"We don't carry loose change into combat sir."
Let me just start by saying that I miss Karen Black. I miss the time when she was a bankable Hollywood star and was appearing in a variety of memorable and interesting movies. She made so many great films in the 1970s. From FIVE EASY PIECES, CISCO PIKE and DAY OF THE LOCUST to NASHVILLE, THE OUTFIT and even AIRPORT 1975. She was almost obligatory in the 70s and that was a beautiful thing. Sadly, by 1986 she was working in far less high-profile projects and was relegated to lower budget films and TV work. Just prior to INVADERS FROM MARS her most memorable film was Ruggero Dedato's underseen CUT AND RUN in 1985, so it's a cool thing to see her back in a large scale production like this (though many of her films from the 1970s were smaller budget character pieces). And speaking of large-scale productions, Tobe Hooper was no stranger to them and this one is up there as far as ambitious special-effects heavy features for him. Obviously he made POLTERGEIST and LIFEFORCE before this movie and even though this is something of a slight step down from those movies, it's still one of my favorites of his films. There are just certain directors that can handle themselves really well when it comes to incorporating elaborate special effects into their storytelling and Hooper is one of them. Of course it also helps when you have gents like John Dykstra and Stan Winston helping out as he did on INVADERS. Frankly, a director like Hooper produces some of the most fun and remarkable results when working with craftsmen like Dykstra and Winston. And when you add to the equation that this was a movie he made for Cannon Films (and one of their higher budgeted productions at that) and there was very little creative interference from them, what you end up with is a pretty crazy science-fiction fantasy. It really is a case of some amazingly creative and twisted people letting their imaginations run wild in their filling the gaps in a classic science fiction tale. As much as I like the original William Cameron Menzies film from 1953, I have to say that Hooper's remake is just so outlandishly creepy and gooey and disturbing that it really stands out as the one I enjoy a little more. It's been said to death, but there is just something so captivating about watching movies with many-faceted sets and real creatures that the actors are interacting with in front of the camera and you can feel the difference in the effect it has on you when you watch it (or at least I can). So even if INVADERS FROM MARS' story may be a sort of familiar INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS kind of plot, it stands out because of Hooper's vision and the work his special effects team did on the movie. And it certainly doesn't hurt when you have wonderfully capable character actors like James Karen, Bud Cort and Louise Fletcher backing up your leads. Also having a kid actor at the center that doesn't take you out is essential and Hunter Carson (real-life son of Karen Black) does a nice job as well. INVADERS FROM MARS has a lot going for it as a sci-fi classic from the 1980s, but it is not as well remembered as it should be. Folks should give it a look via this lovely looking new Blu-ray.
This a neat special edition from Scream Factory with some nice supplements. First off is a good commentary track with director Tobe Hooper himself. It's a
I was very intrigued to hear Hooper talk about the practical effects and how some of them were accomplished. It's one of those movies that is a mix of makeup and visual effects, animatronics and even some carnival-ride-sized apparatus (which were part of the gigantic sets that were built for the film). Hearing stories of this kind of antiquated filmmaking is always quite thrilling to me. It's not that it's any less difficult to make a movie these days, but the idea that so much of it had to be created in real life for the camera to pick up is just a whole other level of magic than what we see now. Hooper took a lot of care in making this remake and even went so far as to take a lot of time re-creating the iconic hill and fenceline that was seen in the original Menzies film. It's a solid commentary and Hooper is frank and reflective in his thoughts on many aspects of the production and his deal with three-picture Cannon Films at the time. Fans will like this track.
-Also included is a cool new 37 minute retrospective, "The Martians Are Coming - the Making of INVADERS FROM MARS". The piece includes interviews with Tobe Hooper, actor Hunter Carson, composer Christopher Young, as well as a couple of the special creature effects artists (Alec Gillis & Gino Crognale). Director Hooper talks about how his original intentions were to make a children's film, which is what he was really ready to make at the time and how INVADERS was expected to be much more of a horror film. Carson talks about working with his mom and how they treated it as a very professional thing while they were on set. He also reminisces about working with the other actors like James Karen and Louise Fletcher. He really has a lot of memories from making the film and recalls them in far greater detail than I would have expected. As far as Hooper's interview, there is some overlap with what he discusses in the commentary track, but overall the retrospective is good in its ability to give you the sense of what it was like to have been on set during the making of this movie. The effects guys give a little more detail with regards to how some of the sequences were done too which is nice.