Monday, October 20, 2008

Film Review--I Married a Monster from Outer Space

I Married a Monster from Outer Space
directed by Gene Fowler Jr.
written by Louis Vittes
starring Tom Tryon, Gloria Talbott, Peter Baldwin, John Eldridge, Alan Dexter, Ty Hardin, Chuck Wassil, Jean Carson

Sometimes it seems as if your lover is a wee bit off. Most of them seems OK but there’s something missing or added that doesn’t quite make sense. Fortunately for most of you this effect wears off shortly. For Marge Bradley Farrell (Talbott), it doesn’t go away. She doesn’t know why only that her husband Bill (Tryon) acts strangely. He doesn’t like alcohol anymore and that in and of itself is a definite cause for alarm. He seems distant in a most queer way and even his embraces are not quite right.

Well, there is a clear explanation for Bill’s behavior. On his wedding night he was apprehended by what looked like a tiny dead body in the roadway. When he got out to check, the body was gone. Then there is some cinematic voodoo and a alien being appears just before Bill disappears. He appears shortly thereafter and we quickly learn that the alien thing lurks inside the flesh of what looks like Bill. We also learn that there are many more of them including the Police chief, a couple of officers, and others. Their purpose is to mate with Human women and spawn a race of kings. There is some excellent sexual tension here and much of it comes from the button up austerity of Gloria Talbott. She’s got a hint of cruelty beneath that nervous smile. In this film her character perpetually seems frustrated about some thing or other; it’s nice to think that her physical needs are being abandoned and she’s just crying out hungrily to be fed. But it’s probably the new dishwasher or something mundane like that. She probably can’t get a stain out and it’s making her feel subhuman.

Perhaps this film is an allegory about Communists because of their ability to hide their affiliation beneath the exterior of a Patriot. It might be suggested that communistic ideas sneak in and transform a person into something they once were not. There is also a distinct Racial possibility inherent in this story where another race attempts to replace the master race and fornicate with their women in order to reproduce their own kind. Still, this would only create a mongrel race of beings who would belong to neither race. Or it could create a hybrid that employs the finer distinctions and capabilities of each race, leading to a more fundamentally sound adaptability.

This definitely looks like a film made in the 1950's. It’s got an innocence about it that comes through in every scene. Everyone looks so placid and empty and their smiles linger just a bit too long. Life appears safe and secure except some of the cops are aliens. There’s a scene late in the film just after Martha has seen something horrifying. She stumbles into town and there’s nobody outside who might do something ghastly to her. It’s dead quiet. It’s a peaceful night and the police don’t have anything to do but take the occasional drunk to the county jail to sleep it off for the evening. It’s a Mayberry world with a terrifying secret creeping up under every doorway.

The threat that hangs in the balance in every scene is played up for maximum terror. Poor Martha sees things she ought not to and becomes the disgruntled housewife whom hardly nobody believes. She is nearly broken by the experience and her prolonged grief is the central agony of the film. She wants Bill’s seed inside her but cannot bear the thought of being mounted from behind by this alien creature who has taken over the man she has agreed to honor and obey through sickness and health.

Bill’s friend Sam Benson (Dexter) is a happy-go-lucky soon to be lush who is also subjected to the same treatment but his wife Helen (Carson) isn’t as apt to discover that there is anything peculiar about her husband. There is a certain aloofness that is expected from husbands in this era and Sam’s chilly behavior doesn’t seem to raise the alarm. It’s particularly scary when the cops have been taken over by alien forces–if you can’t trust the police, where is there for a sorry li’l hell cat to go? The answer is nowhere except into the far-aching recesses of your wee tired mind. This is dangerous territory for good citizens who have been reared to take solace in external symbols of freedom, liberty and safety.

Martha represents every pure, soft, delicate cliche one can imagine of the fifties. She’s the perfect housewife with her self-cleaning oven, perfectly folded linen, and all Bill’s doo-dads nicely polished so he doesn’t get angry and put his fist in her perfectly straight teeth. Bill doesn’t seem the type and especially sense he doesn’t drink anymore there is probably no chance he’ll snap and get himself some hard, sweet action at his lady’s expense. But there’s always room to dream however this being the late fifties there’s no way the alien boy will give old Martha a drag around the block by her hair. By the end Martha sure feels as if Bill has been pounding her hard every night and forcing her to perform obscene acts while whistling the tune of some new tuna fish commercial.

So, the town is crawling with aliens seeking to find the wombs of healthy, able white women to propagate their kind. They find perfect vehicles for this scheme by inhabiting the flesh of the goodly husbands of women already spoken for. The sheer idea of the thing is enough to make the skin crawl: happy enough men being replaced by cold, distant shells of their former selves whose sole purpose for being is to hump and spawn. I would imagine such a thing was terrifying back in this age where sex was hardly mentioned and none too well understood as a mechanism of pleasure. Sex with an alien thing would be the utmost horror for someone bred in such a way that viewed other Races as unclean, vile or vulgar. The worst of all was to have one of their inside you with very few options other than to carry it to full term. It’s the biggest fear of any Race and Martha suddenly feels the pangs of fear that are a necessary component of such a potentially devastating state of events. As she is desperate for a baby one wonders if she and Bill had been making every effort to ensure a happy outcome.

There is a tenderness about the aliens in this film. They aren’t portrayed as evil or even particularly disarming. Instead, one can identify with their sad plight as they take the only course that seems possible to continue their Race. They merely want what every Race should want which is to continue to propagate on the earth as a distinct group of people sharing a unique, homogenous Culture. They do not want to be blasted into oblivion just because all their women succumbed to some terrible torrent, leaving them with but one choice. Their ingenuity is also admirable as they use their technology for a specific end which brings instant results.

The performances in this film are all adequate for the genre. Gloria Talbott has a smothering sexuality which permeates every frame. She’s attractive because of a formality of dress and movement. Every step, every gesture is impeccably orchestrated which creates a solid structure that contains unadulterated eroticism within. The slightest movement becomes subtly sexualized in a way that plays on the unconscious imagination so that it creates an overall effect that is brutally alluring. Her body is hidden away yet becomes a sacred object to be adored and worshiped as all forbidden things are. Tom Tryon is a bit mechanical even when he’s not playing an alien. He has the proper good looks and cool demeanor that is necessary in these types of films. One must believe in the actor in order to go along with him and sympathize with his plight. In this film Tryon does a decent job in creating a character that is worth following and getting to know. He plays a commendably dutiful husband whose soul is temporarily stripped away.

Overall, this film taps into clearly defined anxieties about alien races and the possibility of being over run by them. It uses the science fiction format to make a very solid claim about these fears and how prevalent they were when this film was made. The core terror at the heart of this film is a suicide mission for every Race. This film makes a good argument against such an invasion that would necessarily bring a dramatic change to the way of life of white race. Questions arise East Asian countries and Africa. Would the aliens seek out these other races or do their plans merely involve Caucasians who the aliens might view as masters of the Earth? How would the alien virus spread? What would this mean for the political system, infrastructure and the carrying out of wars? Are the aliens pacifists? Do they believe in the separation of Church and State? Such are the possibilities that might arise if an alien Race bred routinely with our women. A whole new race would emerge with inalienable rights handed over willy-nilly to all new citizens of America.

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