Strange Invaders Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Twilight Time
Directed by Michael Laughlin
Written by William Condon and Michael Laughlin
1983, 92 minutes, Rated PG
Blu-ray released on October 27th, 2015
Limited to 3,000 copies.
Paul LeMat as Charles Bigelow
Nancy Allen as Betty Walker
Diana Scarwid as Margaret
Michael Lerner as Willie Collins
Louise Fletcher as Dr. Benjamin
Wallace Shawn as Earl
Fiona Lewis as Waitress/ Avon Lady
June Lockhart as Mrs. Bigelow
Charles Bigelow teaches at Columbia University and has a pretty normal life until his ex-wife drops by unannounced with their young daughter Elizabeth. She tells him her mother has passed away and that she has to return to Centerville, Illinois. After a few days of not being able to reach her, Charles leaves his daughter with family and heads out on the road. Centerville is a sleepy little town with a secret, as the place looks like a Norman Rockwell painting and all of the local residents behave rather strangely. He quickly uncovers the existence of aliens in the town and is lucky to escape with his life. Unfortunately, the creatures follow Charles home to New York, and are determined to silence him and steal his child. With the help of tabloid journalist Betty Walker, a mental patient named Willie and the mysterious Dr. Benjamin, a government agent specializing in U.F.O. activity, Charles must return to Centerville to save his family and possibly the entire human race.
Strange Invaders is a love letter to the sci-fi flicks of the 1950s, complete with conspiracies, aliens and threats of global domination. Director and co-writer Michael Laughlin (Strange Behavior) together with fellow co-writer Bill Condon (Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh) know their source material by heart and manage to capture the spirit of the bygone era while maintaining a contemporary sense of storytelling. There are a lot of familiar character archetypes, including the scientist hero, the reporter sidekick and the menacing townsfolk, but all seem well-realized. Although the majority of the action takes place in modern-day 1983, the town of Centerville remains grounded in 1958, the year the aliens arrived. Cinematographer Louis Horvath paints one beautiful image after another of small town America, and brings production designer Susanna Moore’s gorgeous sets to life. Cementing the feel of a classic genre picture is composer Hohn Addison’s amazing orchestral score, complete with theremin sound effects.
Paul LeMat (Melvin and Howard) stars as Charles Bigelow, the man pushed into the mystery in Illinois, determined to stay alive long enough to solve the puzzle and save his family. Nancy Allen (Blow Out) is terrific as streetwise tabloid journalist Betty Walker, whose fluff piece on aliens proves to hit too close to the truth for comfort. The incredible Louise Fletcher (Invaders from Mars) is both authoritative and intimidating as Dr. Benjamin, providing an additional level of intensity to almost every scene she is in. Michael Lerner (Barton Fink) is a lot of fun as original witness Willie Collins, a man with a grudge against the aliens and a score to settle. Although she doesn’t receive a lot of screen time, Diana Scarwid (Psycho III) does a fine job in the pivotal role of Charles’ ex-wife Margaret. Old favorites Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride), June Lockhart (Troll) and Kenneth Tobey (The Thing) all turn up in small supporting roles, and fans of the filmmaker’s previous effort Strange Behavior will want to keep an eye out for that film’s stars, Dan Shor and Dey Young, in a nice prologue cameo.
Strange Invaders is a fun movie that owes its debt to classic sci-fi titles like Invaders from Mars, The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Contemporary crowds will appreciate the impressive special effects from make-up artists Barbie Palmer, Bill Sturgeon and Brian Wade. The aliens have a distinct appearance and it is always a highlight watching them shed their human skins. Laughlin and Condon have come up with an entertaining story and made a really satisfying picture. The tale moves quickly, the characters are believable and performances are solid. I first came across this film as a VHS rental and late-night cable TV staple, and while I hadn’t watched it in many years, I am happy to say it holds up nicely. When you get to check out this fun flick, be sure to follow all of the classic cinematic advice: Lock your doors, bolt your windows, turn off the lights and keep watching the skies, because Strange Invaders is back in a big way!
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Strange Invaders has never looked better. This is not a new transfer, but the picture quality is quite nice, as the source materials are in great shape. The opening moments are filled with jaw-dropping rich colors that should clue viewers in on what to expect. There are a few brief moments of dirt or debris, but honestly this is an impressive-looking film that easily surpasses such shortcomings.
The default DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono track is clear and strong with dialogue levels remaining free from distortion and well balanced with the music and sound effects.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
The audio commentary with Michael Laughlin and Bill Condon was recorded separately and edited together for the MGM DVD release many years ago. The track is engaging, as both appear genuinely pleased to see the film again. There are plenty of fun tales including their original plan for a trilogy that never came to pass. This discussion is well worth the listen.
The original theatrical trailer is too revealing for my taste, but should grab viewers’ attention.
The original score is included on an isolated track and includes audible music intro cues from the composer.
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