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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Alien Trespass

Alien Trespass, a film from earlier this year, has a conceit: it is supposedly a long-lost sci-fi epic from 1957, that the studio head (a Mr. Goldstone) shelved because of a contract dispute with the star. This gag is hammered home frequently in the DVD extras, which include a fake interview with the star by an Edward R. Murrow type. In actuality, of course, the film was made in Canada by contemporary people, including the star, Eric McCormack, and the director, R.W. Goodwin, who was a key member of the creative team behind The X-Files.

What we have here is pretty much an inside project, an affectionate homage to flying saucer B-films of the 1950s. To that end, Alien Trespass fulfills its promise. The plot combines elements of several of those cheesy classics, concerning a flying saucer that crashes in the California desert, unleashing a rubber-suited monster that feeds on human flesh and the heroic alien who tries to stop him (he compares his role to that of a marshal, and his name is Urp--Marshal Urp, get it?) There is good-natured hammy acting, lots of fifties' decor, from a diner to tail-finned cars to saddle shoes, and a score that prominently features a Theremin.

The larger question, however, is why? If one loved those old films, as I do, why would I be happy with a modern knock-off when the old ones are readily available to be seen? This is like an art student painting in the style of an old master--it may be instructive to him, but it means diddly to those who look at his work. Goodwin probably felt good about making this film, and the cast may have had fun performing in it, but in the long run it's an empty exercise.

The film does look right, though. The colors are a little too sharp to be from the fifties, but otherwise it could pass for a sci-fi movie seen at a drive-in. It's also very self-referential, with the monster showing up at a movie theater during a screening of The Blob, during a scene in which the monster shows up at movie theater. McCormack shows some deft comic timing, and Robert Patrick, the only other easily recognizable actor in the cast, has fun with his role as a bellicose cop.

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