THE CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS
Pros: Linda Connell is nice to look at; strange ending; neat footage of actual rockets
Cons: poor acting; script relies too much on overused genre cliches; looks cheap
What sounds on paper like the typical B-movie sci-fi flick from the golden age of the genre turns out to be something kind of different and unique in the very obscure 1960 film The Cape Canaveral Monsters. A pair of extraterrestrials whose basic form is that of small orbs of light that move about independently have taken over human bodies and intend to sabotage the US space program in order to prepare for a full-on invasion of Earth. Leave it up to lovebirds Sally and Tom (both of whom are working for the military rocketry program) to try and warn the authorities and stop the nefarious plot. Amid all the scientific gobbledygook, less-than impressive alien technology, and endless day-for-night shots that aren’t even the least bit convincing, writer/director Phil Tucker’s film winds up being slightly more interesting than the typical low budget genre effort.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that this one has lots of problems: first, the script has grand aspirations of detailing the aliens’s plot, but none of it is adequate conveyed onscreen, largely due to budgetary constraints. Though the diabolical spacemen (who take the form of a man and woman who were killed in a car accident, thus the woman’s face is horribly scarred and the man is missing an arm) possess such weapons as a “Big Paralysis Ray,” a “Needle Blaster,” and sort of freeze-beam, none of this technology is convincing – holding a static shot onscreen while inserting double-exposure glitch artifacts over the image doesn’t make this weaponry seem realistic. Let’s not even discuss the orb-shaped aliens that appear to have been created by punching holes in the film prints, allowing direct light to shine through. While the pair of extraterrestrials (played by Jason Johnson and Katherine Victor) sure talk a big game, they’re completely and utterly inept at stopping the Earthmen from putting a wrench in their plans. The sense of buildup to the conclusion is utterly devoid of any sense of tension, and much like as in Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space, the aliens never seem the least bit threatening.
Speaking of the acting: it’s pretty horrific. Give these actors (ranging from Scott Peters as young loverboy/scientist Tom, to Billy Greene as the obligatory German rocket scientist, to Brian F. Wood as the old shotgun-toting codger who plans to stop the aliens) anything significant to say or communicate to the audience and this story all but falls apart. The only highlight in the acting department for me was the very nerdy-cute Linda Connell, who plays the main love interest in the film. Admittedly though, I would have been happier if she would have continued to parade around onscreen wearing a slip without uttering a single word. Once she’s given a line to say, she fares about as badly as the rest of this gang.
Gene Kauer’s music seems hilariously overblown at times: too frantic at moments when it should be peaceful; too low-key when I would have liked it to be creating a suspenseful mood. Merle Connell’s photography is capable, but the story development seems ragged throughout. Scenes having little purpose are thrown, and despite some original ideas, much of the film involves little more than characters roaming around a mountainside, reverting back to tired genre formula much too often. When Tom proposes marriage to Sally while being held captive in a restraining device (which consists of him standing against a wall and not moving), I could do nothing except apply the ol’ facepalm technique.
Despite the problems though, this one has some genuinely intriguing elements. I really like the fact that this film has a bizarre, Twilight Zone-like ending, and the stock footage of real 1950’s rockets firing – and having pretty catastrophic failures after launch – is actually pretty neat to watch. Though the special effects are a mixed bag, there are some pretty nifty instances of trick photography and double exposures that generally get the job done. Sure, this film is cheap (just look at that pathetic set used to represent a sheriff’s office), but director Tucker at least attempts to use his resources well.
While probably not the laugh-a-minute schlock-fest that one might want, there are plenty of amusing “bad movie moments” in The Cape Canaveral Monsters – Tom’s method of finding the alien lair involves him throwing rocks around whenever possible, and some of the dialogue is howlingly bad (“We need more Earthlings for our experiments – especially females!”). All in all, I’d call this an enjoyable time waste; lasting just over an hour, the film moves along at a good clip and would be entertaining enough for genre fans. As is typically the case with films of this nature, leave your brain at the door and you’ll probably have a good time.
This film is streaming on Amazon. Apparently, there also is a DVD-R of this program – which I wouldn’t at all recommend. The film’s enjoyable, but not that great.
3/10 – “Hey, your arm…” One-arm Sam lurks around the film with a bloody stump for a while – minor blood, a bit of gore; nothing major.
0/10 – Breaks down into pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo a few times. No profanity.
2/10 – Aliens strip all the women they capture of their clothes, but nothing much is shown. I did like that Connell is in her undergarments for much of the film though…
5/10 – I could see this being a minor cult film. Definitely fits into the mold of cheapo B-movie wonders of the late ’50s/early ’60s.
“Doggonedest thing I ever did see. Nothing but a little ol’ green light that like to have made mincemeat out of all of us!”