FRYEAN MYTHOS: *comedy*CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *sociological*
Edward L. Cahn didn’t direct many comedies, and INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN doesn’t suggest any great untapped potential in that department. Still, compared with some of his lesser efforts, SAUCER MEN makes a fun change of pace.
Irwin Yeaworth’s BLOB gets a lot of credit for showing its teen characters to be more hip to an alien menace than the stodgy adults, but SAUCER MEN got there first. Indeed, the first few lines of the script establish a common complaint of teens everywhere: that of living in a small town where there’s nothing to do. (The narrator calls it “Hicktown,” daring the viewer to believe it or not.) The covert implication is that there is just one thing even “clean teens” can do to alleviate the boredom: parking and making out in the countryside.
Supposedly many “real” extraterrestrials come hunting for humans in country towns, and the Saucer Men are no exception. Indeed, though the film is silly, these big-headed, bug-eyed dwarfs remain one of the iconic space-horrors of the fifties. Like a lot of recorded “fourth-kind encounters,” these aliens don’t seem to have any real purpose in coming to Earth except to mess around with humans. One clean teen, while driving his best girl around, hits a BEM with his car, and then he can’t convince the cops that he hit an inhuman monster—possibly because there just happens to be a bonafide human corpse in the area. The condescending attitude of the cops toward the young people is admirably captured here, as is the growing frustration of the teens. It doesn’t help that the E-Ts come equipped with a perfect way to make teens look bad to adults: hypodermic-fingers with which they can inject their clean-living patsies with alcohol.
Though Frank Gorshin is the only performer in the film who went on to greater renown, all of the actors, famous or not, seem to be having a great time with the material. No doubt teen-viewers of the fifties particularly liked the big finish, where the teens manage to vanquish the monsters with their car-headlights. As a side-dish, there’s a fight between a BEM and a bull that might’ve made Doctor Wertham’s naughty list of “injury-to-the-eye” offenses, had he extended the list to the cinema.