Teenagers from Outer Space (1959)

In the 1950’s America had much to fear. Vagrancy. Depravity. Communists. The enemy was on every street corner. But all of these horrors paled in the face of America’s true bringer of ruination: teenage rebellion! The 50’s had seen the rise of the teenager. They had new agency and independence when compared to decades previous. No longer were they simply “kids”. They belonged in their own category. Their generation rebelled against the status quo. They were rowdier, more sexually liberated, more passionate yet lazier, and all over just a pain in behinds of older folk. No, I’m not talking about millennials. Teenagers in the 50’s paved the way for youthful subversiveness, and now they complain about those damn kids that have no respect for authority. Teenagers from Outer Space promised audiences “Thrill-Crazed Space Kids” and “Teenage Hoodlums from Another World” that isn’t really what the film gives us though.

Derek is the only one of his alien race that seems to have any compassion. His people want to use Earth to heard Gargons, big lobster-like things. But Derek is a learned person. He’s been reading a book from a time in which his people were not so self-serving. Funny enough, Derek and his subversion is actually the hero of the story. Surprising, given the marketing and the feeling of the youth at that time. Derek escapes from the grasp of his people and his compatriots dispatch fellow “teenager” Thor, yes you read that right, to capture Derek. Dead or alive.

Right from the off, this flick had me mad. You don’t break the cardinal sin of film: don’t kill the family dog. The film begins with a dog being vaporized by Thor. I’m always very sensitive to that sort of thing. It sours my experience whenever they harm animals in movies, even if it’s all fictional. Fortunately, the rest of the film is that special kind of stupid that makes it entertaining to watch.

RIP Sparky

When the aliens first arrive, they expose the Gargons the Earth environment it seems to die, discouraging the aliens. The scene immediately following the Gargon springs back to life, thriving. So the preceding scene was entirely pointless. The entire film is littered with dead-end moments and superfluous characters, plot points, and such. For instance, we learn early on that Derek is the son of the alien leader. This has very little payoff, and the film would be practically unchanged if this particular plot point was not included. There are characters that we practically don’t even get to meet before they are turned into crappy science room skeletons by Thor’s ray gun. Everything moves too quickly in this picture.

Oh no! Not Dr. So-and-So!

It started off, promisingly enough as a fish out water story with Derek following Sparky’s dog tag to his human owners, teenaged Betty and her grandfather. They offer Derek the room they are renting out. You think the film is going to show Derek adjusting to life on Earth while being pursued by Thor. That’s not really the direction they take.

Very quickly into the proceedings, Derek and Betty are on the run from Thor and his toy ray gun. The film never lingers. When Betty is told about the fate of poor Sparky, and how he was vaporized, she kind of takes it in stride and almost immediately is practically professing her love to Derek. Where does that come from? They haven’t even known each other for but a few hours maybe. Like I said, characters slip in and out and are killed no sooner than we meet them, we skip from plot thread to plot thread, until suddenly our heroes are staring down the horrible visage of the Gargon. And it’s just a lobster. An actual lobster. Priceless.

Rock Lobstarrr!

This film is plagued with issues, and in spite of all that, or perhaps because of all that, it stands in the pantheon of great bad movies. It has everything you could want from a schlocky 50’s B-movie: kooky alien story, comically wooden acting, stilted dialogue, crappy special effects, ray guns and flying saucers. Another film that you may have heard of from MST3k or maybe even Elvira, but it deserves a watch. this definitely a film primed for watching with a group. Invite some friends and have a laugh. And now, a moment of silence for Sparky.


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