When Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith founded United Artists in 1919 with dreams of greater creative control, I doubt any of them imagined that the likes of “Invisible Invaders” would one day be released under that company banner. I guess you could make a case that this 1959 sci-fi cheapie displays a great deal of creativity as it manages to create a feature-length film with a limited cast, a handful of sets, and an awful lot of stock footage. Creativity sure…but a quality film, that’s another thing all together.
The story begins with a nuclear scientist, Dr. Karol Noyman (John Carradine), perishing while conducting his experiments. This leads his grief-stricken colleague, Dr. Adam Penner (Philip Tonge), to decide to leave nuclear research, declaring that we don’t know what we’re doing. He uses his graveside eulogy for his friend to announce all this. Hey dude, how about talking about your dead buddy for minute…way to make it all about you.
After the funeral is done, we see that there are strange things going on in the cemetery. Something unseen is pushing aside trees and dragging it’s invisible feet through the dirt. Later that night, Dr. Penner receives a visit from the corpse of Dr. Noyman. He informs Penner that he represents a race of invisible aliens who have the ability to posses the bodies of the dead. They have been watching the Earth for ages, never bothering with us because we were so primitive. But now that we have entered the space-age and are utilizing the power of the atom, they have no choice but to destroy us. The alien instructs Penner to tell the leaders of the world to surrender or face destruction. Of course, no one listens to Penner.
The aliens then decide to take to the airwaves. Using the bodies of corpses once again, they take control of press boxes at sporting events and declare to the crowds that their doom is coming. Soon the attack begins with massive amounts of death and destruction, all courtesy of stock footage.
The governments of the world are now desperate to find a way to stop the invisible invaders. Major Bruce Jay (John Agar) is dispatched to bring Penner, his daughter Phyllis (Jean Byron), and Penner’s colleague Dr. John Lamont (Robert Hutton) to an underground bunker to work on a way of stopping the aliens. Eventually, they hit on the idea of capturing an alien so they can learn the secrets of it’s invisibility. They figure that the aliens get in and out of the bodies through the pores, so they decide to trap one inside a body by spraying it with a hardening substance, using a modified fire extinguisher. When that doesn’t work, they resort to luring one into a pool of the goo. Eventually having captured a creature, they learn that sound waves hold the key to their invisibility and our four heroes race destroy them before humanity is wiped off the Earth.
I guess it’s not a good sign that this film shares a key plot element with Ed Wood’s notorious “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” which was released the same year. That being the reanimation of corpses by alien invaders. The activities of these invaders, though, depends almost entirely on the stock footage that was available to the producers. They managed to find footage of a military jet crashing, so the invaders posses the body of the dead pilot. By the way, the footage of the crash is quite dramatic, except for the fact that it crashes right into a large X painted onto the side of a mountain. Since the filmmakers got hold of some footage of a hockey game, the invaders use the PA system at a hockey game to announce the destruction of the human race. It’s actually kind of fun to look for all the moments in the film where stock footage was used.
As for the sequences that actually involved actors, well, they spend an awful lot of time standing around looking at things. The dialogue is stilted and robotic, especially the silly narration. There’s more life in the lumbering in corpses. It’s all quite horrible, but it’s also a lot fun. If you’re the type of person who seeks out cheap 50’s sci-fi flicks, this is the sort of thing you want to see.
Chaplin, Pickford and company probably would’ve called the whole thing off had they known United Artists would’ve produced something like this a mere 40 years after they dreamt it up. But I, and all the other B-movie fans around the world, thank them from the bottom of my heart for the wonderfully horrible goodness that is “Invisible Invaders.”