To some it's an inarguable fact that the 1950s may have been the best era for science fiction. So many classic films came out of this decade to support this argument that it isn't even funny. Sometimes I sit and imagine what it must have been like to be a kid growing up in those years. What would it have been like to go and see Saturday matinees of movies like The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds, Them!, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, Forbidden Planet, and The Blob? I suspect that the writers and director of this movie have often wondered the same thing, and that wonder has become manifest by the creation of Alien Trespass.
When you first see the promotional materials, see the trailer and posters, and read the description, it is likely that you will have serious questions as to what this thing is really about. At a glance, two thoughts came to mind. First up, this was going to be a send-up of the '50s-era films, completely tongue in cheek, almost mocking in tone. Secondly, I thought this was going to be a retro movie that played to the old formulas but updated them with modern sensibilities, you know how those things go. Both of those ideas turned out to be wrong, although the second one turned out to be partially right.
Alien Trespass is certainly a retro movie; however, it has not gone through any sort of updating, virtually nothing was done to make it appear modern. This is a movie that goes all out in replicating the look and feel of those old school science fiction movies. From the opening scratchy newsreels, to the over-saturated colors (making it look a little like a Technicolor film), to the stiff performances and dialogue, it feels perfectly authentic. It is this authenticity that makes it so charming. Experiencing Alien Trespass is like stepping back in time, back to the days of youth when movies were things of wonder. This is not to say this movie is perfect, but it is just right.
The movie can be played with or without an introduction by the director. Of course, I chose to play it with and I am glad I did. It is set in the offices of an old movie studio with Eric McCormack and R.W. Goodwin. They talk about a movie made in 1957 that was never released. It starred McCormack's grandfather and was directed by Goodwin's grandfather. However, it was believed lost to the ages until a pristine negative was uncovered, buried beneath a part of the studio that has been torn down, and now we get to see it for the first time ever. It is a great little bit that adds to that authentic feeling. Sure, it is easy to get in on the joke, but it is the little things that go a long way to making this an entertaining project.
What is the film about? It is standard fare for the B-movies of the period, and does not come anywhere near the best of the generation, but it the filmmakers obviously have a love for those films.
It begins with scratchy, black and white newsreels telling of the world at that time, much like what you may have seen at those Saturday matinees. We then cut to a small town in California, everyone is going about their business, all appears normal. Then a meteor shower lights up the night, culminating with a spectacular crash just outside town. This once quiet town is about to be upended by visitors from another world!
A local scientist named Ted Lewis (McCormack) goes to investigate, while a couple of kids from town also decide to check it out. Ted arrives and is immediately captured by a strange alien man in a silver suit, all while a tentacled, rubbery critter with one giant eye runs amok in town.
Soon enough, Ted shows up back at home to his worried wife, Lana (Jody Thompson), but something is different. Ted doesn't seem like Ted — he is acting very strangely and does not seem to know much about the common items around him. You see, the silvery alien needed a body to borrow, in order to blend in and recapture the rubbery critter, called a Ghorta.
What follows is a series of chases, misunderstandings, and alien attacks as the kids try to convince the police that they have seen a monster, the cops try to retain some sort of order, Ted wanders around acting strange, and pretty much everything you would expect from a 1950s sci fi movie.
Director R.W. Goodwin has done a fine job of recreating the look and feel of the era with authentic costumes and set design. He has also chosen to use primarily practical effects — the creature is actually there, and while he is a bit goofy with that waggling tentacle, I like it. It is a much better choice than going with some sort of computer effect.