Thursday, February 20, 2014

Invasion of the Animal People (1962)


OK, OK, now let’s endeavor to unravel this bizarre conundrum. First of all back in 1959, American film director Victor W. Vogel went to Sweden and shot a co-American/Swedish film in English, running 55 minutes, released in Sweden as SPACE INVASION OF LAPPLAND, aka RYMDINVASION I LAPPLAND, then released in America with the title TERROR IN THE MIDNIGHT SUN (which was a bullshit title to begin with since the movie story takes place in Sweden in the winter, and one only sees the midnight sun over there in summer). To add to the legacy of this film, in 1962, schlock producer Jerry Warren bought the rights for the film, reshot scenes in Los Angeles so that he could put in John Carradine as the narrator, and changed the title to INVASION OF THE ANIMAL PEOPLE. 

Victor Vogel was a film editor at Universal in the 1940’s, but by the mid-50’s he got bored and asked if he could do some directing. He was assigned THE MOLE PEOPLE (1956), with John Agar, & it was a modest success. He went on to direct 78 films, but 75 of them were television shows; feature films were not his bread & butter it seems. He did direct THE KETTLES ON OLD MACDONALD’S FARM (1957), and in 1959 he squeezed in some time to go to Sweden & shoot TERROR IN THE MIDNIGHT SUN, in between shooting TV episodes of MIKE HAMMER, LARAMIE, SHOTGUN SLADE, & M SQUAD. He, therefore is mostly known for his television directing. 

Getting back to TERROR IN THE MIDNIGHT SUN, it starred Barbara Wilson, Sten Gester, Robert Burton, Bengt Blomgren, Ake Gronberg, & Gosta Pruzelius. 

Barbara Wilson was an American actress, who appeared in 21 movies between 1955-1995, which included CAPTAIN FATHOM aka TOBOR (1955) BLOOD OF DRACULA (1957), & THE FLESH EATERS (1964).

Robert Burton was an American actor, who had a very busy career, appearing in 157 films between 1952-1963. He died at age 67 in 1962. Some of the films he did included THE BIG HEAT (1953) TAZA, SON OF COCHISE (1954), JUBAL (1956), THE TALL T (1957), I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN (1957), and his last film was THE SLIME PEOPLE (1963). 



Can Earth stop the onslaught of Beast- Men from space?
Could it happen? See for yourself?
Monsters walk the earth in ravishing rampage of clawing fury!
Giant apes run amuck in ice death attack controlled by alien brains!

The cinematography was done by Hilding Bladh, a seasoned veteran who had lensed 69 films between 1935-1964, including HELEN OF TROY (1951), SAWDUST & TINSEL (1953), and Ingmar Bergman’s DREAMS (1955). The very cheesy special effects were done by Odert von Schoultz.

A Viewer wrote, “The technical credits are strictly from hunger, with the too dark cinematography unleashes a hideous torrent of unsightly horrible fade-outs.”

The film score was shared by Harry Arnold & Allan Johansson. Arnold scored 43 Swedish films from 1952-1971. Johansson was an actor, who only wrote music for two films, this one and another in 1945. An insipidly sweet title tune was sung as a romantic ballad by the Golden Gate Quartet. 

A Viewer wrote,”The blaring musical score sporadically drowns out the banal dialogue (a blessing in disguise).“


Jerry Warren was the producer/director who bought TERROR IN THE MIDNIGHT SUN, rewrote & added a series of nonsensical scenes, and changed the locale of the story to Switzerland, which makes the Sammis, the Swedish Laplanders, even more lost in time & space, then cast John Carradine as the “Narrator”, standing in a classroom, twitching a pencil, and uttering some of the most innocuous dialogue ever written. Carradine, who appeared in 340 films between 1931-1990, felt that this film was, “one of my worst.”--this from an actor who appeared in films like THE GARDEN OF ALLAH (1936), MR. MOTO’S LAST WARNING (1939), VOODOO MAN (1944), THE INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED WORLD (1957), THE COSMIC MAN (1959), SEX KITTENS GO TO COLLEGE (1960), THE WIZARD OF MARS (1965), BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA (1966), & THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES (1968). 

Narrator: “Memories are diminished as the passage of time provides a past--and it equally brings us to the future, & without a future, there would be no present.”

It was said of Jerry Warren, “He could always be counted on for delivering the lowest common denominator in horror films.” Some of the 11 movies he released as producer/director included MAN BEAST (1956), TEENAGE ZOMBIES (1961), TERROR OF THE BLOODHUNTERS (1962), ATTACK OF THE MAYAN MUMMY (1964), CURSE OF THE STONE HAND (1964), THE WILD WORLD OF BATWOMAN (1966), & FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND (1981). He died at 63 years of age in 1988. 

Jerry Warren once said, “In Hollywood it is the Producers who rule, they are the ones that have it all.”

Synopsis: In the American version, the film starts out with Diane, an American beauty who seems to experience an ET visit late one night while in bed. She was awakened to a horrendous shrill noise that apparently only she can hear; confused, in pain, panicked, she rushes outside in her nightgown, and sees some very strange lights in the sky. Paramedics arrive, and take her to the hospital, where she is in shock, so much so that she becomes catatonic, sort of, & is unable to recount her strange experience. Her doctors, baffled by her seizure, postulate that perhaps her condition has something to do with UFO sightings in the area that same night. 

Diane, suddenly, recovers completely, & makes the important decision to pursue her life’s dream of becoming an Olympic figure skating champion, deciding further to move to Sweden, meeting up with her uncle, Dr. Wilson, a famous geologist. 

Now this is where the two films merge, for in the Swedish version, and Dr. Wilson went there to investigate a reported meteor landing; and Diane, his niece, was already there, and already was an Olympics star. The uncle’s associate, a dashing Swedish doctor, Dr. Engstrom, is immediately smitten by Diane’s beauty, & he tries to hook up with her; she, coy & sultry, plays hard to get, and we are treated to a hazy shower nude scene as she prepares for dinner.  But the budding romance is put on hold when it is discovered that a herd of reindeer has been mutilated.  They drive some ice cats out to look at the dead reindeer, and Diane comes along in her evening gown, to see things for herself. It was her who discovered the first monster track, easily 3’ X 4’ wide. “This creature must be 20’ tall,”  said one of them. This excites the scientists, who fly to the site of the meteor crash post haste, located in the mountains in the far north part of Lapland.

Diane, is true ingenue-style, stows away in the plane, which really irritates the scientists. 
When they try and decide how to deal with her:
Dr. Engstrom: Well, it’s your niece, doctor.
Dr. Wilson: Well, it’s your expedition, doctor.
Dr. Engstrom: No, it was my expedition.

 The scientists investigate the meteor crater, and decide it must be a space craft. Before they can return to their plane, suddenly an enormous hairy creature appears, definitely abominable, standing somewhere between 8 feet & 15 feet tall, with powerful tusks & jaws, looking a bit like a Halloween version of PREDATOR, and massive feet; kind of a kin to Yeti. The hirsute beast destroys the airplane, kills the guard watching it, and all the action happens off screen. All of the shots of the monster were low-level & pointed up, allowing it to look larger; kind of a cheapie version of the famous Orson Welles shots in CITIZEN KANE. 

The scientists send Eric & Diane on skis to make it back to the Laplander’s village & bring back help. Meanwhile one of the Swedish scientists gets too close to the craft and the aliens zap him; they look like the white-faced hooded death figure in Ingmar Bergman’s THE SEVENTH SEAL. Meanwhile Diane falls down and sprains her knee, so the couple take refuge in a survivor’s cabin. He builds a fire, and she sheds her “wet clothes”. He leaves her there & skis off toward the village. The monster had been watching, it seems, and it peeks in the window, causing Diane to scream. Oddly it is the hero, who had skied away from Diane who hears the scream, then he continues to ski downhill away from her on the way to save her. He does return in time to find her dressed, and before they can escape, the monster pushes an avalanche down on the cabin, & only Diane makes it out. She then wanders all night on foot, while the monster patiently tracks her. Technically, many of the outdoor skiing scenes were fairly well shot, and there was a real sense of place for the locale. But all the day-for-night scenes were not processed well, & they did come out too dark & shadowy; often so much so one could not tell what the hell was going on. 

The horn-dog beast begins doing a King Kong imitation, displaying sweet & tender gestures toward Diane. She screams a lot, and passes out, and he carries her in his arms back to the craft.  He introduces the terrified skater to the pilots of the spaceship, & they seem to dig her too; making me wonder if there was going to be some kind of kinky sex train pulled here. But lo, & behold, the wily Laplanders have already saved Dr. Wilson, and dug Dr. Engstrom out of the snow, which seems to really piss off the monster, who attacks the village and tears up cabins & teepees with his bare hands. A soldier fires his pistol at the monster several times, but bullets do not phase him. He tosses part of a cabin roof onto the rescue plane, and destroys it too. 

Meanwhile the aliens have managed to frighten Diane into another long screaming fit, & then she passes out in the snow. They leave her & head back to the space craft. The Laplanders do not like it that the monster flattened their lovely village, so about two dozen of them light up torches, and head out on skis to locate the beast. We see the monster return to the vicinity of the crash, pick the unconscious Diane, and wander around for a bit until it gets dark & the angry laplanders with their dogs & reindeer, wearing their funny hats, find them and attack. The monster drops Diane unceremoniously, and although he could not be hurt by bullets, it seems he was not fire-proof. The Sammis light him up, and he falls backward into the crater. The aliens see all this on their CCTV remote screens, and immediately they batten down the hatches, and take off before the villagers can get to them. 

As the spacecraft, still looking like a glob of aluminum foil lit up with candles, is taking off, the four protagonists are standing and watching, and although they do not wave good-bye, Dr. Wilson says, “Well, let’s hope for better luck than they had when we set foot on some other world.”  Eric & Diane walk hand in hand as romantic silhouettes into a morning sunrise that stood in for a midnight sun to the jerky strains of the title tune. 

Looking up the film on Rotten Tomatoes, this is the first time that I ever encountered 
.000% on the Critic’s approval, and 20% on the Audience approval, with NO Critic’s reviews at all, No audience reviews, & No quotes. 

A Viewer wrote, “There has never been any film quite like it, making PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE look like GONE WITH THE WIND.”

Trivia:  The budget for the original Vogel film, TERROR IN THE MIDNIGHT SUN, was only $40,000.00. It was filmed in Stockholm, Abisko, & Bjorkliden, Norr Bottens Ian, Sweden. A poster for this film is displayed on a punk rocker’s wall in the movie BLOOD & SEX NIGHTMARE (2008). The scientists fly to Lapland in a SAS Convair Metroliner,
the Trygve Viking, but when they land it’s in a Swedish Army Noorduyn Norseman. It is said that only the American version of the film made it to video, and that the Swedish version was rare, with only a few 35mm prints extant; however, the DVD that is available presently, has both versions of the film on it, released by SOMETHING WEIRD VIDEO plus a short that shows the festival in Lapland where women bite the testicles off reindeer, & several trailers for Swedish Sexploitation films--LOVE, SWEDISH STYLE--MAID IN SWEDEN--SAPPHO, DARLING--SWEDEN, HEAVEN & HELL--& TO INGRID, WITH LOVE. Besides the fetching short LAPLAND REINDEER RITCHUAL, there is an additional short entitled SWEDISH TEENS RUN WILD.

In the re-edited American version, INVASION OF THE ANIMAL PEOPLE (1962) there was an added 26 minutes of scenes that had very little to do with the scenes before & after them. In one of the new scenes, one of the scientists points to Lapland on the map, & he is actually pointing to Greenland. Microphones & boom shadows are visible at times. THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCE is written on a hand-painted paper sign pinned to the door.

A Viewer wrote, “I know this is supposed to be a cult classic now, but I can’t easily rate this movie; it’s so bad, it’s good, so the rating would be somewhere between 1 star & 10 stars.”

From my perspective, TERROR IN THE MIDNIGHT SUN was silly, but watchable, much like a lot of other Drive-in movies that were released in the late 1950’s; cheesy, silly, illogical, almost ridiculous, still I would have made out with some chick at the old El Rancho Drive In in 1959 while it was on the screen; giving it a rating of 2 stars--but after Jerry Warren bought it, re-edited it, turned it into a mish-mash of total absurdity, it emerged as a first class piece-of-crap cult film that would be technically rated at --2 stars, & yet provides us with giggles & guffaws with its SCIENCE FICTION THEATER status. So this film, or these films, represent a bizarre transformation that is not usually encountered in the world of horror & science fiction. I am grateful to have been asked to review them, but will not rush to watch them again. 

No comments: