Please be aware, folks, that, as usual, this score-review will be very detailed and spoiler-heavy as we go through it track-by-track.
Of all the worlds in all the galaxies in all the universe … why did they pick this one?
Somewhere on his body, director/writer Michael Laughlin has birthmarks reading “cult” and “niche”. His first two films in what would go on to become a promised “strange” trilogy, Strange Behaviour (aka Dead Kids) and Strange Invaders would also appear to be the only two in it … so far. The spy-spoof The Adventures of Phillip Strange never managed to find the funds to become realised, and Laughlin would only go on to direct one more movie since this quirky, but memorable beginning, 1986’s Mesmerized with Jodi Foster and John Lithgow, whereas his screenwriting buddy on these two movies, Bill Condon, would go on to attain great critical acclaim (and an Oscar) for this script for the wonderfully layered James Whale epitaph, Gods and Monsters, and huge commercial success by directing the first two instalments of the Twilight saga.
Whilst Strange Behaviour took a witty and unusual SF slant on the stalk ‘n’ slash genre that was then (1981) so incredibly popular and notorious, Laughlin opted to pay homage to the nostalgic splendour of the paranoid alien invasion movies of the 50’s, a decade rife with bug-eyed-monsters, flying saucers and glowing, mind-possessing alien brains, with his fabulously evocative tale of a Middle American town taken over by extraterrestrials in the saccharine summer of 1958. But he didn’t just want to pander to the mystique of the traditional B-movie of body-snatching, saucer-spinning, zap-happy excesses of Earth-plundering intergalactic visitors and their reassuring defeat at the hands of plucky citizens, heroic military men and buffoonish boffins that had proliferated during the decade when mankind was most at threat from lumbering hulks of rubber and animated laser beams, he also wanted to bring in a cute play on the blighted morals of modern society and the collapse of the ballyhooed nuclear family. Thus, his whimsical alien invasion actually revolves around the Kramer vs Kramer-style dilemma of a broken family and a devoted father trying to gain custody of his daughter … if only to stop her alien mother’s odd people whisking the hybrid girl off to the other side of the galaxy!
Ex hot-rodder from American Graffiti, Paul Le Mat stars as Charles Bigelow, college professor and anxious father who discovers that his estranged wife Margaret (Diana Scarwid) is actually part of a hidden community of aliens who came to Earth and took over the small Illinois town of Centerville, assuming the everyday identities of the local population and staying there for twenty-five years to observe human society and behaviour. Muddying things up with a theme that had become prevalent in the more distrustful and paranoid 70’s, they are apparently sanctioned by the US Government, with some presence of vintage men-in-black clouding the morals of the situation still further. When Margaret suddenly leaves Elizabeth (Lulu Sylbert) with him and hightails it back to her hometown with a clearly bogus story about her mother dying, Charles eventually becomes mighty suspicious when she fails to return. After his subsequent investigations in Centerville in an attempt to find his errant ex, Charles is dismayed to learn that the aliens are intent on pulling out and returning to their home-world of Hesperus with the highly prized progeny of an Earthman and one of their own in tow. The aliens have assumed the physical appearance of the townsfolk – having zapped them into captive balls of spectral blue light – but they have not moved on along with human civilisation, and Centerville has remained in a Brigadoon-like time-lock perfectly recreating the fifties, and out of synch with the world around it. Together with intrepid reporter Betty Walker (genre-regular Nancy Allen from Carrie, Dressed To Kill and Robocop), Charles fights to take back his daughter and to free the trapped spirits of the townspeople.
Although critically applauded upon its release in 1983 for its nostalgia, visual invention and creative fun, Strange Invaders was destined to be a slow-burn, slow-rent on video and a regular fixture on cable TV. In the UK, I think I was the only person I knew who had seen it. After about a month, the manager of local video library (James Chinery – think about it … yeah, that’s Jim Chinery, folks) gave their copy to me because absolutely nobody else was interested in it despite some wacky front-of-house publicity cut-outs and posters. I still have the Betamax copy somewhere. Perhaps the movie is simply too reverential and stylistically odd to be taken seriously by anyone other than a confirmed devotee of the genre’s most iconic period. Certainly audiences were, by now, expecting a greater level of sophistication from SF, and something of a harder edge. The seventies had wrestled with the apocalypse – and what might happen the day after – and the eighties, thus far, had exploded with elaborate fantasies from ET to The Thing, from Mad Max to Conan, and from Blade Runner to Tron. By contrast, Strange Invaders was simple, charming and erratic-moving, more like an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits than a typical FX-laden extravaganza, which of course, was exactly what it was … if that extravaganza had been made thirty years earlier.
Interestingly, there would be another SF movie that would come along a couple of years later, that would massively update the concept with an impressive budget and a large cast, heaps of sex and violence, and become the typically excessive 80’s equivalent of such a go-for-broke fable of wild fantasy. It was called Lifeforce, and its giddy, illogical momentum and slew of crazy concepts would require identical levels of genre-love from its makers, and just become, like Strange Invaders, a veritable celebration … only on a much bigger, and far more popular scale. John Carpenter’s paranoid satire They Live would also cover similar ground as Laughlin’s little homage, and Tim Burton would unashamedly smother the genre with affection in his adaptation of the gruesome Topps Trading Cards in the lavish Mars Attacks.
The film was renowned for its cheap but effective make-up effects from Bill Sturgeon and Brian Wade that showed the grasshopper-faced aliens messily shedding their latex human disguises. This was the era of stringy FX, after all. American Werewolf, The Howling, The Thing, Altered States, The Sword and the Sorcerer, Poltergeist (with its brief but even bloodier face-ripping) and The Beast Within had heralded the notion of other entities lurking beneath a bogus masquerade of oh-so-tearable flesh, and it is pertinent to note that Strange Invaders, although clearly influenced by the great TV show The Invaders (A Quinn Martin Production, of course!), and the cult-favourites of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Invaders from Mars, would actually exert a stylistic power over the mammoth 80’s series V with its visual theme of platonic humanoids not being quite what they seem and, ultimately, the desperate hunt for a human/alien hybrid child (also a girl) who is precious to both races. Visual FX were cute and effective, though certainly low-budget, and the film had a purpose-built aesthetic that was designed to look and feel just as playful and patchwork as the threadbare movies it was emulating.
The cast included a veritable who’s-who of cult cameos. There was June Lockhart and Mark Goddard, both from TV’s Lost In Space. Louise Fletcher, Nurse Ratched herself from Once Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, who was making a string of appearances in fantasies over this period (Exorcist II: The Heretic, Brainstorm, Firestarter and Tobe Hooper’s own remake of Invaders from Mars). Fiona Lewis from Polanski’s Dance of the Vampires, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Dan Curtis’ excellent TV dramatisation of Dracula, the Spaghetti Jaws-riff Tintorera, The Fury and Laughlin’s own Strange Behaviour, which also starred Fletcher. And, of course, the great monster-battler, himself, Kenneth Tobey, hero of The Thing From Another World and It Came From Beneath The Sea, who was making a successful run of such roles in things like Airplane, The Howling and Gremlins. Here, he had an extended and quite sinister role to play as the peculiarly canine-hating alien doppelganger, Mr. Newman. It was good to see his characteristically gruff attitude brought to bear on someone who actually wasn’t on our side for a change.
Given his rather esoteric and more high-brow pedigree, John Addison wasn’t the name that immediately sprang to mind during this period to compose for such a loving genre pastiche. He had worked on the flamboyant, bawdy period romp Tom Jones (even picking up an Oscar for Best Score for his rambunctious contribution to it), as well as the strained and poignant 1968 version of The Charge of the Light Brigade, and the all-star battler A Bridge Too Far, as well as Torn Curtain for Hitchcock (taking over from a disgruntled Bernard Herrmann) and the outstanding Michael Caine/Laurence Olivier head-to-head guessing-game of Sleuth. And his television credits are just as renowned with Black Beauty and Murder She Wrote and Amazing Stories. This diversity would probably be the reason why he was so adept at mashing-up the traditional and genre-honoured tropes of SF, with the whimsical pastoral qualities of a heartland drama, and allowing it all to bumble along with a jovial demeanour. He knew that the score would require plenty of home-grown Americana to represent the cherished cliché of an apple-pie-eating Middle American hamlet, and would also have to be able to conjure up action and chase material as well as being both respectful towards, and in fact celebrating the sound of Silver Age science fiction, what with its wailing Theremin, quivering strings, ethereal harp and floating, shivery woodwinds.
It has got to be difficult to pull off this combination of fantastical ambience and audience-winkage without lapsing into parody, but Addison walks that fine line between seriousness to the story and knowing homage with the poise of an acrobat on the high-wire, keeping a perfectly straight face whilst still enjoying the fun of such a warped mood.
After a bucolic horn and woodwind passage of the sweetest, humblest and most ardently innocent Americana for the twee huggy-kissy prologue in the opening track,Centerville, replete with the lazy dog drawl of a saxophone, Addison twists the warm summer’s evening anthem into the warbling, undulating dread that signifies the arrival of the aliens in their long, cigar-shaped mother ship, and their secretive mission that will disrupt the harmony of this tranquil community in 1958. The Theremin moans with that exotic, extraterrestrial voice in Track 2’s Mother Ship & Main Title, and ominous woods and percussion transform the mood into that deliciously quirky cadence from yesteryear. Harp and chimes add ethereal colour. Strings soar and dive like fireflies caught in the pink glow cast out beneath the alien vessel, and the clarinet begins to form a low, plodding phrase as two carousing teens (one of whom was the star of Laughlin’s earlier Strange Behaviour) discover that things aren’t so cosy back on the ranch. Soon, this phrase becomes the memorable alien march that anchors the score. It can be heard here, and later on with a more ominous and fate-filled tread during Track 17’s It’s Time and then during the final track’s End Credits. Slow, reverent and vaguely militaristic yet also clearly tongue-in-cheek, this has a couple of bars in it that sound very reminiscent of the creepy old theme for the Mole Men of Mongo from the vintage Buster Crabbe serial cliffhanger, Flash Gordon. Horns provide a noble clarion-call, whilst a heavy, doom-laden beat seems to shuffle forward with an ungainly, inhuman gait, suggestive of a physicality that is not so comfortable with our gravity. Brass heightens the motif, accentuating its martial form. A later development provides an upbeat sort of fanfare to the theme, again very melodic and very definitely descended from the era of Eisenhower.
After blending into the main titles, we then cut to New York, twenty-five years later. The little track Bugs plays over a scene when one of the aliens makes a phone-call to locate the whereabouts of Elizabeth. It occurs right after we have been introduced to Charles giving a class at the university, and low toils from clarinet and swaying Theremin enforce what will be a connection between his professor of entomology and the insectoid appearance of the aliens, themselves. And in Journey To Centerville, as Charles elects to go and see what’s been keeping Margaret so tied-up in her hidden town that she hasn’t even bothered to call to see how their daughter has been, Addison gives a nod to the great Bernard Herrmann and especially his bouncing on-the-move montage for Cary Grant and Eve Marie-Saint from North By Northwest. Horns, woodwinds and tense strings give the impression of impetus and growing concern as Charles heads across country and finally finds the virtually lost town of Centerville. Addison may well have been paying a thank you to the maestro with this and other references that he makes as he had replaced Herrmann under frosty conditions when Hitchcock and he parted company after what had been a very successful professional collaboration with irreconcilable creative differences over the score for Torn Curtain. Whether this is the case or not, the light-hearted insistence of the track is adroitly indicative of haste and determination.
In Nasty Newman and Dog Howls, Bigelow’s beer-drinking husky-mutt, Louie, meets alien animosity courtesy of Kenneth Tobey’s malevolent hotel proprietor. As Charles conducts a search of the town, drawing a blank from the out-of-step locals as to the whereabouts of his missing ex, there is much Theremin-laced weirdness and a growing sense of suspicion and unease. Suddenly he hears Louie howling in distress and then as he makes his way back to Newman’s place, Laughlin plays a wacky little trick on both us and Charles. What we will learn is actually the ghostly and invisible essence of the dog, having been sucked out of its body by the nefarious Newman, bounds past his perplexed owner via subjective camerawork. A darkly malevolent attitude from Newman compels Charles to get away. “You shouldn’t have brought the dog … in the first place.”
Personally speaking, alien bug-face or not, I would have battered the truth out of the guy about the missing ex just for the dog comment alone. But Charles is not quite so aggressive.
With his car suspiciously sputtering to a halt, the nervous professor enlists the aid of the town mechanic to repair the fuel-pump. But he encounters more bizarreness from the townsfolk in the diner while he waits, observing an unnerving silent mob gather around his stricken car and then, just when you would have thought that things couldn’t any weirder, he sees the car inexplicably explode into a fireball outside. That wasn’t the sort of service he was asking for. Making his escape from the diner to Addison’s smirk-inducing action cue Blow Up Car – which enjoys a thudding piano, hurtling strings and percussion – he steals a vintage vehicle and takes off down the main road. A bug-faced creature suddenly tries to stop him by shooting lightning bolts from its bulbous eyes that wrench off the doors and the boot but Charles manages to skip town ... and eventually make his way back to New York, empty-handed and now bereft of his dog as well.
The alien motif of Theremin and plodding woodwinds is heard as a mysterious Coach Party arrive in the big city and, clearly bug-people on a mission from Centerville, proceed to take rooms in a hotel. One of them gets a little hot under the collar and, accompanied by some comically shrill and raucous brass, proceeds to peel off his false human face to reveal the slimy cosmic visage beneath and, in the playfully creepy Room Service is seen by an unwitting maid who lets out a terrified scream.
Charles returns home to that his apartment has been turned-over in Alien Professor. Solo trumpet and drums create a gloomy sense of isolation. Lurching woods and little strains from the Theremin collide with the image of a figurine of a preying mantis, further establishing the bug-like attributes of Charles’ adversaries and hammering home the fact that they have clearly made their presence felt. He receives an odd phone-call in which the caller doesn’t say a word, adding to his sense of paranoia and vulnerability. And a visit with an old academic friend (and astronomer) only makes him begin to doubt his own sanity.
Although he cannot seem to get anyone to believe his story, Charles makes the acquaintance of Karen Allen’s sensation-seeking journalist, Betty, after conveniently spotting a photograph that she has published of one of the creatures in a joke-store National Enquirer-type paper. However, it seems the aliens have also seen the picture and don’t much like the publicity … so Betty gets a visit from the Avon Lady from Another World. In an understandably jittery mood, she enlists the aid of her landlord to help clear out the stranger who has locked herself in the bathroom, and in Earl Struck, familiar TV comedy face Wallace Shawn, is treated to a sneaky little riff on the Jaws theme just before he gets himself zapped by the mystery lady, first on horns and strings, and then on splendidly shifty woodwinds, the oboe teasingly tottering from side to side. We hear shivering strings, little chimes and dark tones from the bass. There is also a little motif on clarinet here that sounds very similar to the shivery suspense music that Bronislau Kaper brought in to the epic creature-feature Them! It comes across as a wave of eerie desolation and foreboding. Yet although we are witnessing menace and apparent death caused by the aliens, Addison always manages to keep a somewhat jaunty element to even the spookier scenes.
White Moth comes next, and thisis an excellent track that mingles romance and drama with action. It takes its title from a very brief image of a white moth fluttering about beside Betty after she has gone back to Charles’ apartment, but the track, itself, covers much more ground than the fledgling romance that has begun to blossom between the two. The romance theme is gentle and vintage and very coy, but it fits in with the overall style that both Laughlin and Addison are after. The sudden swooning string crescendo would be utterly unpalatable in a modern score, but is perfectly at home here. When Margaret suddenly reappears, the hack reporter takes the hump and leaves, but soon finds herself threatened by a group of aliens as she waits for a taxi outside, headed-up by the evil Avon Lady, who still hasn’t gotten her order yet. Thus the rather twee love theme that Addison sets up is jettisoned in favour of menace and action. There is a motif and instrumentation present here that has a very Maurice Jarre sort of sound. I’m reminded of Lawrence of Arabia and even Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome with the off-kilter and brazen thrusting of the brass combined with jagged in-fighting from the woodwind and percussion elements. It is shrill and complex and somewhat indefinable. Just when you thought you had a handle on what Addison was doing he brilliantly throws you a wobbler like this to catch you off-guard. Betty is able to shoot the Avon Lady (Fiona Lewis), who collapses with a shower of spurting green blood. Bass drums and spiralling French Horn bring a tempest of suspense to the finale of the piece.
Margaret comes clean about her part in the alien plot, informing Charles that she is one of them and that they are all leaving the planet in a couple of days time, and that their leaders want to take Elizabeth back with them. Clearly sympathetic, she offers to stall the aliens, who are now breaking the door down, whilst Charles and Betty make a swift exit via the Fire Escape to more of that spiky, jolting Jarre-like fury for blaring trumpet, drums and ragged horns. With crackerjack timing, Louise Fletcher’s shady government official pulls up and speeds the pair away from the aliens’ clutches. She, too, confesses much about the extraterrestrial occupation of Centerville, also making clear that Charles and Betty have only made things worse. However Charles has only one imperative – and that is to save his daughter. But they arrive too late to thwart her Kidnap from his mother’s (June Lockhart) apartment. Here, Elizabeth is given her own theme on an ethereal-sounding piccolo, after some ominous woods and percussion essay the aliens making their abductive move on the girl. Cleverly, the theme, as fragile and quivering as it is, also gives us a flavour of her cosmic heritage, hinting at hitherto untapped powers. The track then becomes anxious with strings and brass as Charles realises that she has been taken, but it closes on a bright, bold and brassy flourish as both he and Betty give the government officials the slip and head off to find an ally in the fight.
The film has a chaotic flow that some people really don’t like. It often feels like some 80’s cartoon show, with its disrupted pace and often clumsy editing. Although some of his cues are truncated in the film, John Addison’s music is the glue that holds it all together, often smoothing over the narrative shorthand that Laughlin has indulged in.
Train Talk is the longest track in the score and, figuratively as well as literally, it has some ground to cover. Beginning with a classical stretch, evocative of meadows and quaint countryside, that is, majestically reinforced with a proud, old school military beat, the track then segues into more Herrmannesque travelogue material as our heroes not only take their romance to the next level but they formulate a plan of attack. Solo trumpet and more homespun Americana caress the cross-country mile-chewing.
Seeking out the man who supplied Betty with the photographic evidence (that she never actually believed in, until now), the pair wind-up at a mental asylum where they meet the tragic-yet-affable Willy (Michael Lerner), who lost his wife and two children to the aliens after an ill-fated stopover in Centerville. The flashback scene in which his kids’ bodies are shrivelled-up and their souls reduced to glowing blue/white orbs is actually quite disturbing, especially when we can hear their disembodied voices calling out to him as the orbs float away. His memories of his own near-escape from the aliens carry more jabbing brass and Theremin, Addison then returning to the action motif from several previous escape attempts as Willy clubs one of the aliens to death.
Making a habit of getting-away, Willy flees the mental institute and joins the entomologist and the reporter on the road to Centerville. But the proto-MiB have set up a roadblock and Fletcher’s UFO-suppressor tells them that in an hour or so it will all be over, if they just keep out of the way. With sudden swirling strings and yabbering, intense brass, Charles pulls a gun on the authorities and orders them Don’t Move. Low brass, possibly the tuba, chunners away to provide some meaty depth to this swift and deliberate action as they infiltrate the town in one of the government vehicles.
The aliens can be seen heading off towards the church as Charles and Betty stealthily hide outside the building in which Elizabeth is being held. As the ominous first hint of the alien march begins to make itself heard, Margaret argues that the girl belongs on Earth, but Newman coldly informs her that It’s Time. Elizabeth’s meek and sinuous theme weaves back in as she realises that her Daddy is nearby, but there is a brief waver of the Theremin as she is led away before they can affect a rescue, which then gives way to apprehensive woods and a flurry of strings as our heroes only succeed in getting captured, themselves.
The alien march then commences in earnest as everyone descends into the warren of tunnels beneath the church where, as Willy confirmed after his fateful investigation years before, the aliens have their underground headquarters concealed. The theme now has an air of grinding inevitability, that old Flash Gordon motif just as teasingly apparent and sombrely addictive.
A startling touch comes next. Having the base hidden down beneath the church, with a striking visual reference made by the stained-glass windows before they all descend into the tunnels enables Addison to bring in the deep and ominous strains of the organ inProject Leader, for when the alien head-honcho aboard the returning mother-ship addresses his congregation of Earth-observers, as a hologram lit a little bit like the stained-glass, before picking them up. Funnily enough, despite the setting and the potentially subversive sound of the organ there is not an ecclesiastical vibe given off by its inclusion. The organ actually empowers the alien queasiness of the sequence, its imperious, vibrating voice sending dark-yet-cosy Nautilus-like chills down the spine rather than inspiring hope and godliness. Sadly, in the film, this element is dialled-down so low that you can hardly hear it, which is a shame. Elizabeth’s theme is heard when the alien leader beckons her forward so that he can look at her. Regardless of the futility of her act, Betty sees her chance and grabs up Elizabeth and makes a sudden break for it. Bolstered by Addison’s frenetic chase cue, Runaways, they make their way back up to the surface and, pursued by charging aliens in a sequence that mimics Invasion of the Body Snatchers, take off down the road. A furious piano ostinato raises the pulse, wooden percussion high-lighting the sharp, stabbing barrage of bustling brass and horn. Martial drums and whirling strings denote the appearance of Willy coming to the rescue in a car, but the ever-treacherous Newman does his party-trick and blows the vehicle up.
Having got out just in time, the defiant Willy is then shockingly sucked-dry of his life-force by Newman, Addison adding synth and echoplex effects for the grim light-show. Anxious strings then rise higher as Newman then turns his flesh-shrivelling energies upon Betty, and poor Elizabeth is taken away again at the start of Return To Saucer. Elizabeth’s theme is enhanced with a darker edge by quivering strings as a slow procession moves off through the trees towards a waiting spacecraft that will take them all back up to the mother-ship which is hovering amongst the glowing, ominous clouds. The aliens pause en-route to shed their human skin, giving Addison a chance to provide some unsettling underscore – trembling bass drum heard in the distance – and then an even statelier rendition of the alien march as they begin to ascend the steps of the saucer through an unearthly mist.
Track 21 is another epic.
The first four of this six-cue track cover the Escape From Spaceship, as Charles, also abducted aboard the vessel implores his ex-wife to do something and she responds by hurling lightning-zaps at the creatures flanking their daughter and then urging Elizabeth to do as Mummy has taught her. The little girl then sends a laser-bolt at the closing saucer-door, enabling it to stay open long enough for her and her father to climb out and jump to the ground before the alien craft ascends towards the mother-ship. Addison whips around with his action motif, scattering shrieking strings and lurching horns into an exciting spiral. Xylophone provides a scintillating accent, brass blurts in quick, repetitive lunges. As they watch the saucer move away, a triumphant fanfare for the full ensemble makes a bold statement of victory. Strings whirl and the brass goes on a circular sweep of emphatic relief and growing euphoria. This amazingly upbeat section continues as, in a parting gesture, the aliens release all the original townsfolk from their glowing orb captivity. They materialise all around the town, without having aged at all since 1958, to a rapturous symphonic serenade. Beautifully, we see Betty and Willy returned as well and, in a genuinely moving moment as woodwinds gently hoot in celebration, Willy is finally reunited with his wife and children. A playful military motif enters alongside the authorities who, under the placating voice of Louise Fletcher on the police loudspeaker, have obviously been awaiting this event.
After helping Betty down from the tree in which he has materialised to a sweltering crash of the romantic theme, Charles and Elizabeth look to the heavens as tender strings take on the theme. “She’ll be back,” reassures Elizabeth as the mother-ship disappears behind the night clouds.
The three then stride down the street as Addison’s jubilatory music then allows Louie the husky-dog to join them in a glorious and very traditional climax.
Laughlin’s film ends with a view down upon Centerville from the air, the town becoming the nation, the nation becoming the Earth as seen from space. Addison’s score floats with awe and wonder and a sense of beatific pride at what has been learned and, possibly, lost during the visitation, and then he moves into the End Credits and a darker, more exultant version of the alien march.
It is an odd film, certainly, and one that infuriates many viewers. But it has been made with undying passion and an contagious affection for one of the most distinctive and iconic genres that Hollywood has ever concocted. It is great fun, and John Addison’s score fits it like the latex flesh on an alien’s noggin.
Intrada’s fine release of the complete score has been made possible with analog-to-digital transfers from the composer’s own ¼” 7 ½ i.p.s 2-track stereo copies of the original recording sessions. Although clean and crisp sounding, there is some understandable hiss stemming from slow speed analog source tapes, but this is very easily dismissed and does not pose any sort of distraction. The disc comes with a 16-page illustrated booklet with notes on the film and the score from Daniel Schweiger, and some Tech Talk about the album production from Doug Fake.
As a fan of the film I know that much of its charm stems from the perfectly crafted and supremely atmospheric music that Addison was able to provide. He nails the SF weirdness that the genre was so adept at providing during its heyday and not only enables the score to doff its cap beautifully to the halcyon days of the genre’s peak, but to colour it with a delightful alien march, some juicy but offbeat action, an innocence that almost smells of ice-cream and soda, and some brightly evocative and often pleasingly skin-crawling passages of way-out and wacky otherworldliness. Although Herrmann is knowingly referenced, I like the little touches of Jarre and of Kaper which are, perhaps, merely subconscious textures that help to add depth.
Full Track Listing
01. Centerville 1:39
02. Mother Ship & Main Title 3:20
03. Bugs 0:42
04. Journey To Centerville 3:37
05. Nasty Newman 0:46
06. Dog Howls 1:54
07. Blow Up Car 1:14
08. Coach Party 0:50
09. Room Service 2:08
10. Alien Professor 3:18
11. Earl Struck 2:39
12. White Moth 3:36
13. Fire Escape 0:56
14. Kidnap 1:55
15. Train Talk 7:08
16. Don't Move 0:53
17. It's Time 3:00
18. Project Leader 1:41
19. Runaways 1:48
20. Return To Saucer 4:08
21. Escape From Spaceship & End Credits 7:21
Total Disc Time: 54:45
If the film Strange Invaders has something of a limited and cultish appeal, then John Addison’s score is even more acutely defined as niche. But his brilliant combination of 50’s rustica and trembling alien eeriness make for delightfully cosy bedfellows in a pleasingly creepy atmosphere of unearthly wonder and paranoid shivers. The resulting album is both charming and chilling, and a wonderful musical homage that makes for a thrilling and very satisfying experience even away from the film.
With some of the orchestral colour and detail somewhat lost and muddied in the film’s sound-mix – that ominous church organ, for example - it is great to hear the score given its best possible showcase on this release.
Loving nostalgia and marvellously queasy Theremin longuers are buoyed with references to Herrmann, Jarre and Kaper. And the whole thing is cemented with that gloriously ponderous and martial alien march that brings with it a weird dignity and sense of noble purpose.
A fantastic release from Intrada who, once again, breathe life into a forgotten gem.
Like the film, itself, this comes highly recommended to fans and to those who appreciate the trappings of a much loved and highly influential, though decidedly clichéd genre.
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