Alien Factor (1978)

Director: Don Dohler
Starring: Don Leifert, Tom Griffith, Richard Dysz, Mary Mertens, Richard Geiwitz. USA. 1h 30m

Make no mistake there’s a deeper meaning behind this 16mm Quality Color movie, on the surface Dolher’s homemade sci fi adventure is simply about a small handful of rogue aliens that have landed on earth and intend on making some mischief, but by the end of this wintry escapade we’re left questioning who the real monsters are.

In a sleepy Baltimore down during mid winter, the biggest crisis was who was going to be nominated as the new mayor, but after a suspected meteor lands out in the woods, there’s a spate of unusual deaths. Before the town can really comprehend who or what is killing anyone who wanders out into the wilderness, a brilliant scientist is soon lending a hand and aiding the officials in the right direction of a possible downed UFO.

Dolher’s non existent budget stretched pretty far, not only did he create this clumsy but masterful film but he also manufactured at least three very different beasts, systems to kill them and got a local band to play an entire song to help fill out the movie. For me it’s never a problem with low budget movies who just don’t have the ability to create smooth realistic effects, the magic works when there’s evidence that someone put their heart and soul into their work and tried their best and for me this really seems evident. Yes at times the acting and fear factor area a little pathetic but it’s still such an interesting movie with a very cool twist at the end.

So after things get shaken up in this sleepy backwater town, Ben Zachary (Leifert) turns up from an official sounding government office and he soon becomes well respected when he leads the town to the derelict spaceship and connects to it telepathically, he’s soon running around preparing the police force for the onslaught of alien attacks. The creatures themselves are each very different, generally men in suits, one hairy fellow seems incredibly unsuited for life on earth as he stumbles around in the snow but with a few interesting cut scenes he manages to keep up with his prey providing they fall over a lot. A breakout scene is when everything gets almost mystical when a transparent claymation alien/dinosaur turns up in a swirling mist but never fear ?? is here to save us all, or is he?

This switch in styles throughout the movie keeps it alive. Apart from when everything stops for a while to listen to the long hair band who take over the bar, I supposed that even when your town is set apon by monsters the show must go on.

Wait! Wait! It doesn’t make sense!

The remoteness of the town and setting really does make it feel like a small frontier, maybe not prepped with all the necessary tools but enough good nature to fight any frightful foe. It’s also a great slice of the 70’s and as no one is really dolled up to the 9’s or made to look extra special it’s way more authentic journey down memory lane. Originally the film was shot in 1972 but shelved for nearly 6 years before finally being finished and released, so it really does have most of the 70’s included in it somehow. I adore the ma and pops coroners office and the police investigations don’t really come across as being all that authentic, bodies are just photographed and popped in the back of the car, driven to Dr Ruth Sherman (Anne Frith)who seem to perform the autopsy in the front room.

Released to TV stations by Gold Key it’s a pleasure to see that this still turns up from time to time, even if this isn’t your bag, you can at least marvel in how far synth and computer graphics have come but the application throughout the movie is pretty stunning, the booming heavy electronic soundtrack really adds some edge and crazy lights and rainbow effects help bolster some of the characters and drama near the end of the film when the big reveal steams ahead.

It’s no wonder why this doesn’t top a lot of top 10 lists, but with a small stretch of the imagination, try and visualise Predator, Alien and Critters all landing outside of your town and what havoc would ensure, but the only person to help your town fight the otherworldly critters is Giorgio A Tsoukalos… actually I think this needs to be made, do you agree? Dolher did go on to make handful of other sci fi monster films (including a sequel to this), they are all equally brilliant in their own rights and lay out a testament to the man’s enthusiasm and almost obsession with making his kind of alien movie and I have to salute him for that.

Rating 5/10

R: Fiend (1980), Nightbeast (1982), The Galaxy Invader (1985)
L: Aliens of Earth, 10 Impressive alien species Vol 1
A: A Brief Introduction and History of Aliens on Earth.

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