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Invasion USA

a/k/a Invasion, U.S.A.

     "Gentlemen! The enemy is trying to seize the seat of government ... We are surrounded! "

-- The Speaker of the House -- right before he's assassinated  




Gonzoid Cinema





In Case of an Actual Atomic Attack: Throw Yourself Out the Window and Kiss Your Ass Goodbye!


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Sights &
 American Pictures /
 Columbia Pictures

Go to the
The Exploitation
Films of
Albert Zugsmith.

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Invasion U.S.A.

Port Sinister

The Incredible Shrinking Man

High School Confidential

The Beat Generation

Girl's Town

College Confidential

The Private Lives of Adam and Eve

Fanny Hill


Our leftover piece of Cold War paranoia opens with Albert Glasser doing his bombastic best to make our ears bleed as the credits flash across some spiffy Art Deco inspired buildings. We then enter this city, New York City to be precise, and zero in on a cocktail bar, where, while the rowdy patrons imbibe some spirits, we overhear a TV news broadcast about the Cubs winning a baseball game -- so we already know this tale is most definitely in the realm of science fiction. After the sports wrap-up, as the news anchor takes over and announces that the government is still denying all those reports of several unknown planes being sighted over Alaska, we get the overall impression that tensions between the world's Super Powers are at the breaking point, and the ever simmering Cold War is about to become red hot -- stress on the Red.

As the gloomy anchor continues on and on about a Communist uprising in Italy, when a customer in a cowboy hat tells Tim (Tom Kennedy) to shut him up, the bartender happily mutes the TV. But it turns out there's a reporter from that very same TV station at the bar, interviewing people on what they think about all these rumors of war and a possible new draft. Vince Potter (Gerald Mohr), our man on the scene, starts with the cowboy, Ed Mulfroy (Erik Blythe), a cattle rancher from Arizona, who complains about too much government interference already, with price controls and taxes on top of taxes. When another couple walks in, Potter picks on them next -- and I say "couple" loosely because, well, he looks like an out of town businessman and she looks like ... well, *ahem* a lady of the evening. Carla Sanford (Peggy Castle) recognizes Potter from his news program, much to the consternation of her date, George Sylvester (Robert Bice), and when the reporter asks them about whether the draft should be universal -- both military service and civilian workers for the war plants -- this raises Sylvester's ire even more as he relates how he runs a plant that manufactures tractors near San Francisco.

Seems the military recently asked him to convert over and make tank parts, but he refused because tractors make more money. (More money than inflated government contracts? Man this IS science fiction.) Warned that the day may come when he has no choice but to make tank parts, Sylvester says it'll be over his dead body, and then rants that this isn't Russia, free enterprise, blah-blah-blah ... Moving on, when Potter asks about a woman's roll in the war effort, Carla says she tried working in a plant during the last war but it ruined her hands, so she quit. Then another patron, who was listening in, speaks up. Meet the Honorable Senator Harroway (Wade Crosby), from Illinois, who'll gladly tell you his opinion, even though nobody asked for it. As the Senator complains that his constituents want to be safe from Communism but want no war and no new taxes, at the other end of the bar, a solitary figure sits with a snifter of brandy, quietly trying to read a book, who can't help but overhear all the derogatory things these people are saying about their country. When Potter finally asks him some questions, we gets his name, Ohman (Dan O'Herlihy), and his occupation, forecaster -- and we can't help but notice that Ohman is slightly offended when Potter assumes he's just a weather forecaster. [SOUND THE KLAXON! PLOT POINT! PLOT POINT!] As Ohman chastises the others for their complacency, he then goes into a scathing indictment about how America has grown soft, sacrificing security from the Commies for personal liberties -- like big cars and dishwashers. No cares. No worries. Someone else will take care of it. Of course, the others scoff at his barstool sermonizing, but as the lesson continues on how a nation must concentrate and be prepared, we also can't help but notice that while he slowly speaks, all the other patrons we've met are intently staring at his glass as he gently sifts the liquid within. Almost as if he was putting them in a...

Suddenly, Ohman's spell is broken by a frantic news bulletin on the TV. Turns out those rumors were true: there were planes over Alaska, and enemy paratroopers wearing American uniforms are landing all over the Land of the Midnight Sun! We then cut to the first of many shots of stock military footage and watch as these rogue planes and paratroopers go to and fro; then a quick cut to a boat in a harbor, that is filled with more Communist infiltrators and saboteurs, who help exploit the breach. That's right, folks. The shit has hit the fan, and for the first time in almost two hundred years, American blood has been spilled on its own soil by an invading foreign power! And the last transmission from Peace Harbor, before the woman making the frantic call is gunned down, shot in the back, reads "The enemy is here!" 

...I remember as if it were yesterday ... Back when I was in grade school, I remember a time when my teacher -- a relic from the 1950's, herself -- was talking about Castro and the Communists in Cuba. Pulling down a map of North America, she pointed out how close Cuba was and, with a sweep of her hand, showed her captive audience how easy it would be if they had missiles to bomb us into oblivion. For as we all watched, her hand moved up on the map, simulating a missile’s trajectory, until it smashed down on Holstein, Nebraska and rubbed us out as if she were squashing a bug, and relished smearing it's guts all over the vinyl! ... Well. If the fear of the bomb wasn’t in me before, it most certainly was now! And this was 1977!

Mutual self-destruction: it’s not all that hard of a concept to comprehend. This was the argument that a nuclear war would never happen because if both Super Powers ever committed their arsenals, the world would be nothing but a radioactive cinder. No winners. And everybody loses. It made sense, in a warped and anti-nihilistic sort of way, but that didn’t stop the creators of the 1952 Red Scare classic, Invasion USA, from nuking us off the map like good old Mrs. Meyer. 

Now, when most people think of Invasion USA, they're probably thinking of the ultimate Chuck Norris vehicle of the same name, where the Chuckster gets to play the ultimate bad-ass in a career full of bad-assery by personally taking out another army of terrorists who also had the temerity to attack America -- during Christmas no less! And when I tuned into Mystery Science Theater 3000 one fateful week, expecting Chuck's version, I was personally introduced to the 1952 version of Invasion USA, which, frankly, I didn't know existed until then. Undaunted, I watched anyway and wasn't disappointed -- and it's a classic episode. And though the movie never explicitly calls the invaders Communists, nor does it specify their exact country of origin, we can discern from the thick, Slavic accents of the Generals who plot in front of a large map of the United States where they really came from, Comrade. Эврика! 

Well, whoever they are, the enemy's blitzkrieg plan has worked to perfection thus far. With the element of surprise, they've seized all the civilian airports in Alaska as a staging area to invade further south. In Washington DC, as our own military leaders plan a defense and counterattack, they deduce the enemy is wearing American uniforms because a Communist is a sneaky and decevious bastard, who has no qualms about stooping that low. (Or it's just a lame plot device to match the stock footage better.) Obviously, the biggest concern is whether the invaders will use their atomic bombs, and to answer that question, we cut to more stock footage of an aerial dogfight over Washington state, where several enemy bombers reach a military base and drop their single payload. Kablooey! And the Pentagon's worst fears are confirmed by some stock footage of a mushroom cloud: all part of the enemy's insidious plan to atom bomb the major military bases, and then seize the civilian airports to leapfrog across the continent.

Back in New York, at the same bar, our group of malcontents watches as the President breaks the news that America has suffered another Day of Infamy. Telling the people to stand fast and to have faith, for even as we speak, he assures that our own military is meeting the invaders head on -- and is also carrying the fight to the enemy's homeland; and for every one A-bomb dropped here, three will be dropped there. (Take that! Ya commie be-yitches! Don't start none, won't get none!) More stock footage follows as American bombers retaliate with extreme prejudice. When Potter shows up, the reporter glumly sets the record straight by telling the others over his beer that the state of Washington is already lost, and now they're pounding the crap out of Oregon, where 20,000 people were killed in a surprise A-bomb attack. Asked if San Francisco is still okay by a suddenly concerned Sylvester, the reporter shrugs, saying the enemy hasn't attacked California yet -- but it's only a matter of time. On the TV, live pictures of the Battle of Puget Sound are broadcast. As enemy paratroopers fill the sky, the defenders fight valiantly but are hopelessly outnumbered and out-gunned. When the live-signal is lost, before they get any more bad news, Mulfroy begs the bartender to just shut the TV off again. With that, and before it's too late, Sylvester decides to try and get a flight home. Mulfroy asks to go with him to the airport, hoping to get back to Arizona, and before they leave, Sylvester asks Potter to make sure his cousin (-- yeah, right! --) Carla gets home safely. Potter happily agrees -- hell, she basically jumped in his pants the minute they met anyway, and poor, dopey Sylvester never really had a chance after that.

Anyways, as the authorities beg everyone to head to the nearest hospital to give blood, Potter and Carla take that opportunity to get the obligatorily, insane, and totally inappropriate romantic subplot going. She can't believe what's happening, hoping it's just a nightmare, to which Mr. Smoothie replies with this howler: "It was bound to happen. That last time I met a girl I liked they bombed Pearl Harbor." Incredulously, Carla continues this stilted foreplay by asking what happened to that girl. Simple. "The war ended." (And I wonder why I can never get a date?) Elsewhere, Sylvester and Mulfroy make it to the airport but find most of the flights out west have either been cancelled or are booked solid. We also find out that Montana has fallen, too, when someone tries to get a flight to Billings. And though Arizona also proves impossible, when the ticket agent (Noel Neil) says there are still a few openings for San Francisco if the men can get priority approval, Mulfroy decides to keep tagging along ... Meanwhile, as the bad guys go over their big invasion map, things are going well but not well enough for the Comradeski-n-Chief. To appease him, his underlings unveil their next step: the siege of San Francisco, that commences just as Sylvester and Mulfroy's plane lands. Taking a cab to the tractor factory, when the radio blares that enemy planes have been spotted over California, Mulfroy asks the driver to turn it off. (And have you noticed that Mulfroy's always asking somebody to turn the bad news off? Does he think that will make it go away?) Barely making it to Sylvester's offices before the bombs start falling -- well, actually, some scenic postcards of San Francisco are assaulted with firecrackers -- since San Francisco isn't the safest place in the world to be right now, Mulfroy easily convinces the Cabbie to evacuate and drive him all the way to Arizona.

Back in New York, Potter stops by Carla's apartment for a visit, and as they listen to news reports that San Francisco is barely holding out, the dread romantic interlude continues with this: "Even with the world coming to an end, people want to eat, drink [dramatic pause] and make love." Potter then grabs her and they swap some spit. (Well, at least we now know where Lucas gets the inspiration for most of his romantic dialogue.) Back in San Francisco, trying to rapidly convert their assemble lines to get the army the tank parts they need to hold the city, Sylvester has gathered all of his supervisors in his office. The situation is desperate, he says, but three or four tanks could make the difference. Interrupting him,  Sylvester's janitor asks the others why should they go on making money for this Capitalist pig, earning him a slug him in the mouth just as the doors are kicked open and enemy troops pour in. Then, as the pudgy janitor, obviously a Communist infiltrator, claims he's in charge now, and that they'll be making tank parts for the enemy, the Americans try to resist but are all quickly shot dead -- except for Sylvester, who bemoans if he only had a second chance, he would have helped sooner. Told he was left alive because he's needed to run the plant at peak efficiency, the quarter drops and Sylvester commits suicide, shot while trying to escape.

As Potter broadcasts the bad news that San Francisco has fallen (-- If we only had those three tanks! --) it gets even worse when he reports the army has withdrawn all the way back to the Rocky Mountains to regroup. When the President comes on again (-- who must be shy because we never see his face), he encourages everyone to have hope: NATO has declared war on our enemies as well, and we cut to more stock footage of planes, explosions, and some selected scenes from Victory at Sea. Next, we find Carla working in the hospital, helping with the blood drive. Potter stops by and offers up a pint, feeling dejected because he's been turned down by every branch of the military. No. He's not too old or 4-F; that's not the problem. There are plenty of volunteers to fight now but they have no time to train them, and worse yet, nothing to arm them with. (If we only had three more tanks!) ... Meanwhile, out west, as the cab winds its way down a lonely Arizona road, when Mulfroy tells the driver they're almost home, the Cabbie says to speak for himself -- seems there's a new flag flying over his home. Spotting some bombers flying overhead, the travelers hope they're American, but they're not. Several spotters raise the alarm, and some stock footage fighters are scrambled to intercept them, but one bomber still manages to gets through and drops it's atomic payload on Boulder Dam. When Mulfroy hears over the radio that the dam has been destroyed and the Civil Defense alert to evacuate all the low lying areas, between his blubbering to turn the radio off, he begs the Cabbie to step on it. Water is already trickling over the road when they reach his ranch and pick up his family (-- a wife and two young kids). And as they race away, when Mulfroy's wife (Phyllis Coates) asks what's the matter, her husband yells at the driver to go faster because a massive wall of radioactive water is surging toward them from behind! Alas, they never stood a chance, and as the cab is swept away, we see Mulfroy's hat and his daughter's doll floating away. (Maybe Mulfroy should have asked somebody to shut the water off?)

In New York, at the bar, Potter and Carla watch as William Schallert gives a rousing report on the latest war developments. It seems the Rooskies have unveiled a new Atomic torpedo that's wreaking havoc on the Pacific fleet. Meanwhile, California burns as the people invoke a scorched Earth policy, putting the torch to anything that would aid the enemy: food warehouses, railways, steel plants, and oil refineries all go up in flames. Other drinkers laugh and still revel, thinking the attack out west is just a ruse to keep our army occupied so the enemy can take over Europe. No sir, they conclude, the war won't reach them here. When they ask Tim the Bartender what he did in the last war, he replies the same thing he's doing during this one, mixing martinis. As they all laugh, Carla gives these yahoos and their glib attitude a look of disdain that could vaporize glacial ice. Potter thinks they should just get out of there, but before they can leave, an emergency announcement is made: enemy planes have been spotted heading toward New York! And soon enough, the streets are rocked with explosions as more postcards and several nifty models are sacrificed to some Jack Rabin-fueled pyrotechnics. When the bar takes a direct hit, our couple is buried in the rubble. They're bruised and battered but okay, and after moving a few more rocks, they find Tim, dead, still clutching his martini mixer.

At the Pentagon, fearing the enemies next move, the Powers the Be feel the attack on New York was just a probe. Turns out they're right, as their opposite numbers gloat over their big maps and unveil the next step of their invasion: 10,000 more paratroopers dressed in American uniforms, who speak English, will assault Washington DC. Their orders: To kill and destroy the heads of the government, sending a teetering America into chaos. Spotters pick up the enemy planes, and more stock footage is scrambled to stop them. The attackers are repelled from the north, south and east but there is no report from the western outposts. When a call is made to them, we pan over a ringing phone and down to two dead bodies on the floor. (Man those infiltrators are everywhere! So be wary of pudgy janitors with funny accents, I guess.) Outflanked again, it's soon raining enemy paratroopers all over the Capitol. Most of the fake soldiers are tripped up with trivial questions, but there's so many of them that the defenders can't hold. On the Senate floor, Harroway is addressing Congress, saying they must pledge all money and support to the military during this time of crisis. He's still blustering and blundering along when word comes that the Capitol building is surrounded and the enemy is about to seize the seat of government. When they try to evacuate, the Senators run right into the enemy troops who've overrun the building. And as the legislators try to run/waddle away, most are mowed down with machine gun fire, including Harroway.

Now, you'd think seeing moronic and narrow-minded politicians getting perforated by machine-gun fire would make you laugh -- but honestly, I found this to be alarmingly disturbing.

Despite the setback at the Capitol building, the American army regroups, counter-attacks, and cleans out the city. Democracy is safe ... for now. As the Chiefs of Staff consult with the President, they receive word from the Governor of Illinois, who asks for protection, saying the enemy demands his surrender or they'll A-bomb his state's largest cities. When the President asks if they can help, a General solemnly shakes his head no ... Back in the besieged New York City, Hopper is still broadcasting, watching and reporting on civilians turned guerilla fighters taking it to the invaders. Saying he's never been more proud to be an American, even as one of his engineers warns the invaders have found their signal and have broken into the building, Potter keeps on broadcasting ... In her apartment, Carla listens, horrified, as Potter's broadcast is interrupted by gunfire. After a few tense moments of silence, a new voice comes on, spewing the new American manifesto of living life as a happy little Bolshevik. When she shuts the radio off, there's a knock at the door before two enemy soldiers bust in, dragging what's left of Potter behind them. (I assume the studio is across the hall?!)

She can't believe he's still alive, but Potter warns it's only because they want him to broadcast their propaganda. Seems he bluffed his way to seeing Carla first before agreeing  to cooperate. Now, when Potter tells the slovenly soldiers where the liquor cabinet is to buy them some time, the more sweaty one tells him no tricks or he'll kill them both before chugging some of that gud viskey! And so, taking the girl in his arms, when Potter pines if he could only live his life over again (-- a phrase I point out everyone has been saying right before they got plugged), Carla agrees with his unspoken sentiment. (So they're both goners, I guess.) Alas, the sweaty soldier interrupts them, wanting to share the joy of Vat 69 and to take a shot at Carla for some *ahem* fraternizing. As he tries to stop this, Potter is gunned down, and then the sweaty guy claims "You my voman now!" Fighting off his lecherous advances, Carla manages to slip away from his sticky grasp, and rather than giving herself over to the enemy, she throws herself out the window. And as she plummets several stories to her death, her body starts spinning -- and then the whole world starts spinning with her ... her body eventually dissolving into a pool of brandy.

The hell? Ah, man. Don't tell me this was all a dream?!? Boo! Hiss! Bad Movie!! Bad! Bad! Bad!

When the camera zooms out, we see everyone is still silently staring at Ohman's snifter. Watching this dumbfounded display, Tim snaps the side of a glass; it's chime snapping everyone out of their funk. Confused, everybody looks at everybody else, trying to regain their bearings. We also realize Ohman is no longer in the bar, and when Potter asks Tim who that guy really was, the bartender reveals he's a famed hypnotist and prognosticator. (In other words: a crummy Criswell wannabe just put the hypno-whammy on all these susceptible cretins!) While Potter and the others are mystified, Tim grumps that Ohman left without paying his tab and calls him a phony. But then Ohman reappears, denying those allegations (-- I'm thinking he was in the john. Now make them cluck like a bunch of chickens!), and warns that these visions of the future could really happen -- unless we all do something about it. And to do this will require some changes and sacrifices, but together, we can make a difference and keep those damnable Commies where they belong. With that, one by one, each member of our morality play peels out of the bar: Harroway heads back to Congress to raise our taxes; Sylvester heads back to San Francisco to get to work on those three tanks; and the film ends as Potter promises to show Carla the way to the nearest blood bank because those that bleed together, stay together.

And remember, as George Washington once said: "To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual ways to maintain the peace." 

Amen, brother. Praise the Lord and pass an A-Bomb!

The End

I think somebody summed it up best when they said Invasion USA is about 50% stock military footage, 20% fake newscasts to explain that nonsensical stock footage, 15% rabidly anti-Commie propaganda, 10% not so special-effects, 4% forced and inappropriate romantic subplot, and 1% Lois Lane, as the two actresses who portrayed the character on the old Superman TV show are both present and accounted for. Director Alfred Green and editor Don Hayes actually do a pretty good job of meshing all of that together, but it really falls apart during the romantic interludes between Mohr and Castle. Where else could a guy get away with pick-up lines like that? And all of them spoken with such a ham-fisted delivery that they will have you on the floor, gasping for air.

Still, Mohr and Castle are genre veterans and total gamers. Mohr is a likeable hero who barely survived his trip to The Angry Red Planet, and would go on to terrorize his soon to be wife in My World Dies Screaming. Castle, meanwhile, was last seen fighting off a bunch of giant grasshoppers with Peter Graves, preventing The Beginning of the End. O'Herlihy is awful young here, but it's still the same guy who eventually told Robocop "Nice shooting, son" after he blew Ronnie Cox away. And producer Albert Zugsmith was all over the cinematic map. E'yup, the same man who gave us Touch of Evil and Written on the Wind also gave us this, the rocket-bra inspired bad girl adventures of Sex Kittens Go to College and Girl's Town, and the oddities of all oddities, Confessions of an Opium Eater, where action-hero Vincent Price fights and puffs his way through Chinatown to prevent a forced bridal auction.

Released for it's 50th Anniversary on DVD, Synapses' Invasion USA disc has a couple of great audio bonus features that are a real treat for your ears. Produced by a company who manufactured pre-fabricated bomb shelters, "If the Bomb Falls" is high on the scare tactics while showing us how to survive an atomic attack, but the narrator is so blasé about the end of the world that you'll listen with mouth agape. The second audio feature is a gruesome little number called "The Complacent American" -- where a ghost recounts how his city went up in flames when the H-bomb dropped, giving us a first person point of view of the sirens sounding, not knowing what to do, the actual bomb falling, and the blinding flash and blast wave impact that killed him. Sure, the narrator is a little over-melodramatic, but the sound-effects of people screaming as their skin burns and sizzles actually gave me goose-bumps. But the extra feature highlight has got to be the inclusion of Jack L. Warner’s infamous short, Red Nightmare, where Jack Webb narrates the story of Jack Kelly (Bart Maverick!), who goes to bed in the suburbs but wakes up to a nightmare of Communist oppression. This little piece of paranoia is worth the price of the DVD alone, and I'd go into more detail but I'm gonna save it for a review all by itself.

Getting back to the Red-Scare nonsense, I think we can learn a lot from our parents and grandparents who lived [and ducked and covered] through the height of Cold War, where the world could have ended at any moment. Meaning they can teach us how to deal with our current situation, where the danger of a terrorist attack looms around every breaking news update, or whenever some moronic lab-tech misplaces a beaker full of the bubonic plague. For you see, there never were any Reds under the beds. And sometimes a seed pod is just a seed pod. Luckily, the Atomic Armageddon never came to pass. Yes, some of these new threats that we face are real and we should be wary. We should also be wary that sometimes figures are fudged, results are tweaked, and situations are exaggerated to justify a budget, sell you a gas mask, boost ratings, or sell you tickets to a movie.

Invasion, U.S.A. (1952) American Pictures :: Columbia Pictures / EP: Joseph Justman / P: Albert Zugsmith, Robert Smith / AP: Peter Miller / D: Alfred E. Green / W: Robert Smith / C: John L. Russell / E: W. Donn Hayes / M: Albert Glasser / S: Gerald Mohr, Peggie Castle, Robert Bice, Tom Kennedy, Wade Crosby, Erik Blythe, Dan O’Herlihy

Posted: 01/21/03 :: Rehashed: 12/14/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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