THE ALIEN FACTOR (1978) Blu Ray Limited SIGNED Edition (Retromedia) only 1,000 (signed by actor George Stover) color 1980 80 minutes. Anamorphic, Color, Widescreen $19.99
From the 1960’s through the 80s, you could actually go to the theatre and see films that were shot independently by regional moviemakers. Some could be eerie classics like CARNIVAL OF SOULS (Herts-Lion,1962) from Lawrence Kansas, and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (Image 10/Continental,1968) from Pittsburgh, Pa; and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (Bryanston ,1974) from Round Rock, Texas. Others were not so impressive like THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION (Group 1,1975) from Merrill Wisconsin or GURU THE MAD MONK (Wm Mishkin ,1970) from New York.
A film that kind of falls in the middle ground is THE ALIEN FACTOR (Cinemagic Visual Effects 1978) from Perry Hill, Maryland. Quite ambitious (several varied extraterrestrial creatures from space terrorize a small Maryland town), the subject stretches way past it’s tiny budget. It does succeed, however, in being quite entertaining, though sometimes not in the way it expected.
The acting, to be charitable, is often of the mumble or shout “look at me-acting “school. That is due to the bugaboo of many a low budget films, using non actors in roles. Often crew members stepped before the lens to be vanquished by one of the monsters before stepping safely back behind the camera. Plus, Don Dohler had no experience in directing (save for some Super 8 monster films) and so was unable to tamper or balance the performance. Having written the script as well, he was unable to hear the clumsy dialog often given to his performers (“Jack-stick it out” often is greeted with laughs due to its double entendre nature).
Where the film does shine is in its special effects. From the opening title on *we are treated to both optical effects as well as stop motion, perspective miniatures, and several monster suits and a victim of progeria (though how they felt the victim, who looks like a werewolf who has gone green, suffered from a disease that causes the appearance of rapid aging is amazing to me). The creatures work with various degrees of success (a basement reveal of one is an actual effective jump scare), though the longer that they are on camera the easier it is to find flaws, especially as they are often out in snow exteriors during the day.
The film became a regular on television syndication due to the success of STAR WARS (Fox,1977). Gold Key Entertainment, anxious to cash in on the new sci fi craze, bought distribution rights to anything that might fall into that category. The package included DARK STAR (Bryanston ,1974), FANTASTIC INVASION OF PLANET EARTH (aka THE BUBBLE, Arch Oboler Productions, 1966) and many more. Here is the press video sent out to various markets to sell the package to the local tv stations https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nagBkBZ2a98&feature=youtu.be .
Plus, at the same time, the burgeoning video market saw the film become a staple at video stores from VCI and MEDIA (MEDIA having been found in 1978 by filmmaker Charles Band). RETROMEDIA picked up the DVD rights in 2002, and then in 2005 it was released with FIEND as a co bill. The co-bill release had an audio commentary by George Stover, as well as a blooper reel (as well as a FIEND blooper reel) and photo gallery. In 2011, Mill Creek Enertainment somehow added the film to a 50 (!) film 12-disc set called SCI-FI INVASION, with very low quality prints and no extras.
For this new BLU RAY release, RETROMEDIA didn’t just reissue their previous release, but went all out and found an original print, cleaned it up and gave it a new 2K HD WIDESCREEN scan from the 16mm negative.
What results is an amazingly sharp print.
Having only seen the film in boxy and grainy tv and video prints, I was astonished to see how really clean and sharp a lot of the photography is. The film was shot in 16mm and blown up to 35mm, which probably accounted for the grain and poor lab work the muddy colors that were previously the only ones available. However, the sharper images also reveals a few more of the flaws, such as the small openings in the eyes of the Alien Pilot (who resembles a George Pal Morlock in a track suit).
Rather than just port over the previous commentary, George Stover recorded comments from the cast and crew who were scattered all over the country and edited them into the appropriate sequences, as well as adding his own insights and bios of those who were involved that are no longer with us.
Other extras include a
– “Behind The Scenes “Featurette-George Stover showing some of the original props as well as the painting used for the video cover, as well as showing that an acetate of an alien was placed over a screaming woman depicted, as it was felt that she looked too cartoonish.
– ‘Alien Factor Reunion” -home video recording of the cast and crew at a local convention, though director Don Dohler was unable to attend. You get to see how truly funny the late actor Don Liefert was in his recollections.
Ported over from the previous 2005 Retromedia release are
This release is limited to only 1000 copies and previous RETROMEDIA releases (like BIOHAZARD ,21st Century ;1985) that have gone out of print are now fetching at least three times the original cost, so definitely grab this title for your collection quickly.
And the recent DVD release NO STOPPING THE STOVER (Alpha New Cinema ,2016, to be reviewed shortly)
–Kevin G Shinnick