Junior astronomer Davey MacLean (Jimmy Hunt looking between 9 and 39 depending on the angle) is awakened one night by a thunderstorm only to witness a glowing green flying saucer land behind a large hill next to his house where it promptly sinks deep within the earth.
The next morning David’s father, George (Leif Erickson in a performance that goes from lovable goof to violent, moody, secretive monster with shocking ease) heads out to investigate the hill, but comes back as a complete prickus, and soon David’s mother Mary (Hillary Brooke), his neighbor, the local constables, and more fall victim to the cosmic evil buried deep in the sand.
Thankfully Dave has two erstwhile allies, Dr. Pat Blake (Helena Carter) and Dr. Stuart Kelston (Arthur Franz… who insists on pronouncing “mutants” as “mewt-ants”), and these cats manage to call in the military (thanks to the magic of stock footage) which leads to a full-scale operation being launched against those menacing Martians!
Ahh, the good ol’ days where scientists and people of learning and reason actually believed the insane ramblings of a child and launch a multi-million-dollar army strike against what amounts to two tall frog people and a head in a jar!
Speaking of that child; since we see the story unfold from David’s perspective, director/ace production designer William Cameron Menzies goes supremely, awesomely over-the-top with the visuals; with some sets featuring surreal ambience-a-plenty (such as the near-German expressionistic Police Station and Laboratory locales, as well as the stagey sand pit locales, heavy use of brilliant colored gels, and creative creature design… all of which swirls and blends into a heady cinematic concoction that brings us sci-fi with a near-Seuss-ian bent, which equals an Atom-Age neo-fairy tale with a true Punk Rock “never trust authority” aesthetic!
When all of the above is coupled with the earnest acting, bizarre, choral-laden score, and impressive model work, Invaders From Mars emerges as a true, one-of-a-kind, psychotronic masterpiece!
As for special features to accompany this rad-ass piece of alien awesomeness, we get a red planet’s worth kicking off with interviews with Menzies expert James Curtis joined by Menzies’ granddaughter Pamela Lauesen as well as Hunt, followed by a featurette in which filmmakers Joe Dante, Mark Goldblatt, Robert Skotak (who shows off some killer pre-production artwork for what became Tobe Hooper’s 1986, Cannon Films produced, remake of Invaders From Mars), John Landis, and film preservationist Scott MacQueen discuss the film’s impact on their lives, details of it’s production, and a discussion of it’s legacy.
Macqueen returns after that with a fascinating glimpse into the restoration of Invaders From Mars for this Blu-ray release from Ignite Films, which is followed by an intro to the film from indie-film legend John Sayles (he’s a horror legend as well, having penned the screenplays for Piranha, Alligator, and The Howling) speaking at the TCM Festival.
Also included is a screamingly hilarious, alternate “observatory scene” (filmed well after production wrapped for European distributors) in which David’s hair and outfit change within the same exposition-swole sequence… not to mention the entirely different lighting and scene composition, as well as the complete lack of score… it straight-up equals fried gold.
Not to be outdone is the European alternate ending that uses reversed footage, stock footage, and horrible common sense to present a sequence where the aliens are blown to shit-ereens as they try to haul-ass back to the red planet… it’s inept, clumsy, and absolutely glorious!
Finally we get a duo of trailers for the film, and an image gallery featuring promotional materials.
As you may surmise, Invaders From Mars is a must-own for lovers of the more hallucinogenic entries in the 1950’s sci/fi/creature feature genre, and this release from Ignite is definitely the way to go with it’s exclusive special features, and gorgeous visual presentation… so what are you waiting for my cats n’ creeps?!!