FILMS IN REVIEW: John Agar (-a-thon!)

Movies in Review:

Invisible Invaders/Journey to the Seventh Planet

This DVD release is part of MGM’s “Midnight Movie” series. Bless you MGM for bringing back all these old-time TV and drive-in favorites. Light on extra features, the DVD is two-sided featuring a great double-bill of “Journey to the Seventh Planet” on one side and “Invisible Invaders” on the other, both starring the hammy King of 50’s Science Fiction cheese John Agar (The Brain from Planet Arous).

JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET (LETTERBOXED):  JTTSP is the creative fruit of Mr. Sid Pink — the man behind the beloved “The Angry Red Planet” and “Reptilicus”. Like the latter, JTTSP was shot during Pink’s stay in Denmark. Both feature some pretty over-the-top Danish actors, bad accents and a lot of dubbing. Shot in saturated color, JTTSP chronicles mankind’s first trip to Uranus — pronounced through the film as “Your-IN-us”. I won’t blow the story for you, but expect some ridiculous-looking special effects and an evil alien mutant out to destroy the crew. Chewing up the “Doctor Who-vian” sets are Agar, as a devil-may-care ladies’ man and the beauteous former Miss Denmark Greta Thyssen as a Space Temptress.

INVISIBLE INVADERS (FULLSCREEN) Forget “Independence Day”. Forget “Plan 9 from Outer Space”. If you want a real documentary-style movie on how our Alien masters will inflict ultimate destruction upon us, look no further. The character-actor’s character-actor John Carradine gets the top bill in this invasion film, using his scratchy yet booming voice to great effect. Like in “9”, much stock footage and narration accompanies an attempt by other-worldly fiends to revive an army of undead corpses to bring civilization to its knees. This time though, the interlopers from beyond the moon are invisible! Does it sound like the Earth is doomed? No way! Again, John Agar (playing “Major Jay”) is here to save us. Jar-headed and unafraid, he also finds the time to steal lovely Jean Byron away from her useless scientist boyfriend. But the real stars in my opinion are the revived corpses! Although gore fans will be left down, this shambling all man-in-business attire army rules! Fill in whatever social allegory you want, the sight of these undead marching grey-faced dead insurance salesmen, middle-managers, and miscellaneous average-Joes is very surreal.

IN ALL…

Both films are campy enough to merit multiple viewings. Although there are meaty scenes of dialogue in both, the action clips along and you will not be bored. Even the mandatory 50s/60s stock footage montages were good and featured stuff I hadn’t seen before. And most importantly, if you like to play “Mystery Science Theater 3000 — The Home Game” these films will both provide plenty of fodder for laughs. In all, I’d peg this DVD as an economical must buy for 50’s/early 60’s Science Fiction fans. The quality of the transfer of both films is top-notch — no scratched out old teevee prints here like on other “bargain” DVDs. My only minor quibble is that MGM includes only meager trailers for the “extras”. However, I bet finding any kind of archival material at this point on these flicks now is well-nigh impossible anyway. Still, factual commentaries by an old-movie nut like me would have been nice.

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