Monday, December 5, 2011

Teenagers from Outer Space

It’s a special kind of movie that has the word “teenager” in the title. Not only does it inform you of the intended audience, but it also practically guarantees that all the on-screen youths will look at least 42. Teenagers from Outer Space (1959), certainly doesn’t deviate from this formula. 
Formula is probably the right word to use, because we’re firmly entrenched in 50s B-movie Sci-Fi territory here. As often happens, a spaceship lands in the the desert, carrying a cargo of alien lifeforms. Conveniently enough, all these aliens are distinctly humanoid. As it turns out, the only way to tell an earth teen and an alien teen apart is the latter’s stupid jumpsuit. Oh, and the bright white shoes that give off an unsettling Pee-Wee Herman vibe.

The aliens have landed in search of a planet where they may raise herds of Gargon, their primary food source. It’s worth noting here that Gargons are lobsters. Not similar to lobsters; exactly lobsters. And really, isn’t that a little decadent, choosing lobster as your staple foodstuff? I suppose after they finish with earth the moon will be utilized for foie gras production.
But these are some feisty space crustaceans; apparently the atmosphere will cause them to grow to enormous size and wipe out all life on Earth! All the aliens except young Derek (oh, really far out name for an alien there), think this is just peachy. Derek’s main facial expression is suggestive of constipation, and he has the biggest ears you’re likely to ever see on a leading man. Derek objects to this global genocide, and deserts. Thor, a trigger-happy space-cadet with a pretty sweet disintegration ray is sent to bring him into custody. The rest of the aliens depart, but not before leaving a gargon behind in a cave, just, you know, because.

And this is where it really begins to get good. Derek finds himself renting a room altogether by accident. The house in question belongs to a relentlessly jovial old man, and his granddaughter Betty. Betty is an interesting character. She has the pensive eyes of Clara Bow, and the voice of Minnie Mouse. The fact that all her lines are of the “Gee, whatever will we do now?” caliber doesn’t really help her on that front. But gramps is my favorite, he’s really the tops. Oblivious, rotund, wears his pants practically around his nipples...the man doesn’t have a suspicious bone in his body. 

I mean, look at it this way. If some dumbo-eared dope in an unfamiliar jumpsuit who speaks in halting, mumbled phrases and seems to have no grasp on simple, everyday culture arrived on your doorstep, would you immediately suggest he move in and encourage him to spend a lot of alone time with your (supposedly) young granddaughter? Oh yeah, and he has no money. Well, gramps is convinced! Derek’s practically part of the family now. 
Oh damn. Gramps can’t be my favorite character, because that leaves out Alice. Alice is Betty’s best friend. She lives in what appears to be a replica of the White House and spends all her time onscreen in a swimming pool. Betty and Derek go over to take a swim with her, and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that every word she says to the pair comes off like she’s suggesting a threesome. My kinda gal. We never see her out of that kicky black swim suit, because as soon as the interstellar jughead and his new girlfriend leave, Alice is skeletonized right in the water by grumpy old Thor.

Betcha forgot about him, huh? While I was obsessing over the best characters in the film, Thor has been zapping people all over town. While it would undoubtedly be going overboard to call Teenagers a “good” movie, I will say that it doesn’t have the same pacing problems endemic among it’s ilk. This flick is almost disturbingly watchable. 

Whether it’s a shootout between Thor and the police, aliens who seem entirely incapable of using contractions (“Let us do this. I will go there. I do not like that!”), gramps managing to stay perky throughout a hostage situation, Betty letting Derek drive everywhere, even though he just learned that morning, a giant lobster rampaging towards town, or Derek’s first fumbling attempts at romance (“You make me angry...but I like you.”), Teenagers From Outer Space delivers. Sure, you may want to throw in an intoxicant of your choice to enhance the experience, but I can honestly say that this film ain’t bad. Aw, what the hell. Let’s give it two Gargon claws up!

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