Invisible Invaders (1959)

Eddie Cahn’s “Invisible Invaders” is a fun film despite its extremely low budget, especially for fans of the genre, thanks to an interesting premise and memorable performances from genre stars John Carradine and John Agar. Despite a few comments here, the film did not inspire Ed Wood’s famous (or infamous) “Plan 9 From Outer Space” – in fact it was almost certainly the other way around. “Plan 9” was completed 3 years earlier and remained unreleased until shortly after “Invaders” made it to the screen. I would urge people to consider the connections between Ed Wood, AIP, and Edward Cahn. It’s difficult or me not to believe that word of Wood’s film had reached Alex Gordon and Cahn.

It might seem odd to say that Wood’s concept was good enough to copy, but although “Plan 9” does lack something in terms of production quality, the idea of alien invaders to attack Earth was exciting and new. Wood used the premise to combine science fiction with visual elements of Gothic horror but Cahn’s film is more straightforward – his zombies attack in broad daylight en masse. The similarity to a military situation is probably not accidental; after all these “zombies” are actually the invisible invaders themselves, and this is their army. They are doing battle, likewise, with army people including Major Jay (Agar). This contrasts, again, with the more old-school Wood graveyard confrontation with detectives – Wood’s fascination with combining detectives with the undead probably stems from Tod Browning’s “Mark of the Vampire” which Wood certainly saw in the mid 1930s, but Cahn is interested in depicting the undead in a startlingly non-Gothic style in this film in strong contrast to other Cahn zombie films like “Zombies of Mora Tau.” The way the zombies were done here had an obvious influence on the most influential zombie film of all-time, George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead.” One could also make an interesting contrast between the 2 films based on the military angle – in Cahn’s film Major Jay is initially depicted as a bit gun crazy but eventually he becomes the hero, while Wood’s film mocks the military by portraying them as even more confused and reckless than the goofy aliens.

What else can I say about the film? It’s worth watching to me just to hear John Carradine’s cavernous voice chanting lines like “The dead will kill the living” while a giant globe spins on screen. Agar is fun in this film like he pretty much always is, and Jean Byron is an unusually engaging female protagonist. It does seem to take her character far too long to figure out what a cad Robert Hutton’s scientist character is, however. Most of the film was shot in Griffith Park around the area of Bronson Canyon a.k.a. “Robot Monster Cave,” so that provides some additional interest for fans like me who’ve made the pilgrimage to the famous spot (used in such films as “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “It Conquered the World”). A lot of comments on here complain about the use of stock footage but I thought it enhanced the production value of the film beyond what it otherwise would have been. It’s a reasonably professional film with fun actors and an exciting premise so to me it’s a bit of a minor classic.