Teenagers from Outer Space is an independent “1959 Science Fiction film about an extraterrestrial space ship landing on Earth to use it as a farm for its food supply”. This movie was made on a teeny, tiny, shoestring budget of less than $20,000, most of which was ponied up by some of the actors and actresses themselves. Two of the performers later sued to get back their investment and a percentage of the profits. The judge gave them their original $5,000 back but ruled there were no profits to divvy up.
Thomas Lockyear Graeff (September 12, 1929 – December 19, 1970) wrote, directed, produced, and edited Teenagers from Outer Space. He also “provided cinematography, special effects, and music coordination” although the actual music was just stock stuff that has been used in several other movies. He also played the part of Joe Rogers, the reporter friend of the movie’s heroine. Graeff even managed to find the location that was used as the heroine’s home by posing as a college student looking for housing. He also talked the homeowner into letting the film crew use her electricity to power all their equipment.
But poor Tom Graeff was stressed out by all his hard work followed by the disappointing failure of Teenagers from Outer Space at the box office. Later in the year he suffered a breakdown and placed an ad in the Los Angeles Times proclaiming himself Jesus Christ II. He tried to have his name legally changed to Jesus Christ II and fought with a religious group who opposed him. He was arrested for causing a ruckus during a church service. Tom Graeff fled Hollywood for a while then returned to work in film. But his problems persisted. He advertised a screenplay for sale for the then outrageous sky-high price of $500,000 (the record at the time was a mere $400,000) and got into a war of words with a LA Times columnist. The columnist won when he exposed Graeff as Jesus Christ II. Graeff fled Hollywood for a final time and a few years later, at age 41, committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage.
|Derek the alien vs Joe the reporter|
But Tom Graeff’s problems persisted even after his death. For more than 25 years following his death there was confusion about who, exactly, Thomas Lockyear Graeff was. Nearly everyone appeared to believe he was actually Charles Robert Kaltenthaler aka David Love aka Derek the hero of our movie Teenagers from Outer Space. But how could Tom Graeff used the name Tom Lockyear to play Joe the reporter in our movie. How could Tom Graeff be both David Love as Derek and Tom Lockyear as Joe the reporter? A 1993 magazine interview with two of the performers from our movie revealed that Tom Graeff and David Love were really two individual people and that they had been romantically involved during filming. I admit I take this info with a grain of salt since the two who divulged it were the same two who sued Tom Graeff for the return of their investment years earlier and they seem to have a long running grudge against their former friend.
Yet more confusion swirled about Teenagers from Outer Space over the years. Dawn Anderson aka former child actress Dawn Bender aka Betty our movie heroine was long thought to be dead from alcohol poisoning. But, as of 2010, she is actually still alive. David Love aka our hero Derek only made two movies, and Teenagers was his last, before he disappeared from Hollywood.
While many critics were not kind to Teenagers from Outer Space, long suffering Tom Graeff was actually “applauded in some publications as a director with talent and a creative approach to a minimal budget”. But some of that “creative approach” makes for sheer silliness:
- The outfits worn by Derek and his fellow aliens are simply old flight suits decorated with masking tape.
- Their helmets are old US Air Force helmets.
- The space boots our super cheapo aliens favor are nothing more then men’s dress shoes with white socks pulled over them.
- Dime store toy cap guns (specifically “Hubley’s Atomic Disintegrator” and really only costing a dime at the time but costing $113 – $895 on eBay now) with an added flashlight bulb act as the alien “focusing disintegrator” ray guns.
- One piece of alien equipment seen early in the movie is really an old mixing device called a “Multichannel Mixer MCM-2” and it says so right in plain sight on the so-called alien machine.
- The same bolted-joint skeleton is used as a stand in for every dead human body in the movie and no one bothered to remove the hook-thingie on the top of the skull or to cover up the identification markings on the hip.
- The movie could not afford to create alien monster gorgon special effects so they just filmed the shadow of a normal sized lobster and enlarged the shadow to be the monstrous alien gorgon.
- At least part of the movie is supposed to take place at night as you can easily tell by various things the actors say (such as “When it gets light…”) and the interiors of the cars later in the movie are dark but every single exterior shot is actually done in broad daylight.
- The movie also could not afford the special effects to show more than one alien space ship so the invading fleet at the end of the movie is never seen, just lots and lots of shots of people posing and looking up at the sky in horror.
Despite the silliness, Teenagers from Outer Space is really not a bad movie. I rather liked the Mr. Spock-like emotionlessness that our space hero Derek maintains for most of the movie (Spock was by far my favorite Original Star Trek character). And I positively loved the scenery-chewing snarling and sneering that our evil alien Thor dishes out at every opportunity. Really, I put Thor aka actor Bryan Grant’s scenery-chewing over-acting right up there (or is that “right down there”?) with some of the best. He’s so good at sneering that when he has to look ill and faint after getting shot later in the film he looks like a whole different person. I also rather liked heroine / love interest Betty aka Dawn Anderson. Her voice is kind of wimpy-strange but she has a nice dainty lankiness and, while she is limited to just being a hapless damsel in distress, she at least does a decent job of it.
Here are a few of my favorite lines from Teenagers from Outer Space:
- A dour astronomer foreshadows events to come, “It makes me realize how desperately alone the Earth is. Hanging in space like a speck of food floating in the ocean. Sooner or later to be swallowed up by some creature floating by.”
- Derek tries to stop his cohorts’ plans, “Wait, Captain. I have found evidence of intelligent beings on this planet.” Thor does not care in the least, “Of what concern are foreign beings?” Derek responds, “Of none to you, Thor. Just as you were so unconcerned when you destroyed this small creature (Sparky the dog) so bravely.”
- Derek learns to drive, “I have never piloted a vehicle like this before. I will try again.”
- Derek has a big question, “You are not familiar with the focusing disintegrator ray?” “The what?” asks Betty.
- Joe the reporter is baffled by the killings, “You know, I don’t get this guy. Animals of humans. He just seems to like killing.” The plains clothes police officer responds, “There’s more to it than that, Joe. There’s something beyond this…. Something we don’t understand. That weapon he uses, it’s unheard of. Blasting flesh right off the bone.”
- The nurse is glad to have escaped, “Oh, thank heavens it’s over. It was like a nightmare.” Joe has doubts, “I wish it was over.” “What do you mean?” Joe explains, “Back in the cave where he shot at me. Some kind of man-eating monster. Poor Mac – The guy I was with. I could hear the thing tearing him apart. He was dead in a few seconds.” The nurse is shocked, “Oh how horrible! What could it have been?” Joe responds, “I don’t know. But whatever it is, I’m afraid the nightmare’s just begun.”
- Betty wonders about the alien monster, “How big could it be now?” Derek responds, “There is no telling.”
- Derek expresses his feelings for Betty, “You make me angry. But I like you very much.”
- Betty wants Derek to stay on Earth, “You won’t be going back ever, will you?” Derek is absolutely certain, “I shall make the Earth my home. And I shall never, never leave it.”
Teenagers from Outer Space also does a nice job of galloping along and keeping up the thrills. It’s only 86 minutes long but it crams in a dead puppy dog, rivalry and rebellion among the aliens, an evil mass murdering alien running amuck, many skeletons popping up all over town, a dead girl in a bathing suit, multiple car chases, a shoot out between an alien and the cops on the steps of town hall, numerous kidnappings, a car crash, and the shadow of a gigantic alien monster doing its best to devour everything in sight.
There are some problems. While the audio quality is excellent the black and white video is often dark and sometimes blurry. Also the cheapo special effects of the alien monster shadow is very lame and looks ridiculous and does not hold up at all. Although I did think the primitive “ray guns” effects held up decently.
Of course, the best thing about Teenagers from Outer Space is that it is FREE in the Public Domain.
You can download / watch Teenagers from Outer Space at the Internet Archive. Internet Archive has several versions.
Please click this link to go to the most popular version of Teenagers from Outer Space with more than 100,000 views.
Please click this link to go to Teenagers from Outer Space version #2.
Please click this link to go to version #3.