If we jump to Tucker’s The Cape Canaveral Monsters and while that film relates to the space race between superpowers back in the late 1950s, it is still relevant today with each rich nation seeming to be spending money on becoming the first to have a colony on Mars. I bet the Martians are happy about that – not that we can see them! Perhaps that is why Elon Musk’s XSpace prototypes keep blowing up either upon launch or on landing? Some say Musk’s quest relates to the fact that he is a Martian and that he is hoping to build a space ship just like David Bowie was in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1975) and just like Bowie was, Musk is doomed to failure… in that case by the government and other humans which can be seen as monsters themselves. But that’s the type of conspiracy that a friend who wants to hollow out the moon and put engines in it and drive it round the galaxy could only contemplate and perpetuate.
The Cape Canaveral Monsters offers the theory that Martians or aliens of some type are stopping the space race in terms of humans progressing and going to live on another planet. Phil Tucker’s second masterpiece also doesn’t like the fact that humans are getting too smart … and that they are not welcome beyond this planet! Don’t have a nice day is the answer echoing in the apparently empty realm of space spoken by the toxic majority that are helping to spoil the planet with their weapons and anger. It drove Bowie’s character to drink in his movie The Man Who Fell to Earth… Hopefully this won’t happen to Elon Musk who is helping to develop masses of renewable energy and electric cars to reduce carbon along with his folly of space travel.
The Cape Canaveral Monsters picks up where Musk’s rockets have presently exploded as a couple of bickering aliens destroy rockets launched by the unnamed American Space Agency at Cape Canaveral. This movie seems to be another epic in terms of aliens destroying or invading planets by remote control in the same way envisaged in Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) and, of course, Robot Monster.
The stars on Mars look just the same as they do from planet Earth and so does the wind… It’s just this planet spent billions to know this whereas there could have been more of a plan to eradicate world poverty and disease and human suffering in terms of mental illness. Anyway, it keeps us from looking at ourselves as a society… along with the movies – thank God or touch wood.
This film starts out with another good musical score and this time it is written by Guenther Kauer (1921-83) as it introduces us to the alien couple which lead this miniature invasion who tolerate each other with an almost sado-masochistic zeal.
“Your arm…. It has been torn off again,” says the female alien Nadja with as little concern as she can muster. There is a question mark over the differing sexes of these aliens in the first place as they arrive in the form of tiny blinking stars which then take the possession of the bodies of recently dead humans. It is as though even if there was no complexity in terms of sexual identity, binary or otherwise, aliens would argue as it if it’s the way of the universe! It’s just that there are two aliens as opposed to one Ro-Man questioning himself. Tucker’s theme or at least its delivery is a little different. The aliens Nadja and Hauron don’t feel and they are evil once again as there appears to be no sense of community or family to be found within themselves or their civilisation…
The idea of aliens which cannot be seen and who inhabit the bodies of the dead was used in Invisible Invaders (1959) with its aliens who live on the moon deciding that the Earth must die. It’s an epic low-budgeter which I have always admired for its ingenuity and use of stock footage and scarily iconic zombies. Perhaps the Earth really is the joke of the universe and all the aliens are invisible… Living in another dimension so to speak.
“Little green men, maybe,” is the joke of one of the scientists on Earth in The Cape Canaveral Monsters as he says the egg-heads would destroy any threat to the planet with “an adding machine”.
The young and progressive couple which are the focus of the movie are played by Scott Peters (1930-94) and Linda Connell (no info). It is the only film by the bespectacled and attractive Connell who was the daughter of W. Merle Connell (1905-63), who was the cinematographer on this film as well as Tucker’s Dance Hall Racket and others. He also directed a couple of ground-breaking exploitation features in the late 1940s. Those film were Test Tube Babies (1948) which was a plea for understanding that artificial semination wasn’t only meant for cattle mixed with some shot-from-behind topless nudity. Then he directed The Devil’s Sleep (1949) which was a boring potboiler that has the distinction of being about the use of and dealing of amphetamines or “bennies” and its link to juvenile delinquency. It sounds more interesting than it really is and features former Mr America George Eiferman (1925-2002) who was the inspiration for the cartoon character George of the Jungle. But I am straying from The Cape Canaveral Monsters…
The aliens in this movie communicate with their commander using technology which is again kept in their cave just like in Robot Monster. Instead of the look of Ro-Man, this alien on the screen looks like a rotating pizza base but that’s being politically incorrect about alien individuals and races! They perform experiments on the humans they capture along with destroying the latest rocket launch. They also freeze human specimens after giving them electro convulsive therapy and “transmit” their bodies back to their home planet. It’s just one big happy universe.
“It won’t hurt her, really,” Hauron tells Peters about Connell being subjected to ECT which is also common on his planet. This is a civilisation which has perfected organ and limb transplantation, not to mention jaw transplants… The film also questions if humans are the only ones who dream in the universe. Or are we just animals dreaming like dogs? The Cape Canaveral Monsters are not a dream unlike Robot Monster.
“Dreaming… Oh, yes…. Sometimes when you humans are asleep, you see things that are not real. Dreams. Hmmph,” says Hauron who obviously doesn’t also share those dreams we see when we are awake on the screen in front of us known as the movies and now Netflix. Hauron would rather stare at his screen and take orders from the leader. There is mention that this is a late entry in the reds under the bed scare and that the aliens here symbolise the communist threat in the community.
The Cape Canaveral Monsters was meant for the cinemas and ended up debuting of television and, to this day, has copyright issues which has made a wider release so far impossible. Perhaps the Martians own the copyright? It also has a short running time of just over an hour like Robot Monster.
I would like to relate how the effect of the aliens as they first appear as white dots almost in the corner of the screen and how it symbolically makes this film a kind of forerunner in the evolution of satellite television as well as the space race. Once upon a time, when celluloid was the form used to make movies, there was a black dot or a scratch mark in the corner of the screen which symbolised or warned that the end of each ten minute or so reel of film was about to occur when it went through the projector and warned the projectionist to put on the next reel… The appearance of these dots often interrupted my suspension of disbelief in the movie at the cinema. These dots no longer appear in movies made today. So, in terms of the arrival of digital television and films, this movie’s aliens in terms of their appearance as white dots predict or symbolise the crossroads of technology in terms of television and the space race as well as an omnipresence in terms of a possible alien ‘audience’ on Earth as well as the omnipresent internet which is perhaps usurping the belief in a Christian God. There is simply no time for Christ in people’s lives anymore or so it would seem. One Christian I know remarked America is no longer the land of the brave and the free but the rave and the me! And, meanwhile invisible aliens are watching or interacting as the human race destroys itself and the planet. Who will inherit the Earth? I guess it really doesn’t matter because we’ll all be dead… And that’s why no one seems to care.
The horror of the new era of television and everything else is summed up by the alien Nadja when she says menacingly: “You will be transmitted.” Whether that ends in your own infamy or death via wi-fi and its latest incarnation in terms of 5G or whatever it is, remains a question for us all to ponder. Or not! Tee-hee. As for any further ingenuity in the script of this movie is contained in that man’s own ingenuity in his creation of the purity of rocket science is at odds with the invention of explosive weapons in the first place. Rocket science is just another controlled explosion but at least man’s initial perversion to use it to kill has been focussed into something more productive. There is hope but it is still incredibly misplaced in terms of the original perversion of weapons.
So, Tucker’s film is a self-fulfilling prophecy of the folly of human sacrifice in terms of the space race, the emergence of tv, the dream of the movies and making them as it asks that question of if we are really alone in the universe? …. And do we really want to know? Perhaps we are already puppets to invisible invaders who only bring death and misery after we first noticed each other’s genitals in the Garden of Eden? These are the questions you may ask yourself after viewing Phil Tucker’s invasion masterpieces. They will suspend your disbelief in one way or another, the worst-case scenario being you are amused by their ineptness for which they are well known in the first place. Then you will wonder what I was talking about in the first place!
Tucker wouldn’t direct another film after The Cape Canaveral Monsters but did get his foot in the door with the major studios and worked as an editor on such films as the Get Smart movie The Nude Bomb (1980) which disappointed many a youthful teenager looking for ful frontal nudity and ended his career with Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981) which will have Chan fans longing for Warner Oland and Sidney Toler.
Let’s return to the quote I used at the beginning of the article and that is the bastardisation of: “Knowledge is freedom and with freedom comes understanding” which was uttered in the face of overcoming evil in the form of Nadja and Hauron. Perhaps this is an ‘alien’ concept to you and the collective world will forever be a place full of worry, fear and a source of anger… If so, no omnipresence or manufactured political or spiritual doctrine will ever relieve you or me when we’re together as we continue to relive everyday just like it was yesterday. Or you could just have sex and forget the world for a while. Or lift weights.
There is almost a sense of security in that we know we are alone in terms of the order of the universe… and that we don’t hear the cry of “Ulla!” from Martian invaders such as it is spelt out in the famous H.G. Wells book War of the Worlds and the Jeff Wayne musical. Ulla is also an old Norse word for the will and determination of man and is possible slang for a movie star’s elevated oomph and status as a result. It has other meanings… including Pythagorean theorem. But I nearly failed that class. Personally, the meaning of Ulla is something more amusing to me and it is when it was the name of Zero Mostel’s (1915-77 aortic aneurysm) Swedish ‘toy’ in the movie The Producers (1968). Mostel’s dreams of avarice are only sated by this pre-electronic wi-fi device which is activated by the words: “Ulla, go to work…” Be it the will of man or God! Or invisible aliens to boot!! Would the invisible alien that is wandering free around my apartment please return my odd sock? Otherwise let’s live in peace together. In the meantime, Phil Tucker, we salute you!