THE CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS 1960
Scott Peters (Tom Wright), Linda Connell (Sally Markham), Jason Johnson (Hauron), Katherine Victor (Nadja)
Directed by Phil Tucker
The Short Version: Phil Tucker's last directorial effort has him returning to the type of alien invasion SciFi scenario that made his 1953 muckus, ROBOT MONSTER, so hilariously memorable. In full on Ed Wood mode, Tucker's last bad movie hurrah actually has a pretty decent story behind it about grumpy alien invaders covertly wrecking the US space program. Much stock footage of missiles launching and crashing into the Earth ensues. And that's not all! There's bad acting, virtually non-existent special effects, endless SciFi jargon for chemistry lovers, and a fascination with all sorts of trinkets, radio waves, and laboratory equipment -- all for what looks like a $99 budget. The most shocking thing of all is that Tucker's movie seems to have inspired the opening credits of the James Bond series with the white dots zigzagging across the screen. Bullshit, or not?
Two specks of light from an alien planet hitch a ride with a couple leaving the beach and cause them to die in a car accident. In what could be called 'Plan 10 From Outer Space', the two bickering beings possess the mangled bodies using the corpses as vessels to sabotage the nations space program to pave the way for an impending invasion.
The mastermind responsible for the lovably schlocky ROBOT MONSTER (1953) was the brains behind this forgotten SciFi sleaze. It's just as kooky as the Ro-Monster and his bubblicious antics, if taken far more seriously -- at least it seems the intention was to be serious here; even if the frazzled shoestring budget is always front and center. Aside from the dime-store production values, the 69 minute flick has a bit of a mean streak running through it, which is unusual for the time.
|"Got a little Captain in you?"|
The trashiness is evident right from the start, actually. Once the alien Hauron is host to the now zombiefied corpse, he notices his arm has been ripped off! Nadja tells him she'll sew it back on. In the span of five minutes, Hauron is out of surgery and wandering around in the dark. An MP, apparently with a little Captain in him, empties his pistol into Hauron's host body as the officers attack dog tears his arm off again! The MP takes the arm back to headquarters where he says in all seriousness, "Intelligence told me to bring this straight over to you, sir." In response, one of the scientists says, "Leave this with me. I'll see it gets back to intelligence."
Nadja is one helluva surgeon, though. She's able to sew on arms, chins, and whatever other body part is lying around in a matter of minutes without any anesthesia; or even any operating equipment outside of a scalpel and a giant fork looking thing. These two argumentative aliens have some highly advanced technological gadgetry, too. With a simple hand motion, a spotlight shines on a wall holding whoever is caught in its beam tightly in place; and dig those intimidating weapons they carry that fire no lasers, but make laser sounds to let us know something is definitely coming out of them; and with all this hi-tech wizardry, the aliens are ultimately defeated by a wrist watch and some Pig Latin uttered by one of the young scientists. Little things truly do mean a lot.
The feeble attempts at comparing the older and younger generation in Tucker's movie die quickly amidst the Ed Woodian level of craftsmanship afforded the production. While the elder scientists at the cardboard box set masquerading as Cape Canaveral seem entirely helpless as to how to find out just why all their missiles go down in a blaze of stock footage, their younger equivalents are on the ball. The deluge of scientific gobbledygook comes fast and furious from both sides, though. One riotous scene at the end has the cops and scientists in the aliens flimsy strong-hold trying to figure out how to escape. They spend what seems like an eternity discussing Hydrogen, Sodium Chloride, polyethylene and litmus paper, when four minutes could have easily been saved by stating, "Hey, we've got what we need right here to make an explosive. Let's get the hell outa' here, fellas!"
Speaking of location, the bulk of this brain-melting knee-slapper takes place on two rather cramped sets -- one represents a Cape Canaveral control room; and the other is a cave where the intergalactic Ralph and Alice Kramden solemnly argue amongst themselves -- bemoaning having to work together. In between interminable repartee-free dialog, they talk to their "Great Guidance" via a compact contraption that's Ro-Man's communicator and bubble machine all rolled into one. There's also a corner of a room that acts as a police station.
While THE CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS (1960) has no pedestal with which to sit where the annals of awful cult movies are concerned, it does have some points of interest that turn up in other movies and television shows. The plot device of disembodied alien beings taking up residence in human hosts for their own purposes turned up in a season two episode of the original STAR TREK -- 'Return To Tomorrow'. The aliens in Tucker's movie are visualized as small dots (referred to as green-colored by one of the characters) backed by annoying sound effects. In the Trek episode, the aliens reside in larger, but likewise spherically shaped orbs.
In a more striking comparison, the opening scene (and closing shot) of the zigzagging dots entering the background of the screen, making their way into close up, looks scarily similar to the famous opening of the James Bond movies! Only instead of a surf rock motif, we get what sounds like radio distortion.
If you're looking for a good time with a bad movie, Tucker's impoverished alien invasion flick is a great option. Or make it a combo with his earlier ROBOT MONSTER (1953) for a juicy, overly greasy double cheeseburger.