DATELINE: William Cameron Menzies Masterpiece
Jimmy Takes on Octopus
William Cameron Menzies turned in one of his best efforts as director and set designer on this classic science fiction thriller, entitled Invaders from Mars.
Menzies employed stylized sets, especially barren trees along a perimenter of sand dunes, imposing and overwhelming police offices, and garish color. It created a nightmare scenario for a ten-year old boy thrown into a paranoid delusion.
Actor Jimmy Hunt was the perfect little all-American boy who sees a saucer land in the yard up the hill from his cottage home. There, his parents turn malevolent after being sucked under ground by strange forces that turn dunes into quicksand. It does not help that his parents are well-known standard villainous actors Leif Erikson and Hillary Brooke. You are also treated to an unusual display of child abuse when Erikson slugs his son.
The music is choral voices mimicking the noise that foreshadows horror when adults are sucked into the alien den and replaced with a probe inserted into the base of their skulls, turning them into automatons. This played on the greatest childhood fear—that parents can become hideous zombies.
Ancient aliens turn out to be robotic slaves to a reptilian octopus in a fish bowl. Yikes, what could be more hallucinogenic? Special effects don’t need CGI to be breathtaking.
At the peak of the Cold War when communists were hiding under every bed, you had an equal paranoid takeover by creatures from another world. The film stands out as one of a handful of remarkable science fiction to emerge from the era.
This holds up to the test of time and remains as creepy as what you might find today in Twin Peaks.