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Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 02/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Invasion USA is essentially the grand-daddy of all nuclear war movies, a remarkable film released in 1953 that almost certainly proved frightening to movie audiences of that era. Nowadays, the film exudes an aura of campiness and, depending on one's political viewpoint, draws either laughs or respect (and sometimes both). Invasion USA is definitely a Cold Warriors movie, an unforgettable piece of cinematic propaganda that turned its spotlights clearly on the threat of the Red menace. Making liberal use of stock footage from World War II, this movie not only offers a vision of Communist invasion but explains why such an invasion might succeed, thus rallying the American people not to retreat into post-war isolationism and materialism. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and this is the message Invasion USA conveyed rather impressively.I happen to think this movie is brilliant. I was born in 1970, and I knew the fear of nuclear war as a child. For those living in the 1950s, the fear of nuclear was an even more pervasive threat - as was Communism. I still hate Communism with every fiber of my being, and for me personally the Cold War will not end until the number of Communists in the world falls all the way to zero. The generation coming of age today does not truly know the gnawingly pervasive threat of intercontinental nuclear war nor do today's youth remember a world in which the USSR not only existed but cast dark shadows across many parts of the world. To many today, the Red Scare conjures up comical images of a fanatical Joseph McCarthy and the John Birch Society looking for Communists under rocks and park benches. Invasion USA will thus strike many viewers today as rather silly, but I regard this as, to some degree, an educational film that offers an insightful look into the American mind of the 1950s. Certainly, the characters are rather two-dimensional, the dialogue is unintentionally funny on several occasions, and the ending is likely to produce a few groans among modern audiences, but the film's theme and message is not only historically informative but still, in the broadest sense, relevant and instructive.The setup and "kicker" plot twist at the end may well leave one with a bad taste in his/her mouth initially, but Invasion USA is still capable of resonating over time in the minds of those who see it. It is really an unusual film in more ways than one. Not only does it offer a frightening vision of America subjugated by an unnamed yet ruthless and easily identifiable enemy, it assigns the blame for this possible future defeat on a populace of men and women too concerned with their own lives and desires to look out for the interests of the nation. One of the characters in the film, for example, is a wealthy tractor manufacturer who just turned down a government request to produce needed military tanks, putting profit above patriotism. Complacency and the voluntary wearing of blinders among a population sick of world wars is shown to be the weakest link in America's contemporary defense. Everybody complains about taxes, concentrates solely on their own needs, and goes about his/her life pretending that America could never possibly be attacked - script writer Robert Smith clearly communicated the dangerous vulnerability implicit in such a worldview. Invasion USA is a clarion call to a prosperous people courting danger by avoiding a frightening truth. The film was amazingly effective in delivering this crucial and timely warning to its audience. The same message applies in our own world; while the threat comes from a different source, only a vigilant and cooperative attitude among the American people can safeguard our freedoms from those who wish to destroy us.Clearly, Invasion USA was a success, one which soon led to similar films built around the horrifying threat of nuclear war. The movie earned more than one million dollars - not too shabby for a film shot in the course of only seven days on a budget of one hundred twenty seven thousand dollars. Stock footage from World War II makes up some 30% of the film. Fictional news broadcasts explaining the progress (or, more correctly, lack of progress) in the war leave room for only so much actual human interaction and dialogue - this is perhaps fortunate, as the characters are less than captivating in and of themselves. Still, there is enough of a personal dimension to the tragedy unleashed on film to really bring Invasion USA's message across to the sympathetic viewer. It's impossible not to laugh at parts of this movie all these decades later, but there is an eternally valuable message - exaggerated as it may be - here that all freedom-loving men and women would do well to ponder over."
A great reissue!
Richard A Linnell | Beverly Hills, CA United States | 05/14/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After years of crummy re-issues from video companies, Invasion USA finally receives the respect it deserves with a stunning new DVD "Atomic" edition from Synapse Films and Conelrad (a website devoted to Atomic Culture that, apparently, helped with the special features).The movie itself is a laugh riot and the print is amazing (finally I can freezeframe the great Gerald Mohr with crystal clarity), but it is the special features that make this disc a must buy.Where else is one going to find the following on just one DVD: Civil Defense (Scare) Record albums playing as an alternate audio track. This is a nice alternative to self-absorbed actors and directors talking about their favorite shots in a film or what lunch they had on any given day of shooting. The classic 1962 Jack Webb short "Red Nightmare" (in a great new print). The Conelrad 100 (a play on the AFI 100?), an "encyclopedia" of the best "Atomic" Films ever made. This is a great feature and humorously written. If you're like me, you'll find yourself reading all 100! Cast interviews with the surviving stars of the film: While this section is a little rough around the edges, you have to admire the dedication of the producers to round of these aging actors tfor one last comment on Invasion USA. Noel Neill is hilarious (she snipes at the other Lois Lane and compares Invasion USA to Pearl Harbor--the movie!). Dan O'Herlihy is also a riot reading a New York Times pan of Invasion USA that gets his name misspelled!).All in all a great package. If you are the least bit iterested in campy films or the Cold War, you MUST own this DVD!"
Enjoyable "Red Scare" exploitation movie
Howard Sauertieg | Harrisburg, PA USA | 05/09/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"INVASION USA (1952) does not feature Chuck Norris. His INVASION USA is another kettle of fish, on another page.
This film features Peggie Castle (BEGINNING OF THE END) and Gerald Mohr (ANGRY RED PLANET), and it's a cautionary fantasy tale about the need for America to "be prepared" militarily. The premise is that assorted "average people" in a bar are hypnotized and made to imagine that World War III has begun, with Russians dropping A-bombs on San Francisco, Hoover Dam, NYC, and so on, airlifting troops into Washington D.C. and storming the halls of Congress... The Russian invaders are most unscrupulous and, to make matters worse, ill-mannered; the Americans are innocent, peace-loving and hopelessly naive. At least half of the completed film is military stock footage, utilized rather effectively. The thin plot, involving the actors in one crisis/disaster after another, is melodramatic, banal and very funny.
I wouldn't call INVASION USA (1952) a "good" film, but I can recommend it to people with a high tolerance for other people's hysteria. It's an historic artifact, a cultural signpost, and a really bad movie all rolled into one videocassette."
Terrific, fun-packed DVD of loony 1950s red scare cheapie
Surfink | Racine, WI | 10/10/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Invasion USA is a delightfully wacked atomic war/red scare quickie, a relatively tame early effort of sleazy exploitation producer Albert Zugsmith (Touch of Evil, High School Confidential, Confessions of an Opium Eater, Incredible Sex Revolution), featuring cinematography by John L. Russell (TV's Thriller, Hitchcock's Psycho); a score by Albert Glasser, Bert I. Gordon's house composer; and LOTS of stock footage. TV reporter Gerald Mohr is getting generally cautious responses to his question about a "universal draft" from a small group of Manhattan bar patrons when a news bulletin reports unidentified aircraft spotted over Alaska. Within minutes, several airfields are nuked, and enemy paratroopers are on American soil; Mohr makes goo-goo eyes with Peggie Castle. Generic Eastern European-accented generals plot strategy on a wall-sized map of the U.S., and the president's back appears on TV to announce that the "enemy" will not win because we're nuking them "three to one"; Mohr and Castle have dinner and coffee and smooch. San Francisco is bombed and invaded, and a Texas cattleman's family drowns in a taxicab when the still-unidentified enemy A-bombs Boulder Dam; the bar patrons discuss possible defensive strategies and order another round. Apparent atomic-movie king William Schallert (best known for playing Patty Duke's father and voice of a thousand TV commercials) shows up as another newscaster, and both Lois Lanes (Noel Neill and Phyllis Coates) have bits. Finally, Manhattan is bombed; taxi drivers and newsboys become guerilla fighters (offscreen); English-speaking commie paratroopers in U.S. uniforms advance on Washington D.C. (some of the phony troops are exposed when the commander of a supposed Chicago-area division unwittingly states that "the Cubs" are "small bears"); Mohr is machine-gunned; and Castle leaps to her death rather than be raped by an enemy soldier! All is ultimately revealed to be some sort of mass hypnosis/hallucination, created by mysterious "fortune-telling" barfly Mr. Ohman (Dan O'Herlihy), that leaves everyone with renewed patriotic fervor (e.g., the selfish auto parts manufacturer decides to make tank parts for the government). While there is much ludicrous plotting, loopy dialogue, and bad acting for schlock-movie fans to relish (Mohr's leering manner is as creepy here as in Angry Red Planet), be aware that perhaps 50% of Invasion USA consists of WWII stock footage and a few superimposed nuclear blasts.
Amazingly, the source print used for Synapse's full-frame transfer looks nearly pristine (except of course for much of the stock footage). The studio-shot scenes exhibit overall excellent black level, contrast, brightness, sharpness, grayscale, and shadow/highlight detail, and there is only some sporadic light speckling evident. The disc includes some very cool extras, my favorite being the 20-minute 1962 Department of Defense informational/scare film Red Nightmare, directed by George Waggner (The Wolf Man, Man Made Monster), written by Vincent Fotre (whose four screenplay credits also include Missile to the Moon and Bava's Baron Blood!!), and narrated on camera by Jack (Joe Friday) Webb. It's easily as entertaining as the feature, opening at a clandestine school in the USSR where communist teens learn how to eradicate bourgeois American values, then moving into a wild Soviet-takeover nightmare scenario wherein typical American dad Jack Kelly (Forbidden Planet, She Devil) is imprisoned and ultimately executed by the communist authorities after his wife and kids turn him in for "deviationism." (Look fast for bits by Robert Conrad and Andrew Duggan.) The print is razor sharp, with excellent tonal values, but marred somewhat in places by light to moderate speckling. Also of interest are interviews with O'Herlihy , Schallert (surprisingly, one of Zugsmith's favorite actors), and Neill (who says Invasion USA looks better than "that Pearl Harbor thing"!) Another fun extra, courtesy of atomic-age Web site conelrad.com, is the Conelrad100 greatest "atomic" movies. Clicking through the list is amusing enough, though each film gets only a shred of info, and it basically serves more as a checklist than an in-depth reference. A rerelease trailer for Invasion USA is also included, looking very nice, with excellent tonal values, sharpness, and detail, and little or no speckling or blemishing. Hardcores even have the option of listening to Civil Defense LPs as an alternate soundtrack to the feature. In total, hours of cheesy fun for atom-age vampires. Recommended."
NYTimes says IUSA one of 10 notable 2002 DVD releases
Richard A Linnell | 12/17/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"From the New York Times - December 15, 2002
"Bigger Movies, Sometimes Better" by Dave Kehr
"As the DVD market matures, more and more of these deluxe editions are being produced. Here are 10 notable releases from 2002..."
"The movie itself - a lurid fantasy of a Soviet invasion of 1950's America, largely assembled from World War II newsreel shots - is no classic. But the DVD presentation neatly places "Invasion U.S.A." within the hysterical context of the Red Scare and its cultural byproducts. Included are two Civil Defense radio documentaries, the Jack Webb short "Red Nightmare" and a wealth of bibliographical material. This is an ambitious release from Synapse Films, a newcomer that specializes in scholarly reissues of obscure horror and fantasy films."
The other titles in Kehr's list include Sunset Boulevard, The Royal Tenenbaums, Near Dark, Reservoir Dogs, The Mood for Love, Griffith Masterworks, Tabu, Lord of the Rings, and Used Cars."