The Alpha Incident (1978)

Three years after he released The Giant Spider Invasion, Wisconsin based filmmaker Bill Rebane created this interesting little film.

It is an exercise in minimalism, with most of the movie focused on five characters in a tiny train station .  A strange microorganism brought back (secretly) from Mars accidentally gets loose among this tiny group of strangers, and they are forced to wait together in the hope that the scientists will find a cure.

And if they fall asleep, they die.

Someone described it as a mash-up of The Andromeda Strain and The Night of the Living Dead, and there are echoes of both of those films here.  But, more than that, there is a strong vein of Seventies paranoia at work here, with, perhaps, a closer resemblance to George Romero’s The Crazies.  As in that film, we find the same hints of confusion, of secrets kept for the sake of keeping secrets, of mistakes made because of bureaucratic foul ups, and terrifyingly amoral decisions made out of an abstract desire to protect the public.

It is perhaps the best of Rebane’s films, with tight construction, solid dialogue and reasonable performances from his cast.  It’s interesting to see former Hollywood tough guy Ralph Meeker as the quietest guy in the quietest wide spot in the quietest Wisconsin road, although by far the best performance comes from drive-in leading man Stafford Morgan as an enigmatic Biochemist with a gun.

. Despite its narrow scope, The Alpha Incident remains tense, often unexpected, and even horrifying at times.

Which is all we need from a movie like this.

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