It wasn’t unusual for AIP co-founder James Nicholson to dream up a title and/or a poster first, and then shoot the picture. So it is that he handed off the title “INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN” to first Al Martin (INVISIBLE GHOST) and then Robert J. Gurney Jr. (TERROR FROM THE YEAR 5000) to shape into a screenplay based on Paul Fairman’s 1955 short story “The Cosmic Frame.” Later, Gurney claimed that he wrote an intentionally funny picture, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.
INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN takes place all in one night and begins slightly reminiscent of THE BLOB. A teenage couple encounters an alien organism on an old man’s property and calls the cops, who don’t believe them. In fact, the police accuse Johnny Carter (Steve Terrell) and Joan Hayden (Gloria Castillo) of being drunk when they tell their story of running over a dwarf-sized creature with an overgrown head. These creatures are smart too. They kill drunken Joe (Frank Gorshin) by injecting him with alcohol using their hypodermic fingers, then hammer a large dent in Johnny’s car to frame him for murder. The Air Force has discovered the aliens’ (interestingly designed) spaceship and try to cut their way into it.
The most memorable aspect of the film is the creatures, which were designed by Paul Blaisdell and were prominently displayed in the marketing. They’re peculiar little critters with bulbous eyes and their faces frozen in a goofy grimace. You get a better look at them on the poster than you ever do in the movie, which is surprisingly well photographed by Fred West, who worked often with Roger Corman and SAUCER MEN director Edward L. Cahn. A battle between an alien and a prize bull is entertainingly silly and surprisingly gory.
It isn’t really a good picture overall, but West and Cahn are proficient at providing production value, despite a low budget that forced them to shoot almost all the exterior scenes on a green soundstage. The young leads are dull, but it’s amusing to see the future Riddler, Frank Gorshin, in a small but pivotal role. His conman partner is played by Lyn Osborn, who would have then been very familiar to SAUCER MEN’s target audience as Cadet Happy on SPACE PATROL.
Douglas Henderson, Russ Bender, Don Shelton, Jason Johnson, Sam Buffington, and Kelly Thordsen are solid as the authority figures. A young Ed Nelson plays a beer-swilling teen. Nicholson and his partner Samuel Z. Arkoff must have thought highly of the movie, because they asked Larry Buchanan to remake it for television. His version, which is so inept that it was accidentally titled ATTACK OF THE THE EYE CREATURES (sic), is much worse than Cahn’s original.