March 29, 2009

"The Least You Could Do Is Ply Me With Liquor."

I MARRIED A MONSTER
FROM OUTER SPACE
(1958)
Directed by Gene Fowler, Jr.
Starring:
Tom Tryon – Bill Farrell
Gloria Talbott – Marge Bradley Farrell
Robert Ivers – Harry Phillips
Alan Dexter – Sam Benson
Chuck Wassil – Ted Hanks

I know. The title screams camp, immediately bringing to mind smart-ass kids snickering so hard soda shoots out their noses; snorting at another, hysterical “so bad it’s good” movie. And truly, who can blame the little shits anyway? It’s a stupid, unfortunate title, tailor-made for parody and ridicule; born of an age when titles were often designed to sound like a cheap tabloid headlines. Gene Fowler, Jr., the very fine director of this film, was twice forced by studios into this little sub-genre; taking the helm for I Was a Teenage Werewolf as well (he fared far better here).

The film’s original PR campaign didn’t exactly shoot for the stars. With original posters picturing a monster chasing around actress Gloria Talbott in a white wedding dress and high heels, Atomic Age audiences weren’t being promised Wuthering Heights. In fact, it was the second feature (a true B-movie), playing after The Blob. That is, I Married a Monster From Outer Space (IMAMFOS) hit the theaters a B-movie playing second fiddle to a B-movie; a “camp classic” if there ever was one. To be fair, Paramount didn’t make this picture to win any Oscars – they made it to make money and put teenage butts in the theater seats or steaming up the windows at a drive-in; any cinematic quality probably coming as a very happy fringe benefit.

All this to say that if you come to this movie expecting a high-old snicker-fest, you are to be forgiven. Everything in the film’s DNA predisposes you to this position. I would urge you, however, to clear your mind of all preconceptions. As says the Bard; “So may the outward shows be least themselves . . .”

Almost immediately the movie belies its outward show, opening up with a nice, gritty dose of 1950s claustrophobic cynicism. We begin our story with a few friends in a local nightclub, The Kings, celebrating the upcoming wedding of one of their own, Bill (Tom Tryon). We first observe this wedding party through the eyes of two working girls sitting at the bar:

“Those guys ain’t even giving us a hard look,” says one, a particularly well traveled blonde with a tight, plunging top and Teutonic bun.

The other girl, also a seasoned veteran who has attempted a softer hairstyle (which makes her look even more raw boned), turns and gives the table the benefit of her experienced eye. “Maybe they’re married or something.” She decides.

The first pro thinks that over for a moment. “Well, if we’re willing to overlook it, they certainly oughta,” she concludes reasonably, tipping back her drink.

The camera moves smoothly to our table of buddies, and we can instantly see we have a table of very drunk young men, all on that shiny-eyed, slurry edge where fun-loving could turn mean with one misfired synapse. This is not the sparkling inebriation of young socialites often portrayed in the screwball comedies of the late 30s and early 40s, full of wit and winsome spirit, all lit in soft focus and lip-shine. Nope, this is more a hunch-shouldered drunk of young men of the 50s, more likely than not a few of which are Korean War veterans, staring into their shot glasses with nasty grins and dark-rimmed eyes; giving one of their own what must pass for a “bachelor party.”

In the 30s/40s, our gay troupe of sophisticates would have some droll shenanigans up their natty sleeves, some clever lark or other that would result in the very dickens of a tangle. By way of contrast, the group of young men in IMAMFOS will more than likely pick up the two hookers at the bar before the night’s over, flipping a coin to see who gets who. Before that happy conclusion, though, they will cap off their grim, intense party with their considered views on the blessed institution of marriage. Let’s listen in for a bit:

“Hey, Waiter!” calls Harry (Robert Ivers), signaling with his hand, “Mr. Ferrell (Bill) is getting married in the morning. Give him a drink. A ‘freedom on the rocks.’”

“I am married,” says Ted (Chuck Wassil), placing the side of his finger heavily on the waiter’s wrist. “Get me another drink. Every one of us is married, has been married, or is about to get married. Get everyone a drink.” His tone is far from joyous or even sarcastic. It is slurred, heavy and bitter. He tucks the blade of his hand into his pants, driving home his point.

Bill Farrell, our soon to be husband and also clearly the least drunk and most responsible guy at the table, has had enough good times for one night. He begs off, claiming he has promised his future wife, Marge (Gloria Talbott), a visit before going home.

Sam (Alan Dexter), the drunkest yet most jovial of the bunch, manages to clutch at Bill’s arm as he’s leaving. “See your bride the night before the wedding?” he slurs, his eyes struggling for focus, “that’s bad luck.”

Tom Tryon, Chuck Wassil, Alan Dexter, and Robert Ivers

“Seeing your bride after the wedding, that’s bad luck,” offers Ted, again sans smile. He grabs Bill’s arm, bringing him in close, and pokes his finger in Bill’s chest (Ted is one of those large men that likes to make his point with the blunt end of his finger). “Get in touch with me when you get your divorce. Then I’ll throw you a real party.”

Getoutahere says Bill, slapping his hand away, and exits, stage left. Our table of friends watch him go. “He’s such a nice guy,” says Harry, who has the bright, soulless eyes of a serial killer. “it’s a shame it has to happen to him.” Everyone at the table knows that the “it” that is “happening” to Bill is marriage.

You’re such a bright boy, says Sam, leaning over the table, his Brelcreamed hair no longer neat, “how come you never figured out a way out of avoiding matrimony?”

“I did,’ says Harry.

“Well?”

“It hurts,” says Harry quietly.

“You’re making noise but there’s no message coming through,” says Sam in a great bit of 50s patter. “What’s your solution?”

Harry shows his teeth in what must be a grin. “Mass suicide.”

Yes, indeed. Harry’s wife sure is one lucky lady, to be sure.

We gratefully leave this cloudy gathering of embittered souls before they either A) turn their dark attentions to the to working girls or B) find a hapless group of college kids to beat the shit out of, showing them a few tricks they learned back on Pork Chop Hill.

We catch up to Bill, who is driving home now, behind the wheel of his station wagon (station wagon? I told you he was the level-headed one). He brings his bulky ride to a screeching halt, thinking he sees a man lying in the road. He gets out to find nothing in the road at all. As Bill puts his hands on his hips and tries to remember how many drinks he’s had, a huge, glowing claw comes into frame and touches Bill’s shoulder, as if to get his attention. He turns and sees a large (extremely well done) alien monster, all glistening, pulpy mass and brain tubes, standing before him. He tries to scream, but can’t. He is paralyzed with terror as well, and can’t run (this often happens in movies, as I suppose it must. Speaking from my own experience in moments of sheer terror, I have been given the wings of Apollo, my feet striking the pavement in such rapid succession as to make a humming sound). Bill sinks to the ground and a creamy, black cloud envelopes him – envelopes him, then somehow absorbs him.

We cut immediately to the following day and preparations for the happy event, with the bride’s mother humming the wedding march and carrying a bundle of flowers. “Mother, would you stop that dirge!” demands Marge, resplendent in her white wedding gown and veil. Why, Margie, says mom, stuffing flowers into a vase, that’s the wedding march. “It’ll be a dirge when he gets here,” says Marge.

See, Bill is a bit late. Well, more than a bit, actually. He is the kind of “late for the wedding” that has turned Marge’s beautiful wedding dress into a big, white, puffy clown costume. To make matters worse for Marge, Ted and Ben are on hand as members of the groom’s party, both of them about as helpful as cement lifejackets; despite the fact that they are now sober and can actually stand without leaning against something.

“Aw, he isn’t that late,” mumbles hulking Ted without much conviction.

“Why no,” snaps Marge. “It’s still Tuesday.” We will find as we go along that Marge has a finely-sharpened tongue - another pleasant surprise. She moves in closer to the pair, who stiffen at her approach and the wilted bouquet she clutches in a death grip. “Just what were you boys drinking last night?” she asks, far too sweetly. Beer, says one - wine, says the other, making it clear that they were drinking pitchers of scotch. The pair give one another a “nice move, dumb ass” look, and Marge turns from them in disgust.

“Alright, so we had a few drinks, Marge,” says Ted, snapping his cuffs. “After all it was Bill’s last free night.” He immediately wants to bite his tongue off, but it’s too late – Marge immediately charges the net:

“Oh, well, thank you,” she says, putting icicles in the air.

Bill does finally show up, looking very excited and oddly blank. Marge shouts his name, forgiving him instantly, and rushes to him. “Sorry I’m late,” says Bill, his voice unsure. He looks more like a stranger in a strange land than a happy groom joining the wedding party; because that is exactly what he is. We know that bill isn’t bill anymore but an alien; and for the next several scenes of the couples’ honeymoon and early marriage, we will follow Marge as she comes to realize this, too.

We learn, as Marge does, the full story. A group of aliens from the Andromeda constellation have fled a dying planet. When the sun of their home planet became unstable, they built spaceships; but the building of these ships took too much time. As their sun became hotter and more intense, the females of their race all perished, leaving only the males to take to the ships, a doomed race of orphaned males, searching the endless cosmos for some way to breed.

As Marge slowly begins to grasp the truth, she learns that all of Bill’s friends and most of the men of the town have been taken over by the alien force; all intent on procreating with the women folk as soon as the alien scientists can figure out how to make that, well, work . . . mutating those tricky female chromosomes and whatnot. Once these fussy details are ironed out, the women of earth will become living wombs for alien babies, enabling the invaders to save their race from extinction. In the meanwhile, Marge is held captive within the confines of the town’s borders, turned back by alien policemen as she tries to drive out of town; her Western Telegraph messages to Washington torn up and thrown away by alien telegraph clerks.

Within their hidden craft, the aliens have developed a technology whereby Bill and the others are suspended like sides of beef above broadcast nodes, cables running from these blinking devices to their arms and legs. These gadgets allow the aliens to “broadcast” and inhabit a kind of physical hologram of their subjects, complete with memories. The aliens wear these broadcasted, flesh images like human suits, taking them on and off (the scene where Marge discovers this is one of the best in the film. She follows Bill one night on one of his nightly “walks,” following him deep into the woods where the aliens have hidden their ship. She watches as one of the glowing aliens steps out of the Bill suit and goes into the ship, leaving Bill’s form standing upright like a jacket left hanging in a closet. Marge comes up, touches the thing, and if falls straight back into the grass, eyes staring straight up. As Marge watches in horror, a beetle scurries out of the grass, crosses his face with antennae wiggling, and crawls across Bill’s bare eyeball).

Homo Sapiens

A wrinkle has developed in the aliens’ plan to turn the women of earth into a race of surrogates, however. It seems there is a little glitch in the human replicating technology: Along with the replication of the physical form, some of the subject -human’s emotional qualities are carried over into the flesh costume as well. Not a complete transference of gushy sentiment, of course, but when dealing with a race where sex was a loveless act done “strictly for breeding purposes,” any infusion of human-style feeling is quite unpredictable. One of the brilliant aspects of IMAMFOS is the way this is presented, most notably in a scene in Grady’s Bar, which is a hangout for Bill and his friends. The aliens in human suits still meet there, now discussing plans for the conquest of earth. The fascinating thing is, all the aliens have developed certain traits from their human originals, only in refined and intensified proportions. Harry, biting and edgy as a human, is now positively burning in angry hatred.

After the table of aliens refuses to even acknowledge a prostitute’s come-on (one definitely a bit lower on the food chain than the earlier professionals we met at the bachelor party), alien Harry leans forward, barely able to manage his volcanic contempt. “I’m tired of this childish game we play,” he says, his eyes burning holes into the table top.

Ben, gregarious and fun-loving as a human, has become a pure sensualist, a grinning satyr as alien Ben. “I don’t know anything about the unconscious of the body you took over,” he says smirking, “but as far as mine goes, there’s nothing childish about it.” Ben grins a shit-eating, crooked grin as old as the male species. It’s clear that alien Ben has forged ahead with the procreation-with-earth-women mission, screw a green light from the egghead, alien scientists and their time-consuming work with female chromosomes. He’s more than willing to conduct some pioneering field research and finds absolutely nothing wrong with female chromosomes as-is. Harry gets the message and looks over his shoulder at the whore. His face hardens in revulsion.

“Personally,” he hisses, “I find human beings disgusting.”

Ben leans forward as if telling a dirty secret. “I kinda like ‘em.” He says defiantly.

Bill, who got duplicated with a bad case of pre-wedding jitters and the raging emotions of groom on the eve of his betrothal, has become positively Macbethian in his gloamings. He is having a simply terrible time dealing with the completely baffling way humans experience love and sex in a tangling of physical spirituality. He is also having a harrowing time with the intense, passionate world of Marge; with her confusing and troubling need to be with him, talk to him, elicit some indication of emotion from him. Christ, even after she knows he’s an alien, Marge still wants to talk to him, find out what makes him tic.

“Like them or not,” he says, his voice authoritative but weary, his brow furrowed with thought, “we have to learn to live with them.” Amen, brother.

Eventually, others in town begin to suspect and come to believe Marge. The aliens are not a perfect match for earth; not by a far cry. Pure oxygen will kill them, as will any alcoholic beverage. The local doctor (Ken Lynch) comes to suspect after he kills alien Ben by forcing oxygen into the alien’s lungs after a boating accident. Grady (Maxie Rosenbloom) the local barkeep, has trouble understanding why the boys spend all night in his dump and never touch a drop. He gets so angry at this revoltin’ development that he confronts them one evening, even slugging bill several times. Bill’s expression never even changes.

The doctor and Ted round up the last remaining “human men” (Ted has proven his “human” manliness by stomping into the doc’s office, his shirt pockets stuffed with cigars, and announcing his wife is having twins) and they storm the alien scout ship, complete with shotguns, rifles and, snarling German Shepherds. The humans win the day, of course, but the finale – and all the elements that make the conclusion so tragic and triumphant at the same time, constitute the good stuff; which is:

Good Stuff Part I: Aliens and Sex

First and foremost, the complex way the aliens are given depth is the good stuff. IMAMFOS is often regarded as yet another film where invading aliens are thwarted by human emotion, or one where aliens “learn to love.” This is a tough trick at any rate, a filmmaker often seeming about as subtle as a bull swatting at a butterfly with a monkey wrench. And this isn’t quite what’s going on anyway.

The aliens in IMAMFOS are never thwarted by, or bereft of, emotion at any point in the movie. The horrible ending of the aliens (which I will get to in a bit) would have come, indeed does tragically come, regardless of their emotional state or lack thereof. It is obvious that they feel anger, affection, pleasure; a full range of emotions. In a crucial conversation, Marge asks alien Bill if scaring a woman makes him proud – that is, if monsters can understand pride. He is obviously wounded and tells her that yes, they can feel pride; but that they can’t afford it (or any other emotion that might hinder their race-saving mission). “You have no idea how rare life is in all those cold, countless miles of space,” he tells her.

Did you love your women? She asks him. No, he says, we only came together for breeding purposes. But here on earth, he is learning something, something about the way his adopted body seems to long for her, yearns to touch her; a feeling so deeply engrained as to be beyond his control (again – Amen, brother).

“Are you telling me you are . . . learning to love?” Marge asks him, her voice rising in . . . what? Horror? Hope?

He nearly leaps forward, leaning over her. She has missed the point, but come so very close. “I am learning what love is,” he says, explaining a small but crucial difference; as well as telling us what makes this film so enduringly special.

What has the alien so intrigued, so humbled, is the way humans twine sex and love in unpredictable and endless variations on the theme; the act of simple mating becoming, at the combustion of human bodies, something suddenly filled to brimming with perfect, spiritual harmony and utter surrender. This physical union, which couples our weak flesh with our highest nature in a moment of divine bliss, is our defining thing for the alien: the unique thing that creates our humanity. Without this, we are just one more combination of atoms in the cosmos, somehow fired up into life. Indeed, what first makes Marge so desperately unhappy, and from her very honeymoon onward has clued her in that something is terribly wrong, is that she and bill are “unable to have children” which is 1950s for he hasn’t ever made love to her.

The alien is not learning to “love” exactly, although that might be a bi-product of his real desire. What alien Bill wants, what has him fumbling around Marge - is the opportunity to experience what it is to be this “other” unique thing; to be human.

Good Stuff Part II: The Honeymoon

The slowly building tension and crafty scriptwriting (Louis Vittes) of the honeymoon scenes are Part II of the Good Stuff. The script and acting are so subtle and understated during this part of the movie, they warrant at least a second viewing for true appreciation. I watched this film recently three times before some of scenes were completely illuminated. After the ceremony, Bill is acting very strangely, seeming to forget how to drive a car, leaving Marge sitting in the car at the hotel, etc. She chalks it up to mutual nerves. Later, during dinner by candlelight, Marge is doing all the talking, an endless stream of what she herself realizes is nervous chatter. “You big idiot,” she says, “you better say something. I’m running out of small talk.”

“Why do we have to talk?” he asks.

She is happily taken-aback by this blunt approach, thinking he means it’s high time for the, ahem, consummation.

“Well,” she says, beaming and bright-eyed, “the least you could do is ply me with liquor.”

But, as we fully appreciate later, he isn’t hinting at a jump into bed; nor is he suggesting that, being an alien, speech with him is unnecessary or futile. He is asking an earnest question, just like it sounds. The alien is asking Marge why she feels the need to communicate with him at this particular time, and why does she need communication so acutely - why two humans, on the verge of breeding, would feel the need to talk to one another intimately. A great moment that improves with each viewing. Also superb is the moment on the windswept, ocean view balcony, with Marge gorgeous and nubile in her nightgown. She looks out over the water, her hair blowing off her face. “It’s a big ocean,” she says.

Alien bill is standing behind her in handsome smoking jacket. He has been staring at the back of her head. He shifts his attention to the view. He agrees, yes, it is a big ocean.

“Maybe you’ve guessed, “ she says, “but I’ve never been on a honeymoon before.”

He turns his head, focusing on her again. “Nether have I,” he says, his voice not at all unfriendly.

The film has many similar moments, a memorable shot here or there where the alien has heard some human phrase or concept that gives him pause. As poor luck would have it, Bill’s desire to understand Marge’s highly complex desires dovetails perfectly with her awareness of him as a “monster” (guys, how many times has this happened to you?).

Tom Tryon and Gloria Talbott

“I’m learning,” he says to her in one darkly lit scene (the film offers tremendous cinematography throughout from Haskell Boggs). He has come into her bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed.

She is laying in bed, looking very nice in her nightgown (the same one she wore on her honeymoon). “Learning?” she asks, frightened. She knows he is an alien by this point in the story, but no one has yet believed her. She has been forced into a charade of life - a marriage of horrible appearance.

“I’m your Husband, Marge.” He reaches out his hand, covers hers. She pulls her hand away and tugs the blanket a little higher, covering herself. Even an alien from the Andromeda Galaxy knows what the hell that means. “But you don’t want me here,” he says. Marge looks down, unable to meet his eyes. He watches her a moment, then stands. “Well, there’s always the guest room.” He walks from the room, pausing a moment in the doorway, framed in the light of the hall.

“It’s a nice idea, anyway,” he says.

She can’t help herself: “what is?” she asks.

“Making guests comfortable.”

Tragically, yet understandably, Marge is having none of the alien’s gradual and sincere shift toward her. More than once we see sympathy, or some hint of feminine concern, flit across Marge’s features regarding the alien, but nothing so powerful as her overriding desire to find her husband and, if possible, bring him back to her. The film-makers never make the mistake of presenting the aliens as “benign.” Alien Bill has killed the pet cat, after all, as well as a puppy Marge has brought home as an anniversary present, because animals can sniff aliens out (even here the film is subtle and well-rounded: we see alien Bill approaching the puppy in the basement, picking up a hammer from his workbench; yet he seems repulsed by the concept. He tosses the hammer back on the bench in an obvious gesture of self-disgust and frustration, choosing instead to use his hands). Further, the two alien cops who patrol the citizenry through the bulk of the film (Peter Baldwin and Jack Orrison) aren’t above using their service revolvers in the blithe execution of anyone deemed “not useful.”

Good Stuff Part III: The Ending

The end of the aliens is so brutal and graphic, the strange gore so captivating, one can almost miss the moments that supply its true power. As doc and the gang of men and dogs descent upon the ship, firearms and bared teeth bristling, it first seems that the aliens will take the day with ease. We see pistol and rifle shots being absorbed harmlessly into the instantly-healing bodies of the aliens, the bullets striking alien torsos with the sound of a hammer hitting a watermelon (the special effects are outstanding throughout); and the aliens are pretty handy with their three-pronged laser weapons, making a few earthlings vanish in a glowing silhouette. But then one of the local hunters releases the German Shepherds. The animals, sensing the alien’s soft spot, leap directly at the thick, heavy brain tubes which run from the face down into the alien chest. The huge dogs rip and snarl at these tubes, ripping them apart and sending jets of black, dense liquid (blood? Brain liquid?) pulsing out. The aliens, screeching horribly, die quickly once these vital veins have been severed (they must be suffering terribly as well. One alien, seeing his comrade so stricken, blasts him with his three prong gun to put him out of his misery). Once dead, the aliens dissolve into an acidic mess of pale, puss-like ooze that settles into a black slime, soaking into the ground (oh, yeah!).

The dogs turn the tide, and the small force guarding the alien scout ship are killed. The men advance hesitantly into the ship, finding their fellow earthlings hanging from the broadcast devices like flesh cocoons or victims of a mass lynching, turning and swaying gently above the floor of the craft. In horror, the human men begin to pull the cabling away from their suspended neighbors. The alien replications, most of whom are racing to the ship, begin to convulse and writhe in agony; their “bodies” reduced to translucent gouts of chunky, gelatinous muck, flushing in thick gulps out of their pant legs and shirt cuffs as they die. The alien chief of police dies in particularly gruesome fashion, flushing right out of his uniform, slurping all over and down his desktop, just after he makes a hurried and desperate transmission up to some unseen mother ship, reporting their failure. He recommends with his hissing, dying breath that the Earth-dwellers are too dangerous, recommending the further exploration of yet more distant galaxies.

Alien bill, pouring sweat and breathing hard, comes racing into the clearing, his tri-pronged weapon at the ready. He is the last alien remaining. He looks over the scene, seeing the earthlings pulling their friends and fellow humans out of the ship, and realizes all is lost. He drops his weapon onto the ground, his face resigned – sad. Marge comes racing in behind him. Marge sees him, eyes going big as saucers in fear, and she tries to run. He grabs her, bringing her up and close to him by her upper arms, but sees that all she is feeling for him is terror. It isn’t until he releases her that we realize his holding her was far from threatening or dangerous.

Gloria Talbott and Tom Tryon

“Your people have won,” he tells her. “That makes you happy, doesn’t it?” His expression is not resentful; only filled with the disappointment of missed opportunities – unrealized potential. He has never been able to explain himself to this woman. He turns, leans against a tree. “I was just beginning to learn,” he says.

We cut to see a sudden shot of human Bill being severed from his cabling, his hanging body giving a jolt as if his heart has started.

Alien bill contorts in a blast of pain, his mouth opening in a silent scream. Marge, despite her fear, says, “what is it?” He looks at Marge and waves at her. “Get out,” he says desperately, his eyes tormented. He falls to the ground, out of sight.

Marge cannot run away. She stands watching the alien die, but her face shows no triumph, only human pity. Again, the voice comes from the ground, off camera, “get out,” but this time it is not exactly human, more of a faint hiss. We follow Marge’s horrified gaze and see alien Bill writhing in the grass like worm on a hook for a moment, then he is finally still. After a brief moment, the Bill form vanishes and tremendous waves of the bubbly, semi-solid matter come sluicing out of his shirt collar. Marge covers her face in her hands but doesn’t scream (tough girl).

At that same moment, we hear Bill, human Bill, calling her name. Marge looks over, sees Bill’s face; but it looks so much like the alien Bill face. She says, very hesitantly, “Bill?” Bill’s face is suddenly, brilliantly lit with a radiant smile as music swells; and we realize wistfully that this smile, this pure happiness at seeing Marge, is something the alien had never managed; could never imitate.

“Oh, Bill,” she says, rushing to him. As they embrace, the alien scout ship begins to make a high, pitched whine. Everyone races back, and we watch the ship explode. Bill and Marge, knocked to the ground, watch as the ship burns.

As the end credits appear on the screen, we see a large force of alien ships fleeing earth, heading out into the cosmos.

So, let’s wrap it up. We come to this film possibly expecting a teenage spectacle, filled with course humor, clumsy dialogue, and big swaths of comic relief - intentional or otherwise. We leave with an intense, well-made sci-fi thriller, offering a fine examination of human sexuality; of the very stuff that makes us human – Man and Woman. We come expecting to guffaw into our sleeves, and we come away thinking about what he have seen. IMAMFOS may be dressed up like camp, but underneath it is a movie that, gratefully, takes things very seriously.

Now that’s what I call a good deal. It’s a film so nice, you can watch it twice!

WATCH THE TRAILER BELOW! –Radiation Cinema!


5 comments:

  1. Very nice overview. IMAMFOS is my favorite genre movie, and filled with so many wonderful moments throughout. I think Gloria Talbott gives an incredible performance here as Marge. I also like how the viewer's sympathy lies with Marge for the beginning of the movie, trapped in a loveless marriage with a thing, but as Bill begins to try and interact with her on a human level and she rejects him, your sympathy moves to Bill instead. I could go on and on (and did in an article for MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT a few years back) but will simply repeat that you did a great job here.

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  2. John: IMAMFOS came as quite a surprise to me (I love when that happens). I thank you for your comments and for tuning me in to Monsters From the Vault (very cool site). I'd love to read your article, but couldn't find it easily at the Vault. Respond with a link here, and I'll make sure I publish it. I agree about Marge - Talbott gave a fine, layered performance in a difficult role. All were very good, in fact. I feel myself going into blab mode, so I better get back to my next review: Corridors of Blood. --Mykal

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  3. Mykal,
    John's Monster from the Vault site lists his IMAMFOS review appeared in MFTV #21. The Back Issues page lists it was published Winter 2006.
    Hope this helps!

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  4. An absolutely essential movie; always has been. Here's something for you to think about (I'm working at the moment and shouldnlt really be distracting myself, but your blog is irresistible); a gay man (that would be me) gives entirely different readings to beloved scifi/horror movies. I contend that gay men are - tend to be - more alert to gender roles, and narrative plays on gender roles and sexual/seduction games, than straight viewers, or perhaps we simply see another facet of scifi and horror narratives... to take one tiny example: "...Bill’s desire to understand Marge’s highly complex desires dovetails perfectly with her awareness of him as a “monster” (guys, how many times has this happened to you?)" Well, it's never happened to me. I have an entirely different, albeit often loving, relationship to women, while male-to-male relationships are far more open and less tricksy. We don't, for instance, do all that minuetting around one another in order to hook up, and I believe that given the hostility we encounter all our lives our longterm realtionships and marriages, usually but not always childless, are grounded in different aspirations. Your comment "guys, how many times has this happened to you?" addresses straight male readers, if you think about it. This is, I hasten to add, neither a good thing nor a bad thing. iI's just a straight guy thing! (I am not in the "judgmental" business.) And the one thing that fascinates me about IMAMFOS (apart from the locations around Beechwood and Bronson Canyon, where I walk my dogs) is that the earthmen are identified by their fertility - by their ability to father children - with the implication that the aliens are not "real men". It's not a big leap to read this as "gay". Or even "communist", come to think of it. But they are "other" and the "otherness" is defined by their inability to breed "normally". I don't find this offensive, I find it fascinating. The 1950s was marked by the rise of the nuclear family, the diminishing of the extended family, and the encouragement to breed within that structure. The race, reduced by WW2, needed replenishing. Virility and fecundity were of paramount importance. IMAMFOS drips with a sort of "reproductive anxiety". It is also worth remembering that the handsome (I would say highly sexy) Tom Tryon was himself a gay man, who quit acting after the dreadful experiences he suffered at the directorial hands of Preminger while making The Cardinal. He turned to writing, and with his authorship of The Other (itself turned into a marvelous movie) guaranteed himself a modest but significant place in the history of genre literature. Now I really must get back to work... ! Thanks for a stimulating post. LOVE your blog. Looking forward to some updates soon?

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  5. Iain: Anytime you want to take a break from work and leave a comment, please do. Great comment! Interesting trivia about Tryon, who is so great in this role.

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