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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Invasion of the Animal People

More of a re-edit than a new film, Invasion of the Animal People (IAP) was built upon the 1959 Swedish-American production Rymdinvasion i Lappland (Space Invasion of Lappland). The American title was Terror in the Midnight Sun. Producer Jerry Warren inserted some newly shot footage into the original and released it (again) in 1962. At its heart, it remains a pretty basic monster story with hints of Frankenstein. The overall original story of a "meteor" landing in Lappland, which turns out to be an alien spacecraft remains. The title is a misnomer, as only one "animal person" ever appears and it's not clear if it is invading or not.

Quick Plot Synopsis
A young woman awakens to a piercing sound only she can hear. It causes her to need hospitalization. This coincides with sightings of a UFO over Lappland. She gets better and goes to live with her uncle. He is called to investigate a meteor landing in Lappland. Many dead and mangled reindeer are found near the site. Diane tags along. Diane is smitten with handsome Eric, one of the team's scientists. Eric is smitten with her too. The team flies to the landing site. While they are discovering that the meteor is really a spherical space ship, a 30' tall yeti-thing smashes their plane. Diane and Eric ski off for help. They rest in a remote cabin. The monster attacks. Diane runs. Eric is hurt but found by the other scientists. The beast finds Diane in the snow after a raging storm. It carries her off to a suddenly abandoned Lapp hunting camp and leaves her there. It trundles down to the village where it is greeted with more bullets. It rages around smashing things, including a second airplane, some cabins and Saami teepees. Meanwhile, Diane wakes up near the campfire, but three tall-headed aliens block her escape. She passes out again. The creature comes up later and carries her away. A mob of angry Sami chase the beast with torches. They trap it at a cliff edge. The beast sets down Diane and the Sami let fly their torches. the creature catches fire and tumbles over the cliff. The aliens leave. What they wanted, no one will know. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
There is much about IAP that is comfortably familiar, but the snowy arctic environment provides some novelty. Barbara Wilson is fine as eye candy.

Cold War Angle
IAP is more of a cryptic monster story with a lot of skiing and only a dash of aliens. Political parallels are notably absent.

They're After Our Women -- One of those traditional tropes is that aliens and monsters cannot resist a pretty earth woman. King Kong, Ro-Man, Gill Man, etc: even though they were all non-human, they fall victim to an all too human weakness (for men, anyhow). The big creature destroys herds of reindeer, airplanes, cabins and Saami villages, but tenderly carries Diane around. Even the tall-head humanoid aliens come out of their ship to surround Diane. Since the trope has become almost cliche by this point, it may not have any symbolic significance. That's just what monsters and aliens do -- fixate on our pretty girls.

Mash-up Mania -- Terry Morse did a mash-up with Ishiro Honda's original Godzilla ('54). He shot some new footage with Raymond Burr as the star, and rearranged the original japanese footage. The goal was to make a film more palatable to American audiences. Warren followed this model. He added the introduction shots with John Carridine blathering about mankind and science. Carridine's voice also provides narration where Warren must have thought audiences would not "get it." He also inserted several small-room scenes with more people talking about what's happening elsewhere. He also created the odd opening scene with Diane running down the street in her pajamas, fleeing the maddening sound. His efforts did not really improve the story. This mash-up tradition will continue in the early 60s as Roger Corman and others do exactly this same hack-n-mash process to other foreign sci-fi movies in order to make some quick, cheap American release features.

Yeti or Wookie? -- In neither the original or IAP, is the monster's existence explained. Was he an alien beast, like an ├╝ber-Wookie, or an earthly yeti? The poster for "Terror" suggests that the aliens brought him. The poster for IAP suggests that the aliens were trying to use mind control on earth yeti -- a sort of snowy Plan 9. Did the aliens leave because their "army of one" was killed? Or, was the experiment already going badly because the lure of a pretty girl was a stronger influence than their advanced alien brains? We may never know.

Teasing Shadows -- As a sop to the young males in the audience, Director Vogel included a scene in which shapely Diane undresses so her wet clothes can be dried by the fire. While this is done off camera for modesty's sake, Vogel provides a bright spotlight so her "naked" silhouette can be oogled on the wall behind Erik. It's a cheap thrill for the pubescent, but it also speaks to an earlier era's boundary lines of "decency".

Bottom line? IAP is a poor reworking of what was already a marginal B film. If you can watch Terror in the Midnight Sun first, you'll get a better (though still weak) story. Watching IAP afterward can provide some laughs at Warren's lame additions. IAP does provide a curious example a hybridized foreign film.


Aquaria said...

Bill's tastes in women are pretty low and libidinal. He shops first at a strip club? Then prowls the streets?

It's actually a smart move, because marginalized women are less likely to be missed in society than, say, a minister's daughter. Picking women in the shadows kept his psychopathic behavior there as well.

Nightowl said...

Thanks Aquaria,
I think you meant to post this at the end of "The Brain that Wouldn't Die." I'll repost it there.

But, you're right. "disposable" women (from society's point of view) would be less investigated.