Welcome to another edition of “Alien Invasion Films of the 1950s!” I was excited when Terror Dave Albaugh asked me to guest author today’s selection as it happens to be one of my favorites…and often disregarded. I guess that’s to be expected when a film is pegged with a sensationalistic moniker designed to attract 1958 teenagers like I Married a Monster from Outer Space, but don’t let it fool you. This movie is one of the genre’s best entries and absolutely worth watching regardless of its tabloid title.
I Married a Monster from Outer Space is one of three notable films that comprised a subgenre of ’50s invasion flicks involving aliens taking over the bodies of humans. The other two, Invaders from Mars (1953 – and covered HERE) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1955), are more widely known and both features a story told from the point of view of one of its main characters. I Married a Monster from Outer Space differs in that its story is told from TWO viewpoints…human and alien. This manages to create even more tension as viewers become engrossed in the dilemmas of two separate species with opposing objectives.
The movie centers on Marge (Gloria Talbott) who should be celebrating the happiest moments of her life marrying her sweetheart, Bill Farrell (Tom Tryon). Unfortunately, her groom-to-be is abducted by tentacle-faced aliens the night before the wedding; ones that not only assumes Bill’s physical features but his place at the altar as well.
Marge immediately senses that something’s wrong and Talbott does a tremendous job eliciting sympathy from the audience. You absolutely feel her character’s frustration as the now emotionless, “Bill,” is clearly not the man she fell in love with. This is particularly evident on their wedding night when she’s noticeably insecure regarding her “wifely duties” and Bill provides little in the way of reassurance.
After the fateful day of their wedding, the film skips an entire year but there’s no doubt that the days in between have been nothing but one disappointment after another for Marge. Not the least of her angst revolves around the couple’s inability to conceive a child; something that’s also of concern to her pseudo husband. It’s revealed that the aliens (devoid of females) have invaded Earth for the purpose of making love and not war. Rather than outright conquest, their goal is to save their dying species by breeding with human women.
A marriage literally in the gutter!
As Marge grows more despondent, more men in town are slowly being replaced with extraterrestrial doppelgangers. It isn’t long before she discovers the sinister truth and is now left with the dubious task of trying to convince the rest of the world what is happening. Just like the protagonists in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Invaders from Mars, she finds that this is no easy feat and has little choice but to remain living with the alien; the two forming an uneasy armistice.
I Married a Monster from Outer Space was directed by Gene Fowler Jr. who’d once worked with the legendary German filmmaker, Fritz Lang (Metropolis, M). You can absolutely see Lang’s influences, most notably in a scene where one of the aliens is looking in a store window, staring at a baby doll on display. A woman (presumably a prostitute) shows up in the reflection and we see the horror on her face as she discovers the “man” she’s trying to solicit isn’t human. In Lang’s film, M (1931), there’s a similar scene featuring child killer, Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre), looking in a shop window before ogling the reflection of a little girl walking by. As with that example, seeing something unsavory gazing at innocence (in this case what the doll represents) proves effective and is arguably the scariest moment of the film. Another Lang influence is seen in Fowler’s creative use of shadow, adding to the overall feelings of mistrust and paranoia.
Probably the only unintentionally funny moments are towards the end when German shepherd dogs crouch down and start hunting the aliens. This type of stalking behavior is much more characteristic of felines as opposed to canines and looks anything but natural. It’s still fun cheering on “Man’s Best Friend” (especially after “Bill” kills an innocent puppy earlier in the film) who become the film’s champions as they’re the only foil to the bullet proof invaders.
Just like Invasion of the Body Snatchers which has often been considered a metaphor for communism (something denied by its creators), this film also has been given higher meaning by some suggesting it’s a metaphor for unsuspecting straight women marrying gay men. While you can certainly draw parallels, it is unlikely that this was Folwer’s intention. Since the aliens also refuse to drink alcohol and create distrust by not imbibing at the local tavern, I suppose one could also suggest the movie was against AA. Regardless of what you read into it (if anything), you won’t be disappointed.
Despite its overblown title, I Married a Monster from Outer Space is not overplayed which makes it much more effective. It also avoids being predictable…
As the movie progresses, the alien “Bill” starts to develop feelings for Marge. You’d expect this to lead to a “love conquers all” solution but, thankfully, this is not the case. It does, however, garner some sympathy from the audience which is also testament to the effectiveness of the film’s double narrative.
If you haven’t seen it already, I urge you to do so. While currently out of print, it is available on Amazon “Instant Video” or through private sellers.
And to all those unsuspecting brides to be out there, remember…
If your fiancé can see in the dark and develops an allergy to alcohol…you may want to consider handing that ring back!
7 thoughts on “Alien Invasion Films of the ’50s – I Married A Monster From Outer Space!”
Definitely want to see this one! Thanks for posting.
As you said, Dave, an often overlooked gem from the fabulous Fifties. Also one of my favorites. And yes – the emergence of Bill’s feelings regarding Marge as the film progresses always makes the ending somewhat sad and bittersweet. A really well done example of 50’s sci-fi filmmaking. Thanks for reminding me what a terrific little movie it is. Think I’ll dig out my DVD and watch it tonight!
Great idea! Thanks for the comments Richard!
This was a perceptive and interesting review. Many people have read many messages into this film, as have I. It seems to me that one of the messages in the movie had to do with the quiet unease that women in the 50’s were feeling about their “housewife” roles and the need for fulfillment. Interesting too that the talented and beautiful Gloria Talbott was a sexual being in her own right. The whole subject matter was rather taboo, but deemed acceptable since this was only a “teenage sci-fi flick”. Put in an alien and you can get away with just about anything. The directon was excellent and the film doesn’t pull its punches anymore than the era demands it needed to.
This movie stands sexual mores on it’s head and does so in a rather straight-forward fashion. At least initially, the men engage in sex for pro creation only. They’re trying to save their species. The women want pro-creation too, but it’s subtly hinted by Talbott’s sly performance that she likes sex. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that tells us it should be the other way around.
There’s a lot of things to like here – and I believe that in many ways – this film works better than “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. The script is good and the intrepretation of the material by the leads, Tryon and especailly Talbott is spot-on. The cinematography is eerie and almost monochromatic. I’m sure some of the scenes were shot day-for-night and it gives the movie an almost creamy texture on the screen. Best of all, Fowler gives understated, but intelligent direction. He knows when to pan, he knows when to leave the camera sit still and he knows when to butt out and let the narrative tell the story.
“I Married…” didn’t shy away from the tough stuff. At one point, Tryon is going to kill a puppy with a hammer, but settles on strangling it with his bare hands. Chilling – even though it occurs off screen. As the aliens progress in their new bodies, they begin to like humans, especially the fun stuff we are able to do, even if our life spans are pathetic to the long-lived invaders. Sure, it was 1958… one couldn’t SHOW it, but there was nothing to prevent them from talking about it; something films of that decade rarely did.
Best of all, even though this was marketed to the teen audience, the film makers did not talk down to them. It would be easy to make b-movie trash (that’s what Corman did when he shot movies over the weekend), but Fowler and company opted to take the high road with the material.
That’s why were still discussing it – and watching the film even today.
Mark, I really appreciate you taking the time to write this. You have some amazing insights and have added yet another interesting facet to this film. Regardless of what the film-maker may have or haven’t meant, you can’t argue that the dialogue and content was WAY ahead of its time. Great points and thanks again for this amazingly written comment!
Thanks for your “thanks”! Hey, this could go on forever! Seriously, though, this is a terrfic site. I can’t wait to explore it a bit more, and look forward to doing so very soon.