Synapse // 1952 // 74 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // September 6th, 2002
"It will scare the pants off you!" -- Hedda Hopper
Bar patrons discuss politics and world issues between highballs. A TV newscast says war is imminent. Everyone does a little heavy elbow bending. A local reporter stops in for a belt and asks people about Communism. The result is substantial imbibing. A soused Senator discusses the military. Everyone really ties one on. A strange, baroque fellow named Mr. Ohmann swirls his brandy and talks all fruity. Rampant alcoholism occurs. A nameless, vodka drinking, borscht-loving country attacks the USA. Saloons and dives still maintain a healthy business. The West Coast is demolished by A-bombs. Lushes nationwide call for another round of cocktails. The owner of a factory is killed defending his plant from a Pinko putsch. Folks sit around getting liquored up! A rancher dies when Hoover Dam is destroyed. There is a universal libation of spirits. Eventually, the randy faux Russkies make it all the way to Washington, where they take over the government. Politicians proceed to gerrymander and get blotto. New York is nuked. Tavern patrons have their intake of Manhattans substantially reduced (not for a lack of trying). Just when it seems things are at their bleakest, it turns out that it was all a hooch-instigated, red-eyed hallucination, a shot and a beer of things to come. People raise a pint in celebration.
Stock footage: the noble filler of the cinematic imbecile. The Surgeon General of the United States has repeatedly warned that humans should consume no more than 10% stock footage a year/per body mass, upon threat of cerebral shrinkage. The producers of Invasion USA must have been wasted during that briefing, because this monstrosity is nothing BUT stock footage. There are a couple of extended bar scenes that plays like Cheers for the hopelessly gin blossomed. But aside from shots of actors standing in front of wall sized photos of the country/city side, everything else here is reclaimed and recycled shots. Paratroopers land, planes fly, atomic bombs explode, and soldiers look disgruntled (the film gets around the distinct US Army/Navy/Air Force/Marines look to the foreign invaders by saying that they are disguised "as Americans." Right...) all in the name of WWIII meets Ironweed. The narrative is supposed to be shocking and inflammatory, but it's actually rather demoralizing. The US was only seven years post WWII in I-USA and we are rendered here like a bunch of beer swilling, surrendering barflies. Hell, we make the French look valiant (never a smart thing to do). Enemy planes fly overhead, and our armed forces turn into your "slow" second cousin Carl who could never get the hang of "aiming and shooting" in Space Invaders. Within seconds we are scuttled, exposing our soft underbelly to the dominant maelstrom. Add to this all the aforementioned leftover battlefield film, and you have an incredibly non-compelling work that belittles as it bores.
This movie is an exceptional piece of crud. The package, on the other hand, is just outstanding. It ranks as one of the best, most thorough and complete Atomic age collections around. For extras, we get the infamous Jack Webb narrated Red Nightmare, where average Joe Couldgiveacrap discovers what life would be like under Communist rule. Apparently, everything's the same, except women suffer from acute depression, kids sign up to work on farm collectives, and there is NO SUNDAY SCHOOL! (Commie Bastards!) Instead of an audio commentary, we are treated to two spoken word record albums, a cold war K-Tel collection of Armageddon's greatest hits. If the Bomb Falls discusses what to do in case of a nuclear attack (same old routine: get in the basement, duck and cover, gulp and blow). The Complacent American is like one of those long players you could buy in the Walt Disney World gift store (you know the ones...) that help you "relive" The Country Bear Jamboree or Haunted Mansion. Except here we listen to all the gruesome skin melting death details of a nuclear attack -- from a GHOST'S point of view (very creepy). We are also treated to an informative scroll-through guide of the CONELRAD 100: Film Encyclopedia of the 100 Best Atomic Films Ever Made. There are some interesting choices (as well as some mystifying ones), each with a short write-up on, and a movie poster or lobby card graphic.
But the best extra has to be the cast interviews. As a rule, when doing a
Q&A for inclusion in a DVD package, the subjects should
(a) have a good memory for the material they are commenting on,
(b) have had some major role in the film,
(c) understand what information the questioner is really looking for, and
(d) be coherent.
Well, no one told this to the folks in charge of this section for Invasion USA. You know you are in for something special when the three people interrogated (Dan O'Herlihy, William Schallert, and Noel Neill) begin by saying they have no friggin' idea what movie they are talking about. O'Herlihy, who played the clairvoyant hypnotist Mr. Ohmann, reads a 1953 New York Times review of I-USA, VERBATIM. William Schallert discusses everything BUT the movie, offering a fairly impressive list of obscure film roles. Buts it's TV's ex Lois Lane, Noel Neill, who is most lost in her own little world. She offers a halfhearted review of 2001's Pearl Harbor! When you add all this meat to the DVD platter, plus a trailer that promises what this film could never have delivered, it's a banquet for a king. Too bad that Invasion USA is such a load of horse butter. If it was a better film (or even a competent one), this DVD package from Synapse would be a must own. But even with a crisp digital windowboxed transfer, the movie is still just a collection of old war highlights interspersed with future members of AA that no amount of surrounding pomp can overcome.
(Note: The score reflects the overall DVD value, not the film value.)
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 74 Minutes
Release Year: 1952
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Special Atomic Audio Feature: Alternate DVD Audio Track of Two Civil Defense Recordings "The Complacent Americans" and "If the Bomb Falls"
* Controversial "Red Scare" Short Film "Red Nightmare," Starring Jack Webb
* Video Interviews with Dan O'Herlihy, William Schallert and Noel Neill
* Interactive Guide: CONELRAD 100: Film Encyclopedia of the Top 100 Best Atomic Films Ever Made
* Theatrical Trailer