“Bill Farrell marries lovely Marge Bradley, but almost from the start he is acting strange. For one thing he doesn’t drink any alcohol and even more peculiar, he almost acts like he doesn’t have any emotions. A year into their marriage, Marge still feels that there is something strange about him. The thing that really disturbs her is the fact that after a year of marriage, she can’t seem to get pregnant. One night she notices Bill leaving the house going for a walk and follows him. She then sees him meeting with the other aliens and soon realizes that it is not her fiancÃ©e. The alien ‘Bill’ soon explains that the planet he comes from was destroyed and that he and the other males were able to escape. However, the females of their planet were unable to escape and were killed in the disaster. He then explains that the reason they are taking over the bodies of the Earth men so that they can mate with the women. A horrified Marge then tries to warn everyone of the alien threat.” (courtesy IMDB)
Arguably, the best film about aliens taking over people’s bodies is Don Siegel‘s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956). People in a small Californian town are being taken over, and their relatives and friends realise that there’s something wrong but do not know what. The image of a human possessed by something inhuman is tremendously strong, almost archetypal in fact. It has never lost its appeal in science fiction films and stories, although there was one other interesting use of the theme in fifties movies, and that was in a minor, but rather bizarre film. I Married A Monster From Outer Space (1958) took up, in its enjoyably tasteless way, the one question previous films had politely evaded: What would it be like to have sex with a ‘thing’ without knowing it?
If The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) reflected male sexual fears, then Gene Fowler‘s film represented female sexual fears, in particular the feminist nightmare that lurking behind the handsome facade of one’s husband is a foul monster whose only interest is the exploitation of the female body. Anyway, that’s what Marge Farrell (Gloria Talbot) discovers about her good-looking hubby Bill shortly after their wedding day. After being inexplicably late for the wedding, he turns up acting like one of Seigel’s pod people, cold and emotionless, causing her to grow increasingly worried about him.
Audiences were invariably breathless when handsome Tom Tryon (who went on to become a successful horror author in real life) goes out onto the balcony to have a cigarette before consummating the marriage – a flash of lightning renders his face momentarily transparent, and the alien features can be seen beneath. He’s actually been duplicated by an alien just before his wedding, and we are later told that the aliens are short on women and are in search of fresh breeding stock. As in Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, it turns out that practically the entire town, including Bill, has been infiltrated by these doppelgangers. Political implications as well as feminist ones can be read into the film, particularly since the title is similar to I Married A Communist (1949), but the film succeeds purely on a creepy level, with the emphasis on horror rather than science fiction.
Fortunately his ruse is discovered and, later, so is his spacecraft in which the bodies of the local men are stashed. As the bodies are released, the duplicates dissolve into writhing knots of eel-like wriggling strands, possibly the most inventive low-budget aliens ever filmed. Actually, by this time we begin to feel a bit sorry for the lonely sex-starved aliens, who have become a little like the wallflower who can’t persuade a girl to dance with him at the local hop. It may well be the best film ever made with a really bottom-of-the-barrel exploitation title and I have no doubt that, if the film was remade in the seventies, it would have been retitled I Married A Male Chauvinist Pig From Outer Space.
Gene Fowler, formerly an editor for Fritz Lang, directed and the influence of Lang is evident in his use of shadows and unusual camera angles to heighten tension, as well as his so-called ‘invisible’ editing (time passes on-screen even though it seems like the camera is never turned off) and the scenes in which the townspeople band together to track down the alien. There’s a really creepy moment when an alien looks into a department store window and his monstrous reflection is superimposed over baby dolls in the window display, and you just know he’s thinking of propagation. This scene recalls Lang’s M (1929) when child murderer Peter Lorre looks into a window and his eyes enlarge when he sees the reflection of a little girl passing by.
Gloria Talbot makes an excellent heroine/scream-queen, previously appearing in a number of horror films including The Daughter Of Doctor Jekyll (1957) and The Cyclops (1957). She invariably gives a solid performance, exhibiting intelligence and a rare combination of strength and vulnerability. I Married A Monster From Outer Space, of course, puts as much emphasis on the alien’s appearance as on its human disguise and, in this respect, it is a terrific example of that most popular of all fifties genres, the monster movie or, as we used to call it in Australia when going to the drive-in, the ‘Creature Feature’. But that’s another story for another time – please be sure to join me next week so I can poke you in the eye with another frightful excursion to the backside of Hollywood, filmed in gloriously grainy 2-D black-and-white Regularscope for…Horror News! Toodles!