Sunday, March 04, 2012

One Arm To Hold You


Thankfully, some poor sucker gave Phil Tucker, the director of ROBOT MONSTER, a few thousand shekels to make another science fiction movie. THE CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS never reaches the hysterical heights of Tucker’s earlier film—what could?—but the inept plotting, dialogue, score, and acting will still leave bad-movie fans melting in tears of laughter. Tucker even returns to ROBOT MONSTER HQ—Griffith Park’s Bronson Canyon—to lens the exteriors.

Aliens shaped like small balls of light arrive on Earth as part of an invasion force. They force a middle-aged couple into an auto accident and take over their bloody, busted bodies. The male, who calls itself Hauron (Jason Johnson), loses his left arm in the crash, but his companion Nadja (TEENAGE ZOMBIES’ Katherine Victor) promises to sew it back on. She does, but it’s torn off again by a dog and taken to a missile base, where General Hollister (Chuck Howard) stares at the obviously plastic appendage with amazement.

Tucker, without a studio backing him to say no, is surprisingly lurid in his storytelling. It’s obvious that Hauron and Nadja, who seem to despise one another, are enjoying making the sex in their new bodies, and when they kidnap a couple of teenagers (in part to harvest one for his arm and his chin!), Tucker lingers upon the aliens undressing them. The film is bloodier than most low-budget sci-fiers of the era too.

The teenage heroes are Tom (Scott Peters) and Sally (Linda Connell, the daughter of cinematographer W. Merle Connell), who work for Sally’s uncle, Dr. von Hoften (Billy Greene), a German scientist working with Hollister at the missile base. They’re also captured, though only Sally is stripped. Tom manages to escape briefly using the radium in his watch, but he’s quickly re-captured after telling the police his fantastic story. But will they believe him and come to his and Sally’s rescue?

This is likely the only movie in which invasion plans of aliens from outer space are repelled using a wristwatch, litmus paper, pig Latin, and those plastic inserts inside wallets that hold photographs. It’s also very cheap. All we see of the aliens’ spaceship is a wall about twelve feet long, and a pit of deadly bubbling liquid supposedly similar to Earth’s hydrogen (but not really) is represented by a tiny miniature. The launching missiles are government stock footage.

THE CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS is slightly more competent than ROBOT MONSTER, which isn’t saying much. The aliens’ plan to destroy American missiles makes little sense, nor does their act of transporting (somehow) their Earth prisoners to their home planet (including Tom’s now-armless and –chinless best pal). They don’t seem particularly bright either, smugly giving Tom all the scientific info he needs to plan his escape and, hilariously, accepting his explanation of his pig Latin code to Sally that it’s his special way of saying “I love you.”

Tucker didn’t direct again after THE CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS, though he stuck around the industry as an editor for two more decades. Although forgotten today except by the most dedicated fans of terrible movies, Tucker deserves to be considered in the same breath as Edward D. Wood, Jr. as a wretched director who made entertaining pictures on accident. Speaking of bad filmmakers, many reviewers, including Bill Warren in his esteemed KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES!, claim Al Adamson (a much worse director than either Wood or Tucker) appears as an actor in THE CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS, but he does not.

No comments: