Saturday, November 21, 2009
One of the most bizarre films I've ever seen is Morons from Outer Space. It seems deceptively simple. Human aliens from the planet Blob accidentally crash into Earth. They're just like us, but even stupider!
"They came. They saw. They did a little shopping." - promotional slogan.
Directed by Mike Hodges (Get Carter, Terminal Man, Pulp, Croupier, Flash Gordon, Black Rainbow, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead).
Watch a clip at Video Detectives.
The dumb and dumber aliens hope to accomplish a few things: dress in wild costumes, sample earth food and drink, sing some extra-terrestial pop songs with partial lyrics, and do a little shopping.
Of course, even after thorough analysis by Earth scientists proves the aliens are less intelligent than the average trailer trash, and harmless as dewinged flies, the Pentagon decides it's sinister ruse, thus a military solution is needed. "Kill them!" the commander screams, and the campaign is promptly botched, of course.
Have you ever considered the possibility that aliens who crash land on Earth might be rejects from their home planet? In a self-piloting rental spaceship? Or that they were sent off into space, just to get rid of them? Well, fasten your seat belt and put your mind into cruise control. This movie is so packed with weirdness, it's hard to process the entire thing in one viewing.
Morons from Outer Space makes fun of those who hope alien visitors will be smarter than Earthlings. But it also makes fun of us. It's a put down of Western civilization, militarism, scientific hubris, consumerism, celebrity status, and space exploration. How did they manage to do it, and still be funny, and trippy artistic...and really dumb?
Reviews of Morons from Outer Space are almost univerally negative. Critics hate it, calling it "as boring as lettuce and water", etc.
Here's a typical clueless critique from Weird Wild Realm's Paghat the Ratgirl:
The big "joke" for Morons from Outer Space (1985) is that aliens are standard-issue trailer trash.
If it doesn't seem like much of a joke that the alien spaceship includes everything you could get in any other second-hand trailer house, or isn't it funny they happen to speak a language exactly like English with the same accents as the earthlings in the cast, then there won't be many chuckles here for you.
I was warned this was a stinker but I had refused to believe a fairly decent director like Mike Hodges could be this dull. After all, he already had Get Carter (1971) & Terminal Man (1974) under his belt, so surely his comedy sci-fi film would possess a certain level of competence.
Was I ever wrong. It attempts to be a pop culture satire as the Morons are not too moronic to become rock stars, a fact that is offered as proof that pop culture is retarded. But the only thing retarded here is the film itself.
Anyone who liked Mel Brooks' stinker Space Balls (1987) may find enough slapstick in this one to enjoy as well, though the awful Space Balls was a hundred times funnier. No one else need bother.
I suspect that American reviewers are offended by the British comic satire genre in general. It makes them uncomfortable to see their cherished beliefs and behavior lampooned with such adroit parody.
They don't want to give up their expectations of gross sexual humor, jokes they "don't have to think about too much" (per George Castanza on Seinfeld), and scientific mythologies that are catered to by most comedy fare and alien science fiction films.
More astute fans do get it, though. Check out this Latherman-9 user review from Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
In director Mike Hodges's only openly comedic film to date, Anlgo-American pop culture of the '70s and early '80s is mercilessly lampooned.
From "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977) to "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975) to David Bowie as the avatar of Ziggy Stardust, nothing escapes a satirical mauling by Hodges and writers/actors Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith.
On the surface, much of the humor appears to be at the level of Benny Hill, but it is actually much more subtle in its subtext, addressing the mindlessness of celebrity worship, the nature of friendship, the willful self-delusion that can arise from one's own expectations, and the fleetingness of fame.
With satire more subtle than seen in similar, American films of the same period (e.g., "This is Spinal Tap" (1984)), "Morons from Outer Space" may not be to everyone's taste.
I will be the first to admit that British humor is an acquired taste for many of us non-Brits, but I found this film far funnier than many recent American comedies that have received rave reviews ("Meet the Parents" (2000), "Something about Mary" (1998), "Analyze This" (1999), etc.).
Any viewer willing to expend the effort to actually concentrate on what is going on and being said in the film will be amply rewarded. The most difficult part of viewing this movie is finding it, a problem with many of Hodges's works. Rating: 7/10.
Also check out the good reviews of Morons from Outer Space on Amazon.
Back cover of the VHS tape: "Sci-fi meets hilarity in this wildly adventurous comedy that goes where no man—or moron—has gone before. We can now safely conclude that there is no intelligent life in space. Four holiday travelers from the planet Blob have somehow lost control of their rented spaceship and crash-landed on Earth.
At first, the military and scientific teams assume they are higher life forms. But not for long. Idiocy is hard to hide. The stranded wayfarers are complete morons, content to drink their green beer, sing ear-splitting pop songs and talk to trashcans, which they assume are the planet's leaders. But not until an enterprising journalist decides to market their dazed innocence and turn them into glitzy superstars do they find their true mission on Earth.
With amusing parodies of famous film classics like Close Encounters of the Third King and warp-speed laughs, this is one screwball comedy that's out of this world!"
If you like campy underground classics like Liquid Sky, Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Sins of the Fleshapoids, and Andy Warhol's "Bad", you'll love Morons from Outer Space.
Directed by Mike Hodges
Starring: Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones, Jimmy Nail, Joanne Pearce, Paul Bown, Dinsdale Landen, James Sikking, Tristram Jellinek, George Innes, John Joyce, Mark Lewis Jones, André Maranne, Miriam Margolyes, Jimmy Mulville, Derek Deadman, Shane Rimmer.
Catch it on Comcast Cable On Demand now.