Sunday, August 25, 2013

Teenagers From Outer Space – Squeaky Clean 1950s Entertainment

By Steve D. Stones

If it wasn’t for the wooden acting and poor production values, the 1957 sci-fi film - Teenagers From Outer Space could pass with flying colors as a well-made, entertaining piece of celluloid. The film was distributed by Warner Brothers, which seems a bit odd, considering most low budget sci-fi films of the 50s era could never get a major studio like Warner Brothers to fund or distribute their product. The film couldn’t be placed in the Ed Wood School of bad acting and film making because, from a technical stand-point, its cinematography is well done, and the actors seem to take their dialogue very seriously. Many have suggested that this film could be a blueprint for the Terminator films, since the plot is one long chase sequence.

A group of teenage aliens led by actor King Moody land their spaceship somewhere in the Hollywood hills to place a gargon creature from their planet to harvest for food. Gargons have to be raised a safe distance from their planet. The gargon showed on screen is nothing more than a lobster in a cage.

Gargons grow to a million times their original size. One teenager named Derek, played by David Love, insists that the gargon creatures not be placed on planet earth because he has found evidence of intelligent life in the form of a dog. The dog is blasted with a ray gun by Thor, one of the other teenage aliens. All the aliens in the ship wear overalls that look like an auto mechanic might be wearing.

Derek insists that gargons not be raised on earth as he threatens the rest of the alien crew with his ray gun. Derek escapes, and Thor is assigned to chase after him and bring him back to the ship. Derek finds his way to a Hollywood neighborhood where he lodges with an attractive young girl named Betty and her grandfather. Betty and her grandfather naively accept that Derek is dressed in a strange outfit, and carries no luggage with him.

The rest of the film is a long, drawn out chase between Thor and Derek. While hunting for Derek, Thor blasts a gas station attendant, a sexy girl in a swimming pool (what was he thinking?), a college professor and a couple of police detectives with a focusing disintegrator ray-gun. Thor stops at nothing to find Derek and bring him back to the spaceship. The ray gun shines a reflective ray as the actor points the front of it in direct sunlight.

In a clichéd subplot, Derek falls in love with Betty, played by Dawn Anderson. Eventually Derek has to tell Betty that he is not of this earth. She is not too concerned, and maintains her love for him. The two go scouting for Thor’s ray gun after he is thrown from a car in a chase.

As Derek and Betty search for the ray gun near Thor’s car crash, a giant rear projected lobster (i.e. a gargon) appears on screen to attack the couple. Derek conveniently finds Thor’s ray gun in a bush and blasts the rear projected lobster as it falls to the ground.

The entire film has a Leave It To Beaver, Ozzie & Harriet innocence to it that seems appropriate for the era. Some of the music used in the film can be heard in George Romero’s 1968 film – Night of The Living Dead, and Robert Clarke’s 1959 film – The Hideous Sun Demon. Director Tom Graeff cast himself as a newspaper reporter. Some accounts suggest that he cast David Love in the role of Derek because the two were gay lovers at the time. Neither of the two men went on to make a living in films in Hollywood. Scary Monsters Magazine #88 has devoted the issue to Teenagers From Outer Space, with interviews and articles about the film and surviving cast members and crew. The film is now in the public domain, and can be found in many DVD packs with other low-budget 1950s sci-fi titles. Happy Viewing.

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