||Invasion USA (1952)
You've no doubt asked yourself countless times "How would I go about assembling a film with a variety of all-stars from existing Manor On Movies reviews?"
Well, first off, you'd need a leading actor or actress and a producer. Also toss in a supporting player and a technician. And there should be at least one cameo by someone connected to a legendary TV series.
But what if I were to tell you someone already assembled all those pieces and sweetened the plot by using an already-existing M-O-M theme? Ladies and jabronis, raises your glasses high en route to the bomb shelter for Invasion USA.
Let's go through the checklist, shall we? It's not like you have any choice in the matter, seeing how I’m the one writing this, not you. But moving right along...
*leading role - gawky Gerald Mohr, our “bargain basement Bogart” from Angry Red Planet
*producer - Albert Zugsmith, who gave the world a child even a mother could loathe with Dondi
*supporting player - William Schallert from the conspiracy caper Hangar 18 (and could also qualify for the legendary television connection, but we'll get to that below)
*technician - makeup man Harry Thomas, multi-time Edward Wood employee, plus did the deed for House On Bare Mountain and Project Moon Base
*TV titans - Phyllis Coates and Noel Neill, both of whom played Lois Lane in the Superman series with George Reeves
Invasion USA even features a Child Of An Icon Following In His Father's Footsteps But Getting Nowhere As Far, Edward G. Robinson, Jr., blazing a trail similar to Frank Sinatra Jr., the credited music maestro of Beach Girls And The Monster.
What sort of "invasion" is the US of A facing this time? If you speculated "alien beings bent on burning planet Earth to a crisp and wiping out all mankind," give yourself a firm pat on the back - for being dead wrong. IUSA covers the same ground (and initials) as Rocket Attack USA, the "Red Scare" film that had us all ducking and covering in sheer terror, its propaganda, er, storyline so effectively creating heebie-jeebies and assorted willies.
Oddly enough, in our feature presentation, the enemy is never directly identified(!) Its leader is only referred to as "he" throughout, his soldiers speak with an oddball accent that could be described as "Boris Badenov meets Sergeant Schultz," and his homeland is in an unspecified region of Europe.
Why they don't just come out and ID the invaders as the USSR remains a mystery - especially since the Soviets were the only other country with the atomic bomb when the movie was made - unless the producers were hedging their bets in the event Germany would be the first to attack on American soil.
"If the Nazis instead of the Commies start World War III, we can still cash in!"
That was hardly the only clever business move on the part of the brains behind the bombs. Everybody's favorite thing ever, stock footage, comprises, oh, about 47.39 percent of the film's gargantuan 73-minute running time.
Additionally, three-quarters of director Alfred E. "What me, worry?" Green's opus passes before a single one of the main characters is seen outside of a taproom in an undisclosed city, making it completely obvious the Mickey Rourke/Faye Dunaway vehicle Barfly was a total rip-off of Invasion USA.
Okay, maybe not.
All we really know about the gin mill - with its wildly inappropriate comic-relief bartender - is that it is within walking distance of the TV station where Vince Potter (Mohr) is employed as a broadcaster/reporter with very random hours. Jovial Gerald is once again cast as a suave babe magnet, this time shamelessly exploiting his position as a journalist, asking for the phone number of blonde bombshell Clara Stanford (Peggy Castle) despite her being accompanied to the joint by another man.
Fortunately for the cartilage in Vince's nose, the strapping fellow is the woman's visiting cousin George Sylvester, a tractor manufacturer from Frisco. Among the others at the bar pushy Potter questions - but doesn't hit on - are Ed Mullory (Erick Blythe), a family-man rancher from Boulder County, Arizona; Illinois Congressman Arthur Horroway (Wade Crosby); and, the ooooh-mysterious Mr. Ohman (Dan O'Herlihy), a brandy-sipper describing himself as a "forecaster."
(Very late in the festivities, and consistent with the theme of not identifying diddly, viewers will determine NYC is the location of the tavern. Or is it a speakeasy, considering there is neither exterior signs on its façade nor neon fixtures on the inside, and the front door is generic?)
"Hey, pal, dressing a set could cost dozens of dollars. And as far as specifying the setting or enemy... just eat your popcorn and watch the damn movie. The location is irrelevant anyway, since we are all doomed, DOOMED, DOOOOMED!!!"
The titular invasion is not your standard armed takeover attempt. No sirree, Bob. The definitely-not-Russians initially invade the west coast, entirely by air. And rather than dropping atomic payloads, hundreds of thousands of so-not-Russian troops parachute in, all disguised as US Army infantrymen.
Rancher Ed and the other bar patrons are understandably puzzled. But it's not long before all h-e-double-hockey-sticks breaks loose, as the decidedly-not-Russians dispatch huge platoons of a half-dozen men with only rifles to overthrow the government in Washington DC, and destroy vital targets via A-bombs that can be dropped by fighter jets.
The no-good clearly-not-Russians even target a model of the Empire State Building, sealing the fate of the Republic forever.
The M-O-M No Spoilers policy forbids me from disclosing key plot elements. However, since we are all still here, enjoying good old American creations such as pizza and frankfurters, it is safe to surmise you've sussed out Invasion USA is a "what if" story rather than a shocking documentary.
With that in mind, I will tell you that the moral of this bone-chilling cautionary tale is that every single one of us Yanks should dedicate his or her life to doing everything possible to be prepared for the inevitable attack on our native soil - even though they have nuclear weapons and will annihilate nearly all of us - in order to ensure we get off counterstrikes to wipe out tens of millions of innocent civilians in a foreign land before their soldiers enslave the few American survivors.
Of course, during the Cold War era, when films like IUSA were "invading" the local bijous with regularity, this was all super-scary. However, viewing this 1952 release through 2018 eyes--particularly the unfortunate events that befall Carla, George and the gang at the hands of the nasties - is a freakin' funfest. Though it may have gotten me tossed off the balcony in '52, I literally laughed at loud over Clara's highly unusual self-defense method. (You'll see.)
I wasn't the only one who laughed. So did Columbia Pictures and Senor Zugsmith... as in "laughed all the way to the bank." Produced for a reported - and seeming waaaay too high--$127,000, Invasion USA took in 1.2 million smackeroos at the US box office, a fortune in 1952 dollars - and that's before TV broadcast fees, etc. Or to look at it another way, this is the (rounded-off) equivalent of one of today's $100 million extravaganzas pulling in a billion dollars (i.e. ten times its budget) in American ticket sales.
Did Star Wars The Phantom Menace, Revenge Of the Sith or Attack Of The Clones - all budgeted over a hundred mill - rake in ten times their cost? NO, daddyo, proving conclusively that Invasion USA is better than all three.
Sidebar: Incidentally, there is also a second moral preached within IUSA, though it's more of a slightly subtle guilt-tripping. That is: we Americans should not cherish personal wealth and possessions and should instead reject materialism in favor of what most benefits the whole of the country.
In other words, "improvements must serve to ease the work of all and not to enable a few to grow rich at the expense of millions and tens of millions of people." In other other words, the anti-Reds movie is advocating the same philosophy as the person quoted directly above... who happens to be Vladimir Lenin.
See it for free!
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