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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.
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.
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