Blu-ray Review: Invaders From Mars

The perfect illustration of how you can make a deal with the Devil in Hollywood involves Tobe Hooper. The man was already a legend for directing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Salem’s Lot. He landed the plum gig of directing Poltergeist. Steven Spielberg had come up with the script, but he was only going to produce this film. This was supposed to be Hooper’s baby. The film proved to be a massive success. However rumors quickly came out that Spielberg was the real director and Tobe was rather worthless on the set. Hooper quickly found himself on the outside of the studio system. But he wasn’t out of luck as Cannon Films came calling. They didn’t want to have him make one film, they offered him a three picture deal. Amazingly enough, this wasn’t a deal with the devil since Hooper made three of his better pictures with Lifeforce, Invaders From Mars and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Invaders From Mars remade the William Cameron Menzies original from 1953.

The movie starts off with a wholesome feel as David Gardner (Paris, Texas‘ Hunter Carson) and his dad (The Last Picture Show‘s Timothy Bottoms) laying in the backyard watching a meteorite shower. Mom (Saturday Night Live‘s Laraine Newman) calls them in for the bedtime. Even when David goes to bed, the light show isn’t over. Something big has landed on the other side of the hill in the backyard. His parents tell him to go back to bed and not worry. The next morning David has a lot to worry about since his dad is not himself. There’s a lot of people who aren’t themselves including his school teacher (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest‘s Louise Fletcher) who gets a little too freaky with the dissecting frogs. David needs to go over the hill to see what really landed behind the house. Not to spoil anything except the title gives it away that Martians have invaded. Can David save the world when he didn’t have any luck with his parents? x

This wasn’t just the usual remake that cut corners to cash in on an established title. Hooper smartly brought together a great team of SciFi all-stars. Dan O’Bannon (Alien) worked the screenplay. He didn’t take the film too far away from the source material. The special effects were from John Dykstra (Star Wars). The Martians were from Stan Winston (Aliens). Amazingly enough, the special effects and creature effects don’t look like the normal Cannon Films budget. The Martians look much better than the ones from the original version. The film was made in what turned out to be the waning days of the Cold War. Hopper taps into the Reagan sensibilities of a throwback America in 1986. The cast plays off the “It’s Morning In America” theme when they get controlled by the Martians. While nobody wants to say it, Hooper’s Mars Attacks attacks Steven Spielberg with an anti-E.T.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The 1080p really lets special effects and creature effect shine. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. The levels bring out the mix of alien weirdness noises. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentary with Tobe Hooper allows him to remember the production with the help of an interviewer that keeps him chatting away. Hooper doesn’t trash talk Spielberg. But he has fond memories of his time with Cannon.

The Martians Are Coming! (36:33) explores the film with many of the prime players. Tobe Hooper did this remake as part of his 3 picture deal with Cannon films that also included Lifeforce and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

Theatrical Trailer & TV Spot (1:28) sticks to the nightmare in his own backyard.

Production Illustration Gallery (14:30) features the work of William Stout. He has plenty of tales about how the Marines cooperated with the making of the film. Stout is best known for his bootleg record covers in the ’70s and the poster for Wizards.

Storyboards (4:16) breaks down the major shots in the film.

Still Gallery (2:12) are the shots from the set and promotional material.

Invaders From Mars is a fine retelling of a Cold War fear transplanting Martians for Soviets. The movie has wholesome touches and outstanding special effects. What stands out in the bonus features is that it show Tobe Hooper was more than cover for Spielberg.

Scream Factory presents Invaders From Mars. Starring: Timothy Bottoms, Karen Black and Hunter Carson. Rated: PG. Running Time: 99 minutes. Released: April 7, 2015.

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