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Don’t Open That Door! #35: 'Teenagers From Outer Space' (1959)

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Thursday, Mar 21, 2013
Welcome to our weekly field guide to 1950s horror and sci-fi movies and the creatures that inhabit them. This week: those crazy kids are at it again in Teenagers From Outer Space.
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Teenagers From Outer Space

Director: Tom Graeff
Cast: Tom Graeff (as David Love), Dawn Anderson, Bryan Grant, Harvey B. Dunn, King Moody

(US theatrical: Jun 1959)

Alternative title: Earth Girls Are Easy


POSITIVES:


A camp-filled fun fest.


Good pace throughout; hefty 85-minute runtime rarely flags.


Exposition-filled beginning and good surprise at the end.


Surprisingly high body count.


Alien monster thing is a lobster. No shit, a lobster.
  
NEGATIVES: 


Monster only minimally in evidence, and more laughable than scary (but still, a lobster).


SYNOPSIS: A flying saucer arrives on Earth carrying a load of teenagers with names like Thor and Derek, plus their lantern-jawed captain, who appears related to Ed O’Neill of Married With Children. These interplantary white supremacists (there is much talk of “our supreme race”) decide that Earth is a perfect grazing ground for their herds of giant, flesh-eating Gargons, and the presence of human beings is of little concern. Only sensitive Derek, who busily reads from a forbidden book of Pablo Neruda poems in his spare time, has qualms. He’s quickly outvoted, so he runs off from his heartless companions, one of whom is dispatched to catch him while the others return to their home planet to pick up the Gargon fleet and conduct it to Earth. The race is on.




Soon, Derek—whose English is very good, by the way, though he has trouble with unfamiliar concepts like “doggie license”—has enlisted the aid of vapid but relentlessly cheerful local teen Betty and her equally cheery Grandpa, who appears to be an abuser of anti-depressant medications. Betty leads him cheerfully though vapidly from spot to spot while Thor dogs their heels, wiping out innocent Earthlings as effectively as Schwarzeneggar in The Terminator. Before long the cops are in on the mayhem, fighting back as best they can, but their pistols are no match for the disintegrator death-ray that is Thor’s weapon of choice. The body count ratchets up with surprising speed, leaving behind a clattering trail of skeletons and smoke. And don’t forget that giant Gargon monster-thing in the cave outside of town…


Even when the threat of serial killer Thor is temporarily put on hold—through no one’s doing but his own, it must be admitted—the danger isn’t over, for this is the moment that the larger-than-you-want-it-to-be Gargon escapes and goes on a rampage. Well, a rampage of sorts. Actually it doesn’t do much more than stand around in the wilderness, waving its admittedly numerous appendages while background music swells in volume. The weak monster sequence is partly redeemed by the last few minutes, in which an unexpected (?) twist or two cleverly keeps viewers guessing right up to the end.



Best line of dialogue: “Grandpa was so exhausted, he fell asleep with all of his clothes on.” (Tell me honestly, sweetheart—how often does that happen?)


Did you notice? When the nurse is attacked by Thor in her car, she reacts—shrieks, stiffens, passes out—before he hits her.


What gets zapped: a dog; a couple luckless humans; a bathing beauty; a PhD; pistol-packin’ plainclothes detectives (2); a curious detective; several members of a search party; a hundred invading spaceships loaded with countless Gargons; the supreme leader of an interstellar cult of personality and a few of his lieutenants; his kid.


Party game: Play “Invade this, buddy”—but you have to make up your own rules. Just try to keep it clean, okay?


Did you know? In colonial times, lobsters in Boston Harbor grew up to six feet long.


Somehow their careers survived—or did they? David Love (Derek) is actually a pseudonymn for Tom Graeff, who also wrote, produced, directed and edited the movie. I guess he didn’t want people to realize he’d cast himself as the star as well. Graeff was also responsible for the cinematography, music and special effects, but sadly, this Renaissance Man never made any other films. Dawn Anderson (Betty) never made any other movies either. Bryan Grant (Thor) did some TV work in the ‘60s (guest shots on Daniel Boone and Perry Mason) but made no more movies either. Hmm, do I detect a pattern here? Harvey B. Dunn (Grandfather) had showed up in 1955’s Bride of the Monster, directed by Ed Wood, and would end his career with a small role in My Fair Lady (1964). King Moody (the Captain) had a positively stellar career compared to his co-stars, appearing in such films as Terror at Black Falls (1962), The Destructors (1968) and 1992’s The Nutt House. He also guest-starred in tons of TV shows, ranging from Combat, Sea Hunt and Get Smart! in the ‘60s to ChiPs, Quantum Leap and Night Court in the ‘80s. Now that’s a Renaissance Man.




BOTTOM LINE: This underrated nugget is good fun, and much better than its kitsch-camp title would suggest.


NEXT WEEK: The Deadly Mantis (1957)


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