Release Date(s)1983 (October 13, 2015)
Studio(s)Orion/MGM/20th Century Fox (Twilight Time)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C-
Strange Invaders came along in 1983, and much like Invaders from Mars (released three years later), it was a tribute to the sci-fi films of the 1950’s with plenty of nods to classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Day the Earth Stood Still. However, The film was released to less than stellar reviews and box office intake, but it managed to garner a small cult audience who appreciate it today mainly for its technical merits, of which there are plenty.
Unfortunately, what holds Strange Invaders back as a compelling movie is its script and performances. Most of the time the actors feel lost without much to go on. A basic story about a race of invading alien beings taking over human bodies as hosts has the potential of being effective, as its predecessors can attest to, but everything is played very stiffly. It seems to want to spend more of its running time paying homage than actually having a voice of its own. Basically, it was a YouTube parody of sorts before there was a YouTube.
It’s a shame too because the most impressive work in the movie are its visuals. It’s a downright beautiful movie to look at, with lush colors and soft filtered images, giving it a very fantastic aesthetic. There’s also a great use of the frame during wide shots with some excellent composition. The special effects are also impressive, and among the artists who put them together are Robert and Dennis Skotak, who went on to do the special effects for many of James Cameron’s movies, including Aliens and Titanic. The creature effects, as well as the mothership hovering over the skyline, are also very impressive. So the film has a pedigree when it comes to its visual quality.
After rewatching Strange Invaders (which I admit I haven’t seen in a few years), I quickly realized that I had forgotten nearly all of it, which is never a good sign when revisiting a movie. Not that everything in it is entirely forgetful, but when a movie doesn’t make an impact on you, it’s difficult to recall it later. It’s only a 93-minute film, but its execution leaves a lot to be desired, particularly its pace, which isn’t much more than a crawl. It was set to be the second part of a trilogy of movies, with the former being the film Strange Behavior, but once Strange Invaders failed to capture everyone’s attention, the idea was scrapped. It might have fared better initially if it had spent more time with stronger characters and an ironed-out pace, and possibly garnered a more widespread audience than just a cult one.
Twilight Time’s Blu-ray transfer of Strange Invaders features a very strong presentation. Grain is often minimal and refined during most shots, except during a couple of darker scenes when it brightens up the frame. The soft-filtered look makes sharpness nigh impossible, but having seen it previously in standard definition, it’s remarkably improved. The color reproduction is gorgeous, with lush, vivid colors, but sometimes with pallid skin tones. Blacks are fairly deep with some nice shadow details, and both contrast and brightness are at appropriate levels. There appears to be no signs of digital tinkering, but there is some very, very minor black speckling. The only audio option available is an English mono DTS-HD track. Dialogue is very clean and clear, and both sound effects and score have an appropriate amount of depth to them. There isn’t much in terms of speaker to speaker activity, but it’s to be expected with a mono-sourced track. It’s a lovely presentation, overall. There are also subtitles in English SDH for those who might need them.
As for the extras selection, it’s brief but worth a look. There’s Twilight Time’s usual isolated score audio track included; an audio commentary with director Michael Laughlin and writer William Condon (not one of my favorites, by the way); the film’s original theatrical trailer; an MGM 90th Anniversary trailer; a scroll-through of Twilight Time’s current catalogue; and a 6-page insert booklet with an essay on the film by Julie Kirgo.
By and large, Strange Invaders certainly didn’t light the world on fire when it was released. Films with impressive visuals and special effects don’t often get much recognition when they’re initially released, unfortunately. And while I can’t say that it’s a film worthy of everyone’s attention, I think for sci-fi fans it’s definitely worth checking out. And Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release of the film is the best looking copy you’re going to find.
- Tim Salmons