Directed by Alfred E. Green
Produced by Robert Smith & Albert Zugsmith
Written by Robert Smith & Franz Shulz
Director Of Photography: John L. Russell
Supervising Editor: W. Donn Hayes
Music by Albert Glasser
Cast: Gerald Mohr (Vince Potter), Peggie Castle (Carla Sanford), Dan O’Herlihy (Mr. Ohman), Robert Bice (George Sylvester), Tom Kennedy (Tim), Wade Crosby (Arthur V. Harroway), Erik Blythe (Ed Mulfory), Phyllis Coates (Mrs. Mulfory), Aram Katcher, Knox Manning, Edward G. Robinson Jr., Noel Neill, William Schallert
After the news about I, The Jury (1953), I decided to finish up a half-done post on Invasion, U.S.A. (1952). You can’t have too much Peggie Castle.
Invasion U.S.A. is a rather odd Cold War anti-commie picture, the second release from Albert Zugsmith’s American Pictures Corporation. Distributed by Columbia, it grossed over a million dollars, not bad for about a week and budget of $127,000. The liberal use of stock footage no doubt helped keep costs down.
A group of strangers in a New York City bar — including beautiful socialite Peggie Castle, TV newsman Gerald Mohr and the mysterious Mr. Ohman (Dan O’Herlihy) — get to discussing the growing communist threat and the idea of an international draft. Soon, along come reports of “The Enemy” attacking Alaska, Washington state and Oregon. (You don’t have to be an expert on foreign affairs to figure out who “The Enemy” is supposed to be.)
As the invasion plays out largely in stock footage (much of it seen on the bar’s Admiral TV set, “a remote-control view from our portable equipment”), we follow our once-complacent elbow-benders as they leave the bar and head out into the now war-torn New York — where they each learn the hard way that freedom isn’t free.
If you’ve seen the film you know, and after this synopsis, you’ve probably guessed, that Invasion U.S.A. is a cheesy, over-the-top B movie with a pretty whacked-out “Red Scare” message — and plenty of unintentional humor. It certainly means well.
But what’s remarkable about it is how effective it is. How watchable it is. Of course, many of us have experienced this before: a junk movie put together by a group of real pros that ends up much better than it has any right to be. This was one of the last pictures from director Alfred E. Green, who’d given us things like Shooting High (1940), Four Faces West (1948) and Sierra (1950). The acting from folks like Mr. Mohr and Ms. Castle comes real close to overcoming the terrible dialogue, while the enemy soldiers often sound like Boris Badenov from The Bullwinkle Show. Phyllis Coates and Noel Neill, TV’s first two Lois Lanes, have tiny parts. The cinematography from John L. Russell looks great, especially if you consider the week-long shoot. (Russell would go on to shoot Psycho.) The special effects are pretty good. And the editing, supervised by W. Donn Hayes, brings together the stock footage and studio stuff surprisingly seamlessly.
Albert Zugsmith said this is where he learned how movies were made. He went on to give us Star In The Dust, Written On The Wind (both 1956), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) and High School Confidential (1958). Onward and upward!