Halloween is creeping up in the next week and I’m trying to get the best horror-tinged movies reviewed (although I’m thinking of expanding out to the 1st). Today’s movie is a Warner Archive sci-fi/domestic horror film – if that terms never been coined before I’m doing so now. I Married a Monster From Outer Space is a misnomer because we’re not dealing with monsters, but aliens. If you can get over the subpar acting, the move skirts the Production Code boundaries in its exploration of marriage through the eyes of an alien invasion. A surprising treat you should sit down and experience for yourself!
Bill and Marge Farrell (Tom Tryon and Gloria Talbott) are newlyweds, but Marge notices after their wedding night that Bill isn’t the same man he once was. As Bill becomes further estranged, Marge comes to believe a race of aliens are inhabiting the local men.
Released at the peak of the sci-fi craze, I Married a Monster From Outer Space comprises the basic tenets of the 1950s sci-fi craze, but uniquely tells the story from a female perspective. The heart of the movie lies in Bill’s change post-wedding (he’s been turned before their wedding, but Marge is unaware until after they’ve walked down the aisle). Preceding their wedding, the gang of men are assembled at a bar for a makeshift bachelor party. The consensus amongst all the married men is marriage is a death sentence and Bill will be miserable after he ties the knot. To keep things “balanced,” we see two single women talking about how married men don’t look at them, and if they can “overlook” the men being married said men should be into them. The world created is one where marriage has become a curse and/or unimportant to relationships. Once Bill and the other men are turned, the implication is marriage changes men, turning them into automatons whose sole purpose is breeding and the continuation of their lineage. When Bill discusses the destruction of his alien planet, the goal is to repopulate and keep the bloodline going.
I’ve never seen this angle presented within science-fiction, but it poses several interesting thoughts and conclusions. Is the movie commenting on the various changes affecting men through marriage; the belief they’re saddled with one woman forever; that they’ll be changed to please their ladies and thus lose their identity and masculinity? A key character in the film is Marge’s obstetrician, who you assume is an alien. Marge wants children, and by her going to see the doctor the movie never hides – while never mentioning – that the couple is having sex. When the doc reveals Marge is fine, the finger’s pointed at Bill; he is less of a man – and the aliens are less of a race – because they have no potency or virility on Earth. You gotta admit, this is racy subject matter! As with all sci-fi tales, the movie is a conflict between science and law, with science winning out and saving the day. Ultimately, though, is the moral of the story never get married? The opening is just the beginning, as various times throughout the men seem to substitute the word “women” for “human beings” indicting women are becoming too dominant within marriage.
The movie is rather abrupt in how events play out. There’s no scenes between Marge and Bill, pre-wedding, so we only have Marge’s word that Bill was perfect; for all we know his yelling and estrangement could have been building up for years in their relationship. Funnily enough, Marge is the only woman who takes note of her husband’s change in demeanor, and his reactions could be chalked up to a couple becoming complacent within their union and letting their true colors out. Of course, this changes once Bill kills the family puppy, an act Marge is a bit too comfortable with. I guess she was just relieved he didn’t kill the dog with a hammer as he originally planned.
It wouldn’t be a 1950s sci-fi film without cheesy acting and effects. Gloria Talbott’s Marge is cute as a button. She’s the girl next door who wants what every 1950s housewife wants, so damn those aliens for ruining her ability to buy appliances! When the movie enters Invasion of the Body Snatchers territory, with Marge attempting to alert the authorities, it’s great that the plot would be no different if it was a man. I was hoping she might run into Miles from Body Snatchers and take up with him! Bill Tryon is her supposed “better half” and suffice it to say he’s the weak link. His expressions inspire laughs which isn’t the reaction you want when your character is meant to be in agonizing pain. He’s a buff Michael Rennie minus the intellectual complexity. Their relationship is believable, which is necessary to convey a relationship at all. The actual aliens are funny, and the various smoke/splice effects are dated but far from terrible.
It isn’t often you find a 1950s science-fiction film with something new to say. I Married a Monster From Outer Space is a thought-provoking analysis of 1950s relationships and gender dynamics swathed in an alien invasion thriller. The acting is dated and exaggerated, but the movie isn’t shy to tell audiences what couples are doing, and distill their experiences into a plot that distances the audience whilst harping on things all too common to them.
You can purchase the movie via Warner Archive
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A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.