Strange Invaders Blu-ray Review: I Married a Woman from Outer Space

Strange Invaders (1983) directed and co-written by Michael Laughlin, is a quirky ode to science fiction movies of the 1950s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Invaders from Mars. Starring Paul Le Mat as a professor who marries a space alien and has his daughter taken by those aliens as a result. Co-starring Nancy Allen (RoboCop) and Diana Scarwid (Mommie Dearest) with appearances by Michael Lerner, Louise Fletcher, Kenneth Toby, Wallace Shawn, and June Lockhart. 

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In 1958, the quiet, small town of Centerville, Illinois was taken over by strange visitors who arrived in saucer-shaped UFOs via a larger cigar-shaped mothership. Beam forward 25 years and Columbia University professor Charles Bigelow’s (Le Mat) ex wife Margaret (Scarwid) abruptly drops off their daughter, Elizabeth, then heads back to Centerville to attend her mother’s funeral or so she says. After over a week with no word from Margaret, Charles heads to Centerville looking for her. The town hasn’t changed at all since 1958 and Charles gets strange vibes from the townsfolk who claim to have never heard of his wife or her mother. After having his car blown up by a laser beam shot from a leading resident’s finger, Charles hightails it out of town but not before getting a good look at the true face of the man with the dangerous finger.  

Meanwhile back in New York, the Centervillians have descended upon the city in force to find Charles and take his hybrid daughter back to the planet from whence they came. Charles contacts an FBI lady, Mrs. Benjamin (Fletcher), who dismisses his claims and sends him on his merry way. It’s on his way home that Charles sees a photo in a tabloid that’s the exact same creature he saw in Centerville. Tabloid reporter Betty Walker (Allen) brushes him off as well after revealing the photo had been sitting around for years and was sent in by some kook who’s been locked in a mental hospital for years after claiming his family had been turned into blue balls of energy while they visited Centerville. Later that night, Betty is visited by a Centervillain who gives her a fright and vaporizes her buildings superintendent. Now a believer, Betty searches for Charles and finds him just as ex-wife, Margaret, has reappeared and just as the Centervillians have taken daughter Elizabeth. Now the reporter and the professor team up and head back to Centerville but first they need to stop at a certain mental hospital to pick up one Mr. Willie Collins (Lerner), who snapped that picture all those years ago. 

So now the professor, the reporter, and the mental patient (who really isn’t crazy) head back to the alien stronghold to blast those aliens to bits. It’s not that easy of course as Mrs. Benjamin turns up again to stop them and inform them that the government knows of the alien presence and that they have an agreement of some sort. It’s not until after our heroes have run around town, infiltrated the spaceship, and get captured that we learn the aliens are here to conduct research on humans and the planet Earth. Their allotted time here is up and they are returning home at last with the hybrid kid in tow. Margaret on the other hand does not want her child taken off world so with the help of Elizabeth they set about freeing the earthlings using their fingers as ray guns. All ends well, though, in this nutty sci-fi adventure as we watch the saucers return to the mothership while all the town’s inhabitants who were turned into energy orbs are returned to their previous forms untouched by time like the town of Centerville itself. 

Strange Invaders is a quirky, tongue-in-cheek homage to sci-fi films of the 1950s. Director Michael Laughlin manages to capture the spirit of the genre, both A- and B-listers, well. He makes great use of shadows at the beginning of the picture as a nod to movies of the past. Yet right from the opening scrolls’ tone, we get clues that this won’t be a serious outing. The scroll mentions the 1950s as a simpler time of “twin beds and Elvis from the waist up…as a matter of fact, except for the communists and rock and roll there was not much to fear.” Nothing to fear besides maybe the acting in this one, as everyone’s performance is hit and miss, including Le Mat’s. Some scenes are played well, while others just come off flat or hokey. Diane Scarwid even earned herself a Razzie nomination for worst supporting actress, which I don’t totally agree with but can’t overlook either. She’s very wooden at times but she is playing a space alien so perhaps that’s actual in character? Then again, I have seen her act in other movies, so…

Strange Invaders, like the movies it draws inspiration from, has plot holes as numerous as stars in the sky but it also has some decent special effects. The aliens are creepy, especially when they tear away their human forms, and the lighting rays shot from their hands aren’t bad either. The UFOs are reminiscent of those Ed Wood’s pie tins in Plan 9 from Outer Space but are way better looking on screen. The movie’s score by John Addison is a high point, hitting all its marks from the jaunty ’50s-inspired sounds to those of wonder and concern when the invaders arrive. Addison’s score is menacing when needed and helps drive the suspense as the opening credits roll. His use of strings, brass, and what sounds like a theremin, a must have in these movies, has a classic sound throughout. 

Strange Invaders is 93 minutes of fun that is best enjoyed if one does not take it too seriously. It’s science fiction after all. The Blu-ray release would have definitely benefited from special features of some sort as there are many questions and I’m sure many stories to tell about its director and cast. Laughing, who had previously directed Strange Behavior (1981), another goofy, semi-serious send up, had originally planned to make a “strange trilogy” but canceled the third film after Invaders flopped at the box office. It would be interesting to have his thoughts on these movies and to know what subject a third film would have tackled. It’s too bad our world may never know. Keep watching the skies my friends. 

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Joe Garcia III

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