After a decade-long stint as an underground cartoonist (where he worked with the likes of R. Crumb), Baltimore native Don Dohler started the DIY cinema fanzine Cinemagic, a periodical that inspired scores of wannabe filmmakers to produce and direct their own B-movies. Special effects man Tom Sullivan, for instance, once said that he couldn’t have pulled off the effects in the first Evil Dead without the knowledge imparted to him in the pages of Dohler’s magainze. (On the other side of that coin, Dohler also inspired fellow Baltimore native Tony Malanowski, now regarded by those in the know as one of the worst directors of all time.)
Dohler eventually sold his magazine to Starlog and set about on a Z-grade directing career of his own. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, he made several no-budget films, nearly all of which had plots that were simply variations on each other. The Alien Factor, Nightbeast, and The Galaxy Invader all centered around a spaceship crashing in a remote backwoods town, with its alien occupant(s) then embarking on a killing spree and picking off all the frightened local yokels.
The Galaxy Invader is easily the worst of the three, and if you can’t tell that from the number of occurrences of the last name “Dohler” in the opening credits, then the very first frame makes it readily apparent. In the opening scene, a fireball crashes in the woods of a small town, and it’s obviously a cartoon fireball that’s been drawn on the film.
The only one to witness the crash is a high school kid named David. He pulls his car over on the side of the road (despite not looking anywhere near old enough to drive) and calls up his old science teacher Dr. Tracy, a UFO buff. Dr. Tracy tells David to wait there and he’ll meet up with him as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, we get a Monster-Cam POV shot as a hatch slides open. There’s heavy Vader-esque breathing as the POV stumbles through the woods.
Cut to a couple having breakfast. They hear strange noises coming from the basement, and like the good little horror movie fodder that they are, they take it upon themselves to investigate. They come face to face with the Galaxy Invader, a poor man’s Gorn, essentially a guy in a green scaly rubber suit with a skull-like mask. It isn’t long before the couple both experience death by swatting. And of course, neither one of them is ever mentioned again.
Soon, it’s dawn and Dr. Tracy is meeting up with David. What, was David just standing next to his car all night? Dr. Tracy says he checked with his “scientific sources” and confirmed David’s story. “Something with an unusual mass did come down!” So why is he the only one investigating it? Regardless, the two set off into the woods in search of the crashed UFO.
Next, a family of rednecks has breakfast together. Hilariously, none of the family members bear the slightest resemblance to one other, and this includes not even sharing a single accent. Joe is the crazy redneck dad, and he’s played by Richard Ruxton (seen not long before this in Tony Malanowski’s Curse of the Screaming Dead AKA Curse of the Cannibal Confederates as the sheriff that babbled on and on about a “hank of rope”). Joe wears the same white wife-beater t-shirt all throughout the entire movie. (The only reason we know it’s the same shirt is because it has a very large hole ripped out of the chest.)
Joe gets into an argument with his daughter, who actually has a Long Island, Amy Fisher-type accent. Joe berates her choice of boyfriend, so she storms out of the house. The dad angrily goes after his daughter with a rifle, so you can tell this family unit has a few issues to work through.
But Joe and his daughter both forget their argument when they spot the Galaxy Invader. As most people would do when observing a strange, wondrous new life form, Joe takes a shot at it. The Galaxy Invader just runs away (way to live up to your name, dude), but he leaves behind a flickering papier-mache sphere.
Joe takes it back home, and as you’d expect, the first thing he and his son do is poke it with a sharp stick. Joe invites his redneck buddy Frank to come over and have a look-see, and it turns out that when it’s poked in just the right way, the sphere smokes and sparks, and a red filter gets applied to the camera. For some reason, Joe automatically assumes the pulsating sphere is worth a lot of money.
Frank decides capturing the alien alive would be worth even more money, and no one seems to question this logic. So Frank and Joe head down to the local pub, looking for a few good ol’ boys to come hunting with them later that night. Frank declares, “We’s onto somethin’ big!” So several men immediately sign up, and even explain their reasoning with statements like, “I’ll go with ya! Ain’t got nothin’ planned tonight anyway!” or “Better’n staying home with my old lady!”
Meanwhile, David and Dr. Tracy are still searching the woods for the UFO. There’s no sign of it, so the good doctor and his young companion head for that same local pub. There, they overhear Frank’s girlfriend Vickie drunkenly telling everyone about Joe and Frank’s plans. Dr. Tracy deduces that this must be related to the UFO crash, and asks David if he can get Vickie to come over. And David, bless his little heart, actually turns in Vickie’s direction and yells, “Hey Vickie! Come here!” Well, you can’t say he doesn’t get the job done.
Vickie eagerly blurts out that Frank and Joe and the guys are out hunting a “spaceman”. Dr. Tracy is appalled that they want to hunt and capture the alien, so he asks David to take him out to Joe’s place immediately.
Speaking of Joe’s place, that’s where the posse is currently gathering. Joe and Frank finally explain that they’re looking for an alien, and amazingly, all the guys have no trouble believing this story. This is even despite Frank holding a can of Budweiser and Joe drinking straight out of a bottle of Southern Comfort. Remember, kids, hunting and whiskey do not mix.
So the boys wander around the woods for a long time in completely washed out, hazy nighttime footage, until they finally stumble across the Galaxy Invader. The creature pulls out a ray gun, and a shootout breaks out. Despite his supposedly sophisticated technology, it takes the Invader quite a while to blow away a few of the redneck guys. Perhaps this is due to the fact that his ray gun only shoots out what appear to be bottle rockets. You know, I have to wonder if the guy’s really up to invading any galaxies at this point. Perhaps he should start smaller, but then again, I suppose the movie Podunk Invader wouldn’t have gotten many rentals.
David and Dr. Tracy secretly observe the whole thing, and David wonders why the creature is shooting at the men. Dr. Tracy sagely declares, “It must have been provoked, David!” And going forward, the Galaxy Invader is depicted as a misunderstood creature who simply wants to find a way back home. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to sympathize with his plight after watching him casually murder that couple in the opening sequence. It’s kind of like E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial opening with E.T. murdering people in cold blood.
But it seems the Galaxy Invader’s true weakness is rope, because a few of the men spring up behind him and ensnare him in a homemade net. Dr. Tracy keenly notes, “The greatest scientific event in the history of the world is being lassoed by a bunch of rednecks!”
Frank and Joe take the creature back to Joe’s house, but David and Dr. Tracy break into the garage and free the alien. The Galaxy Invader is back on the loose, but oh no, he’s left behind his ray gun and glowing sphere! If he went back to his home planet without those, he’d be the laughing stock of the whole galaxy!
Joe’s family tries to convince Joe to give the weapon back, but Joe is drunk on all that bottle rocket power. So drunk in fact, that when Vickie comes around looking for Frank, Joe asks her for a kiss and then jumps on her. Vickie fights him off and runs away, so he shoots her in the back with the ray gun and kills her. I guess some guys don’t take rejection all that well.
But Joe’s family has formulated a plan: They’ll wait until he’s passed out drunk to get the ray gun away from him. And considering who we’re talking about, they shouldn’t have to wait more than twenty minutes for the opportunity to execute that plan.
They succeed in returning the weapon to the Galaxy Invader, but Joe shows up and angrily kills the creature. Then they’re all standing on the edge of a cliff (in Baltimore?), and Joe, in a rage, is about to kill his daughter’s boyfriend. So Joe’s wife picks up a very large branch, tees up Joe’s head like a golf ball, and swings away. And the best part here is that the clip of the wife swinging the branch is played in slow motion, and repeated from about four different angles.
Then the movie tops itself when Joe goes flying over the cliff, and he’s transformed into a really obvious rag doll. And in case you’re not absolutely sure it’s a rag doll, Dohler replays this clip in slow motion from multiple angles, too. Anyway, Joe’s dead, and the Galaxy Invader’s dead. The end.
You know, the terrible acting and bad editing and discolored Super 8 photography probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much, if not for all the padding. When the boys are looking for the creature in the woods, we get dark and murky footage that goes on forever. At one point in the film, Joe wanders drunkenly around his house looking for his family, and this scene goes on for at least a few minutes. And there’s also a really pointless scene where the Long Island daughter strolls around the house in the middle of the night, only to be terrified by the Galaxy Invader putting a scaly hand on her shoulder. She screams and the alien runs off, and that’s the end of the scene. I swear, do filmmakers think we’re so dumb that we don’t know obvious filler when we see it? I was almost tempted to like this movie, but the constant padding sinks it like a stone.
Probably the only reason this movie gets mentioned at all these days is because it was randomly edited into an even worse movie, one that was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. If you’re wondering about the movie shown behind the opening credits of Pod People, it’s Galaxy Invader. So this movie was useful for something, after all. Thanks to Galaxy Invader, another movie was able to pointlessly pad out its running time!