29 June 2011



1958/Director: Bruno VeSota/ Writer: Gordon Urquhart

Cast: Ed Nelson (also producer), Leonard Nimoy, Alan Frost, Joanna Lee, Jody Fair, David Hughes, Robert Ball, Greigh Phillips, Orville Sherman   

This not a film to write home about in any sense of the word, but at a mere sixty minutes and featuring an early performance by Leonard Nimoy (billed as Leonard Nemoy) it is not a total waste of time. Produced by and starring Ed Nelson and directed by Bruno VeSota (the sexually frustrated fat guy in Attack of the Giant Leeches) and so based on The Puppet Master by Robert A. Heinlein  that AIP was sued. Roger Corman settled the deal out of court for $5000 and the promise that Heinlein receive no credit for “inspiring” Gordon Urqhart’s lifeless screenplay. But as I said, the film is not really that bad that it cannot be seen and enjoyed.

The story moves along and is aided by often campy and unnecessary narration. For example in one scene we are told that the heros are visiting the local telegraph station, but there is not need to inform us of this since we can see with own two eyes that they are doing this. But it adds for some laughs, though I assume unintended ones. The residents of peaceful Riverdale Illinois have recently been plagued by violent murders and now must contend with the appearance a huge alien craft that has either come from space or the bowels of the Earth. The mystery is compounded when a scientist believed long lost reappears from the craft after some fifty years. Some of the town’s folk have fallen prey to small parasitic organisms that look like little “tribles” (as in Star Trek) with pipe cleaners for antennae that attach to the base of their necks and control their thoughts and actions. Scientist Paul Kettering (Ed Nelsen) is hot on the mystery and even journeys into the alien craft seeking answers, with are not forthcoming. A lot of the action winds up being fist fights or gun battles between the infected and uninfected, or verbal sparring between everyone and the cantankerous Senator Powers (Cornelius Keefe, billed as Jack Hill and so it is not director Jack Hill in an early acting role as is often thought). On a return trip inside the ship Kettering finds another long lost scientist, Professor Cole under total control of the alien creatures and  who is played by Leonard Nimoy, but you would not know if not for the voice. The action ends with high voltage wires frying the little brain eaters to death and the hero dying to save the girl.

The movie has potential with the material but does not do too much with it. What have been better is if the people under the control of the creatures were not so apparent. Some act like zombies practically. It would have had more tension had the cast and audience not known who was and was not  infected, like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Thing. I would also say a little more violence would have helped, as well as more frightening creatures. To the film’s credit it does not go over board with scientific explanations and long dialogs as is typical of a lot of films of the period. The movie takes itself seriously and the laughs are unintentional, which can make for a good time. The movie poster is one of my favorites, but here is nothing in the entire film like it. There is no woman with vampire fangs and exposed brain, or hordes people fleeing some monster. In fact the monsters are little fuzz balls that a horde of fleeing people would squash. Can I recommend the film? Sure. It is required cult film viewing in fact, and as I said it is only about an hour in length, about the same time you would spend at the dentist’s getting a cleaning.

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