Teenagers from Outer Space (1959)

“We are the angel mutants
The streets for us seduction
Our cause unjust and ancient
In this B film born invasion”

The Misfits, “Teenagers from Mars”

Teenagers from Outer Space was written, produced and directed* by its star Tom Graeff, who sold the movie to Warner Brothers and made no money from it. It did play a double bill with Gigantis the Fire Monster, which is really Godzilla Raids Again.

Shortly after making this movie, Graeff decided to change his name to Jesus Christ II, saying that God had shown him truth and love. In his second — His second? — ad in the Los Angeles Times, Graeff even listed semons at churches. However, when he applied to have his name legally changed, the Christian Defense League fought to keep that from happening. He also took out an ad in Variety in 1968 claiming that he’d sold a screenplay for more than anyone in the history of movies. After the ad appeared, he was publicly attacked by LA Times columnist Joyce Haber. Graeff claimed that Robert Wise and Carl Reiner were part of this movie, so Haber outed him as Jesus Christ II. Graeff’s career was over and a few years later, he would kill himself by carbon monoxide poisoning.

It also turned out that Graeff and David Love, who played Derek the alien in this, were lovers in a time where that could destroy careers.

This is somehow a movie about Thor — producer Bryan Grant, who had to sue to get his money for this film — searching for Gargons, a lobster creature that’s a delicacy across the galaxy. He also likes to shoot lasers at dogs. Meanwhile, the alien teen Derek, a member of the underground, escapes and runs wild on Earth.

This is the very definition of a movie made on a budget. Masking tape is used as costume decorations on surplus military uniforms for the aliens, while stock footage takes the place of special effects. The same skeleton is used for every dead body, a toy laser gun and a sound mixer — clearly labeled as a multichannel mixer — shows up as alien equipment and all of the music used comes from library cues. You’ll recognize it from other low budget films like Red Zone CubaThe Killer Shrews and Night of the Living Dead.

Yet Graeff was kind of a genius, as he invented a process called Cinemagraph that allowed him to pre-recorded some of the film’s dialog for several scenes and synch it with the actors reading their lines later.

Sadly, the stress of making this film, its failure and the dissolution of his friendship with the producer caused his decline.

*He also did the cinematography, special effects, and music coordination.

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