by Jay Seaver
Very few lists of the great science fiction movies will include "I Married a Monster From Outer Space", even if one narrows the criteria down to just alien invasion movies, movies from the 1950s, black-and-white movies, movies where dogs can tell something is wrong, or even some combination of two or more those categories. And they shouldn't, it's not a great movie. It is, however, unusual, and unusual in a way that's not just code for "bizarre".Like many invasion movies, aliens have arrived on Earth and are able to take the form of human beings. The first to be duplicated is Bill Farrell (Tom Tyron), abducted on his way back from his bachelor party. It is thus an alien who marries lovely Marge Bradley (Gloria Talbott) the next day, and soon others start replacing many of the men in their small town. By the time Marge is able to put together all the things that ring false during the subsequent year, it's difficult to know who to trust.
"Believe it or not, well worth your time."
Even more than it is today, science fiction fifty years ago, especially filmed science fiction, was very much a boy's club: It was all about action, things blowing up in a more spectacular way than mere earthbound objects, and even when the writers tried to give the subject matter some heft, it was political rather than personal. Women, when present at all, were objects to be rescued, eye candy for the older boys and dangerous temptations for all. That's not the case here; although Tom Tyron is credited first, this movie is about Gloria Talbott's Marge, highly unusual for the time period.
What's unusual is not just that the film has a female protagonist, but that it addresses traditionally feminine topics. I Married a Monster from Outer Space, despite the pulpy title (it really only lacks an exclamation point, doesn't it?), is closer in spirit to a Sirkian domestic melodrama than the traditional monster movie. Rather than the aliens being a metaphor for paranoia about communist infiltration, they instead reflect the idea that sometimes men change after marriage, or the romance disappears. It does so in a manner that's more adult than the title might suggest, too; although the restrictions of the times prevent it from mentioning sex directly, it's never far from the surface: A girl in the bar mentions that she's getting much less action than she used to, and Marge winds up going to the doctor to find out why she's not pregnant yet, after a year of marriage.
Not everything about this movie is good enough for it to qualify for "forgotten classic" status, of course. As much as the movie is Marge's story, she's reduced to a fairly passive part when the time to actually confront the aliens comes; that's still men's work, apparently. Keeping track of who is replaced when is kind of daunting, and leads to some blind alleys - drinking buddies noticing how dull their friends have gotten, and then dropping it as the aliens take their form. The supporting cast isn't great, either.
The two leads aren't bad, though. Gloria Talbott is somewhat wide-eyed and perpetually shocked as Marge, but Tom Tyron is kind of impressive as Bill. Early on, he's the usual stiff, wooden alien who does-not-under-stand-hu-man-e-mo-tions, but as the movie goes on he does seem to get some grasp of them, even while retaining his otherness. Director Gene Fowler Jr. does a good job working around the film's low budget while still coming up with some memorable sequences - the lightning strike illuminating the alien's true face in particular.It's not enough to make "I Married a Monster from Space" a great film, but it's an interesting one: Superficially like many others, but with a more adult and female-focused perspective.
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originally posted: 02/27/09 13:29:05