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Teenagers From Outer Space (DVD)

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Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Science Fiction / Parental Guidance / Director: Tom Graeff / DVD released 2004-06-21 at Elstree Hill Entertainment / Features of the DVD: Black & White, PAL

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      08.05.2009 15:48
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      Very worth a watch for 50s Sci Fi fans

      Starring:

      David Love as Derek
      Dawn Anderson as Betty Morgan
      Bryan Grant as Thor
      Tom Lockyear (Tom Graeff) as Joe Rogers

      Despite a silly and lurid title imposed by the film studio against its maker's will, to cash in on the late 1950s craze for 'teenager'-themed movies, this is actually not a bad little film. A one-man effort on the part of Tom Graeff as writer, director and actor as well as cinematographer and provider of the special effects, Graeff's original title for this 1959 film was 'The Boy From Out of This World'.

      Even though made on an ultra-low budget of a mere $14,000, Graeff has really shown resourcefulness in making a surprisingly watchable film. It's a pity that he didn't make any more, but sadly, after this one bombed at the box office, he suffered a breakdown and disappeared from public view.

      The plot centres around a team of young spacemen who appear to be 25-30 years old, making the 'Teenagers' film title a bit bemusing - but, by way of explanation, the use of actors in that age group to portray teenagers was pretty common in the 50s. They have come to Earth with the intention of using it as a farm to harvest their staple food, a sort of giant lobster called a Gargon.

      The film starts with a spaceship landing in a deserted area. As a man emerges, a small dog runs up to the ship, yapping furiously. The man pulls out his ray gun and zaps the animal, reducing it to a skeleton. Poor doggy. The nasty dog-murderer and three other men take readings of the atmosphere and soil to see if their Gargons will be able to thrive on this planet. One of them, Derek, wanders to the skeleton and notices a set of dogtags. 'Wait, Captain! I have found evidence of intelligent beings on this planet!' Derek exclaims, brandishing the dogtags.

      'Of what concern are foreign beings?' demands the puppy-killer. 'Of none to you, Thor, just as you were so unconcerned when you destroyed this small creature - so bravely,' Derek admonishes him. The Captain tells them to shut up and get on with it, but Derek draws his laser gun. 'Only a civilised race could have made the inscription on this metal piece. We shall not have thousands of Gargons brought here to destroy them.'

      Derek flees with the dogtags, determined to find the owners. He emerges in a small town and with the help of the directions of various local residents, finds his way to the home of Betty Morgan and her Granddad. But - Thor is in hot pursuit, and judging by the trail of human skeletons he's leaving behind him with his nasty little ray gun, this doesn't bode well.

      I really enjoyed watching this rather quaint film, which has a very homey small-town feel to it and an acting and direction style that are very naturalistic almost to the point of appearing non-professional, although I mean that in a good way in this case. None of the actors were mainstream actors, and for many of them this was their only film appearance, which gives the film much charm and realism as the local small town inhabitants comes across as ordinary everyday folks who could just be your own neighbours, rather than polished celebrity actors. By the same token, the spacemen's wooden acting and monotone voices enhance (whether intentionally or unintentionally) their appearance of not being quite human.

      Derek was my favourite character in the film - he's sort of a prototype Mr Spock type of a guy, a man from a self-controlled race quite similar to the Vulcans (but without the ears!) but more 'half human' than his fellow planetmates, and indeed there are quite a few scenes and bits of dialogue that are reminiscent of the original 'Star Trek' series which debuted a few years later. Derek was in fact inspired by the character of the aloof but friendly spaceman Klaatu in the original 'The Day The Earth Stood Still' movie (1951), and you can see the similarities if you've seen that film. Also like Klaatu, he comes to stay with an ordinary family and becomes fond of Earth people.

      I liked the many actually quite charming little philosophical and humanitarian snippets of dialogue Derek comes out with throughout the film, which are in stark contrast to the attitudes of his ruthless and emotionless space colleagues. Despite being David Love's one and only film appearance, he carries the part of the bemused spaceman on Earth well and is often quite touching.

      The cinematography and direction are pretty respectable considering the low budget and that one man was doing it all. The one place the low budget really shows badly, though, is in the special effects, especially the scenes depicting the Gargons, which are merely projections of the shadows of lobsters standing on end, blown up to look giant-sized. They just look way too fake.

      The only thing I didn't like all that much was the ending, which was somewhat corny and could have been handled more effectively. It was meant to be moving and philosophical, and it does succeed in that to some extent but comes across a bit jarring in its naffness.

      But, corny ending and giant lobster shadows aside, there's plenty to enjoy in this film, which was a true labour of love for its creator and has a lot of heart. If you like 50s Sci Fi and look at it as an interesting late 50s indie space film with a few foreshadowings of the not-yet-arrived 'Star Trek' as well as some very appealing and moving moments, I think you'll enjoy it.

      Also on Ciao.com as EsmeraldaDragon and ciao.co.uk as thereddragon.

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