Teenagers from Outer Space
|Teenagers from Outer Space|
|Directed by||Tom Graeff|
|Produced by||Tom Graeff|
|Screenplay by||Tom Graeff|
Harvey B. Dunn
|Music by||Tom Graeff|
|Edited by||Tom Graeff|
Tom Graeff Productions
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|June 3, 1959|
Teenagers from Outer Space (released as The Gargon Terror in the UK and originally titled The Ray Gun Terror) is a 1959 independently made American black-and-white science fiction film released by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film was produced, written, and directed by Tom Graeff and stars David Love, Dawn Bender, Bryan Grant, Harvey B. Dunn, Tom Graeff, and King Moody.
The film concerns an extraterrestrial space ship that lands on Earth in order to use it as a farm for its food supply, lobster-like creatures called "Gargons". The crew of the ship includes teenagers, two of whom oppose each other in their various activities while on Earth.
An alien spaceship comes to Earth while searching for a planet suitable to raise "Gargons", a lobster-like but air-breathing creature that is a delicacy on their home world. Thor (Bryan Grant) shows his alien contempt for Earth's creatures by vaporizing a dog named Sparky. Crew member Derek (David Love), after discovering an inscription on Sparky's dog tag, fears that the Gargon might destroy Earth's native inhabitants. This makes the other aliens scoff at the thought. Being members of the "supreme race", they disdain "foreign beings", no matter how intelligent; they pride themselves that "families" and "friendships" are forbidden on their world. Derek turns out to be a member of an alien underground that commemorates the more humane periods of their world's history.
Their one Gargon seems to be sick in Earth's atmosphere. While his crew mates are distracted, Derek leaves. Eventually, the Gargon seems to revive. When the Captain reports his actions, Derek is quickly connected to their Leader (Gene Sterling); Derek, it turns out, is the Leader's son, although Derek is unaware of this. Thor is sent to hunt down Derek, with orders to kill him in order to protect their mission to Earth. They return to their base, leaving the Gargon behind.
Meanwhile, Derek finds the home address he found on the dog's tag. There he meets Betty Morgan (Dawn Anderson) and her Grandpa Joe (Harvey B. Dunn). They have a room to rent, and Derek inadvertently becomes a boarder. When Betty's boyfriend, reporter Joe Rogers (Tom Graeff), can't make their afternoon date, Derek tags along with Betty. He shows the tag to Betty, who recognizes it immediately. Derek takes her to the place where the spaceship landed and shows her Sparky's remains. She doesn't believe him, so he describes Thor's weapon that can also vaporize humans. Betty takes this surprisingly well and vows to help Derek stop his crew mate.
For the rest of the day, Betty and Derek have several run-ins with Thor, and Joe follows up on stories of skeletons popping up all over town. Eventually, Thor is wounded, and he kidnaps Betty to help him receive medical attention, in the process revealing Derek's true parentage to her. Two car chases and a gunfight follow, and Thor is finally captured by Earth authorities after plummeting off a cliff in a stolen car.
But there are bigger problems: the Gargon has grown immensely large in Earth's atmosphere, killing a policeman investigating the alien's landing site, and attacking numerous people. Derek and Betty go to the car wreck site to look for Thor's ray gun. They share a kiss, and Derek vows to stay on Earth. When the Gargon ruins their romantic moment, Derek finds the ray gun just in time for them to be able to escape. Unfortunately, it is out of power and the enlarged Gargon is heading toward town. They follow and confront it, having used the overhead power lines to fuel the ray gun's disintegrator ray. They quickly kill the creature, but it's too late. Alien spaceships suddenly appear overhead.
The whole gang, including Joe and Grandpa, hurries to the alien landing site. Derek reunites with his father and makes the ultimate sacrifice, leading the spaceships directly into a hillside, causing a massive explosion. Derek does not survive but is remembered by Betty for declaring, "I shall make the Earth my home. And I shall never, never leave it".
- David Love as Derek
- Dawn Bender as Betty Morgan
- Bryan Grant as Thor
- Harvey B. Dunn as Gramps Morgan
- Tom Graeff as Joe Rogers
- King Moody as Spacecraft Captain
- Helen Sage as Nurse Morse
- Frederick Welch as Dr. C.R. Brandt, MD
- Carl Dickensen as Gas Station Attendant
- Sonia Torgeson as Alice Woodward
- Billy Bridges as Driver picking up Thor
- James Conklin as Professor Simpson
- Gene Sterling as The Alien Leader
- Ralph Lowe as Moreal, Spaceship Crew
- Bill DeLand as Saul, Spaceship Crew
- Ursula Pearson as Hilda
Teenagers from Outer Space was filmed on location in and around Hollywood, California, with a number of tell-tale landmarks like Bronson Canyon in Griffith Park and Hollywood High School, which gives away the film's sketchy location. One notable aspect of the film is that it was largely the work of a single person, Tom Graeff, who, in addition to playing the role of reporter Joe Rogers, wrote, directed, edited, and produced the film, on which he also provided cinematography, special effects, and music coordination. Producers Bryan and Ursula Pearson ("Thor" and "Hilda") and Gene Sterling ("The Leader") provided the film's $14,000 budget, which was less than shoestring even by the standards of the day.
According to Bryan Pearson, the crew employed many guerrilla tactics in order to cut costs. Director Tom Graeff secured for free the location used for Betty Morgan's house by posing as a UCLA student (which he had attended and graduated from 5 years earlier). The older woman who owned the house even let the crew use her electricity to power their equipment.
Graeff shot in many nearby locations, mostly in the vicinity of Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue, that doubled as more important city landmarks. Graeff's steady hand and framing kept most of the real locations subdued, creating a convincing low-budget illusion of a small town.
Other cost-cutting measures didn't work as well: The aliens' costumes were simple flight suits clearly decorated with masking tape, dress shoes covered in socks, and surplus Air Force flight helmets. The use of stock footage, in lieu of real special effects and Spielbergian "looking" shots that replaced actual visuals of the invading alien spaceships, seriously undercut the film's ending. Props included a single-bolted-joint skeleton re-used for every dead body seen on screen, a multi-channel sound mixer that was not camouflaged (clearly bearing the label "Multichannel Mixer MCM-2") as a piece of alien equipment, and a dime store Hubley's "Atomic Disintegrator" toy as the aliens' disintegrator ray gun.
Sound design and score
Graeff also pre-recorded some of the film's dialog for several scenes and had the actors lip-synchronize their dialog with their scene actions. The film score used stock music, which had been composed by William Loose and Fred Steiner. The same stock music has been recycled in countless B-movies, like Red Zone Cuba, The Killer Shrews, and most notably Night of the Living Dead.
Release and aftermath
In June 1958 Bryan Pearson, who invested $5,000 in the production with his wife Ursula, took Graeff to court in order to gain back the original investment and a percentage of any profits. The Pearsons had learned that Graeff had allegedly sold the film (originally titled The Boy From Out of This World), which did not happen until early 1959. He heard nothing more on their investment or a percentage of profits to which they were entitled. The legal dispute dragged on for a year. Pearson received his $5000 investment, but the judge ruled there was no profit to share. Tom and the Pearsons, who had been good friends during the production of Teenagers, never spoke to each other again.
The film failed to perform at the box office, placing further stress on an already-burdened Graeff, and in the fall of 1959, he suffered a breakdown, proclaiming himself as the second coming of Christ. After a number of public appearances, followed by a subsequent arrest for disrupting a church service, Graeff disappeared from Hollywood until 1964. He committed suicide in 1970.
The film opened on June 3, 1959 to negative but not crippling reviews. The Los Angeles Times review stated "what a curious little film this is [...] there are flashes of astonishing sensitivity half buried in the mass of tritisms." And of the director, Tom Graeff, "when he stops spreading himself so incredibly thin, I think his work will bear watching". In 1992 the film was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
In 1987 Teenagers from Outer Space entered the public domain (in the USA) due to a failure to renew the film's copyright registration in the 28th year after its creation. As a result, the film has received numerous "bargain bin" DVD releases. MST3K's version was released by Rhino Home Video as part of their 'Collection, Volume 6' box set.
- "Tom Graeff - Teenagers from Outer Space". Retrieved 24 February 2010.
- Jessie Lilley and Richard Valley (Summer 1993). "Teenagers from Outer Space". Scarlet Street. pp. 82–87.
- p.72 Ryfle, Steve Japan's Favorite Mon-star: The Unauthorized Biography of "The Big G" ECW Press, 1998
- Los Angeles County Superior Court Records, Case No. 702 320, July 3, 1959
- "Read Before Printing". Time (magazine). January 11, 1960. Retrieved 2007-01-28.
- Stinson, Charles (June 26, 1959). "Space Teen-agers Not Quite Able to Orbit". Los Angeles Times. p. A8.
- Fishman, Stephen (2010), The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More (5th ed.), Nolo (retrieved via Google Books), ISBN 1-4133-1205-5, retrieved 2010-10-31