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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Invisible Invaders (Blu-ray)
Invisible Invaders (Blu-ray)
Kino // Unrated // July 12, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 8, 2016 | E-mail the Author
"The dead will kill the living, and the people of Earth will cease to exist."

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...and mankind will never see it coming. Get it? Because the invaders are invisible? That's the idea, anyway. As barren a rock as you may think the moon is, it's home to a race of conquerors that cannot be perceived by any biological or technological means the world over. For untold millenia, they paid our planet little mind, but that all changes as we rocket towards the space age. This otherworldly force intends on snuffing us out before we can advance any further...that is, unless the entirety of Earth surrenders in the next 24 hours. Dr. Adam Penner (Philip Tonge) is tasked with relaying that ultimatum, although...well:

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The laughter doesn't last. These sinister, unseen entities reanimate the corpses of the recently dead, wearing their bodies like meat-suits to directly deliver warnings to the world at large. Their invisible spacecraft level sprawling metropolises to the ground, wreaking untold havoc and ravaging millions of lives in the process. All hope is not yet lost, though. Dr. Penner is joined by his daughter Phyllis (Jean Byron), family friend Dr. John Lamont (Robert Hutton), and Major Bruce Jay (John Agar) in a well-stocked, secure military bunker. The four of them try desperately to find some way to fend off this army of the walking dead and their invisible arsenal, but how can you kill what no longer lives? How can you stop that which cannot be seen?

If you shrug off the reams of stock footage, the closest you get to sci-fi spectacle in the first twenty minutes of Invisible Invaders is a few mounds of dirt being pushed around. Shot for a song in just six days, there wasn't time or money for...well, much of anything, really, so don't hold your breath waiting for the assault in the poster art to come to life. Still, what better way to stretch a buck than invisible aliens? Heck, even their flying saucers can't be seen. There's at least the potential for suspense when an unseen enemy is bearing down on our heroes, but Invisible Invaders instead veers off in a completely different direction. Rather than remain invisible, they possess the very readily seen corpses of our dead. You can definitely make the argument that an onslaught of zombies will terrify and unnerve humanity, and the creatures are so invulnerable that it doesn't matter if they're seen or not, but that still doesn't seem like the most tactically sound approach to take. They wield weapons capable of flattening entire cities and unleashing devastating floods, so why do they announce their presence over the P.A. at a local hockey game? Hell, if Dr. Karol Noymann (John Carradine) blew himself up in an atomic accident, how is his reanimated corpse not even singed when it knocks on Dr. Penner's door just a few days later?

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Invisible Invaders doesn't exactly hold up to scrutiny, but that'd be okay if the rest of the movie were suspenseful or at least accidentally entertaining. No dice. Its pace is this side of glacial, the alien force (outside of endless cutaways to stock footage of disasters and old Republic serials) just sort of shuffles around aimlessly in the well-dressed corpses of our dead, and it feels like there's nearly as much narration as there is actual dialogue. Admittedly, there are elements of the film that I appreciate. I'm intrigued that there's no sinister alien overlord. They are a singular force without faces or names. They are highly intelligent yet remain beyond reason. In some ways, that brings to mind George Romero's groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead, only a decade earlier and with more ghoulish, gruesome makeup effects work to boot. The scientific processes feel more organic and deserved, building upon the lessons learned from previous failures and occasionally stumbling onto the right path, in contrast to the science-is-magic-and-we-got-it-on-the-first-try I'm used to from this sort of schlock. I especially respect that Invisible Invaders isn't oriented around the threat of an otherworldly incursion; we have been invaded, and much of the film focuses on the desperate search to find a way to strike back.

Still, cramming these four people in a bunker winds up playing like narrative Ambien. The devastation to the world at large is never truly felt. The point of the bunker is to isolate them from the walking dead, but being out of harm's way like that severely throttles any potential suspense. An attack watched in horror over a silent, closed-circuit TV is intense in theory but not as it's executed here. Much like Night of the Living Dead, tensions run high in these claustrophobic quarters among the survivors, but Invisible Invaders doesn't manage to capitalize on that as Romero more skillfully does.

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Oh well. At least I get to gaze upon the creature suit from longtime favorite It! The Terror from Beyond Space again, and I'll always take any excuse to start humming "The New John Agar". I'm a fan of '50s sci-fi, but this is...nope. Rent It, and that's probably being undeservedly generous.


Video
Invisible Invaders isn't much to look at. Yeah, yeah, you're probably not finished groaning at that dreadful pun yet, but bear with me anyway. Although the film is softer and flatter than I would've liked to have seen, there's never so much as a glimmer of doubt that this is a proper high definition presentation. I would've loved to have seen better pronounced film grain, more in the way of detail and clarity, and meatier contrast, but how many high-def masters of Invisible Invaders are there ever likely to be? At least speckling and wear are never particularly intrusive, and although the AVC encode is no great shakes, that's never to the point of distraction either. The short answer reads something like "good enough".

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Considering that Invisible Invaders clocks in at just over an hour in length, it probably goes without saying that the flick arrives on a single-layer Blu-ray disc with room to spare. It goes without saying if you read as many Blu-ray reviews as I do, anyway. This presentation has been pillarboxed to preserve what I assume is the film's theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1.


Audio
Invisible Invaders' lossless soundtrack hits the marks I'd hoped it would. The film's dialogue can sound strained and sibiliant but is perfectly listenable just the same. No hiss, dropouts, pops, or clicks ever threaten to get in the way. The percussive score by Paul Dunlap comes through nicely enough, and I was taken aback by just how much of a wallop is packed by a couple of key explosions.

As far as the laundry list of technical specs go, Invisible Invaders boasts a 16-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack in two-channel mono. There are no dubs, remixes, or subtitles, although the disc does feature a commentary track that I'll talk about in just a moment.


Extras
  • Audio Commentary: Tom Weaver didn't think much of Invisible Invaders as a kid and hasn't exactly warmed up to it in the many decades since, but he still gives this commentary a first-class effort. As ever, it's exhaustively researched but still a hell of a lot of fun. Weaver serves up the highlights from a budgetary breakdown, so if you're aching to know how longshort the shooting schedule was or exactly what kind of a payday John Agar landed for this flick, there you go. He delves deeply into the filmographies and backgrounds of the talent on both sides of the camera, particularly underappreciated-by-his-own-design producer Edward Small. Among the many other topics of conversation are a history of pre-Romero alien-invader-zombie flicks, the challenges of interviewing actors about instantly forgettable movies like this, the British censors wincing at the ghoulish makeup effects, debunking the long-held claim that Sam Peckinpah pioneered the use of squibs for gunshots, and just how implausible and sloppily written Invisible Invaders really is.

    David Schecter doesn't directly speak in this commentary but is still heard through some extensive notes he made about the film's score. Dr. Robert J. Kiss joins in for seven minutes to speak about Invisible Invaders' theatrical release and distribution, extending to its astonishing success on television. (Take that, Mr. Ed!) I'd tell you that this track is an essential listen, but if you made it this far in the review, you almost certainly know and love Tom Weaver's work and don't need me to sell you on it.
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  • Trailer (2 min.; SD): The last of the film's extras is a two minute theatrical trailer. Also along for the ride is a trailer for The Magnetic Monster.

The Final Word
Invisible Invaders only runs a little over an hour but feels as if it lumbers on for twice that length. The threadbare budget never comes close to capitalizing on the flick's premise, the overwhelming majority of the action is relegated to stock footage, and if I hadn't been watching Invisible Invaders bright and early this morning, I probably would've dozed off a half hour into it. This one doesn't even work as an accidental classic. Rent It unless you already know what you're getting into.
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