Okay, not a word of that's true -- I mean, except for the part about hitting home video and all -- but after giving Alien Trespass a whirl, I wouldn't run into much trouble believing that it could be. Rather than snicker and poke fun at vintage sci-fi, Alien Trespass grabs hold of what make those movies such a blast to watch even all these decades later; it's an homage, not a spoof. Pretty much every '50s B-movie mainstay pops up at some point, but instead of spastically flailing its arms around to make sure no one misses the joke like The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra did a few years back, Alien Trespass resists cranking up the camp to eleven. It's goofy and ridiculous, sure, but not any more than a lot of the genre kinda-sorta-classics that Alien Trespass is giving a nod to. It looks and feels like a low-rent science fiction flick from 1957 and has an inhuman amount of fun doing it.
Alien Trespass opens in the sleepy California town of Mojave. Falling stars are tearing across the night sky as pipe-puffing professor Dr. Ted Lewis (Eric McCormack) rings in an anniversary with his dutiful wife (Jody Thompson), but...wait, that's not a meteorite! As Lewis trots over to the bluff to investigate, he spots a flying saucer that's embedded itself in the craggy rocks, and -- yoink! When he steps foot outside of the ship again, it's an intergalactic crimefighter named Urp who's wearing that Doc Lewis meatsuit. Urp's not the only thing that skittered out of the crashed saucer. A Ghota -- a cycloptic, tentacled, oversized pickle -- was unleashed in the wreck, and it's starting to gobble up the hapless townsfolk of Mojave. Urp has to leap into action quickly: if the Ghota scarfs down enough people, it'll keep multiplying until it's devoured every last living creature on the planet. 'Course, most of the town doesn't buy
Oh, Alien Trespass is just a ridiculous amount of fun, embracing pretty much every cliché in the '50s Sci-Fi Playbook without the usual post-modern/self-referential winking every twenty seconds. The cast and crew get the joke; it's funnier to play it kinda/sorta straight -- exaggerated, sure, but never deliriously over-the-top -- and everything about Alien Trespass screams 1957. The rubbery, homebrew look of the monster, the chintzy starfield backdrop in the obviously-on-a-soundstage night scenes...heck, the crew even tracked down a spot in Vancouver that's a dead ringer for Bronson Canyon. The creature's kind of a cross between the aliens from The Crawling Eye and the giant pickle in It Conquered the World. There are straight-up nods to It Came from Outer Space, the Keanu-less The Day the Earth Stood Still, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, and Invaders from Mars for sure, and it even excerpts a chunk of The Blob which is slightly anachronistically making the rounds in theaters in this version of 1957.
Pretty much every archetype is featured front and center: the booze-swilling hermit who grabs his dog and investigates the crash, an embattled police chief just a couple days from retirement (Dan Lauria), a professor chomping on a pipe, necking "teenagers", a crusty sergeant type (Robert Patrick) and his wet-around-the-ears deputy, the salty short order cook, a half-Fonzie greaser, a bratty kid with a raygun and a space helmet, all the women are either housewives, waitresses, or babysitters... Alien Trespass juggles enough that it never has a chance to get boring (clocking in at 84 minutes, the runtime's lean enough that it can't drag on anyway), but it never feels overly cluttered either. Lesser genre spoofs have a nasty habit of shoehorning in a bunch of one-note joke characters just out of a sense of obligation, but all the pieces in Alien Trespass fit together pretty snugly, and that's part of what gives this Z-movie homage a leg up over the clunky parody set.
It's kinda tough to hammer out a review of Alien Trespass without typing "fun!" over and over again, but especially for someone like myself who's always really dug '50s sci-fi, it really is a complete blast. Recommended.
The way the story goes, at least, Alien Trespass has been in a time capsule under who knows how many feet of concrete for the past fiftysomething years. Guess it beats a climate-controlled vault in the Rockies 'cause Alien Trespass looks startlingly well-preserved. Okay, the real review: Alien Trespass shrugs off the digitally-infused grain and wear-'n-tear of Planet Terror in favor of something sparkling and shiny. '50s sci-fi flicks wish they could've packed a palette this vivid; its bright, dazzling hues are Technicolor-and-then-some. Quite a few shots are cast in a sort of nostalgic, slightly diffused glow. I was really surprised to learn that the movie was shot on 16mm stock; the 1.78:1 image has been processed to the point where there's nothing even vaguely filmlike about it. (When I first posted this review, I wrote that Alien Trespass was shot natively on digital video, but it turns out that it's just been filtered so that it's no longer recognizable as film.) I don't know if this was done at the digital intermediate stage or if it lurched in further along down the path. This Blu-ray disc does look somewhat smeary and isn't exactly overflowing with fine detail, but clarity and all still come through well enough.
I guess that clean-scrubbed image made Alien Trespass a breeze to compress; even with lossless audio in tow, its AVC encode doesn't crack the 13 gig mark but doesn't suffer from any authoring hiccups that I could spot. There's some mild banding in the night sky, but I'm not sure if that's part of the source or something that crept in after the fact. Whatever. I'm still uncertain how much this Blu-ray disc veers away from the original 16mm photography, but Alien Trespass still looks pretty great on Blu-ray. If the excessively soft, lackluster snippets from the standard definition trailers elsewhere on this disc are any indication, this high-def presentation ought to be an enormous step up over the DVD release.
Alien Trespass sports a 16-bit DTS-HD Master Audio track, and it's kind of a heightened spin on vintage schlock cinema. Since the movie's paying homage to a gaggle of '50s sci-fi and fright flicks that were monaural pretty much straight across the board, it follows that the sound design's not exactly hypercaffeinated. The low-end's healthy enough when it needs to be but doesn't rattle the room. There's a decent sense of directionality -- ricochet from a shotgun blast, Urp's whirring ship, pounding alien tentacles, vacuums spewing salt-'n-sugar -- without ever coming across as awkward or gimmicky. The score is rendered really well too, from ominous strings that'd make Mischa Bakaleinikoff beam with pride to breaking out a theremin. My only real gripe is that the surrounds sound kind of staticky throughout the sequence in the movie theater. Otherwise, though...? This lossless soundtrack does a really terrific job complementing Alien Trespass' spin on vintage sci-fi and definitely sounds nice enough on Blu-ray.
Also included are a Dolby Digital 5.1 track alongside subtitles in English (SDH) and Spanish.
Ack! The awesomely kitschy
The Final Word
Y'know, there really haven't been all that many high-def releases of vintage sci-fi and monster movies: Forbidden Planet still hasn't lurched its way over from the smoldering remains of HD DVD quite yet, and I think the original The Day the Earth Stood Still and that stack of Harryhausens might be about it on Blu-ray. Alien Trespass kind of makes up for it, though. This homage to '50s B-flicks is an inhuman amount of fun, capturing a lot of what've made these movies so enduring for a half-century now rather than just mindlessly poking fun at 'em. Though it's kind of light on extras, Alien Trespass looks and sounds good enough on Blu-ray, and the movie's pretty much required viewing for anyone with a longstanding love for wide-eyed vintage sci-fi. Recommended.