Invisible Invaders (1959)

invaders3 The walking dead roam the earth, used as vessels by invisible aliens intent on conquering humans. The terror begins when a famous physicist (John Carradine) is blown to smithereens in a nuclear experiment gone bad. His sudden death and the damage to the surrounding area and atmosphere leads Carradine’s good friend and colleague (Philip Tonge) to crusade for a limit to these experiments. He resigns and on the night of Carradine’s funeral, is visited by an alien in Carradine’s body. The thing has come to issue an ultimatum to citizens of Earth: surrender within 24 hours or face invasion and extermination.

Tonge tries to convey this message to his daughter (Jean Byron) her uptight scientist friend (Robert Hutton) and Washington officials, but you can predict their reactions. The poor man is mocked on the front pages of papers nationwide (in a very funny bit) and his warnings fall on deaf ears so the aliens issue their own, throw the planet into a panic and start their devastating attack. Suddenly Tonge doesn’t sound so cuckoo, so they make him the head of a new task force and lock him, Byron and Hutton in a bunker with the protection of a brave Major (John Agar). Tonge works on finding a way to beat the aliens, Byron and Agar work on making eyes at each other, and Hutton works on trying to contain his fear. In the space of a few days, the world burns and humanity is brought to its knees while these four test a chemical spray and an acrylic bath, and face failure until Hutton’s epic panic attack gives Tonge the brilliant idea he needs.

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Invisible creatures and zombies are budget-friendly enemies. The aliens briefly appear at Carradine’s funeral as a pair of pale scaly legs, and then at the end as ghostly lizard-shaped humanoids (wearing the costume from It! The Terror from Beyond Space). At all other times you know they’re near when the geiger counter crackles, when the leaves rustle, or when unseen shuffling feet make tracks in the dirt (apparently this highly evolved species doesn’t lift their feet when they walk). They use human bodies to knock out hockey commentators and grab their mic to issue threats, or as armies of walking dead marching across the countryside searching for the bunker, and then all you need is a bunch of extras with black makeup smeared around the eyes. In any form, they sound like John Carradine. Nothing fancy in the effects department but just fine for this story, and nearly a decade before Night of the Living Dead.

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So why do the aliens invade now? They’ve lived inside the moon for eons, paying little attention to us “slow” humans, but our development of spacecraft and nukes have convinced them to take over. Not that they’re peace-loving, mind you. Whatever moral there is here comes not from a wiser race of alien wagging its finger at our dangerous scientific ambition, but from the ability of mankind to pull together against a common enemy. Plus a bonus moral, that one hysterical wimpy male having a meltdown can help save the world.

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There are ticking clocks, new deadlines and countdowns every few scenes: invasion starts at 11:30, there’s not enough time to spray them completely, or “we only have a few hours of air left in this bunker!” There’s a sound wave gun that needs to be aimed directly at the aliens, and bunker occupants can monitor outside activities with a closed circuit TV system that provides multiple angles and cinematic close-ups. Agar puts on a radiation suit that looks like it’s made out of terry towel, and vanquished aliens dissolve into mounds of suds. Director Edward L. Cahn did this in a short time, in few sets and locations and with spare effects, but it’s good alien-zombie fun.

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9 thoughts on “Invisible Invaders (1959)”

  1. Nice to see more people reviewing this one. It’s not a “classic”, but it’s good fun and pretty hilarious in spots. I still get a laugh at the end of the world being announced at a pair of 1959 sports events when there were probably not so many people watching hockey or football (or whatever was playing at that second stadium) at that time on TV. No wonder the body count was so high after the aliens started all that sabotage!

    1. Yeah I really enjoy these. Those newspaper headlines were hilarious, rarely have I seen such mockery. That’s true, they go to games both times, you’d think if they were watching us for years they’d know to hit the Ed Sullivan show or a Presidential news conference or something. Thanks!

  2. Great, fun review. As you may know, it’s been suggested that this movie (along with “Carnival of Souls” and “The Last Man on Earth”) influenced Night of the Living Dead. Hard to say in this case, and Romero would probably rather not admit it.

    1. Thanks very much, I love these types of movies. Definitely reminded me of Living Dead and makes sense this (and the others you named) might be an influence, nothing in movies ever pops out of nowhere. And that’s a big part of the fun of watching/learning about movies, is spotting those precedents.

    1. Thanks for lending it from your library! Lots of fun. When you’re young you think things just appear out of nowhere (in this example Romero zombies, but many other things) and it’s always enjoyable the deeper you get into movies, and find these little influences, sometimes in the most unlikely places.

  3. Great newspaper photo of the Invisible Invader!

    As soon as I saw “war to-the-death of all civilization!” in the movie poster, I knew this was my kind of movie.

    1. I know, the headlines mocking the poor messenger here, never have I seen such mockery from the press. They were eating those papers when the aliens finally landed!

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