TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: STRANGE INVADERS (1983)

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STRANGE INVADERS (1983)

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In 1958 a ship from another world lands in Centerville, Illinois and the entire town’s population disappears. Twenty-five years later, entomologist Charles Bigelow (Paul Le Mat) travels to Centerville to find his ex-wife Margaret (Diana Scarwid) who traveled there for the funeral of her mother. When Charles gets there, he finds the citizens don’t seem to like strangers, they’ve never heard of his ex-wife or her mother and he is chased out of town by something that can only be described as otherworldly. But whatever inhabits Centerville has followed him back to NYC and has targeted his young daughter, Elizabeth (Lulu Sylbert). Now Charles teams with a tabloid reporter (Nancy Allen) to try to save his daughter from these beings from another world and whatever purpose they have in store for her.

Fifties alien invasion movie homage is written and directed by Michael Laughlin and does have the feel of an old school sci-fi flick, though is also still very eighties. It’s a bit goofy at times, though that seems deliberate and the FX are delightfully cheesy, which gives it a certain charm. There are some amusing sequences of otherworldly action and Laughlin does capture the flavor of what he is paying homage to. If the film falters in any respect it is in that, much like his Strange Behavior, the flick is very slow paced and feels much longer than it’s 90+ minute running time. Strange Invaders could have used a bit more steam in it’s stride, though wisely plays it straight and doesn’t make an outright joke out of the proceedings, which fondly evokes camp classics like Invaders From Mars and Invasion of the Saucer Men. A fun enough movie that doesn’t quite hit the mark straight on, but gets enough of the target to be an entertaining time.

The cast all perform in that fifties sci-fi flick dramatic monotone, on purpose of course. Le Mat makes a fine every-man hero and plays the nerdy scientist type well. Nancy Allen makes a spunky, sexy leading lady as the tabloid reporter who at first scoffs at Bigelow’s tale, but slowly starts to believe him…and fall for him as is tradition with these flicks. Louise Fletcher is fine as a government official that knows more than she’s letting on, though Scarwid is a little unconvincing in her role as ex-wife and extraterrestrial. Maybe she didn’t get the material. Michael Lerner appears as a man who encountered the invaders years before, while femme fatale Fiona Lewis and fifties sci-fi flick legend Kenneth Tobey are appropriately campy as aliens in human form.

This homage to the great alien invasion movies of the fifties may not have fired on all cylinders, but did connect enough to be a fun time. It’s both delightfully fifties and nostalgically eighties and is enjoyable even if it does move a little too slowly for it’s own good. Sadly this film flopped at the box office and Michael Laughlin directed one more movie before leaving the director’s chair to focus on writing.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) strange invaders.

 

 

 

 

 

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: HEAVY METAL AND ROCK & RULE

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HEAVY METAL (1981)

Heavy Metal is a Canadian animated, sci-fi anthology inspired by the classic magazine of the same name. It’s a series of stories, some based on tales originally from the magazine, others written for the film, that are each directed by a different filmmaker and animated in different styles and techniques based on the work of the artists who drew for the magazine, like Bernie Wrightson, Moebius and Angus McKie. At the center of the stories is a powerful and evil force in the form of a glowing green orb called the Loc-Nar. The effects of this evil and the desire of those who wish to possess it’s power are the common theme throughout the film that links all the stories together. And true to it’s name, the film is filled with songs from bands like Cheap Trick, Blue Oyster Cult, Devo and Sammy Hagar.

Heavy Metal is a real blast, filled with some really cool animation and a diverse selection of stories that are filled with the same elements of sex, drugs, horror and sci-fi fantasy that have made the magazine famous. Some of the stories are more humorous, like the fantasy Den, where a nerd (voiced by the late, great John Candy) is thrust to an alternate dimension where he becomes a Conan-like hero, or, the amusing Captain Sternn (Eugene Levy) who is basically a smug jerk whose bad deeds are catching up to him. Then there are more serious stories like the Dan O’Bannon written B-17, about a WWII bomber with a zombie problem, and the bloody fantasy Taarna about a female warrior who is the last of her race and faced with saving her planet from an evil tyrant and his Lok-Nar empowered mutant army. Heavy Metal is a classic and it is sure to bring out the horny teenage nerd in all of us with it’s big breasted heroines, muscular heroes, ample amounts of sex and nudity and plentiful blood and gore. There are some great vocal talent, such as the before mention Candy and Levy, along with Joe Flaherty, Percy Rodriguez and Richard Romanus, that add life to the colorful and varied characters that populate the numerous stories. Add to that one hell of a soundtrack, which I proudly own as well and you’ve got a fun night at the movies.

A favorite of mine since I first saw it in 1981 and a deviously fun cartoon for adults and the teenage geek that we all have within us. A classic!

-MonsterZero NJ

A classic 4 (out of 4) Taarakians

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ROCK & RULE (1983)

Our second feature is appropriately also a Canadian animated flick with a great soundtrack, that tells the story of a future where humans are gone, but animals have evolved to take their place. In Ohmtown, Omar (voiced by Greg Salata in the original version and Paul Le Mat in the US release, sung by Robin Zander) and Angel (voiced by Susan Roman, sung by Deborah Harry) are a boyfriend and girlfriend who are also in a rock band trying to achieve every musician’s dream of stardom. But when the band is heard by mega-rock star Mok (voiced by Don Francks, sung by both Lou Reed and Iggy Pop), he wants Angel to become a solo star and leave the band behind. She refuses, but he kidnaps her anyway and hypnotizes the band, making them think she’s abandoned them. Soon Omar finds out the truth and even worse, that Mok actually has a far more sinister plot in mind, to use Angel’s voice to unleash a demon and now Omar and his band-mates must race to Nuke York to rescue angel and defeat Mok’s plan, saving both Angel and possibly the world.

Rock & Rule is a fun animated rock and roll adventure that would be a good time even without the top notch vocal talent. But adding to a fun story, we get some memorable songs sung by the legendary likes of Cheap Trick, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry…that’s an awesome line-up in most any music lovers book and their voices perfectly compliment the characters and story-line. The film moves at a fast pace and is filled with an entertaining assortment of colorful characters brought to life by equally colorful and vibrant animation.

The film was hard to find for a while and then was available on DVD and Blu-ray, but now seems to be out of print again. Availability issues aside, it’s a fun, colorfully entertaining animated flick with a lot of great music by some classic artists giving us a nice ear candy coating with a classic good vs evil story at it’s center. A cult classic and a real treat.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Moks

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