Teenagers from Outer Space
Tom Graeff's Teenagers From Outer Space is usually thought of as being from the Edward D. Wood Jr. school of filmmaking, but it's a little better than that; or at least it's cleverer and more ambitious in certain ways. Apparently shot for little more than the cost of the raw film stock -- under $10,000, to be sure -- Teenagers From Outer Space is an inept, silly, and delightfully entertaining movie, with an earnestness that makes the viewer want to like it. This DVD is the best presentation that the movie ever has, or likely ever will, receive. Transferred from a very sharp film source and treated with the kind of care that Graeff himself might have admired, the movie reveals more detail than anyone ever conceived of being displayed by this picture. From the first appearance of the ridiculous corkscrew-shaped spaceship to the absurd image of the "Gargan" -- a badly superimposed lobster -- on a hillside, the picture is one long unintended laugh, but it's also a very enjoyable laugh. One has to admire not only the pluck of the performers, but the ingenuity of its maker; according to the lengthy notes by Richard Valley, in order to save money, Graeff used a technique that Orson Welles had first utilized 12 years earlier in shooting Macbeth, pre-recording every sound and all of the dialogue, then shooting the film silently to match that track. The quality of the audio is such that one can marvel at Graeff's technique, if not its results. He had an idea of how to make a movie, but not how to direct a movie, and it's clear that he had no clue about handling actors, even in the direction of dialogue, much less action. This DVD won't convince anyone that this is a great, or even a good movie, but it is an enjoyable one. Beyond the unintended laughs, one can admire Graeff's effort and approach, if not his technique. The high quality of the audio also allows viewers to absorb the tracked-in movie score, which consists of stock music that was later identified with such television programs as Space Angel and Marvel Super-Heroes. The disc comes with very extensive notes but no other extras, apart from the original trailer, which does make the movie seem very exciting (Warner Bros. was getting a bargain when they bought the first-distribution rights to the movie for $28,000, to pair in theaters with Gigantis, The Fire Monster, the recut U.S. version of Godzilla Raids Again) -- the menu is difficult to negotiate, however, and accessing the trailer from the chapter directory can be a chore.