An Impossible Picture

Truth and Lies about the Invasion of the Star Creatures

Martin Kottmeyer

Talking Pictures alias






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Invasion of the Star Creatures (1962) is totally forgotten among science fiction film buffs, on purpose. Bill Warren in his perfect history of 1950s sf movies, Keep Watching the Skies, observed it as "astonishingly helplessly bad that it's almost unwatchable." He was tempted to call the film loathsome, but decided that bordered on flattery for this cipher of a motion picture and risked creating the impression that it might have the charming ineptness of the classic bad films, whereas this bomb is uninteresting, unimaginative, boring, and seemingly endless. 

The popularity of the alien abduction phenomenon in recent years provides us with an excuse for tricking people into taking a second look at this R. I. Diculous creation. 

The movie is introduced with the assertion "This is a true story. Only the facts have been completely distorted." We have prevailed upon two world famous experts, respectively on the subjects of ufology and bunk, to debate the issue of whether this assertion is valid or hype. Taking the pro side is Major Edsel Murky. Taking the con side is the world's first debunker, Michael Webb. A critique of the film emphasising the salient points of contention was agreed upon by both sides. Their commentary follows each point of description. 

The film is initially set at Fort Nickelson and is termed the World Center of Atomic Research. 

PRO: It is well-known from the earliest works of ufology by Donald Keyhoe that UFO sightings clustered around atomic facilities, most especially the true centre of atomic research, Los Alamos. Cases still often centre on locales having nuclear significance. The Roswell crash took place near the home of what was then the world's only combat-trained atomic bomb group of fliers. 

CON: Spencer R. Weart in Nuclear Fear argues the UFO phenomenon was an ‘atomic psychosis’ as an implicit response to the nuclear terror. Abreaction through paranoid fantasy required the alien invasion films of the 1950s to have nuclear motifs. The spy in The Flying Saucer is asked how he would feel if tomorrow a flying saucer dropped an atomic bomb on every key city in the United States. The Cosmic Man involves a scientist burdened with the guilt of having built the A-bomb. One of the main passengers of The Atomic Submarine is the ban-the-bomb activist son of the sub's designer who darn-near kills his father by his perceived disloyalty. Killers From Space begins and ends with nuclear blasts. A nuclear blast, the worst explosion ever created by man, exposes a huge cave in which aliens, unbeknownst to everyone, are hiding. 

PRO: Caves and a propensity for underground bases are associated with aliens as far back as the Shaver mystery. Raymond Bernard argued flying saucers hailed from the inner world. Albert Bender was shown an alien city constructed underground, a base made by tunnelling under the ice of Antarctica. Mona Stafford experienced travelling into what seemed like an area inside a volcano or large tunnel during her alien abduction. It is now commonly claimed that 'greys' dwell in underground bases such as Area 51 'Dreamland' with governmental complicity. Ellen Crystall in Silent Invasion testifies to hearing alien underground tunnelling operations in progress. 

CON: Caves are also common dwelling places for aliens in science fiction films. Recall Invaders from Mars, It Came from Outer Space, Killers from Space, Forbidden Planet, Brain from Planet Arous, Cape Canaveral Monsters, Zonter -The Thing from Venus. Alien tunnelling sounds are notable in Tobe Hooper's 1986 remake of Invaders from Mars. The psychological significance of caves as womb symbols is convincingly argued in Walter Eafton-Minkel's exhaustive masterpiece Subterranean Worlds. Raymond Bernard is very nicely analysed in this book. 

A pair of 3-Stooges wannabes, the backside of the Army, do the hero bit and enter the radioactive Big Hole to check things out. Camping by the cave, the pair drift off to sleep as humanoids approach. We cut to them waking up and learning they are strapped down on a table. 

PRO: The Slater study indicated that odd and eccentric behaviour was common among alien abductees though this did not detract from their basic normality. Army personnel are common UFO reporters with Charles Moody, a sergeant in the U. S. Air Force, being among the more famous of the abductees. The absence of a scene showing the creatures dragging our heroes into their craft or base is especially telling proof that this is a real abduction experience. 'Doorway amnesia' has emerged as a little detail which means a lot. It seems so meaningless and pointless it is peculiar that it keeps turning up in abduction after abduction and so is important as evidence that witnesses are faithfully reporting what they experienced even if they didn't understand it. (See Thomas Bullard's On Stolen Time, FFUFOR, 1987.) Examination tables are de rigeur for abduction experiences. 

CON: Doorway amnesia also turned up in two of Lawson's eight imaginary abduction accounts. It also can be discerned in such places as Robert Heinlein's 1942 story Goldfish Bowl and The Probe, an episode of The Outer Limits. It may just be an artefact of the mind editing away uninteresting bits of story to get to the good stuff. Examination tables appear in Invaders from Mars and Killers from Space. 

Two king-sized female Einsteins appear and use a brain machine to scan their minds. 

PRO: The Villas Boas classic encounter case involves humanoid creatures overpowering a man and bringing him before an excitingly beautiful female. Amazingly beautiful females are also a common features of 1950s contactee experiences such as those by Orfeo Angelucci and Howard Menger. David Jacobs speaks of the commonness of mindscans in his book Secret Life. 

CON: Beautiful female aliens grace such films as The Astounding She-Monster, Cat-Women of the Moon, and Devil Girl From Mars. Mindscan dates back to Buck Rogers and is prominently featured in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. 

Puna (wow) and Tanga (wow wow) are from Kellar of the Balfour star system, 600 million light years away. They are a scientific investigating team with a ship in need of repairs. Overpopulation forces them to look to our world for conquest. 

PRO: The 1979 Elaine Kaiser abduction involved aliens 2.4 million light years away from home. Other cases also speak of aliens coming galactic distances. This is not impossible in a universe estimated at ten to twenty billion years in age. Relativity allows such journeys in a lifetime if a speed close to light is achieved. Up to 10% of landing cases seem to involve craft in need of repair or under repair. Conquest is consistent with surveillance theories which have been held by most ufologists at some point. 

CON: Overpopulation will likely have done its damage by the time they get back. Invasion was on the minds of many 1950s aliens depicted in the cinema; Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, War of the Worlds, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Killers from Space, Invasion of the Saucer Men, Invaders from Mars, Invisible Invaders, Target Earth!, Robot Earth, etc. The ship in It Came from Outer Space needed repairs and our help, but at first is thought to be an invader. 

They take them on a tour, explain their society, and show them a room where they grow Vegemen from hands and feet stuck in flower pots. 

PRO: This is amazingly compelling proof for the reality of the movie. Exactly this same exotic scene of arms and legs growing out of pots turns up in an abduction experience collected by Whitley Strieber and reported in the May/June 1989 issue of UFO. No abductee could ever independently invent such an exotic observation. My opponent would have to have you believe somebody actually saw this movie AND was eccentric enough to take responsibility for inviting the laughter and ridicule such a detail would entail. 

CON: This is an obvious take-off from the first alien horror classic The Thing. This has a scene where someone picks up an arm that was torn off the Thing during an attack and realises the arm is vegetable in nature. The writer of Invasion of the Star Creatures had enough horticultural savvy to suggest that if you stick such a limb in a pot you might be able to grow a new Thing for Puna and Tanga to command. It seems improbable a real life abduction would accidentally build on the traits of this famous monster. If one could just get past the improbability of someone actually staying awake to witness this scene this would be an incontrovertible instance of cryptamnesia. 

They are shown the starship and told it operates via time warp drive: going not through time, but around it. 

PRO: This is another telling detail for, as John Keel and others point out, aliens love to talk gibberish about time. "What is your time cycle?" asks one. The Betty and Barney Hill abductors affect not knowing what a hundred years is. In the 1974 Rhodesian case of Peter and Francis we are told, "They travel by time, not by light" and when asked to explain this tries to clarify it by saying "They travel on time". Not at all that different when you think about it. 

CON: The aliens in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers state they operate within "a very different time reference" where action takes place between the ticks of the clock. The humans check and find their watches have stopped and so has their pulse! Aliens in the 1977 End of the World have problems with their time warp machine involving a malfunction in negative velocity necessitating a variance crystal or capsule containing zero time reference. There may be some unrealised psychological significance to such things, but it may be a way to convey alien mastery of the most fundamental aspects of reality or the universe we can't control. 

They escape from a force field and fool around with a control panel with alarming consequences... 

PRO: Reminiscent of the Travis Walton case. 

CON: Reminiscent of dramatic license. 

...then find a room of friends caught in suspended animation... 

PRO: Reminiscent of Betty Andreasson's Museum of Time. 

CON: Reminiscent of I Married a Monster from Outer Space. 

...have trouble finding their way out... 

PRO: Return form of doorway amnesia in extremis. 

CON: Duh! 

..but get away and get drunk. 

PRO: The sequence of capture-examination-conference-tour- return-aftermath conforms to Thomas Bullard's structure of abduction experience and this sequence is believed to indicate such experiences are real. Variation would be expected of creative fiction. 

CON: It may alternatively mean this is the ideal dramatic structure, but I'll have to concede the weakness of the point given the boring nature of the product. 

They return to the cave, teach the aliens love since they don t know anything about it, do a little sparking, blow up the starship, and save the world.

PRO: The aliens' asking "What is love?" strongly recalls Budd Hopkins' remarks in Intruders about how aliens seem to understand almost nothing about basic human psychology. The rest admittedly has nothing in common with the abduction phenomenon and was probably tacked on for a Hollywood style happy ending. These are the distortions spoken of at the beginning of the film. 

CON: The pod people of Invasion of the Body Snatchers display a lack of human emotions like love. In Visit to a Small Planet, Creton (played by Jerry Lewis) reveals his race, because they are immortal, gave up passion. He describes their insides as being like cold spaghetti. Among the other notable users of aliens with a lack of humanity was the TV series The Invaders and Star Trek's Spock, particularly in the earliest episodes. 

Final Argument 

PRO: Invasion of the Star Creatures has all the earmarks of an authentic alien experience as advertised. The many similarities between the movie and the alien abduction phenomenon is entirely identical to the similarities found between authentic abduction cases. It stretches incredulity past the breaking point to ascribe them to coincidence, archetypal psychological forces, plagiarism, cryptamnesia, or other explaining-away gimmicks. We should also point out the very badness of this movie is a final clincher that this is truly a manifestation of the UFO phenomenon. 

Jacques Vallee, in Forbidden Science, perceptively observed of the UFO phenomenon that 'They have continued to behave like the absurd denizens of bad Hollywood movies, giving no sign that their purpose on our planet was related to any sort of rational process.' The film's badness is of an order that no earthly scriptwriter could be responsible for its existence. Who would try to sell something like this as fiction given its total failure to entertain? It is so impossible, it must be true. 

CON: The principle of similarities is fallacious because the movie and the alien abduction phenomenon reflect common drives and a common culture of ideas, props, dramatic conventions, and styles of folly. Aliens may of course honestly be boring and may turn out to fit our cultural conventions by happenstance or mimicry. More probable is that on some level of mind the alien abduction mystery is, like Invasion of the Star Creatures, a naive form of improvisational theatre making do on tiny terrestrial budgets. Don't forget: Plan Nine from Outer Space also claimed to be based on documented truth. Can you prove it wasn't? Same notation for UFO experiences generally. 

It can be, therefore it isn't. 

This article orginally appeared in Talking Pictures, Number 7.

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