Sunday, March 06, 2016

I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE (1958)


Saddled with a title evoking cheesiness of the highest pungency, I Married a Monster from Outer Space is actually a fairly thoughtful 50's sci-fi flick. In the past few years I've seen genre fans inflate its mild qualities to try to argue it as a minor classic, but in all honesty it isn't. It is a pretty good little movie but lowered expectations are the best way to approach it for maximum enjoyment.

Traveling home late at night after his bachelor party, Bill Farrell (Tom Tryon) nearly runs over a man lying in the road. Jumping out of his car he finds the body gone — he is then attacked and apparently absorbed by a grotesque glowing alien creature. The next day Bill shows up hours late for his wedding, appearing slightly confused, but goes through with the ceremony. Cut to a year later and Bill's bride Marge (Gloria Talbott) is deeply concerned about him as he seems to be a different man from the one she fell in love with. He acts detached or unemotional, and compounding her fears is the fact that she hasn't yet become pregnant even though her doctor assures her she can conceive. One night Bill leaves the house in the middle of the night and Marge follows him. He walks far into the local woods where Marge witnesses her husband physically separate from one of the aliens and then enter their hidden spacecraft. Horrified, she runs to the local chief of police and he comforts her with promises to look into the situation. Of course, all the small town's cops have been taken over by the aliens already so no help is coming from that quarter. When Bill's buddy Sam (Alan Dexter) becomes one of the controlled we learn from their conversations that these weird invaders are trying to find a way to breed with human females. The females of their race were wiped out in a disaster and without some form of interspecies mating they will die out. In desperation Marge tries to contact the FBI but finds every avenue of communication cut off; she is even unable to leave town. But when one of the disguised aliens dies accidentally she thinks she may have found one authority figure that hasn't been taken over — Dr. Wayne (Ken Lynch). But how will she be able to find enough uncontrolled men to stop the creatures? 


An odd variation on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it shares that film's 'Red Scare' feel but it's more interesting for its commentary on sexual politics and marital fears. The film opens with a booze-fueled bachelor party discussion in which the men's dismissive and derogatory statements about marriage are pretty harsh and certainly don't reflect the norm for 1950s genre movies. The movie also gives us a few female bar denizens who come off as quite slutty, one of which pays for a poorly timed flirtation with her life. Was she just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or deemed unworthy of being alien breeding stock because she's a tramp? On each of my viewings this murder came off as a disturbing value judgment not of the creatures but of the movie.


 These kinds of ideas bubble around the story as when the film smartly uses the fear of infidelity to lead Marge to the necessary revelations of the plot. Her following of Bill on a nocturnal trip away from home plays like a woman trying to catch her man with a mistress only to stumble onto something much more sinister. And, of course, the central idea of the aliens mating with Earth women can make your skin crawl if one thinks through the implications of Marge's year of attempting to get pregnant! But even though the movie slips a few nasty ideas in, our one glimpse into the married couple's bedroom shows us two separate beds in keeping with the 'safe' Hollywood version of life. Still, the hideous realization of what the alien creature has been doing to/with Marge only gets more disturbing the longer you consider what is happening. Ridley Scott's Alien gets credit (some might say blame) for introducing the concept of rape to cinema science fiction but what else can this martial situation be called? In the third act much is made of the creature's increasingly tender feelings for Marge but since up until then he has been having sex with her under false pretenses how much sympathy can we have for him? We see that his emotions are beginning to interfere with his loyalty to his own kind but ......


The film manages to keep us distracted from thinking too hard about these horrible ideas by doing odd things, like subverting the common marital fear of drinking and the abuse that can come with it. When it turns out that the controlled aliens avoid alcohol because it's deadly to them, this prominent family fear of the period becomes a danger sign for a very different reason. The slightly more adult tilt to the material shows in other scenes as well, such as in the execution of a barfly that starts sniffing around Marge. He's coldly blown away when the alien-controlled cops decide that such a lowlife is of no use to them (just as the female bar tramp wasn't, I guess). Of course, this all may be a bit too much to ask a first-time viewer to see in I Married a Monster from Outer Space, but its certainly there. And if folks can read a commentary on Communism into Body Snatchers then I can see social commentary on the war between the sexes here. Besides, this film is a little slow at times and these kind of speculations help keep it fun.

Paramount has issued I Married a Monster from Outer Space on DVD in a very nice anamorphic (16x9 enhanced) print that looks great. The image is sharp and audio is detailed and clear, making the optional English subtitles unnecessary. I've never seen a better looking presentation of the movie on video and that makes the disc's one shortcoming a shame — there are no extras. Not one. They didn't even throw in the theatrical trailer for crying out loud! I'm not asking for a full-out special edition of this little obscurity but something would have been nice. Maybe a few text pages about the movie's cast and crew or some info about the alien costume design. Perhaps a bit of information about the special effects by the legendary John P. Fulton could have been added since the picture detail here really shows them off to good effect. I guess I should just be glad this one's available at all but I still hope for a Blu-Ray to eventually appear with some nice extras putting this bizarre 50's monster film into context for new viewers. 



8 comments:

Nick Rentz said...

If you say this one isn't a minor classic, then which films would you consider minor classics?

Rod Barnett said...

I'd say - THE MAN FROM PLANET X, DONOVAN'S BRAIN, THE GAMMA PEOPLE, THE 27TH DAY, THE MONOLITH MONSTERS, THE NIGHT THE WORLD EXPLODED, THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD, THE 4-D MAN and THE MANSTER - and that's just from the 1950's

Nick Rentz said...

Nice list! Do you like Kronos? What are some of your least favorite sci fi movies from the 1950's?

Rod Barnett said...

Least favorite? That's tough. But-- FLYING DISC MAN FROM MARS was pretty bad. As was MEAS OF LOST WOMEN, DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS, THE BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES, KING DINOSAUR, THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER and TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE. Of course, i still get a kick out of most of these any way.

And KRONOS is a good but not great little movie. I got to see that on the big screen some years back.

Stephen D. Sullivan said...

I think that everything you've said about IMAMFOS -- the subtexts, the sexual politics, etc -- makes it a minor classic. And it's probably even creepier today because of the marital rape thing, and the way our heroine treats (or doesn't) the idea that she's been sleeping with someone not her actual beau.

Sure, they couldn't really go very deep into that at the time, but all those ideas are there for anyone paying attention -- and clearly were even in the 50s. Most sci-fi films of the time don't make you think that much.

Oh, and it's easily arguable (and perhaps an even more prevalent idea) that Body Snatchers is a metaphor for McCarthyism, rather than communism. Part of the genius of that film is that it reads both ways. But, knowing Hollywood's leanings (even then), I suspect McCarthy. Writers always like to put the thumb in the eye of authority. ;-)

Nick Rentz said...

I find all of those enjoyable except Mesa of Lost Women. Killers from Space is pretty lame as well.

Rod Barnett said...

Steve - maybe you're right. I think I might be looking at the film in relation to the superior INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and feeling it falls too far short. Plus, it does drag a little even at this short length. It feels a little stretched.

Nick - yeah, KILLERS FROM SPACE is pretty damned lame!

Stephen D. Sullivan said...

Oh, yeah. BODY SNATCHERS is a GREAT film -- a true classic.

Which is why IMAMFOS is a _minor_ classic. ;-)

Not perfect, but well made and interesting.

I, too, like most of those other films mentioned but, yeah, some of them are lame. ;-)