Back in high school, one of our favorite six-pack stinkers was The Fiend (1980), in which a supernatural creature resembling a radioactive Twistie enters the grave of a recently deceased music teacher. He comes back from the dead, naturally craving blood, but more unnaturally, still giving home lessons on the violin. It was one of a string of low-budget genre movies from Don Dohler, a Baltimore filmmaker who may have turned out like his more famous Baltimore counterpart John Waters if he’d spent less time gluing together fanzines and devouring Famous Monsters Of Filmland, and more time huffing nitrous and shimmying around with perverts.
And just like a John Waters film, Dohler’s movies are filled with would-be thespian matrons and blockheads with thickly nasal Baltimore twangs screaming at each other in garishly decorated sets. In the case of The Galaxy Invader from 1985, it’s the family of a violent, gun-toting alcoholic hillbilly doing the screaming – dear old Paw discovers the crash site of an alien in a green rubber reptile suit, and decides bagging a spaceman before the CIA does means big bucks on the black market. He rustles up a hunting party of greedy Harleyville hicks while the Moon Man goes on a Human Hunt. One early victim of the reptilian rampage is George Stover, a Don Dohler standby who keen-eyed John Waters watchers will recognize as Mink Stole’s father in Waters’ Desperate Living (1977).
Compared to most shot-on-video garbage released these days, it’s an unexpected treat – shot on film with a distinct style, albeit a Z-grade one, and with a real wide-eyed, earnest and straight-faced appreciation of the genre which gives Don’s movies a genuine charm. Sadly Don passed away in December 2006 aged 60, but he leaves behind the legacy of his hardly misspent life. Don Dohler, wherever you are in the cosmos, I salute you.