Thursday, 14 November 2013

Teenagers from Outer Space (1959)







Ed Wood may be the most famous of the 50s microbudget mavericks, but Tom Graeff would definitely be up there if mental health issues hadn't limited his output. Teenagers from Outer Space (aka The Gargon Terror) is Graeff's best known picture, and a film which he not only wrote and directed, but also shot, edited, and played one of the main supporting roles.

This film was shot on a paltry $14,000 budget (that's about 1/4 of the cost of Plan 9 from Outer Space; in today's money, it works out to about $110,000). So Graeff was definitely able to walk the Wood walk. But Teenagers isn't just even more microbudget than Wood's films: it's also much better than them. It's not a good film, you understand - the writing is very clunky and trite, the acting even worse - but it's still an astonishing achievement given the constraints upon it and the ambition of some of the scenes. It also makes me love The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra even more, as some of the elements of the latter were clearly inspired by the dialog and effects of this film.

The film features aliens who come to Earth in search of a place to raise 'Gargons', which are a food animal for them. They raise the creatures on other worlds because full-grown Gargons are very dangerous. Initially it seems Earth is not suitable, but then it turns out it is. By that time, however, one of the aliens has realised that this world harbours intelligent life. He attempts to dissuade the others from continuing with the plan, but they don't give two hoots about creatures not of their own race. This prompts the lone rebel to run off in search of natives to warn. The most violent of the aliens remains on Earth to hunt him while the others go to fetch their fleet.

Teenagers from Outer Space features spaceships, ray guns, and even a battle with a giant monster. It's a fantastically ambitious movie for the resources on hand, and while it falls well short of those ambitions, I cannot help but feel that Graeff deserves a biopic far more than Ed Wood does.

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