Year: 1978 Runtime: 80 min
Director: Don Dohler
Writer: Don Dohler
Starring: Don Leifert, Tom Griffith and Richard Dyszel
Because The Avengers is the bestest movie in the history of forever and all future times, I am required by law to have at least one line about how it compares to the film I’m currently reviewing. Here it is:
The Alien Factor and The Avengers both share the exact same first four letters. After that they are pretty much the same, but different. Despite all the high-tech hoobajoobs, at their core both movies are about heroes and monsters. I’m certain Joseph Campbell would agree that these movies are just different sides of the same coin.
Let’s look at the monsters and hero in The Alien Factor to see how similarly different they are to those in The Avengers.
In The Alien Factor, there’s an alien zoologist, and because we never really get his name let’s call him—purely at random—Lowkey. He’s collected three space animal-monsters for the space zoo back on his home planet, which is in space. On the trip back he decides to celebrate with a few space brewskis. Next thing he knows, the Earth is right square in his flight path. He tries to correct, but his space reflexes are diminished by 23.45678%. If they were only down by 23.45677%… No use in crying over spilt space milk.
Also, the sun was in his eyes.
When the space ship crashes the containment shields stop working. The containment shields were keeping the three space animal-monsters from escaping. Oh, and the ship’s exit door was unlocked and opened. So, early one morning in 1972 an unsuspecting little town in Maryland was the new home for a Infersyce, a Zagatile and a Leemoid.
The Bad Guys aka Space Animal-Monsters
The Infersyce. A humanoid insect monster with an exoskeleton that looks suspiciously like a dress. It’s weakness is high frequency sound waves pumped out of sweet Alpine 20″ woofer. How one manages to get power and audio signal way out in the middle of the woods where the Infersyce is preying on the people is another story, one the movie never bothers to tell. We’ll have to chuck it up to space science.
The Zagatile. A considerate Wookie/Ant hybrid alien monster. I describe it as considerate because when it attacks the Sheriff and Mary Jane, it claws very lightly, though menacingly, at the widow rather than break into the house. Whereas regular bullets have no effect, a syringe bullet (and I mean that literally) penetrates its hide like greased goose diarrhea.
The Leemoid. Or perhaps it was a Nimoy. I get them two mixed up. Whatever. The Leemoid is the final “Boss” monster. It is a translucent claymation LizardSnakeMan, half lizard, half snake, half man. The only way to defeat him is by swinging a stick in its general direction. Once it realizes what you’ve done, it falls down dead.
Young Lovers #1. First, there is the couple making out in a secluded field, far out of town. The bottle of Strawberry Hill swirling through their hormone-driven bodies makes them blind to the Infersyce, ever so stealthily crunching through the dry hay towards them. The synthesized cat screeching music swells. The horny boyfriend gets got. The girl makes for the safety of the woods. Thanks to off screen teleportation, i.e. not writing the scene, she eventually ends up at the doctor’s office in a state of shock.
Young Lovers #2. In a completely different part of the woods, this time by the pond, the other couple is enjoying the romantic setting. Or at least the guy is, trying to set the mood. The girl isn’t having any of it. She decides to enjoy the seclusion of the woods, alone. All by herself. No one there to “protect” her. Naturally, a space peron startles her, despite his hot pecks—she stumbled on him while he was sunbathing. He chases after her, trying to apologize. She runs into the path of a speeding motorcycle. She’s tossed into the ditch, smearing Louisiana Hot Sauce on her face. The motorcycle got a nasty scratch that couldn’t be buffed out.
Haut Young Studs. The three Haut Young Studs sport the best of 70s hair fashion: first, Bock Sampson hockey hair; two, bushy white-boy fro; and third, greasy black mane with a Charlie Manson goat-tee. They’re not just lookers, but thinkers. Hockey Hair argues against the Sheriff’s orders that they not go out looking for the monsters with: “Come OH-win” (commonly pronounced come on). Brilliant!
The Law. Not to be out shined in the intelligence department, there’s Sheriff Simpleton and Deputy Dufus. Deputy Dufus moonlights as the city’s meteorologist, and is a damned fine one at that. Here’s a sample forecast, “They’re calling for 5 or 4 inches of snow tonight.” That’s also the exactly right ratio of people who are having not math very good making skills.
The Childrens. I don’t know what’s in the water in Maryland, but these kids are weird. They frolic the snowy fields in slow motion, about a foot apart, tossing a beach ball to one another. While that’s awkward, the really disturbing behavior is when they discover the Leemoid’s victim’s dead body. They stand and gawk, not once poking it with a stick. WTF?
The Drunk. Every small town has the happy-go-lucky drunk. Alcoholism, and to a lesser extend farts, will always be funny. The Drunk is a complex character, each one serves a different purpose. For The Alien Factor, The Drunk serves to kill runtime, i.e. make filler to pad out the movie to roughly 90 minutes. He mostly eats peanuts and sips his beer. All the while we get to listen to two rocking hits from the Fru-Fruity John Pertwees. The Drunk goes home to drink some more beer and read Monster Who’s Who—more filler. Then a noise draws him down into the basement. Though Drunk, he’s not stupid. He prepares by grabbing his gun. Carefully he makes his way down, eyes peeled, reflexes sharp and on point. Fumbling slowly out of a dark corner, the Zagatile sloths up on The Drunk and kills him.
No one builds tension (behind your eyes, commonly known as a headache), like Don Dohler.
B-MOVIE SURVIVAL TIP: When you’re confronted by a monster in your basement, and you have a gun, and it is pointed at the monster, which is SLOWLY advancing towards you, SHOOT! Even if it’s yourself.
The Reporter. Local reporter, Ms. Dufus, no explicit relation to the deputy, goes out for her big scoop on the aliens armed with a half gallon can of gasoline. Why gasoline? Because Deputy Dufus suggested that it MIGHT be possible to kill the aliens with fire. Even if we’re willing to forgive her momentary lapse of reason, she still has a major problem. When attacked, she drops the gas can and runs off. I don’t know if she doesn’t understand the idea behind a Molotov cocktail, or forgot you need to open the can, slosh the gas on the target and then ignite the gas, but the result is the same. The can of gas was a complete waste. It was a really nice can, too.
The Mayor. He’s your typical bureaucrat. Only interested in the money that will be generated by an impending entertainment center, Mayor Poopooheimer shafts the law, the citizens, and ultimately himself, by trying to keep this whole space animal-monster thing quiet. He dies a fitting death when the Zagatile sneaks up behind him and smears his face with Louisiana Hot Sauce. Good riddance.
The Hero. Ben “Space Animal-Monster Hunter” Zachery. He is the ultimate combination of awesome. Forged from cold, hard steel that is Bob “Happy Little Cloud” Ross and titanic might of Zap “Canadian Hero Extraordinare” Rowsdower, he is truly a wonder of nature. He’s also a space foreigner, the very same one who was catching some sun earlier. Enigmatic and dangerously handsome, Zachery is a mans man, and every woman’s dream.
So, as you can see, The Alien Factor is pretty much The Avengers. The real difference is the moral, which is: Not everything that’s ugly on the outside is ugly on the inside, except for this movie, which is ugly through and through.