Every once in a while, somebody tries to recapture the genie in a bottle that was “Sci-Fi Movies in the 50s”. It’s not an easy task. Ask today’s “sophisticated” audiences, and they’ll tell you that one of the reasons “campy” movies like Forbidden Planet and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers worked so well in the 50s is that people simply didn’t know any better. They didn’t know what would one day be possible in a post-CGI world, and therefore embraced the best they could get.
As we sit and wait for the visual extravaganza that will be Terminator: Salvation this year, it’s easy to dismiss a movie like the original The Day the Earth Stood Still as simple and unexciting by comparison. After all, it’s in black and white, and the special effects are so OBVIOUS, and the alien looks like a normal man. And yet, while I haven’t seen it yet, by most accounts the 2008 remake starring Keanu Reeves was a huge letdown … despite being in color and having a multi-million dollar special effects budget. Likewise, I personally wasn’t all that impressed with Spielberg’s CGI-laden 2005 retelling of The War of the Worlds. Bigger and fancier doesn’t always equate to better.
All of which is my pretense for talking about an independent flick due out later this year, called Alien Trespass, produced and directed by X-Files alum R.W. Goodwin.
Alien Trespass looks as if it has the potential to be either campy stupid or campy brilliant. Hard to tell for sure just yet. The premise is that this was a movie originally made in 1957, which was buried by the studio head before it ever showed on a single screen. In it, an alien spacecraft crashes on Earth, an alien monster begins attacking people, and a benevolent alien has to inhabit the body of a scientist (Eric McCormack of Will & Grace) to defeat it with the help of a spunky blonde waitress (Jenny Baird of The 4400). Also along for the ride are Robert Patrick (T2) and Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years), who both play local cops.
Based on this interview on SCI FI Wire, the director of Alien Trespass seems to have a good understanding of how to balance the humor inherent in making an anachronistic movie like this, while still seeing it as more of an homage than a spoof. Of course, even if he pulls it off, we’re still looking at an indy film based on a premise that most people under 30 probably won’t have much interest in. After all, if you haven’t actually watched any of the movies that this one is paying tribute to, any humor will be lost, and you’ll probably walk away thinking it was at best a series of jokes you don’t understand, or at worst, just plain stupid.
But since I actually have watched all of those classic sci-fi movies, many of them over and over again — and I was born in 1967 by the way, so this was by choice and not out of necessity — I imagine that I’ll be the dead-on target audience for this film. Which I doubt will make it to a theater near me. But once it comes out on DVD, I plan to give it a watch, and once I do, I’ll let you know what I think.