Making fun of '50s sci-fi films, this adventure is set in a small Midwestern town during the late '50s and begins when gigantic insects invade the community.
Out of all the alien invasion movies of the 1980s, I'm fairly certain most of you don't remember 'Strange Invaders', which was actually the second installment in a planned trilogy from director Michael Laughlin ('Two Lane Blacktop') that never got off the ground. With names being thrown around like Michael Murphy ('Tanner 88'), Mel Gibson, and Powers Boothe to star in the film, it seemed like box office gold at the time. This was not the case, as none of the above mentioned actors said, "Yes" to the film.
Things trudged along still with a great cast, however audiences didn't really connect with it as it might have borrowed to many plot devices and story lines from previous movies to really stand up on its own. It's funny to think that most people remember or at least portray the 1950s as one of the best decades in history. When we see video or promo material from that time period, it usually consists of white picket fences, well-mannered and well-dressed people who are always following the rules with smiles on their faces in their perfect homes and yards.
If you peel the page back only slightly, you'll see the dirty side with all of the nuclear scares, civil rights movements, rock n roll, and rebellious children. You can also add to that list the sightings of UFOs and aliens, which is where 'Strange Invaders' comes into play. In the 1950s, we are told that an alien race came to Earth and took over an entire town called Centerville in the midwest and supposedly took over all of the humans there, but were never heard from again.
This leads us to Charles Bigelow (Paul Le Mat) in the present day or 1980s as it were, where a professor whose ex-wife Margaret disappears. He sets out to try and find her, which leads him back to her hometown, which is Centerville of course. He soon realizes that Centerville still looks like a city from the 1950s. Even the people dress and act like they were in that decade still. Soon enough, he notices that things are not what they seem to be when he comes across his ex-wife who has a mysterious secret. With aliens and their diabolical plan in place, running amok in Centerville, it's up to Charles to escape before things get really nasty.
Bill Condon's screenplay ('Twilight: Breaking Dawn') here is somewhat odd. Condon tries to trick and lead us in one direction, only to do something completely different in the final act of the film. It works on some plain level, but doesn't really make sense in what the film sets up. It's as if nobody could decide on an ending and they just chose one out of a hat. It would have been interesting to see how the movie would have played out, if they went a different direction with it.
Everyone turns in a solid acting performance here, however, nothing really stands out as award-worthy. With a few heart-felt, if not cheesy moments towards the end, 'Strange Invaders' still musters up some solid entertaining and mystery, even three decades later.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This release comes with a 25GB Blu-ray disc from Twilight Time and is limited to 3,000 copies. It is housed in a clear hard plastic case and is Region A locked. There is a six page full illustrated insert that talks about the film as well.
'Strange Invaders' comes with a decent 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The image on the whole is very soft, which is more or less a decision by the filmmakers in keeping that vintage 1950's dreamlike picture in tact. The detail is vivid and sharp in most closeups that showcase wrinkles, individual hairs, and visual effects quite well, although in other times, things go softer than I'd like to see. Wider shots aren't usually very sharp either, but it's definitely an improvement from prior releases.
Colors look great here as well and are all well balanced and saturated, but i wouldn't say most colors pop off screen with the exception of some of the bright primary colors. There is quite a bit of grain to this image as well, which fluctuates from heavy to heavier, which hinders some of the visual effects from time to time. Black levels look deep and inky and the skin tones are for the most part natural. Most of the elements are still in tact here, however, there are some minor issues with dirt and debris still. Even though are some problems here, this is still a solid video presentation.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA Mono mix with a 2.0 stereo option of the music only. This mono track does a great job with all of the sound elements, however, some of the heavier action scenes could have been better with a 5.1 option. Sound effects are robust, lively, and well layered throughout. The score is sweeping and always adds to the suspense of each scene.
Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, or loud shrills. There just isn't a lot of depth or a fully immersive experience with this thriller, which could have helped the atmosphere. The low and high ends sound good enough and the dynamic range is rather wide here too. All in all, this is a solid audio presentation for a mono mix.
Audio Commentary - Here is a great commentary track with director Michael Laughlin and writer Bill Condon as they discuss making the movie, the planned trilogy, their decisions with key characters and scenes, and some fun anecdotes from the set.
Isolated Score Track - You can pick this audio option to listen to a 2.0 stereo mix of the music only.
Trailers (HD, 4 Mins.) - Trailer for the film and a MGM Anniversary trailer.
'Strange Invaders' was a solid film for its time, and it still has some elements that hold up. There were just some weird story lines and plot mechanics that seemed like they weren't fully thought out and had a weird impact on the ending of the film. Other than that, this is a solid alien invasion story line with a 1950s vibe. The video has some problems, but it still looks good, and the audio sounds great for being a mono track. The only real extra here is a great commentary by the filmmakers. For you genre and alien invasion fans, this comes recommended!