(aka The Incredible Invasion)
I’ve mentioned before that “Firsts” tend to be disappointing. In fact, their greatest virtue is generally that they are a first.
But, sadly, “Lasts” are nearly always painful, and not just because they are the last. All too often, directors, writers and actors fall out of fashion or find it harder and harder to find a job worthy of their talents or the money for the next project. Age and Physical infirmities prevent them from doing what they once could.
Which brings us to Alien Terror.
This was Boris Karloff’s final film. It is the last of the four Mexican films he made right before he died (the others are House of Evil, Fear Chamber and Isle of the Snake People), for which he got $100,000 apiece. He originally rejected all four scripts, but agreed once long time Roger Corman associate, Jack Hill, re-wrote them. Jack also ended up directing Boris’ scenes in L.A., as Karloff’s emphysema prevented him from working at the high altitude of the Mexican studio.
In the late Sixties, Karloff did most of his films in a wheelchair (see, for example Die, Monster, Die) or sitting in a chair, and while he’s a little more active in this one, it is no surprise that he spends several scenes “paralyzed.” Nor does it come as much of a surprise that he wears a massive protective suit in several of the lab scenes, complete with helmet and dark visor. It could be anyone in that suit, and we know it.
And, of course, most of the film takes place without Karloff.
However, despite his illness, his voice is still strong and resonant. Although, of course, he is dubbed in the Spanish language version (which was the only version actually released to the theaters in the U.S., although Alien Terror did run in English on TV). And, jarringly, one line of dialogue, while he is still in the suit, has been dubbed by someone who doesn’t sound much like Karloff. Strange.
However, the story is even stranger. Here we have a period horror film, apparently set in one of those tiny Hammer Films Mitteleuropean countries. But, we also have a flying saucer, an alien in a silver suit, and a scientist who invented a deadly ray. Throw in a creepy serial killer and his even creepier girlfriend who is mad that he won’t slice her up, a lovelorn woman scientist with a badly scarred face, angry villagers with pitchforks, and disembodied aliens taking people over. It is a strange mix of things that really don’t mix very well, without the absurd flair it would have taken to make this one a cult classic.
The version I saw was from a badly ripped VHS tape, so I really don’t know how many of the occasional sudden jumps are bad editing and how many the result of poor preservation. Even so, it feels a bit slapdash, with only a few moments here and there that end up being reasonably effective.
This one has mostly vanished without a trace, unless you can find one of the rare VHS copies out there. This isn’t exactly a great tragedy, although it seems a shame that it hasn’t ended up on those Mill Valley Fifty Film sets or the like, where it might get rediscovered by Karloff’s fans. After all, it isn’t as terrible as it is supposed to be, and you could do worse for a midnight movie.
But that doesn’t change the fact that it is painful to see Boris struggling to do what little is asked of him.
At least he got well paid.
Buy the film on VHS at Amazon: