On the eve of his wedding, Bill Farrell (Tom Tryon) is kidnapped by invaders from outer space and linked to a machine that implants an alien doppelganger with his memory. It is this creature that leads Bill’s poor, unsuspecting fiancée, Marge (Gloria Talbott) to the altar. Five years later, Marge barely recognises the man she fell in love with and is less than happy Bill would rather prowl the streets after dark than start a family. One moonlit night she follows Bill into the woods and is horrified to learn her husband is really a glowing, squid-headed monster that wields a mean ray-gun. Marge does her best to alert the people of Norrisville, USA but discovers most of the men in town have been replaced by aliens.
Behind that tabloid headline-grabbing title lies one of the paranoid classics of Fifties sci-fi cinema. Until fairly recently, I Married A Monster From Outer Space was perceived as another anti-communist allegory in the vein of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), but in light of lead actor Tom Tryon’s homosexuality critics latched onto a gay subtext that in retrospect was fairly blatant. Even the opening scene finds two bar floozies wondering why Bill and his square-jawed pals aren’t hitting on them. All these guys are married, but none too happily. Bill’s prenuptial celebration plays more like a wake. Domesticity is death and the alternative lifestyle, as meat puppets controlled by an alien consciousness, is almost liberating. The film is full of scenes where men hang around bars, griping about their wives or else recoil from brazen displays of female sexuality. When Marge writes a letter to mom lamenting Bill is not the same man who won her heart and wondering why he’s always lurking around dark streets, the film seems on the verge of becoming a precursor to Far From Heaven (2002).
However, this would imply the film equates being gay with being a monster and Louis Vittes’ screenplay really isn’t that mean-spirited. A more benevolent reading would be as an allegory about the anxieties of marriage. Do we really know our loved ones? What if we discover we are neither sexually nor psychologically compatible by the time it is too late? Vittes subverts what verges on a misanthropic view of married life with a low-key subplot wherein Ted (Chuck Wassil), one of Marge’s few human allies, goes from lamenting his situation to rediscovering his love for his wife.
Alien Bill is an interesting character, seemingly bewildered by his humanity, not outwardly menacing and at times, borderline sympathetic. In a neat twist he grows genuinely conflicted about his feelings towards lovely Marge. Scenes where they circle each other, suspicious but still enamoured are rather moving. Tom Tryon functions well as an ambiguous blank slate. The actor graduated to more prestigious movies including The Cardinal (1963), but the experience of working with Otto Preminger soured him on acting and he quit to become a science fiction and horror novelist. Tryon adapted his most lauded novel, The Other (1972) into a fine film directed by Robert Mulligan while another of his written works, The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978) became a spooky mini-series starring Bette Davies. However, the film’s real anchor is Gloria Talbott who gives a marvellous performance, wholly sympathetic as she sells the outlandish premise with total conviction. There is even a slight feminist subtext given the aliens seal their doom by underestimating Marge as nothing but potential breeding stock. Talbott became something of a B-movie staple in the likes of Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957), The Cyclops (1957) and The Leech Woman (1960).
Gene Fowler Jr, who served as an editor for Fritz Lang, directed another famous tabloid titled horror movie: I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1957) but was more at home with B westerns. He may lack the subtlety of Jack Arnold but handles the suspense sequences with great verve, aided by some rather nifty optical effects and memorably gross rubber monster suits.