Invisible Invaders (1959)


three star


Although it’s a lot more small-scale charming than hilariously inept, the black & white cheapie Invisible Invaders shares a lot with the alien takeover by way of zombie mind control plot of Ed Wood’s trashterpiece Plan 9 From Outer Space, right down to the over-reliance on stock footage and the 1959 release date. An essential difference between the two pictures, however, can be detected in the “Invisible” half of Invisible Invaders’ title. In Ed Wood’s Plan 9, the Earth invaders are sassy, overdressed fops who re-animate lifeless corpses as a Plan B (or “Plan I” really, seeing how far they got down their list of options). In Invisible Invaders, the plot to “inhabit the bodies of dead Earth men” is not only the initial plan, but also a necessary one, as the aliens who invade our planet are invisible alien spirits without physical bodies to call their own (which isn’t too far from the “Thetans” of Scientology).

You see, the titular Invisible Invaders have been around for a long time. A really long time. According to their initial contact in the film they, in fact, conquered & eliminated all life on the Earth’s moon more than 20,000 years ago, converting the natural satellite into their own impregnable space base and have been just kinda . . . chilling there ever since. Makes total sense, but what would prompt these superior, unseeable beings to finally snap out of their moon haze and set their eyes on the main planet? Because the film was produced during the cold war, the answer is, of course, that our rapid development of space travel & atomic weapons alarmed them to the point where they had no choice to intervene.  Their mode of intervention just happened to be raising & weaponizing our dead to work against us.

Even when this story is not being spelled out in detail by the invisible (yet very talkative) space aliens in question, it’s also reinforced by narration that just refuses to quit (or at least fade into the background temporarily). The endless narration is a blessing in disguise, as the film’s continuous use of stock footage & mock headlines would make very little sense without a vocal guiding hand. There’s a lesson at the heart of Invisible Invaders (that is thankfully spelled out for those not paying attention) that there are dangers in “the race for atom supremacy” that could be avoided if the nations of the world decided to stand side by side in a common cause instead of competing for the top spot in global supremacy. That message, however, is a little weak in comparison to the film’s surface, Ed Woodian charms: a body-snatching zombie plot; hilariously disconnected stock footage; very sciencey science labs featuring all kinds of smoking, bubbling liquids; and the kind of adorable practical effects you would expect in a 50s film in which you weren’t allowed to show aliens physically attacking the planet, due to their invisible nature. It’s a lot more likely that a modern audience would find the film entertaining for those cheap, campy thrills than its moralizing about the nuclear arms race, but it’s an adorable film all the same.

-Brandon Ledet