Invisible Invaders (1959) Directed by Edward L Cahn. Responsible for 2 of my favorite films of the 50s It, The Terror From Beyond Space 1958 and The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake 1959
Stars the ever present John Agar (Tarantula 1955, Brain From Planet Arous 1957) as Major Bruce Jay.
Philip Tonge (Miracle on 34th Street 1947, Witness For The Prosecution 1957) as Dr Adam Penner. His role as Adam Penner was the final role for Philip Tonge. He died on January 28 1959 before this film went into release on May 15 (shooting began December 11 1958)
Jean Byron as Phyllis Penner (The Magnetic Monster 1953 tv actress, mom on The Patty Duke Show , Pat in the Columbo episode Ransom for a Dead Man 1971)
and Robert Hutton (Tales From The Crypt 1972 Trog 1972 The Vulture, The Slime People 1963) as Dr John Lamont and small part by Hal Torey (Earth vs The Spider, The Cosmic Man) as a local Farmer turned dead man walking.
And of course the inimitable John Carradine as Karol Noymann, dead scientist inhabited by the lead invisible.
Released May 15th 1959 Double billed with The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake. Music by Paul Dunlop offers up a very science eerie sonic landscape. Written by Samuel Newman and Phillp Sheer is responsible for the very effective re animated corpse make-up.
Invisible Invaders predates Night of The Living Dead 1968 by 9 years.
Night Of The Living Dead offered up more of a variety of local dead folk, some even in their boxer shorts and nightgowns.
From the book Interviews with Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers. Writers Producers, Directors, Actors Moguls and Makeup by Tom Weaver. McFarland Press. On page 11 interview with John Agar.
Asking John Agar how much guidance he got from Ed Cahn on the set of Invaders.
Agar says “Edward Cahn was Mr Speed-O He’d jump and almost get in the shot before he’d yell “cut” But in all fairness I have to say that directors like Eddie Cahn Didn’t really have a chance. They had a schedule to contend with and they wanted those films finished ka-boom. I think he did the best he could with the time he had. but in something like Invisible invaders it’s pretty much learn the lines and get’em out. They just didn’t have the money to stay there and work on it.”
A silly fun fact:
In the film, John Carradine’s character is named Dr. Karol Noymann. In the
ending cast list, his character is listed as Carl Noymann
An alien contacting scientist Adam Penner in the form of the corpse of Karol Noymann famous scientist killed in a laboratory experiment comes knocking on Penner’s door. The disembodied voice of Noymann informs Penner that they have been on the moon for twenty thousand years, undetected due to their invisibility, and have now decided to annihilate humanity unless all the nations of earth surrender immediately. Hiding out in an impenetrable laboratory bunker trying to find the key to the aliens’ invisibility and thus penetrating their weakness, Penner, his daughter, a pragmatic army major and a squeamish scientist are attacked from outside the cave bunker by the aliens, who have occupied the bodies of the recently deceased.
This is one of those 50s sci-fi films where the military is working with science and not in conflict with it, to defeat a common enemy invader that threatens to destroy our world.
The opening sequence starts with a mushroom cloud.What I call “the control voice” not unlike The Outer Limits, dons the cautionary tale tone for us “Since the first revelation of the atom at Hiroshima in 1945. The United States England and Russia have more and more been experimenting with increasingly more deadly weapons. Everyday there’s more concentration on the race for atoms supremacy. Sometimes machines and men such as Karol Noymann are driven beyond the line of endurance”
This is illustrated by a frame of Noymann (Carradine) in his laboratory looking at a beaker of fluid, hovering over a flask of dark liquid. surrounded by tubes and the various regalia in scientist’s lair.
“and when that happens”
Suddenly the screen explodes in a burning white cloud of smoke. Now we see a newspaper article with the headline NOTED SCIENTIST KILLED IN ATOM LAB EXPLOSION.
There is some stock footage of the Pentagon and the control voice continues to fill us in.
“In Washington there begins an intense discussion by high ranking officials.”
General Stone played by Paul Langton tells “Dr Penner, science is your business” here is where the delineation of who has the authority in terms of scientific knowledge and military control are synthesized. The disclosure of the structured military institution for this plot is now set forth for us, so that we know who will take charge of “protecting us” from the enemy by subsuming the work of a diligent scientific community who will work to find a remedy that the military will implement. Science is still under the control of the military authority.
The big wig General Stone is ascribing how scientist Penner will be involved in the process. And it always comes down to these very simplistic terms, like ” you do the science, we protect our nation” As General Stone continues he even says “Protecting this country is mine”
From the outset we understand that Dr Penner is anti- nuclear weapons.
One of the themes of this film is the ongoing atomic scare threat that we brought these invaders upon us, not only because they are inherently hostile but because we developed the bomb and have shown aggression ourselves on our own planet towards each other, pose a threat to other life forms in the universe so they are stepping in to intercede but not on behalf of peace, but in order to destroy us first. The dialogue exchange between military and science spells it out very clearly when the two men argue.
“You say we should call an immediate end to nuclear experimentation, you know that’s impossible” Penner says “Then limit it to experiments for peace”Which is an oxymoron for the military to experiment with peaceful tests, they are the military!
Penner tells the general that since he can’t change his mind he is resigning from the commission. The General tells him that he’s being panicked by one incident, but Penner warns him that the area around Dr Noymann’s lab won’t be livable for years. Every test shows pollution of our atmosphere. So Invaders also becomes an environmental cautionary tale woven in, not just about national security and invasion. General Stone tries to assuage him that decontamination crews are cleansing the area, but Penner asserts “The air that we breath.. what can you do, cleansing the air…straining as you would dirty water?”
He throws his hands up in a gesture of futility. “Radioactive particles have been blown into space….who can tell when those particles will come down to earth again.” General Stone once again implores him to stay because he’s such an asset, but Penner tells him his attitude now would be more of a hindrance to the project. Penner flies home to Noymann’s funeral with no intention of coming back to Washington. At the eulogy he speaks of how he and Noymann did science that would benefit humanity. ”
Somewhere our ideals were lost…a deadly weapon that he was helping to create killed him” As Penner continues his tribute, we hear the eerie Theremin wavering of sound, then we see from the knees down a strange figure dragging it’s legs and feet through the sand until it becomes invisible. Only visible are the tracks of dirt being moved forward as if the figure were still walking.
The tree branches and leaves move aside as if something passes through them. Penner finishes his eulogy by pledging not to work on anything destructive again.