Strange Invaders – Imprint

Directed by: Michael Laughlin
Written by: Michael Laughlin, Bill Condon, Walter Halsey Davis
Starring: Paul Le Mat, Nancy Allen, Diana Scarwid, Michael Lerner, Lousie Fletcher
Year: 1983
Country: USA
Running time: 92mins
BBFC Classification: PG
uk/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/Strange-Invaders-220x142.png" width="220" height="142" srcset=" 220w, 570w, 768w, 1000w" sizes="(max-width: 220px) 100vw, 220px" />Director/co-writer Michael Laughlin and writer Bill Condon re-teamed for the second part of their Strange trilogy (after the super weird but super cool Strange Behaviour: seek it out, it’s good fun!) for fun 50s sci-fi B-movie homage Strange Invaders. While the third part (The Adventures of Philip Strange) unfortunately never saw fruition, Strange Invaders is an excellent follow up to Behaviour and a good flick for the Strange saga to bow out on.

Aliens’ touch down in a small midwestern town circa 1958 and proceed to take over the population of Centerville, Illinois. Flash forward 25 years later to 1983 and New York university professor Charles Bigelow (Paul Le Mat) sets out for Centerville to find his gone awol ex-wife. Once there, he finds the town near deserted and the locals that are left acting very strange indeed. Barley getting away with his life, he hot tails it back to NY to convince plucky reporter Betty walker (Nancy Allen) that aliens are in fact real and have taken over a small town. However, said aliens are hot on Charles’ tail, following him back to the big city and swiftly kidnap his daughter. It’s then up to Charles, Betty and a survivor of the alien’s initial visit back in the 50s (Michael Lerner) to convince the authorities aliens are here and rescue Charles’ daughter.

Much like Strange Behaviour, Invaders is a homage to B-movies of the 50s and 60s this time focusing on sci-fi and aliens, compared to the slasher route Behaviour took. Working with what appears to be  a slightly bigger budget, Laughlin crafts a visually impressive B-flick that has the same quirky vibe as Strange Behaviour albeit with aliens taking over humans’ ala Invasion of the Body Snatchers rather than a masked killer running around killing everyone. The budget allows for some impressive cinematography and a good smattering of awesome practical make-up effects. Face tearings and gooey effects abound as the aliens shed their human form to reveal their true self in several impressive and often startling sequences. There’s also impressive model work to render the alien’s spaceship, including a breathtaking shot that reveals the craft from behind some clouds that holds up better than most of the CGI output of today.

The effects and alien sequences are used effectively while the quirkier characters carry the rest of the film through the often-absurd goings on. Paul Let Mat (American Graffitti) is great as the laid back, droll hero and there’s great support from the Michael Lerner, Diana Scarwid and Nurse Ratched herself, Louise Fletcher. However, it’s Nancy Allen who steals the film as the plucky, sexy, and constantly smoking (!) reporter, who out acts everyone on screen, and seems to be having a great time in amongst all the silliness. Also look out for an early appearance from Wallace Shawn and cameos from the stars of the original Lost in Space, June Lockhart and The Thing from Another World, Kenneth Tobey.

The film, much like its predecessor, has a vibe all of its own: often quirky and in no rush to get anywhere fast or necessarily adhere to narrative cohesion. This may irk the more critical out there, but it all adds the fun vibe and the makers obviously enjoy the films from the 50s they’re so lovingly honouring. In fact, the flick really does feel like a lost sci-fi B-movie from the 50s only set in the 80s and with slicker photography and better effects.

Imprint films released Stranger Invaders on limited edition Blu Ray 27 March 2024.

Special Features & Technical Specs:

  • 1080p High-definition presentation on Blu-ray – film looks fantastic, the widescreen photography really looking great making the film appear slicker than its low budget.
  • Audio Commentary by co-writer/producer/director Michael Laughlin and co-writer Bill Condon – a great commentary with Laughlin and Condon (though it appears to be two separate commentaries spliced together!), both talking fondly of the film, it’s making, and the fact it’s had a new shiny release (previously) on DVD and now Blu Ray. Laughlin is all dry wit and laid-back alternating between describing what’s happening on screen and how they achieved all the impressive effects shots. Condon is also great, really proud of the film, and it’s great to hear him talk so fondly of it as he’s gone on to critically acclaimed films such as Gods & Monsters and Dreamgirls and big budget fare such as several Twilight sequels and the live action Beauty & the Beast. Both are a wealth of knowledge, on the film itself and the film industry, and great to hear them talk so positively of the film and their time making it.
  • Strange Films: The Unfinished Trilogy – a video essay by film historian Jarret Graham – an informative and well researched video essay from Graham that charts the genesis, success, and ultimate failure of Laughlin’s planned Strange trilogy. It covers the making of both Strange Behaviour and Strange Invaders, with great insight and behind the scenes images, but shortchanges a bit on the proposed third instalment, The Adventures of Philip Strange. Perhaps there was little info to discuss on this third part but it would have been nice to hear a bit more about what Laughlin had planned if things had worked out. Graham also rushes through info at a swift pace meaning facts are delivered at an intensity but there is no denying his passion and knowledge of the films and it’s certainly interesting to hear more about the making of both Behaviour and Invaders.
  • Isolated score by composer John Addison A Bridge Too Far composer’s effectively eerie and ‘50s B-movie homage score is a delight.
  • Theatrical Trailer cool old retro trailer that seems to sell the flick more as a comedy but stills sells it well. However, it does show most of the impressive alien make-up effects shots so maybe watch it after the feature so as not to spoil the surprise.
  • Audio LPCM 2.0
  • Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
  • Optional English HOH Subtitles
  • Limited Edition slipcase with unique artwork
Strange Invaders - Imprint
Andrew Skeates reviews excellent 50s sci-fi homage Strange Invaders, recently released by Imprint.
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