Film Review: Invasion U.S.A. (dir by Alfred Green)


Here’s how Invasion, U.S.A. opens:

A bunch of strangers sit in a bar.  On the television, a blandly handsome anchorman delivers the news.  He talks about foreign wars.  He talks about domestic conflicts.  One of the bar patrons asks the bartender to turn off the news.  Who cares about all of that stuff?  All he wants to do is have a nice drink before heading home to his cattle ranch.  Can’t he just do that in peace?  The bartender agrees and turns off the news…

That’s a scene that gets played out a lot nowadays.  No one wants to watch the news.  Certainly not me.  I guess we all know that we should because it’s important to know what’s going on in the world and blah blah blah.  But seriously, people who spend all of their time watching the news inevitably seem to end up going insane and ruining twitter.  I’ve got no interest in doing that.

Here’s the thing, though.  Invasion U.S.A. may open with a contemporary scene but it’s hardly a contemporary movie.  Instead, it was made in 1952 and it serves as proof that we’re not the first Americans to get sick of watching the news and that our current crop of politically minded filmmakers are not the first to try to change our mind with heavy-handed propaganda.

Everyone at the bar has a complaint.  The Arizona rancher resents having to pay high taxes just to support the defense department.  The Chicago industrialist is upset that the government wants to use his factories to build weapons.  Congressman Haroway (Wade Crosby) is a drunk.  Socialite Carla Sanford (Peggie Castle) worked in a factory during World War II but she no longer follows the news.  Newscaster Vince Potter (Gerald Mohr) is a cynic.  Tim the Bartender (Tom Kennedy) is too busy selling cocktails to worry about the communists.

Only the mysterious Mr. Ohman (Dan O’Herlihy, who would later play Conal Cochran in Halloween III) seems to care.  While holding a conspicuously oversized brandy glass, Mr. Ohman explains that he’s a forecaster.  What’s a forecaster?  A forecaster is … oh wait!  There’s no time to explain it because the communists have invaded!

Everyone sits in the bar and watches as the news reports on the invasion of the U.S.A.  (Everyone except for Mr. Ohman, who has mysteriously vanished.)  In the tradition of all low-budget B-movies, the invasion is represented through stock footage.  Lots and lots of stock footage.  Planes drop bombs.  Soldiers run out of a barracks.  Cities burn.

When everyone leaves the bar, they discover that America has been crippled by people like them, people who never thought it would happen.  Some of our bar patrons die heroically.  (Not Tim the Bartender, though.  He’s still making dumb jokes and cleaning beer mugs when the bomb drops.)  Some of our patrons regret that they didn’t care enough when it would have actually made a difference.  The industrialist discovers that, because he wouldn’t let the government take over his factory, he now has to take orders from sniveling little Marxist.  The rancher discovers that taxis get really crowded when everyone’s fleeing the Russians.  And others discover that better dead than red isn’t just a catch phrase.  It’s a way of life.

Of course, there’s a twist ending.  You’ll guess it as soon as you see Mr. Ohman with that brandy glass…

Invasion U.S.A. is often cited as one of the worst films ever made but I have to admit that I absolutely love it.  I have a soft spot for heavy-handed, over the top propaganda films and they don’t get more heavy-handed than Invasion, U.S.A.  There’s not a subtle moment to be found in the entire film.  You have to love any film that features character authoritatively declaring that something will never happen mere moments before it happens.  Best of all, you’ve got Dan O’Herlihy, playing Mr. Ohman with just a hint of a knowing smile, as if he’s as amused as we are.

Politically, this film is a mixed bag for me.  The film argues that you should trust the government and basically, shut up and follow orders.  I’m a libertarian so, as you can imagine, that’s not really my thing.  At the same time, the villains were all communists and most of the communists that I’ve met in my life have been pretty obnoxious so I enjoyed the part of the film that advocated blowing them up.  The only thing this film hates more than communists is indifference.

In the end, Invasion U.S.A. is a real time capsule of a film, one that shows how different things were in the past while also reminding us that times haven’t changed that much.  Though the film’s politics may be pure 1952, its paranoia and its condemnation of apathy feels very contemporary.

(For the record, apathy is underrated.)

Seen today, what makes Invasion U.S.A. memorable is its mix of sincerity, paranoia, and Dan O’Herlihy.  Unless the communists at YouTube take down the video, you can watch it below!

 

 

Trailer: If Beale Street Could Talk


Yesterday was James Baldwin’s birthday so it was also the perfect day to release the trailer for Barry Jenkins’s upcoming film, If Beale Street Could Talk.  If Beale Street Could Talk is based on a 1974 novel by Baldwin.

Jenkins, of course, previously directed Moonlight, which won the Oscar for best picture.  Interestingly enough, Moonlight defeated Damien Chazelle’s La La Land for the prize.  This year, not only is Jenkins back but so is Chazelle with First Man.

So, could we be looking at another Jenkins vs Chazelle Oscar race?  Maybe.  Who knows, to be honest?  That is what a lot of people are hoping for, of course.  Jenkins vs. Chazelle: The Rematch!

Check out the trailer and try to guess what will happen for yourself!

Confessions of a TV Addict #8: The Amazing Sci-Fi Worlds of Irwin Allen Pt. 1


cracked rear viewer

Irwin Allen  (1916-1991) wore many different hats during his long career: magazine editor, gossip columnist, documentarian, producer, director. He helped usher in the Age of the Disaster Movie with such 70’s hits as THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and THE TOWERING INFERNO, but before that he was best known as the producer of a quartet of sci-fi series from the Swingin’ 60’s. From 1964 to 1970 he had at least one sci-fi show airing in prime time… during the 1966-67 season, he had three, all complete with cheezy-looking monsters, campy humor, stock footage, guest stars (some on their way up… some down!), special effects by Oscar winner L.B. Abbott, and music by John Williams (who later scored a little thing called STAR WARS )! Here’s a look at the Amazing Sci-Fi Worlds of Irwin Allen:

Allen’s first foray into sci-fi TV was VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (ABC, 1964-68), based…

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Music Video of the Day: Pale Shelter by Tears For Fears (1983, directed by Steve Barron)


Back in the day, living it up in Vice City

Today’s music video of the day is for a song that I used to enjoy listening to back when I was living in Vice City.  Believe it or not, I used to steal cars just so I could turn the radio over to Wave 103 and listen to songs like Pale Shelter by Tears For Fears.  I know I’m not alone.  Vice City was a crazy place to live, man.

As for the video, it was directed by Steve Barron (who was responsible for several classic new wave videos) and is about weird things happening in Los Angeles.

It begins with a classic California scene as a woman in a red, one-piece bathing suit dives into a pool.  She’s soon joined by an alligator, which causes her to fly straight into the air.  This followed by a police officer directing traffic, a child raising his hand in school, a woman taking laundry off a line, a soccer team celebrating a goal, a blonde stretching in bed, and an airplane flying over an airport.  When the laundry woman burns a shirt with an iron, it leaves a giant, steaming imprint in the middle of the runway.

Standing in the middle of imprint, Curt Smith drops his guitar which ruins everyone’s day.  The police officer loses his cool.  The blonde realizes she’s overslept.  The laundry woman panics as it starts to rain.  The child in school isn’t called on and retaliates by making a paper airplane that he throws out the window.

Soon, hundreds of paper airplane are raining down on Curt Smith and Roland Orzbal.  Most of them seem to be hitting Curt.

Everyone in the video looks up to the sky and things get better.  The school child is reunited with the laundry woman.  Curt fixes his broken guitar.  The blonde gets out of bed, drives her car, and catches the eye of the policeman.  The soccer players congratulates themselves on a good game.

Curts throw his guitar into the air.  Back in the school, all the students start to throw paper airplanes.  The alligator gets back in the pool.  A paper airplane hits Curt right between the eyes.  The woman in the red bathing suit heads back down to Earth while the alligator eats Curt’s guitar.

And you thought Vice City was a strange place!