Invaders from Mars (1953)

Don’t be fooled by anyone who dismisses Invaders from Mars as a piece of retrograde schlock.

There may be a visible zipper or two on the monster suits and their weapons will look a little Dr. Seussy compared to a Trekkie phaser, but this movie has a lot to offer, including a completely unique child-driven story line. I can’t think of another movie that so successfully captures the terror at the heart of every child’s fear that their parents may not be who they say they are; that no one believes them because they’re children (how many abused children have been fobbed off by well-meaning adults who should have listened?), or that they’re entitled a a perfect, loving father and mother (the nurse and the astronomer), not the ones they’ve been born to.

Compared to so many of today’s Sci-Fi disasters that are long on money and short on everything else, Invaders from Mars relies on atmosphere and expressionist angles, nightmarish sets that are just a little too big, too stark, too skewed (the Police Station is a perfect example).

And instead of Mars Attacks’ little green gremlins that take such glee in splattering and fricassing everything in site; the Martians in IoM are insidious; relying on one human to lure another into a sinister sand pit (a metaphor for the threat of communism or the tactics of the House UnAmerican Activities hearings?).

How many future ‘alien abductees,’ sci-fi plotters and X-files authors have used the conventions here? Tiny implants inserted at the back of the neck. Friends turned into traitorous zombies. Humans kidnapped and set out on slab tables for experimentation? Alien tunnels spread like netting beneath the placid surface of the world’s oblivious Earthlings. A hero with the truth that no one will listen to? And how many film makers, even now, would have the skill and the nerve to save the boy, start the ordeal all over again, and make it work? Because, as we all know, the monsters in the closet come back as soon as the light goes out again.