supersize chicken nuggests
“A lone Chicken McNugget from the new Super Happy Meals plots it’s unholy revenge.”

Saturday afternoons were always about some great television. After a morning of cartoons and a serving of Soul Train, you knew to prepare yourself for some great edited-for-TV B-movie goodness. One afternoon feature that I remember vividly was “The Bubble”, also known as “Fantastic Invasion of the Planet Earth.”  Sounding more like an ad for a giant household cleanser, it was actually a pretty good sci-fi film from 1966. It was also the first film to employ a new polarized 3D effect from a single strip/one projector method, and was a heavily guarded secret by the director. While the effects were impressive for the time, at 112 minutes long, audiences didn’t have the patience to wait for the eventual cut scenes of a rake being thrust at them, or a floating tray of bottles. After initial poor returns, they cut the length down to 90 minutes for a re-release in 1976, and then down to 75 minutes for subsequent releases. Putting it on a sort of sci-fi diet, the result was a pretty good extended Twilight Zone episode.
long, The story revolves around a young pregnant couple, Michael and Deborah (she’s the pregnant one), who for some reason decide to take a late night plane ride right before the birth of their child, thus leaving their poor cigarettes and martinis all alone at home. They encounter a freak storm and are forced to land on a makeshift runway.  Johnny, their air-preggo pilot extraordinaire, hails a taxi cab for a quick ride into town for an emergency baby delivery. The streets  are eerily deserted that night, but the very next day they discover them filled with dazed townsfolk, as if emerging from an all night C-SPAN marathon. Touring around town with a new baby in tow they find the town is also filled with props, statues, and other strange cultural memorabilia, as if it was a movie studio backlot. The strange residences walking about the streets just  keep repeating the same things over and over again, seemingly unaware of their presence as they go about their routine. Effectively creeped-out by this, they decide to get out of town but find that their plane has disappeared from the landing spot. Johnny, emotionally distraught over the love lost for his plane, goes on a drinking binge at a western saloon, complete with its own catatonic bartender, mute show girl, and booze-serving ghost. Whether he hallucinates that last one is up for debate, but he sobers up pretty quickly when he and Michael find a strange alien structure in the center of town. It’s the biggest paper machee project known to man that people can walk in and out of like it’s their own personal Walmart supercenter. No price-cutting sales here though, only alien brainwashing and yummy bio nourishment for the townsfolk. Like many dimwitted B-movie characters, they have to investigate it, and discover a lone barco-lounger chair inside. Johnny decides that’s as good a place as any to take a load off, but instead of getting a nice back massage from its magic fingers, the chair zaps his brain with a hallucination of cheap Halloween masks. It’s a Lazyboy of evil! When will people learn not to sit in alien chairs?

Johnny seems to get a sort of psychedelic high off the chair zapper and drives them all out of town in an Army convoy truck, ignoring the chair’s warning label not to operate heavy machinery after use. About 20 miles out of town they encounter a giant reflective barrier wall. It’s the biggest gold fish bowl ever, trapping them like animals in a zoo. The only logical course of action when faced with a giant impenetrable wall is to try to drive through it, so Johnny and his new catatonic girlfriend from the saloon attempt to ram it at full speed. The truck explodes into a firey ball of death and gets levitated into the air just as Johnny safely leaps out, thus ending the longest relationship Johnny has ever had. Why must everything Johnny loves be destroyed? Johnny takes off running into the woods a little goofed-up from his brain shock therapy and the trauma from blowing up his girlfriend.

Deborah and Michael find an old mill where they and their baby can stay hidden away from the alien watchers that pass overhead in a solar eclipse. Michael tries digging under the wall in hopes of escape andDeborah starts up an arts and crafts class while going a little nutty. The final portion of this movie was mostly scenes of  Michael digging…and digging, but Johnny does eventually reappear just long enough to avoid fixing a flat tire and to get pulled up into the sky by the alien abductors. I doubt AAA Roadside Service covers that.

I saw this movie when I was 9 years old and it scared the bejeebers out of me. However, on a recent viewing it definitely didn’t have the same type of “shock” value it once had. If you can get past some of the awkward dialogue and occasional William Shatner-ish style of acting, you’ll find a fun, creepy sci-fi film. There’s also an interesting social/theological commentary of whether these aliens are actually a representation of God and how we are the mindless masses of this town being watched within this glass container, all stuck in our own repetitive daily routines. You’ll never look at your goldfish in the same way, I guarantee.

There’s more below the surface of this film, and it is definitely worth tracking down the Rhino DVD release. Retroman says to check it out, but bring a shovel. There’s a lot of digging to be done…lots and lots of digging.

Keep an eye out for…

– Halloween mask shock therapy
– extreme digging
– 1 booze serving ghost
– 1 Army truck explosion
– catatonic townsfolk
– 1 giant paper machee rock-cave
– obsessive-compulsive digging
– fly-by solar eclipses
– malfunctioning alien lounge chairs
– gratuitous thrusting of 3D objects at viewers

rated 8.3 out of 10 for the movie

The Bubble, now with 30% more cleaning power.

Check out this teaser trailer from The Bubble