With the 4th of July quickly approaching, purveyors of this patriotic holiday are looking for a good film to cap off the evening of barbecue, fireworks, and loud brass music with. And though patriotism has its place in society, it often seems to be the case that when filmmakers attempt to capture these feelings on celluloid, something weird always happens, and mild patriotism is almost always transformed into demented jingoism.
‘Invasion USA’ (1952) is a film that takes an interesting and (at the time) still fresh “what-if” premise and turns it into one of the most monotonous, boring, and least subtle films ever produced in Hollywood during the Cold War Era. Alfred E. Green’s “film”, which comes across as a piece of borderline propaganda with the subtly of a car accident, tells the story of a group of people at a Manhattan bar who end up witnessing the unfolding events of an “Enemy” invasion of the USA.
Though never specifically named, it’s obvious from the “Enemies” accents, coupled with the era in which the film was produced, that the “Enemy” invaders are meant to be the Soviet Union, and that the film posits the question of “What would happen if the USSR invaded the United States?” Though the premise is interesting enough, Green manages to take a simple and entertaining idea and transform it into an endurance test of the soul that would shatter the minds of even the most patient of people.
The exact ratio between “story” and “stock-footage” has yet to be calculated by people with too much free time on their hands, though few who have actually managed to sit through the entire film will hardly be shocked to learn if it is close to 1:1, for at least half (if not more) of the film is composed entirely out of stock-footage. Even more hilariously, in order to portray the Enemy’s planes and invading soldiers, Green simply took footage of America planes and soldiers and then mirrored the image. This is most notable in footage of the planes, which have “United States Air Force” printed on them, but because the footage has been mirrored the words appear backwards and kind a sort of not really resemble the Russian Cyrillic alphabet.
In between assaults of repetitive and manipulated stock-footage we are occasionally treated to an actual “story” (go figure), though the lack of interesting characters coupled with the utterly backwards moral of the film’s story make it anything but worth sitting through. The film’s cast, though competent enough (both actresses Noel Neill and Phyllis Coates would go on to portray “Lois Lane” in the 1950’s television series Adventures of Superman) nevertheless prove to be incapable of injecting anything resembling intelligence or restraint into their characters, their performances being a curious mixture of subdued emotion or ham-acting.
But perhaps the most maddeningly hilarious aspect about the film is its ultimate “moral”: In Green’s ‘Invasion USA’, the five main characters (none of whom are interesting enough to be distinguished or singled out here in this review) all sit around a bar talking about how much they enjoy the freedoms and privileges that a capitalist America offers them. However, after the Enemy attacks the USA, these characters (as well as the audience) are all then encouraged by the film’s characters to surrender their individuality and rights to the State in order that the State might better combat “The Enemy” (because apparently that’s okay to do as long as the State isn’t a communist one). This ironic encouragement that we the audience must become like the Enemy in order to defeat the Enemy transforms Green’s jingoistic slide-show from a tedious exercise in misplaced but well-intended patriotism into a hilarious piece of propaganda that’s more anti-American than the Enemy portrayed in the film.
Ultimately, Alfred E. Green’s ‘Invasion USA’ is an utter failure, its plotting and pace and rampant use of stock-footage making it such a monotonous waste of film that it can’t even be enjoyed ironically as “so-bad-its-good” entertainment (it can’t; it’s been tried and it just isn’t worth it). Fortunately however, this is America, the land of the free, which means that, thankfully enough, we are free to not watch Alfred E. Green’s ‘Invasion USA’, which is probably how you’re going to want to spend your 4th of July. Unless you hate America, in which case enjoy your awful movie, Enemy.
Find the nearest Blockbuster near your home so you can rent this film almost immediately. Or, if you prefer that movies came to you instead, set up a Netflix account and start your ordering as soon as possible.