Dreams of escape, keep me awake, I'm never gonna get out and make it away.
The force-field is getting smaller day by day. It's now 85% of its original size according to my latest calculations. This has added to my feeling of being trapped. Of having no free will. Of being endlessly miserable with no hope of change... reminds me of the last time I was married, come to think of it.
Her name was Molly, a flighty young filly from good aristocratic stock in Weybridge. Loved the outdoors and rambling endlessly in the countryside, did Molly, and soon made an acquaintance with Giles our gamekeeper. I would often see them out riding together across the moors, Molly's face lit up with a radiant smile that I didn't recognise.
Anyway, there was a fire in the gamekeeper's cottage one fateful night. Two charred bodies were discovered, and to my sheer horror they turned out to be Giles and my faithless Molly!
A rogue candle was held to be the likely cause of the fire, and old Doc Jensen's observation that both of their necks had been broken prior to death was taken as being none other than the ramblings of a decrepit alcoholic that had no business to be still employed in the medical profession. He fell into the canal and drowned not long afterwards, drunk as a lord on the way home from the local tavern no doubt... except that Julian Fielding III, our local coroner, found no trace of alcohol in Doc Jensen's system - mind you, it was common knowledge that that the coroner was a raging opium addict, and in fact only a few days after his verdict on Doc Jensen he was found with a needle stuck in his - HALLO! I've been rambling on forever, you must forgive me. For here comes a film!
I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE (1958)
One of the many great things about watching American Sci-Fi from the 50s is that it gives you a rare glimpse of a bygone era, where things were very much different. IMAMFOS (short for 'I Married A Monster From Outer Space'. Very handy. Saves me writing out 'I Married A Monster From Outer Space' for no good reason) has a wonderful example of this...
... at her wits end for MAMFOS, Marge Farrell naturally reaches for a relaxing cigarette. But then to her horror, she discovers she can't find the lighter! Her husband Bill (the MFOS) appears and tries to reassure her by explaining that "the lighter wasn't working so I sent it to get it fixed" - but Marge quickly spots something else is wrong - "Where's your drink?" she demands.
I don't know what I love most about this scene, the thought of sending out your lighter to get it renovated, or the fact that Marge panics when she spots that her husband isn't cradling a Scotch at half past 2 in the afternoon. Sounds like my kind of time, the 50s...
... and did the place where Bill took the lighter to get fixed do anything else apart from fix lighters? Or was it solely the local 'Lighter Fixing Emporium'? This kind of stuff keeps me awake at night.
But I'm getting ahead myself and forgetting something - the title. It's become such a cliche for every review of this film to mention that the title is misleadingly flippant that now, even mentioning the fact that this is a cliche has become a cliche in itself. So I've decided it's best not to mention it all. Except of course, I already have. So I'll just add that it's a perfect title. I love titles that tell you important plot details so that there's no confusion. That's why 'Honey I Shrunk the Kids' is a perfect film title, unlike 'Twelve Monkeys', a film that I wasted good money going to see only to discover that it actually starred humans.
And so to IMAMFOS - one of the classiest 50s sci-fi movies (despite the misleadingly flippant title etc. etc.). IMAMFOS is beautifully shot and directed by Gene Fowler Jnr (who also did IWATW of course). We open with an impressive tracking shot that spans the shoreline of a lake before settling upon an approaching car that parks close enough to the camera to allow us to follow its occupants as they exit and head up the path to the local bar, stopping en-route to playfully knock on the car of a courting couple. This one shot lasts just over 59 seconds. Good start.
There's an even more memorable shot later, when we're in a busy restaurant with newlyweds Bill and Marge. The camera pans to the window for a second, and then back into the room to reveal that we're now in the young couple's bedroom, much later!!! But we don't witness any conjugal shenanigans because Bill is acting a bit strange. A bit nervous. Maybe it's something to do with the fact that a flash of lightning reveals his features to be that of a hideous alien.
Marge is a rather perceptive young lady, and it's not long until she comes to the conclusion that her husband is AMFOS. This all starts when she buys him a dog for a present - Bill loves dogs you see - but alien Bill doesn't. And the dog doesn't like alien Bill. And alien Bill knows that the dog doesn't like alien Bill. And the dog... anyway, matters come to a head one night when Bill... when he... there's no easy way of breaking this to you, he kills the dog. HE KILLS THE DOG! And this was the 50s! Even now, canicide is thankfully very rare in films, so this is a truly shocking scene.
There are other memorable moments throughout IMAMFOS. Like when a rather flighty lady leaves a bar and tries propositioning a hooded gentleman outside a shop. Rather unwisely, as it turns out as the hooded gentleman turns out to be AMFOS and zaps the hapless harlot in the back.
Despite all this outrageous behaviour from the MsFOS, Bill's character actually manages to elicit a fair degree of sympathy. Tom Tryon plays the part of Bill, and he's a fine looking actor - tall, imposing, marvellously athletic. He gives a very finely judged and subtle performance, one that Keanu Reeves would fuck up royally if he starred in the remake.
Having MAMFOS, Marge wants out. She hates the idea of Bill being AMFOS, and her mind is made up. Very harsh, in my opinion. I wish that she'd have fallen for alien Bill just a little bit, instead of spending the entire film running around hysterically, harping on about the fact that she MAMFOS.
I was firmly rooting for Bill throughout, and hoped in vain that there could have been just a small spark of electricity between the star-crossed couple. Even though alien Bill was a pooch-whacker, I think he would have made a more than capable husband. Deep down, he obviously felt something for Marge, despite not being able to feel anything, which is no mean feat.
Soon Marge manages to find someone who isn't an alien, who in turn manages to raise a posse from all the men in the maternity waiting room (the aliens are impotent, you see. So it wouldn't be them waiting in there). Who wants to be hanging around waiting for your wife to have a baby when you're offered a chance to go alien hunting, eh?
So off the posse goes...
It's not long until the expectant alien hunters home in on the spaceship, whereby the alien occupants make an appearance and it all kicks off big time. The humans are getting a right zapping until dog meets alien. Don't worry, the score is evened up this time. Dog wins.
There's only enough time left for alien Bill to rather sadly die in front of Marge. But there's a happy ending when she's promptly reunited with human Bill! They're going to live happily ever after surely! Let's just hope he can hold his liquor. And that he buys her a lighter for her next birthday.
"KEY OF LIFE" Available on DVD Jan. 7 From Film Movement - *Mistaken-identity comedy from acclaimed director Kenji Uchida* *Played Toronto Int'l Film Festival* *"A chessboard of ingenious subplots!" -Maggie Lee, V...
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