Blu-ray Review: Strange Invaders - Twilight Time Limited Edition

By , Contributor
It's Halloween time and the folks at Twilight Time have responded in kind with several spooky chillers for October, including the 1983 sci-fi flick Strange Invaders. Limited to 3,000 copies, this Blu-ray edition of the cult favorite boasts a solid HD transfer of Louis Horvath's glowing, nostalgia-tinged cinematography and a lossless DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack. The film is a straight-faced love letter to the paranoia-drenched alien invasion films of the '50s. Films like the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers cloaked messages condemning McCarthyism within the framework of mainstream-friendly entertainment. Part of director Michael Laughlin's aim with Strange Invaders is to update red scare worries from '50s-era Cold War to '80s-era Cold War.

Aliens have invaded the town of Centerville, Illinois circa 1958, glimpsed via the film's prologue, and they are indeed strange. They've taken over the physical appearance of the unfortunate individuals they've zapped with lasers (shot from their eyes, no less). The special effects throughout Strange Invaders are schlocky-but-clever, rooted in the '50s-era inspiration that drives the whole movie. We catch up to then-present day 1983 and university professor Charles Bigelow (Paul Le Mat, American Graffit), who is puzzled by the disappearance of his ex-wife Margaret (Diana Scarwid). She happened to be visiting Centerville and that fact proves to be no coincidence. The town is locked in time, stuck a quarter century in the past, and overrun with strange invaders. 

strange invaders BD.jpg It's probably a safe bet that Strange Invaders will play better to those looking back with memories of catching the film on late-night TV airings than it will with today's youngsters. After all, even movies like the '90s hit Independence Day are typically viewed by today's youth as old-fashioned relics when compared to today's CG extravaganzas. Something as quaint as Strange Invaders is likely going to seem intolerably tame (actually it was mild even for '83, with a PG rating to prove it). Le Mat and Scarwid, among numerous others, provide intentionally flat, affectless performances. Scarwid apparently got a Razzie nomination for her work, though that sort of criticism (however tongue it cheek it may have been) misses the point of her purposefully blank delivery.

In the end, it's difficult to feel terribly strongly about Strange Invaders though it should provide a nostalgic kick for viewers of a certain age. Though there is humor laced throughout, it might've ultimately benefited from a somewhat less dry approach. The supporting cast, which gets to show a bit more colorfulness in their characterizations, includes Nancy Allen (the RoboCop series), Wallace Shawn, Louise Fletcher, and Michael Lerner.

Again, Twilight Time's Blu-ray looks great and will likely prove satisfying for anyone longing for a high definition upgrade (note: I've not seen MGM's 2001 standard definition DVD edition). The mono audio is simple but presented cleanly. The score by the late veteran composer John Addison (one of the last in his career, which includes his Oscar-winning score for 1963's Tom Jones) is nicely showcased in as an isolated track.

The Blu-ray also includes a commentary track featuring director Laughlin and screenwriter Bill Condon. For ordering information, while limited supplies of Strange Invaders last, visit Twilight Time's exclusive distributor Screen Archives.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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