In search of ‘Invasion Siniestra’

Detail from a movie poster for Boris Karloff's final film, "Invasion Siniestra."

Some day, my dream will come true: To again watch “Invasion Siniestra,” the (very) last film of Boris Karloff, filmed in 1968 and released in 1971 in Mexico.

It was one of four films the old master made within a five-week marathon for a Mexican company; Karloff’s scenes were shot at Dored Studios, a reportedly shabby facility in Los Angeles. The films were (thankfully) finished in Mexico.

I saw the English dub of “Invasion Siniestra” once or twice in the ’80s, when it was released on VHS as “Alien Terror” (a movie title of the type that didn’t exist in Karloff’s time). Y’see, in those days, we used to “rent” movies from “video clubs.” (FYI, the English working title was “The Incredible Invasion.” Thanks, Forry Ackerman and Bill Warren, for your intrepid reporting on this important matter.)

Anyway, here are some telling clips I found. Be warned that Karloff’s mellifluous voice is not heard in the Spanish clips.

First, an exhausted-looking Karloff — this was the end of a 50-year movie career, folks — speaks with gendarmes wearing vintage garb — obviously, this is a period piece — on a grimy set I seem to recognize from “The Snake People”:

Next up is a clip that hints at the psycho-sexual overtones that visited these surprisingly modern films, which Karloff likely knew nothing about. This one has Yerye Beirute, who was also seen with Karloff in “Fear Chamber” and as a Renfield type in the black-and-white Mexi-classic “The Vampire’s Coffin” (1958), opposite the great German Robles as fangy Count LaVud. But I digress. Here’s the (Karloff-less) clip:

Below are the opening credits. The picture is blurry and the audio is horrific, which just makes you want to see it all the more. And boy, oh boy, do they exploit Karloff’s image in these credits. Check it out:

Finally, some scenes from “Alien Terror” (which I prefer to call “The Incredible Invasion”) are seen in the following trailer for a double-feature home-video release. I love how the narrator says the films feature “two of his most terrifying performances yet.” Yet? That’s pretty funny, considering that “Incredible Invasion” was Karloff’s final film.

You’d think I’d be able tofind the movie with the click of a mouse and a ready credit card. But I can’t seem to find it on DVD — certainly not Blu-ray. However, I just spied the very VHS version I rented in the ’80s, and it has a surprisingly detailed synopsis, which I’ll share with only a bit of cleaning up:

In 19th-century Europe, Prof. Mayer (Karloff) perfects an atomic ray machine, an early example of nuclear fusion. Aliens find out about it, and send a spaceship down to destroy the technology before it runs amok. They take over the mind of a local serial killer, Thomas (Yerve Beirute), as well as Prof. Mayer’s, and the alien-controlled pair start then begin their plans to destroy the whole town via an explosion of the machine. The trouble is, even under alien control, poor Thomas gets very distracted unless he kills women on a regular basis. So the head alien (Sergio Klein) has to keep sending him fresh women to murder, including his own girlfriend (Tere Valez). Attractive Christine Linder is Mayer’s daughter, Laura. Enrique Guzman plays her smug scientist boyfriend, and Maura Monti is Mayer’s buxom, hideously scarred assistant. All the girls have to tangle with the homicidal Thomas sooner or later, as the irate villagers start closing in, and the aliens get ready to make their move. This Mexican-English production was one of Karloff’s last films.

Wrong on that last point. It was the last Karloff film. And, um, the head alien sacrificed his own girlfriend? That sounds weird, but again, the Mexican Karloffs were weird.

In the meantime, hopeless romantic that I am, I’ll watch these clips and wonder and yearn.

Read my musings on the other three Mexican Karloffs HERE — hopefully not at midnight tomorrow.

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