I won’t put in the typical spoiler alert because it just doesn’t matter.
In this movie an amateur astronomer, John Putnam, happens to be out in his backyard in what looks like Arizona, looking through his telescope when what appears to be a meteor hurtles to earth in his vicinity. Being a man of action, John gets his friend Frank to helicopter him to the scene of the crash. And of course, he brings along his girlfriend Ellen.
When they get to the crater John goes down to the “meteor” and finds that it is a spacecraft with something alive in it. But somehow the ship causes a landslide that covers itself up. From this point on John attempts to convince everyone that he isn’t crazy when he claims there is a ship from outer space in the crater.
Only Ellen believes him and they go around town trying to convince the sheriff and the scientists from the local college. Eventually the aliens start kidnapping humans and replacing them with look-alikes. But because these aliens are so boring people start suspecting something is wrong. And here is where we meet the biggest “star” in the cast. One of the kidnapped humans is George played by Russell Johnson, better known to the world as the “Professor” on Gilligan’s Island. Johnson plays his part with all the acting skill that he would later demonstrate on that famous island. Amazing.
Anyway, eventually the rest of the town figures out that John knows what he is talking about and under the leadership of Sheriff Matt Warren they organize a posse to go and put the smackdown on these aliens. But by this point John has finally located one of the aliens and gotten their side of the story.
Apparently, the aliens crashed to Earth and have been attempting ever since to repair their ship. They’ve impersonated humans to obtain supplies for the repairs. Apparently copper wire is an important part of faster than light technology. The humans they captured have not been harmed and will be released if the aliens are able to repair the ship before the humans have a chance to interfere with them.
When John asks the alien why they don’t just come out in the open and meet the humans, he comes out of the cave he’s hiding in and reveals his appearance to John (1), (2).
Apparently, their appearance is so terrifying that John goes into hysterics for a few moments. Personally, I think it would be more likely that most people would break out into laughter if the aliens showed up in town. They sort of resemble what a giant Mr. Potato Head toy would look like if only one eye was stuck on where the nose should go and then asbestos was glued on as hair. After his hissy fit John agrees to help the aliens escape by preventing Sheriff Matt from rousting them out of their cushy lair in the convenient old gold mine outside of town.
It is while John is trying to prevent the sheriff from attacking the aliens that Matt makes a speech which was the only part of the movie I remember from when I saw it fifty some-odd years ago. Matt looks at the thermometer and says, “It’s ninety-two degrees! I remember reading that more murders are committed at ninety-two degrees than any other temperature. Below that temperature people are in their right minds. Above ninety-two it’s too hot to do anything. But at just ninety-two people get irritable!” I really enjoyed that scene. In fact, I enjoyed it more than the whole rest of the movie put together.
Anyway, the posse is rounded up and on the way to the mine they manage to kill one of the aliens driving a pickup truck. It was a pretty nice truck. John heads down into the mine first and one of the aliens disguised as Ellen tries to kill him with a laser wand. But John manages to shoot her and she falls into a puddle in the mine. Then John finds the leader of the aliens who is disguised as John(!) and talks himself into waiting before attacking the humans with his death ray.
John gets all of the hostages out of the mine and uses some handily placed dynamite to close up the mine entrance to prevent the posse from lynching the potato heads. As the posse and the freed hostages watch the space ship breaks free of the earth and heads back into space. And John tells us that one day they’ll return and human and potato heads will live in peace together.
Wow! This movie was based on a story by Ray Bradbury. I’ll have to go back and read that story. If it really resembles the plot of this movie, I’ll have to rethink my appreciation of Bradbury. Anyway, this is all harmless stuff from the early days of B-movie sci-fi. I’ll recommend this thing as campy nostalgia from simpler times. It would have made a good movie for a drive-in date. Something you wouldn’t have minded missing during the clinches. Your milage may vary.
I’m sure the story was MUCH better than the film. So far I have seen exactly ONE film that did justice to the book it was based on. That was The Andromeda Strain. Hunt for Red October came close, but had to shave too much to fit time limits. Tom Clancy novels should be miniseries, like The Expanse, not 2-hour films. The same with the rest of Michael Crichton’s novels. I would love to see Next, Airframe, or State of Fear properly produced.
We should probably consider it a minor miracle when any movie or television show adapted from a book is successful. But lately with the big budgets that Netflix and Amazon can muster there is at least a fighting chance. But definitely no guarantees. There are too many terrible producers and directors out there waiting to butcher some wonderful book.