Who made it: Directed by Gene Fowler Jr. With Tom Tryon, Gloria Talbott.
Audience appeal: 10 and up
Once upon a time: It’s normal for a newlywed to be a little uncertain, a little nervous, a little confused, yes? Well, maybe so. But what doesn’t seem normal is when Marge’s new hubby suddenly doesn’t like dogs, doesn’t seem to like her, and spends a lot of time staring expectantly up at the night sky. And what should calm her down – but doesn’t, at all — is that many of the other men in town seem to be acting exactly the same way.
Inappropriate material: There’s some violence (including the offscreen killing of a pet). Also, one significant subplot — discreetly handled — is that Marge can’t seem to get pregnant.
Why kids will like it: The monsters (designed by movie makeup artist and ape-suit maven Charles Gemora) are some of the most satisfyingly strange-looking in `50s sci-fi, while pet lovers will be happy to see that dogs turn out to be the real heroes here. And tweens will probably eagerly accept the movie’s warning that stern authority figures may not quite be as upright as they appear.
Why adults will like it: Look past that extraordinarily silly title and you’ll discover one of the smartest of the `50s B-movies, with some genuinely creepy moments (like the flash of lightning that reveals the monster inside the occupied human shell.) A surprisingly feminist story, too — the picture it paints of an artificially divided adult life, with men guarding their real feelings and women living vaguely dissatisfied lives makes it seem a bit like an early draft of “The Feminine Mystique.” But with spaceships.
Fast forward/freeze frame: It all zips by in just under 80 minutes, so there’s little time to get bored.
Fun trivia: Tom Tryon, who plays the monstrous hubby (and went on to star in “The Cardinal”), later left the movies for literature, writing the spooky best-sellers “The Other” and “Harvest Home.” Also, open to reinvention? Max Rosenbloom, who plays the town’s bartender — and had been the light-heavyweight champ “Slapsie Maxie” Rosenbloom, before going into acting (he’s in “Nothing Sacred”) and opening the country’s first comedy clubs.
Teachable moments: Whether or not you believe in extraterrestrials, you can’t deny that people have seen some strange things flying around in the sky. What might surprise you (and fascinate your kids) is that the government kept records of this for years, through a program called Project Blue Book, now declassified and free to browse. You can even search these X-files by state — including the reports of over 2000 “incidents” just in New Jersey.
Double features: Nightmares about alien imposters were a favorite sub-genre in the paranoid ’50s: Either “Invaders From Mars” or “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” — original black-and-white versions, please – would make a fine companion.