables in a strange, futuristic type room.
It turns out that the creatures are under the control of two shapely female alien scientists, Dr. Tanga (Gloria Victor) and Professor Puna (Dolores Reed). They have been investigating Earth for 10 years (they would’ve left sooner except that their ship was badly damaged on landing). It seems that their home planet, though far more advanced than ours, is small and overpopulation is a big problem. So they have been forced to seek a new planet to inhabit, and Earth is a prime candidate to be conquered. They’ve already managed to imprison the rest of Philbrick and Penn’s platoon in a state of suspended animation.
What these sexy aliens didn’t count on was finding out about this strange thing called “love” from these dorky army recruits. After Philbrick succeeds in getting Dr. Tanga to fall in love with him, the two soldiers manage to escape. Upon returning to the base, they get Colonel Rank to join them in stopping the two interstellar hotties and their carrot men from carrying out their plans.
I suppose one could make the case that “Invasion of the Star Creatures” was ahead of its time in recognizing the comedic potential in the sci-fi flicks of the day. That is, if it had actually managed to pull off the comedy, but the film just isn’t funny. I admit I did chuckle a few times, but if I recall, those were moments that weren’t intended to be comedic. Both Bob Ball and Frankie Ray lack the sense of comedic timing to make this material work. Ray, in more of the straight man part, has no variety in his approach while Ball can’t decide if he’s channeling Lou Costello, Joe Besser, or Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion.
On the other hand, though their performances are not exactly Oscar-worthy either, I did enjoy Gloria Victor and Dolores Reed. There is a great tradition of gorgeous but evil alien women in B-science fiction flicks and these two are as uppity and self-righteous as any of them. As for the vegetable men, they are wonderfully horrible. Among the dopiest monsters in the movie history.
Oddly enough, I think “Invasion of the Star Creatures” would’ve had more success had it been played straight. There’s a certain charm to things like vegetable men and hotties from outer space, but this film’s weak grasp of comedy takes away from that a bit. You will laugh at this film, but not for the reasons the filmmakers intended.