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DVD SAVANT

Terror IN THE
Midnight Sun
&
Invasion OF THE
Animal People


Terror in the Midnight Sun / Invasion of the Animal People
Something Weird Video / Image Entertainment
1959 / B&W / 1:37 / 73m.- 55m. / Rymdinvasion i Lappland
Starring Barbara Wilson, Sten Gester, Robert Burton, Bengt Blomgren, Ake Grönberg, Gösta Prüzelius, John Carradine .
Cinematography Hilding Bladh
Art Direction Nils Nilsson
Film Editors S. Citron, Ernst R. Rolf
special effects Odert von Schoultz
Original Music Harry Arnold, Allan Johansson
Writing credits Arthur C. Pierce
Produced by Bertil Jernberg and Gustaf Unger
Directed by Virgil W. Vogel

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Revised with a response from John Black, 7/16/01

Savant saw the ad for Invasion of the Animal People in the papers while eating corn flakes in 1962 or '63. I was an undiscriminating 11 year old with movie privileges, who'd see stuff like Reptilicus and King Kong vs Godzilla and come out of the theater the happiest kid in town. But even as an ad, Invasion of the Animal People looked like a dog - just a big black square on the page with some lettering that looked like my own attempts to mimic ad art in crayon. I didn't go, thereby sparing myself the curse of Jerry Warren. Even A.I.P, which embraced the likes of Larry Buchanan, wouldn't touch this guy's work.

Something Weird Video has not only dug up this dismal, abysmal turkey from the abysmal dism; but they've done their homework by digging even farther for the original Swedish film that Z-minus filmmaker Warren carved up, and to which he added his directorial credit: Terror in the Midnight Sun. It must have sounded like a good idea all around: American talent going to a remote Scandinavian location to help Swedish filmmakers turn out a product that could be marketed internationally. Virgil Vogel, the director of the underfunded Universal non-epic The Mole People, went into partnership with Swedish and Swedish-American producers.

Terror in the Midnight Sun rates high on the curiosity meter, and that's about it. Stills of the giant hairy Yeti-type monster standing on icy outcroppings have popped up in fan magazines for forty years, but this is the first time the original movie can be seen intact, which is always a good thing. Too bad it doesn't provide much in the way of entertainment.

Synopsis:

A meteor crashes in remote, icebound Lapland, and some scientists, including Dr. Wilson (Robert Burton) and his ice-skating daughter Diane (Barbara Wilson) fly up with the Swedish military to check it out. A playboy geologist Erik Engström (Sten Gester) hits it off with Diane, even after she stows away not once but three times when she isn't invited. The meteor turns out to be a spaceship carrying a number of silent, hairless albinos (hey, this is beginning to sound too much like The Mole People) who turn dials and make funny electronic sounds. The twenty-foot Yeti-thing (Lars Ahrén) shambles around on its giant flat feet, killing reindeer and pushing chunks of ice onto isolated ski cabins. Neither it, nor the aliens, are ever explained; the story sticks to the mechanics of Erik and Diane travelling cross-country for help after the Yeti wrecks the Army's snow plane.

Competently shot but lacking in pace or production finesse, it's clear that (Rymdinvasion i Lappland) wasn't going anywhere internationally. It probably didn't play long in Stockholm, either. There's little artistry to the lighting, which favors the icy snowscape in the ice skating entrance of Barbara Wilson, and turns a lot of interiors into murky nowheres. Only Robert Burton, a veteran of countless American films (you'll remember him as Whit Bissell's #2 man in I was a Teenage Frankenstein) has much of a presence on-screen. Neither of the leads quite cut it, although they are likeable enough. Barbara Wilson has quite a genre resumé on the IMDB, it must be admitted: Teenage Doll, Blood of Dracula, The Flesh Eaters, even the Italian giallo La Llama nel Corpo. It's really screenwriter Arthur C. Pierce's fault: there's just no script, unless the director decided not to film it. The story heads exactly nowhere and the scenery and oddly-costumed Laplanders take the forefront. If you're a cross-country skier, some of these vistas might be appealing. It's clear that filming in all that cold can't have been very pleasant.

The special effects are rudimentary, with the landing of the obvious alien ship imitating the beginning of It Came From Outer Space, and the Yeti merely shuffling its furry feet among a few prop buildings ... it appears in the same frame with humans only once, in a shot too dark to see how it was achieved. The makeup for the Yeti is interesting but unimpressive. He does look something like Chewbacca, but has no personality whatsoever.

Terror in the Midnight Sun really needed good music to add some excitement, and this is perhaps the picture's biggest drawback, as its score just meanders along, and rarely highlights any of what could have been at least jolting moments. I'm not expert enough to declare it a random selection of library tunes dropped in, but that's what it sounds like. As with the Danish film Reptilicus, a stab is taken at a pop song. Here it's a droning melody that sounds good when sung in Swedish at the winter chalet, but annoying when crooned in English by a male quartet. The English lyrics are awkward, as if not enough syllables were stretched over the melody line ... it's pretty awful. By contrast, Tivoli Nights from Reptilicus is Oscar material.

The transfer on the Something Weird/Image disc is very good, with the proviso that the crude titles and credits are way off to the right of the screen. Seen anywhere else, that would lead Savant to believe that the framing is way off, but the rest of the picture looks balanced, so it's altogether possible that the titles were just poorly produced. This disc can stand as the defnitive, authentic, best-ever rendition of a title you probably weren't looking for in the first place ... Science Fiction completists will find the film's unique nationality (are there ANY other Swedish horror or Science Fiction movies?) a selling point.


Something Weird DVDs are nothing if not extra-packed, and this disc is no exception. The Warren atrocity version of the movie is also here, from a print that doesn't look nearLY as good as the Swedish original. It might be 16mm, but the truly terrible quality of the padding scenes Jerry Warren has shot wouldn't merit anything better. Using some of the original cast and a serious-looking John Carradine, Warren adds about twenty minutes to the running time of the original film and takes out even more. Carradine sits at a desk next to a globe and gives voice to five minutes or so of absolute gibberish littered with words like 'science' and 'outer space'; these shots he could have dashed off on a lunch break. Other meaningless, pointless, boring scenes delay the beginning of the Swedish footage. Savant made the right choice at age 11. I just couldn't get through this mishmosh, and contented myself with the liner notes on the DVD package provided by a genial Frank Henenlotter. He recounts what's in and out from Terror, and uses his own zingers to describe the cinematic crimes of Jerry Warren.

Even more of a bonus is a lost television show, 13 Demon Street from the film's producer, Gustaf Unger, which uses wraparound scenes with Lon Chaney Jr. to introduce a dark and uninvolving story shot in Sweden. Something Weird has also thrown in a couple of short subjects, color letterboxed docu fragments from Sweden. One shows the Lapps herding hordes of reindeer and proves that the interesting costumes in the feature are authentic. The other is a weird exposé of delinquent Swedish teens running wild in hot rods that shows a number of dangerous road behaviors and unpleasant makeout scenes. It appears to be narrated by George Sanders.  1 Also included, and not too welcome, are a score of Swedish-themed sexploitation trailers, with X-rated content intact. The attractively designed packaging for Terror in the Midnight Sun does indicate their presence, but do they really belong?


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Terror in the Midnight Sun / Invasion of the Animal People rates:
Movie: Poor +
Video: Good
Sound: Good
Supplements: Lots! See the paragraph above.
Packaging: Snapper case
Reviewed: July 14, 2001


1. Glenn, it is indeed George Sanders narrating those Swedish shorts from the Terror/Animal People disc. They have been exerpted from Ecco!, a 1963 shockumentary that followed in the wake of Mondo Cane. Something Weird has released Ecco! as a VHS, previously. - John F. Black
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