Monday, March 30, 2015
Hold On To Your Pants!
1952's Invasion U.S.A. is a relic. It's like a cinematic time capsule which takes the watcher back to the early days of the "Cold War" when the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its satellites were braced off against each other, both with the nuclear capacity to utterly eliminate the other. With the fall of the Axis powers in last "good war", Americans were taught to hate the new enemy, the cruel butchers who ran the Communist state which held in its greasy paw nearly all of Eastern Europe. The Soviets were not only a military threat, but a threat to the nature of the culture itself. In the face of that, a war-weary nation needed to be stoked from time to time to keep vigilant. This movie is an informal and rousing part of that stoking.
We encounter an array of characters gathered in a bar who meet a strange and compelling man named Ohman (Dan O'Herlihy). Then news of a mysterious invasion begin to fire across the television. Increasingly reports suggest an air attack is underway and then word of an atomic blast sends panic throughout as folks try, mostly in vain, to get home. The people we meet face off against the threat with a variety of attitudes and results.
An industrialist who is annoyed with the U.S. military for wanting him to convert some of his capacity to making tanks for the army. A rancher is bothered that taxes keep going up to pay for the defenses the politicians say we need. A politician wants peace in his time. These folks slowly come to realize, often too late that the sacrifices asked of them were perhaps necessary.
The romantic leads of this endeavor are a dapper news broadcaster Vince Potter (Gerald Mohr) who I always think of first as Mr.Fantastic in the Hanna-Barbera cartoon show of the 60's) and the beautiful Carla Sanford (Peggy Castle). They fall in love, but their romance is interrupted by the threat which spreads across the country, including New York and Washington.
One noteworthy curiosity about this movie is that cast in relatively minor roles are both Noel Neill and Phyllis Coates the women who would portray Lois Lane in the Superman TV show which was already underway.
This is a movie it's best not to discuss much, or its few surprises will be demolished, but suffice it to say it's a fascinating glimpse back to a time when such fears were palpable. Also it's worth noting that this movie was a co-production of the folks at Conelrad, a website dedicated to all things atomic. On the dvd they have included some really nifty chestnuts from the era. One is a half-hour propaganda film called Red Nightmare which shows what life in the U.S. might be like if those nasty commies took over. Hosted by Dragnet's Jack Webb this one is a hoot.