"Vicki Cristina Barcelona" by Mike Smith
DVD Grindhouse: Don Dohler's "Galaxy Invader" (1985) by Andy Lalino
Dr. Paul Bearer: The Early Years by ED Tucker
Falcons Name Matt Ryan Starter .... Mlb Officials: Need Glasses? .... Team Usa .... Giants Down In Flames .... Joe Madden Likes Burritos .... .... .... by Chris Munger
Politico Revisited .... .... .... by Matt Drinnenberg
My Dad .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... And The Oscar For Should Have Gone To... by Mike Smith
|Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review|
The following statement is intended with the highest respect and deepest admiration:
The late Don Dohler is the Edward D. Wood, Jr. of the modern exploitation era.
Comparing their cinematic accomplishments, an intriguing parade of similarities march forth:
- Their productions were highly localized; in Wood's case Hollywood, Dohler's Maryland.
- Frequently featured (sometimes outrageous) repeating cast members.
- Neither were regarded as "masterful" directors (far from it), but their films possessed an passionate love for and understanding of fantastic cinema.
- Often mashed-up horror and science-fiction (horror-fi).
- Amateurish acting and clunky-looking aliens/monsters abounded.
- Both goosed family members/friends to "act".
Dohler was a grass roots regional filmmaker who, like Romero, often wore different hats. Sometimes describing his own work as "clunky", there's displayed a charming amateurism complemented by the love of the fantastic genres. That's the formula that made Dohler's films so iconic and memorable, with his entire repertoire of cine-milestones so highly prized by B-movie fans. So much so, that filmmaker John Paul Kinhart chronicled Dohler's heralded career in his popular documentary Blood, Boobs & Beast.
Dohler is regarded as an influential figure by communicating how to execute low-budget effects. Through his magazine Cinemagic, published in the early '70s and targeted to aspiring filmmakers and hobbyists, Dohler featured informative articles on stop-motion animation, cheap DIY mattes, optical printing, and various other tidbits of valuable information in an internet-challenged time. Cinemagic became an indispensable resource eventually purchased by Starlog Group, Inc. (Starlog magazine) in the great year of 1979.
Dohler kicked off his career as a movie maker in 1977, with the popular matinee favorite The Alien Factor, which many Tampa Bay fans recall watching on Dr. Paul Bearer's Creature Feature (and scored a wonderful cover on Famous Monsters magazine). Dohler followed with the grim gem Fiend and 1982's Nightbeast. Always fun and watchable, Dohler was well on his way of capturing the attention of genre fans during the VHS boom, and was recognized by Starlog as a low-budget warrior with a titanic imagination.
Dohler's 1985 feature The Galaxy Invader was unfortunately his second-to-last effort (that being 1988's Blood Massacre) before a long, self-imposed hiatus, returning in 2001 with Harvesters. Chock-full of homemade SPFX and a luscious '80s synth soundtrack, The Galaxy Invader is a solid entry in the pantheon of Dohler, as it gains an ever-growing fan base. Though not quite as "epic" as The Alien Factor and not as "dark" as Fiend, TGI remains a fun, often surprising horror-fi adventure set in the woods in and around Dohler's Maryland homestead!
In several instances, TGI features some of the most incredible scenes in a Dohler film, shocking in their sheer, unabashed outrageousness! But before revealing which scenes they are, let's kick off with a synopsis of the highly entertaining plot:
Maryland, 1985. A meteor crash-lands in a remote patch of woods; the incredible manifestation witnessed by young David Harmon (relative Greg Dohler). David phones (at a payphone) his professor, Dr. William Tracy (Richard Dyszel, also in Nightbeast/The Alien Factor), who has an intense interest in U.F.O.'s, and wakes him up in the middle of the night. David explains the sighting, and Dr. Tracy instructs him to wait there for six hours(!) until he can make the trek to meet.
Meanwhile, at the crash site, something has emerged from the meteor, and makes its way into the woods, eventually sneaking into the basement of a young couple's home. The jittery pair hear a strange noise from below, and investigate. Sure enough, they encounter the Galaxy Invader, who resembles a skull-faced swamp creature, who promptly destroys them. I found this scene unmotivated and gratuitous. While it provides a nice, violent moment, it plays out like an afterthought and portrays the Galaxy Invader as an aggressor, which later is debunked as the viewer is later asked to sympathize for the creature.
The following is the most memorable and outrageous in the film: At a rural Maryland kitchen table, a questionable-looking family (The Montagues) eats a tense breakfast. At the head of the table is scruffy-looking pop "Joe" (Richard Ruxton, also in Nightbeast and Curse of the Screaming Dead), a drunk with several large holes in his filthy white T-shirt. Joe's surrounded by his wife Ethyl (Anne Frith of Nightbeast/Alien Factor/Fiend fame and Asst. Director), son J.J. (Dohler regular George Stover, also in Alien Factor/Fiend/Nightbeast, and John Waters regular too!!!), daughter Carol (one-shot Faye Tilles) and youngest daughter Annie (relative Kim Dohler).
The uptight Carol gets in a shocking verbal brawl with father Joe. Joe asks where she's about to run off to, and she responds she's seeing her boyfriend "Mike". Joe demands she has "nothing to do with that family", whose father is "a jerk". Carol retorts that Joe tried to "cheat money out of Mike's father, and so he's a jerk". Carol hisses to Joe: "Well, you're the jerk and everyone knows it!!" and says "oh, mom, everyone knows dad's a liar and a cheat...not to mention a drunken bum!!".
Joe rises, and smashes Carol in the face.
Carol hurls a glass of water at Joe's face, and bolts out of the kitchen.
In a fury, Joe fetches a shotgun from the closet. His family tries to stop him, but he points the shotgun at them(!) and leaves.
Carol runs panicked through the woods. Ethyl pleads for J.J. to go after his father, which he does reluctantly. Ethyl then laments the situation to Annie, who responds [about Joe]: "I hate him!"
Father Joe chases his (25-year-old) daughter through the woods with a shotgun(!) as they're pursued by J.J.
"I'll blow your head off, girl!" screams Joe as he fires a warning shot in the air.
Carol gets away and finally joins Mike, but Joe and J.J. encounter the Galaxy Invader! Joe shoots at it, discovering that it dropped some kind of glowing spherical device, which they retrieve.
Now, I've seen my share of incredible scenes, but this one's a topper, and one totally unexpected from Dohler, who I have formerly perceived as relatively wholesome! Joe's a real son-of-a-bitch, as evidenced by his behavior, but rarely does one see a movie where a father convincingly threatens his family with a shotgun! Daringly great stuff.!
Finally, Dr. Tracy arrives (after that six-hour drive) and meets up with David to investigate the meteor crash, which they can't seem to locate, so they head back into town "to get something to eat". Back at the Montague's home, Joe calls on local con man Frank Custer (another Dohler standby Don Leifert, the Fiend) who comes complete with Vickie, a sexy squeeze (Theresa Harold). Joe reveals the spaceball , prompting Custer to see green - as in money. Custer has "contacts" in town who'd be "highly interested" in this here ball. But Custer has more in mind than the ball - he aims to capture the "Green Man" alive.
Custer, Joe, and Vickie head to the local tavern, and win over the locals with a round of beers if they'll help trap the alien. Most have nothing better to do and would enjoy spending time away from the ball-n'-chain - so why not? While at the bar, the Galaxy Invader haunts the Montague home and steals back his spaceball ! Later, Dr. Tracy and David patronize the same watering hole, and stumble upon the plot from Vickie big mouth, and decide to follow the rednecks on their alien escapade.
What follows is a hilariously action-packed shootout with many unexpected deaths! The rednecks eventually track down the Galaxy Invader, and start shootin'. The alien fires back with a ray gun powered by the spaceball - and manages to kill most of the gun-toters! Though out-gunned 15:1, the hunters never manage to land a shot on the alien. The scene is quite spectacular. Dohler uses high-impact sound effects (one of his strong suits), and compensates for the absence of "laser gun flahses " by using fireworks merged with ground explosives. From afar, Dr. Tracy and David view the assault, lamenting the fact that the human race's first intention is always to capture or kill what they don't understand for sheer greed (must be Republicans). Finally, Custer, Joe, and J.J. ensnare the clumsy creature with a net(!) and drag it home. This time, however, the posse captures the creature's ray gun and spaceball. Now with the space man and his gadgets in custody, Custer can name his price.
Joe commands J.J. to tie up the "Green Man" real tight in the garage - and he'd better not get away, or it's J.J.'s ass - and you don't want to incur the wrath of Joe. In the morning while everyone is still asleep, Dr. Tracy and David sneak into the garage and free the Galaxy Invader.
Then Custer drives up.
And Joe stirs.
Sensing they'll get caught, Dr. Tracy, David, and the Galaxy Invader bolt out of the garage and make a mad dash for the oft-seen patch of woods. A fully armed Custer and Joe pursue. Again, while the wolves are out hunting the alien, Carol reclaims the ray gun/spaceball , and rushes off in the woods, where she meets up with the alien and returns his weapons. This big chase scene includes two shocking deaths: Joe chillingly kills the friendly Dr. Tracy, and bad guy Custer is dematerialized by the Galaxy Invader.
Crestfallen, David takes off into the woods, as Joe manages to subdue the Galaxy Invader with a quick shot. Once again, the spaceball and ray gun are captured by Joe. Carol calls on the Marlboro-smoking Mike to help out, and the Montague family devises a plot to coax the spaceball/ray gun away from Joe.
Before the plot unfolds, the besotted Joe is called upon by Vickie, who's inquiring about the whereabouts of her no good boyfriend Custer. Shockingly, Joe tries to rape her, leaving Vickie biting and clawing her way out of his filthy arms! She dashes out of the house in a panic, and Joe shoots her in cold blood!
After burying Vickie's body, Joe passes out. The family creeps in, managing to pry the artifacts away from Joe, but he wakes up and once again chases them all into the woods with a shotgun. In pursuit, Joe shoots the poor Galaxy Invader and then gets into an apocalyptic brawl with the younger and presumably more fit Mike - who's apparently losing! Wrestling on the ground, J.J. makes lame attempts to subdue pop, but fails miserably. It's up to ma Montague. She grabs the shotgun, and in an indescribable slow-motion scene bashes him on the head with the butt, sending Joe careening off a cliff! Together, Joe and the Galaxy Invader die in this somber tale of an unloved dad and alien.
For fans of B-movies, you simply can't do better than Dohler. Though not his best, The Galaxy Invader is a surprise-filled creature feature with a good, old-fashioned rubber monster and space age gadgets. The animated "meteor effect" at the film's genesis is a thrill, and a good example of how Dohler could pull off decent effects on a dime store budget. We never actually see the Galaxy Invader's ship (strange, now that I think about it...), however there's a great POV shot of it exiting the craft, complete with Darth Vader-like breath effects.
As you can see from the enclosed photos of the creature - it's not much to speak of. In fact, the Galaxy Invader doesn't talk or even make a sound! Neither does it have "eyes", making a creature without perceivable senses uninteresting. Unlike the monsters in The Alien Factor, which showcased both creativity and talented make-up skill, the Galaxy Invader as a monster simply wasn't up to par, which may have been why Dohler chose to concentrate more on characters (there are a lot of them) in this particular film.
In reviewing Dohler's career, in fact, I'd have to state that TGI, as fun as it is, is a personal low (note: this statement does not consider Dohler films post-1986), and feel the monster itself could have been better realized, as in Nightbeast and The Alien Factor. There's little attempt to disguise the creature is a man in a latex suit, which I viewed as disappointing, considering Dohler in theory should have been ramping up his skills and productions.
Perhaps by 1985 he did have a sense that the ride was almost over. By 1987 horror/sci-fi films were becoming increasingly silly, uncreative, and sequel-ized, an no doubt got out while the gettin' was good. As a side note, if I wasn't told TGI was produced in 1985, I wouldn't have believed it. I'm not sure if back then Maryland was seven years behind-the-times, but I could swear the fashions lend themselves more so to 1980 than '85.
But don't let any of those minor concerns nag you; put this one on your list if you enjoy early '80s horror-fi. And, with this viewing, I have completed my Don Dohler-directed features from '77-'85. Here's to you, Don. R.I.P. - and thanks for making our lives much more fun.
"Oddservations" is ©2008 by Andy Lalino. The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.