Friday, July 29, 2011

1950's Monster Mash Blogathon!

This review is my contribution to the 1950's Monster Mash Blogathon running from yesterday July 28th through August 2nd and hosted by FORGOTTEN CLASSICS OF YESTERYEAR.

Each day of the Blogathon various bloggers will post an individual review on a Monster flick from the 50's. You will be able to link to each blogger's post directly from FORGOTTEN CLASSICS OF YESTERYEAR. So go take a look. Host, Nathanael Hood has worked extra hard to pull this whole thing together (over 40 contributors signed up) and there will be many monsterous films to talk about every day.

It falls to me to write a rational piece about an essentially irrational film. I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE (1958) starring Tom Tryon and Gloria Talbott, written by Lous Vittes and directed by Gene Fowler, Jr.

This was a movie I had never seen before but when the Blogathon was first announced, I didn't move quickly enough to grab my favorite title(s) and well, that's how I got my chance to see this creaky...uh, creepy 50's monster 'classic' for the first time.

This over-long (or maybe it just seemed that way) movie could be seen as a very B-minus version of the very B - plus, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS with Gloria Talbott (who seemed to show up in just about every film made in the 50's - usually in some form of distress), in the Kevin McCarthy role of frustrated clarion. The movie's not a direct copy, mind you, but yeah, it's the similar idea of aliens from outer space taking over the bodies of humans for some nefarious purpose of their own.

In this case, the plan appears to be male aliens mating with human females to propagate a species in which all females have died out due to their inability to stand the effects of an unstable sun. (The women naturally being weaker then the men - even in outer space, females can't catch a break, at least in the 50's.)

Happy-go-lucky (even if he does drive a station wagon), about-to-be married insurance salesman, Bill Farrell (played by the woodenly handsome presence, Tom Tryon) is accosted on his way home on the night before his wedding. He stops on a country lane having seen - he thinks - a dead body. Once he exits his car, he is immediately 'absorbed' by some dark, foggy looking smoke emanating from a creepy space alien who appears at the side of the road perhaps looking for a lift.

The alien takes Bill's form and shows up at the wedding the next day. Once married to the comely Marge Bradley (Gloria Talbott), they soon set off for their honeymoon. At this point I was already having an 'ugh' factor reaction.

Marge notices that something is not quite right with hubby, we see her writing a letter to her mother (which she doesn't mail but throws in the garbage) stating how 'differently' Bill is behaving.  But before you can say 'alien in human form' a year has gone by and darn, Marsha is still not pregnant. The doctor has assured her that she is in fine health and that perhaps he should see her husband for a check-up. Yeah, right, that's gonna' happen.

One day, Marge brings home a dog from a pet store (she obviously doesn't know that a pet store is the last place to buy a dog, but I digress...) as a surprise 'present'  for Bill on their one year anniversary. The dog growls and snarls at Bill (you can't fool a dog) and they put the pup in the basement - tied up in the dark. ANIMAL CRUELTY ALERT! (Things were different back then.) For whatever reason, Bill later goes down the basement and the dog meets an untimely end. SECOND ALERT! We don't see much of this. Marge is horrified, but Bill tells her the dog got himself snared in the leash. Sounds reasonable. Right.

He comes up from the basement and she's curled up on the sofa reading a magazine. Of course. That's what we'd all do right after a dog has died in our basement under suspicious circumstances. She doesn't even wonder what will happen to the body nor does she appear to feel the slightest twinge of guilt. She is inert. He is inert. This was the inert 50's.

The thing is, there really wasn't much else for women to do in films. In those days they more or less stood around, flirted with the hero when necessary, wrung their hands, jumped at the slightest noise, tripped over rocks and screeched when a monster jumped out of the shadows. In the small town of Norrisville in which this story takes place, women grew up, married, had kids. That was IT. Not much variety. Although you'd think marrying an alien would add a bit of spice to Marge's life. But maybe not. Hard to tell the 'real' Bill Farrell from the wooden imitation since Tom Tryon - better known later in life as a best selling author - was never the most animated of fellows. (When he does try to animate himself in this film, the moments are 'cringe-inducing'.)

In the meantime, the aliens haven't been lying around doing nothing. In ONE whole year, they've managed to effect a couple of transformations: the chief of police (who happens to be Marge's godfather), two cops and some friends of Bill who then hurry up and marry, eager to make alien babies - not that that appears to be happening any time soon. But here's the thing: In ONE year, this is all these aliens have managed to do? Well, actually, I think there are only two or three of them in the one ship and I guess it takes time to figure out who to absorb next. But, a year?!

One night the enterprising and increasingly suspicious Marge follows Bill on a night time jaunt out to the space ship. She in a nightgown and robe running up the mountain road, he, casually though not formally dressed. Somehow he has no suspicious he's being followed by his wife and still manages to kill a cat on the way, much to Marge's continued horror. ANIMAL CRUELTY ALERT!! (Yeah, I know it's not a 'real' dead cat. but honestly...) When Bill shows up at the ship Marge sees some ugly business indeed and realizes what's what with her imitation hubby and animal rights violator.

She runs back to town and tries to alert people, but to no avail. Who believes her? No one that's who. Not even friends. When she runs to her godfather, the chief of police, we realize he's been absorbed too. He tells her to go back home and make the best of it. Ha! Advice women have been getting for  thousands of years. Anyway, he tells her that running away might look suspicious, at best she should act as if nothing is wrong. See what I mean? Women being told to act as if nothing is wrong. Why does that sound so familiar? Sometimes you just have to shake your head.

But what else can she do?

It isn't as if she were man.

At any rate, back home she goes. There we have some claustrophobically effective scenes of menace as she does, indeed, try to make the best of a quirky situation. Later, when she's had enough, she tries to drive out of town but there are some road blocks set across the one access road  and the two cops who have been 'absorbed' by the aliens stop her. The road ahead is washed out even though it hasn't rained in months. Marge knows that's a crock but does she throw caution to the winds and crash through the flimsy road block and make a mad dash to freedom? Of course not, it wouldn't be lady-like.

The pressure's on.

We get the impression that the entire town except Marge has been taken over by aliens.

But, not so.

She finally goes to her medical man, Dr. Wayne, played by gruff appearing, gruff speaking Ken Lynch (The same guy who played the gruff mining engineer in my favorite Star Trek episode, The Horta.) He believes Marge when no one else will and figures out that the only men who can be trusted are men whose wives have recently delivered earth babies. (There have been no alien birthings yet since apparently, implementing their take-over plans is not the only thing the aliens are sluggish about.)

The doc rounds up several athletic new fathers armed with guns, rifles and shotguns, and off they go into the hills hunting aliens and their space ship. One of the men brings his two German Shepherds along. Uh-oh.

But then, in the end, it's the dogs who save the day and the reason why Bill saw fit to murder a pup in his basement is possibly explained.

The doc and his men find the 'bodies' of the absorbed men inside the space ship, attached to tubes and things which relayed information to the aliens inside the human husks. They rip out the tubes and as they do, the few aliens in town expire and some oogy, mushy stuff oozes out of their clothing as they flop on the ground.

The real Bill is reunited with a happily ever after Marge and except for a few dead domestic animals and humans, alls well that ends well. Oh yeah, then the space ship blows up.

Most of this film is supposed to take place at night and one of the main problems with the 'look' of things is that scenes were actually shot in daytime then darkened, as was the case back then. This never worked properly and night time very often looked like late afternoon or early evening. Disconcerting to say the least.

Question: Why did the aliens only infect a few individuals in that one long year? What else were they doing? If there were only two or three of them, it seems kind of a lackluster invasion. I mean, they had BIG plans to breed with earth women, take over the world and save their species - right? But in the end it looks like there are only about seven bodies in the ship. A kind of wimpy invasion force, I'd have thought.

I know, I know - Yvette, you can't expect logic. I mean, in THE THING From Another World, there was only one ship and one alien. But he did have a means of reproducing quickly - the little innocent seeming plantlets? So, it's not quite the same.

One main thing I did love about this film are all the gorgeous 1950's cars. Honestly, some of those two-toned hunky machines were absolutely drool-worthy.

I have several favorite films from this era (this is not one of them) but, as I said, those titles were quickly commandeered by my fellow bloggers (darn!). I would much rather have been talking about, THE THING From Another World, THIS ISLAND EARTH, WAR OF THE WORLDS, THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, THEM or IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE. But, that's the way the cookie crumbles. No use crying over spilt milk. Ha! I'll be reading posts on these films and many others over the next few days, same as you. Can't wait. I'm a big fan of films from the 50's and I love this whole Blogathon idea.

Not a scene from the film, but a great 'still' anyway.


  1. GREAT!!! could see the movie just reading your blog!!! AH the 50's! Can't wait to read more!! ;) judy

  2. Don't u hate it when a Robot Monster pokes its hairy diver's helmet into your beach/canyon makeout session?

    FFB today, Yvette?

  3. "I Married a Monster from Outer Space" is a great title, and probably the way a lot of newlyweds feel.

    I've never seen the movie, but now I don't have to having read your review.

    Dumb aliens! Some invasion!

    I love Ken Lynch. When he pops up in a show, you just know he's going to make sense and lay down the law.

  4. Hi Yvette, the technology has changed since the fifties with special effects able to create almost any kind of monster the movie required. Yet the basic story line has to remain the same. I can just remember seeing THE MONSTER FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, (I think it was early sixties) and it wasnt just going to the movie, to see a monster. It was all about going to an x rated monster movie. That was the big deal.

  5. Nice review.

    Other than its great title this film is basically (as you more than allude to at the beginning of the post) a cheap imitation of the spectacularly creepy Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This film also has a cheesy happy ending (as opposed to Body Snatchers much more downer ending which is wholly appropriate for the genre).

    And it was nice to see the dogs get their revenge (even if they must sacrifice themselves to do it).

    Oh, and Davo, Creature from the Black Lagoon was actually made in 1954 (four years before this film) but was considered one of the technical highlights of the period.

    Special effects were of course not the CGI things of this modern age but I often prefer the older effects. The newer modern effects often look a different kind of cheesy (Jar Jar Binks!!!!).

    Again, nice review. Sorry it wasn't a movie you loved.

  6. Interesting and funny review Yvette! I've never seen the film but it seems like one of those little films of the 1950's that you put on the TV and that you put your brains on off...

  7. Anonymous Judy: Ha! You were just a little chicky in the 50's. Glad you enjoyed the review, kiddo.

  8. Todd: I nominate this guy as the stupidest and worst movie monster that ever lived! Love the poster, though.

  9. Caftan Woman: Great title for a movie is right. Love it. I'm a big fan of Ken Lynch as well. He just oozes competence. :) Plus I love his 'gruffness'.

  10. Davo: I actually watched CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON last night just to get in a 'monster' sort of mood. Ha! I can't imagine why it would be X rated unless it was because of Julie Adams' pointy bra. :)

  11. Kevyn: I prefer some of the old fashioned effects as well. Some of them were qauite well done. I azlways loved the aliens and their space ships in WAR OF THE WORLDS - the original one with Gene Barry. And I adore Ray Harryhausen's work.
    We celebrated his birthday a few weeks ago on this blog. :)

    Well, one of the German Shepherds does survive. So his pal gave up his life in a worthy cause.

  12. Michael: Yes, definitely turn your brain off! Great way to put it. Ha!

    And I did love the cars, after all.

  13. Yvette, I always kinda liked this movie. Your criticism about its treatment of the female gender is on point, but the same could be said of many other films of the same era. Except for the dog incident (I love dogs and they always fare poorly in sci fi and horror), the aliens really aren't so bad. Just trying to promulgate their species, you know. And the alien Bill isn't a bad husband, just "different."

  14. Rick29: "And the alien Bill isn't a bad husband, just "different."

    Ha! I laughed out loud at that one. Yes, you're perfectly right, the aliens aren't THAT bad, as aliens go. :)

    But think of the dog population!

    I love dogs too (in fact, I live with one) and ordinarily I would have turned off the film at that point, but for the sake of Blogathon I persevered.

  15. I never saw this movie but I'm almost tempted to rent it after reading your review, Yvette, as you made it sound so funny in a quirky, B - 50's movie

    If I had to pick the best 50's monster movies, "The Day The Earth Stood Still" would be #1 ( as I'm assuming the robot Klaatu, would be considred a monster?), followed by "The War of the Worlds," then "The Blob," and "Them."

    So you were also a Trekie? I loved that show!

  16. Pat: Definitely check out the other entrie in the Blogathon if you're a fan, Pat. There was a great piece on THEM in yesterday's postings. And WAR OF THE WORLDS and THE BLOB and DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL are all being talked about from yesterday until August 2nd. You can link to main Blogathon page from the Monster Mash Badge on the right hand side of my blog.

    Oh yes, I am definitely a Trekkie. Ha!

  17. This was a fun review! Although this movie isn't that good, at least it is enjoyable and watchable unlike a movie such as The Creeping Terror! I also really like that Star Trek episode.

  18. Chris: Thanks! I'm glad I joined this Blogathon, it's a lot of fun, especially reading about the more bizarro movies.

    Trekkies come in all ages. :)

  19. I've never seen this movie, but I loved your review.

  20. Thanks so much, Jacqueline! :)

  21. I love 50s monster movies, but I think I'll stay away from this one. I do love Them! though and watch it every chance I get.

  22. I like the sympathy you show the ladies of the 50s in this review. No one ever seems to mention that when it comes to sci-fi, but it is the perfect place to discuss it. I'm curious to see this, but I know better than to expect something amazing. What a strange monster. It looks like his head is missing a few pieces!

  23. Having been a scaredy-cat myself, and steered more towards legal dramas, mysteries and comedies, I never was into monstery movies or sci-fi. (Except my sister an I watched and were terrified by The Twilight Zone.)

    But I laughed non-stop reading this review. It gave me pause on several points.

    Thinking about the "female aliens" has gotten me to think about how exactly the women's movement could have impacted on them. That is a rather humorous thing to ponder, as well as slogans.

    What could women in the 1950s do besides get married and have children? Read, for one thing.

    I once had to act out this movie title in a Charades game. It was fun. The minute I pointed to my ring finger and then made an awful face, everyone got it.

    This sounds like a lot of fun, though.

  24. Well, you didn't expect it to crack the favorites list, did you?

    Love the promotional photo you placed at the end, great pic! The monster is interesting enough to make me want to give it a try at least.

    Fun piece and tone, at least you got to make some lemonade out it.

  25. Ryan: I think you'd love some of the films being featured on other contributing blogs. Check out the BLOGATHON link on my right hand sideboard. It's all monsters all the time...At least until Aug 2nd. :)

  26. KC, hi! Thanks for dropping by. Oh this is worth seeing even if it's just to say you saw a film with this title next time you're at a party.

    Yeah, women in earlier sci-fi films mirrored the prevailing societal attitude, I'm afraid. That's one reason why, I think, Star Tredk was so revolutionary showing women working on star ships.

  27. Kathy: Oh this is a perfect title for charades. But easy. Ha!

    I love almost all the vintage monster films. Some of them were really exceptionally good. I wrote about a few of my favorites here on the blog earlier, WAR OF THE WORLDS and WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE. I was watching CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON just the other night.

    I know, wierd.


  28. Cliff: Thanks for dropping by. Yes, I did get to make some lemonade. It was great fun writing the review!

    I'm glad I got to see this just to say I saw it. :)

  29. This movie actually sounds suspiciously like "Plan 9 From Outer Space" where a race of aliens try to invade earth with only ONE actual alien. But then again...with a low budget...there probably wasn't much more you could show.

    I'm sorry that you couldn't get one of your favorite movies for this blogathon. But you certainly did a great job with this entry! It was informative, snarky, and VERY funny!

  30. They couldn't borrow the 'alien' suit back and forth? Ha! Thanks Nat, glad you enjoyed it. This really was great fun to write about. In a perverse way, I enjoyed myself. :)

  31. This film might make an interesting double bill with The Stepford Wives. So ladies, you can either be married to the granite-faced good looks of alien invaders or you'll be turned into robot duplicates of Betty Crocker.

    It does seem like there's a lot of interesting subtext to be mined here about marriage in the '50s. Pity it all ends in a happily-ever-after. With dead dogs.

    Excellent review, though. Even if you didn't enjoy watching the movie, I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

  32. Hi Rachel, thanks for stopping by today. Yes, the subtext is definitely there.

    It would all make for a very interesting PhD paper, I'm thinking. Women and marriage as represented in mid-century sci-fi films. :)

  33. I Married a Monster from Outer Space is a cult favorite for many people but I'm like you, Yvette -- I yawned through it the time I saw it. Part of the problem is with Tryon (who was a much better writer than he was an actor), whose character doesn't seem that much different once he's taken over by the alien because of his wooden performance.

    The highlight of the movie has always been for me that shot of the alien looking in the store window at the doll because it always gives me the willies, knowing that it's salivating over the thought of procreating with Earth women...brr!!!

    Oh, I second CW's appreciation for Ken Lynch -- I've heard his voice on so many OTR dramas that when I come across it in a TV show I don't even have to look up because I know who it is.

  34. But I'm still glad I saw it, Ivan. (Well, maybe not GLAD, glad.) At least now I can talk about it. And I did enjoy writing about it.

    The alien looking in the toy store window is another part of the inconsistency of this plot: why kill the woman with the dangling earrings and the sleazy come hither approach? Why not...uh, procreate. If that's what they were after.

    You're not going to get many babies by ray-gunning down earth females. :)

    We love Ken Lynch!

  35. I'm so glad Tom Tryon's acting was wooden, since he was able to devote time he would have spent acting to write The Other and Harvest Home.
    Great post. It's always fun to read an article trying to make sense of a nonsensical movie.

  36. Erin: Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

    Yes, Tom was a much better writer than he was an actor. He made a great second career for himself.

  37. Enjoyed your funny post, though it's too bad the movie was so disappointing. I like the bit about the title referring to the experience of many wives (ha!); one of the interesting facets about many 50s horror films is how much they reveal about their culture.

    I haven't yet seen this film, but have wanted to. It's actually a much-written-about movie among writers on Queer Theory, with the aliens' failure to procreate interpreted as the 50s biased view of gays. An interesting book on the subject is by Harry Benshoff, called "Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality and the Horror Film"; he writes about this film in his section on 1950s horror movies. I recommend the book; it's highly readable and entertaining.

  38. Yeah, that's all women got to do in the 1930s. If only all those pesky aliens had come down to Earth to free us from the shackles of the Production Code...

    Of course, now I'm wondering what I Married a Monster from Outer Space would have been like in 1932. I'm picturing Barbara Stanwyck and Warren William. It would have ended in a suicide. But whose...?

  39. Erm, 1950s. Learn to proofread, Hal.

  40. Grand Old Movies: I've never heard of that theory applied to this particular film, though of course I'd heard of similar theories applied to others. A movie's subtext is open to all sorts of interpretations - that's part of the fun.

    I'm not sure I'm getting it in this instance. But I'd like to take a look at the book you mention, it sounds intriguing.

  41. Hal: Or it might have been turned into a screwball comedy with Cary Grant and...say, Claudette Colbert. :)

    Women in thirties movies only committed suicide if they had an affair while married or had an illegitimate child or murdered someone nice. Actually, come to think of it, they pretty much got away with all that in the 30's.

  42. Yvette, as always, your hilarious snarky review was way more fun than I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE probably was! :-) To be fair, I've heard of a number of people who thought it was chock full of symbolism. At the very least, those aliens sound like they were awfully inefficient in their "Mars Needs Women and Babies" routine :-) Once again, my friend, you've cooked up a thoroughly entertaining review!

  43. I'm nothing if not snarky. Ha! Thanks, Dorian. Glad you enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun to write.

    Symbolism. Yeah, but symbolism doesn't guarantee a great movie.

  44. Yvette, I'm so late getting here, and I haven't read all of the comments, but I know somebody else has mentioned, as you did, the extreme yuck factor of the couple's wedding night. Did the alien husband even know what to do. For all we know, he may have thought it was her ear that .... well that's as far as I feel I can go! LOL!

    I agree about Tom Tryon. Not a good actor, but a wonderful author. Ever read his book or see the movie "The Other"? Just marvelous. Your assessment of the women in these movies is spot on. Wringing hands, falling down constantly at bad moments -- but in a most unfeminist way, I would be glad to let the testosterone group go to confront the ugly aliens!

    You may not have wanted this movie, but it was certainly fun to read your take on it. I always wondered too if, after the real husband is restored to the wife, if she could ever stand to try to do her conjugal duty! LOL!

  45. Oh, better late than never, Becky. Don't worry about it. Please, don't feel any pressure to post comments. This is supposed to be fun. :)

    I've never read any of Tryon's books, I don't read horror or that type of suspense. But I've heard that he was a terrific writer.

    I wonder if she'll make comparisons between 'the genuine' and 'the copy'. But let's not go there. Ha.

    I'm actually glad I got to see this movie, Becky. I really did enjoy writing about it. Let's say it expanded my horizons. :)


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