Many black & white alien invasion movies from the 1950s have found a second life in the last few decades as targets for sarcastic derision at the hands of MST3k & similarly-minded snark peddlers. I think the reason Invasion of the Saucer Men largely escaped this treatment was that it was more than willing to make fun of itself in a way that sucked the joy out of any potential bullying. An irreverent horror comedy of sorts, Invasion of the Saucer Men treats its teenage-marketed 50s sci-fi horror genre tropes with such a continuous wink & shrug attitude that making fun of the film in any way feels redundant at best. Filmed almost entirely on a sound studio lot with no budget to speak of, the movie originally was pitched as a drama & developed into a comedy sometime during production. In that decision the film avoided slipping into a mockably goofy triviality & instead became an intentionally goofy triviality. It’s a minor distinction, but an important one.
A “true story of a flying saucer” told over the course of a single night, Invasion of the Saucer Men is just one gentle push away from becoming a full-blown genre spoof. Its small town setting of Hicksville & population of drunk drifters, dimwitted farmers, and eternally horny teens all feel like a direct mockery of the many by-the-numbers sci-fi horror flicks that proceeded it. And that’s not even to mention the film’s standard issue alien invaders, which look like prototypes for Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks. The plot doesn’t truly kick off until a hot & heavy teen couple accidentally strike & kill one of said evil invaders with their car on the way home from canoodling. Because of the “little green men’s” stature they at first assume that they killed a small child, but when that “child’s” hand detaches from its lifeless body, grows an eyeball, and crawls away, they quickly realize what they’re dealing with is not of this planet. The question is if they can convince their fellow citizens of Earth they’re under attack from extraterrestrial forces before it’s too late.
It’s funny to think that Invasion of the Saucer Men was released on a double bill with I Was a Teenage Werewolf under the tagline “We DARE you to see the most amazing pictures of our time!”, since that’s the exact kind of old school, teen-oriented sci-fi horror the film mildly lampoons. Invasion of the Saucer Men is far from a full-blown spoof, but it does directly reference the violence & fantasy in other teen films, so its tongue-in-cheek genre mockery plays as entirely intentional. My very favorite moment in the film is when our eternally horny teen heroes trek out to Make Out Point to recruit their fellow oversexed peers to help save the day because the adults of Hicksville won’t believe them. It’s a gag I’ve seen repeated with the moviegoers of America in Night of the Lepus & the Greatest Generation of navy men in Battleship and it’s one that never fails to amuse me. Invasion of the Saucer Men could’ve been (a goofy) one for the ages with a few more gags that inspired, but as is it’s an enjoyable, self-deprecating genre spoof that proves remarkably difficult to mock.