Look for Bill Condon making a cameo appearance!
In 1983, Writer/Director Bill Condon, who went on to acclaim for films like "Chicago" and "Gods & Monsters", together with film star Nancy Allen, an 80's staple for her relatable performances in films like "RoboCop", "Blow Out", "Limit Up" and "The Philadelphia Experiment", traveled to New York to screen their new film , "Strange Invaders" for famed movie critic Pauline Kael.
The critic, who had been very complimentary of Allen's career since her breakout role in "Dressed to Kill", did not understand the film and found it largely forgetable. She did focus on the fact that Allen's legs looked extremely long on the big screen. It was an uncomfortable meeting to say the least.
When released in late 1983, the film did moderate box office and garnered favorable critical response, making many year end "Top Ten Lists". "Strange Invaders", for all of its suspense and shockingly gruesome special effects, also offered something else that movie goers weren't quite used to: equal parts political commentary and pop culture wink-wink (a technique mastered in the 90's by Wes Craven in his "Scream" trilogy).
In addition to making a strong commentary on the parallel between 1950's and 1980's Communist paranoia, it also included 1950's sci-fi staples in cameos: Kenneth Tobey ("The Thing") and June Lockhart ("Lost in Space").
When Charles Bigelow (Paul LeMat), an Entemology professor at Columbia in New York, attempts to track down his estranged wife Margaret (Diana Scarwid) and their daughter Elizabeth (Lulu Sylbert), he makes a journey to Centerville, IL -- his wife's hometown.
Things are pretty creepy in Centerville. The town seems stuck in the early 1950's. And Charles senses something is wrong. As he continues to inquire about Margaret, the town becomes more and more hostile, culminating in Bigelow's first encounter with an alien...
When he returns to New York, friends and family (quite undertstandably) act like he is crazy. They insist that Margaret will return in time and, just as Charles begins to believe them, he sees a picture of the alien he saw in Centerville on the cover of a tabloid newspaper.
At the newspaper office, Charles encounters the editor of the newspaper Betty Walker (Nancy Allen) and her assistant Tim (Joel Cohen -- later to be more famous as the screenwriter of movies like Toy Story, Cheaper by the Dozen, Evan Almighty). Betty dismisses Charlie as a lunatic and sends him packing. Later at her apartment, an Avon Lady (Fiona Shaw) comes calling. And by Avon Lady, I mean alien. It seems that the aliens have followed Charlie back to New York. And he led them straight to the woman who published one of their pictures.
Now both Betty and Charlie are in a race against time to save themselves from the gruesome Invaders and save Elizabeth before the aliens return home. After 25 years here on Earth disguised as humans, they are returning to their home planet on Saturday and this doesn't give our heroes much time. As they travel across country, outrunning an FBI agent (Louise Fletcher), to return to Centerville the paranoia and terror continues to build to tremendously satisfying conclusion.
Rent or buy the film to today -- I won't ruin it for you. Trust me, it's worth it.
The film has awesome visual effects, crazy fun dialogue, wonderful performances by Nancy Allen, Wallace Shawn and Michael Lerner (as Willie, the now asylum-bound photographer of the infamous printed Strange Invader photo). The score is also eerie and memorable.
Performances, plot and effects equal an 80's KO. Nancy Allen, Wallace Shawn and Michael Lerner deliver inspired performances.
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