Terror in the Midnight Sun
Monsters walk the earth in ravishing rampage of clawing fury!
Year of Release: 1959
Also Known As: Invasion of the Animal People
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 69 minutes (1:09)
Director: Virgil W. Vogel
Barbara Wilson ... Diane Wilson
Sten Gester ... Erik Engstrom
Robert Burton ... Dr. Frederick Wilson
Bengt Blomgren ... Col. Robert Bottiger
Ake Gronberg ... Dr. Henrik
Gosta Pruzelius ... Dr. Walter Ullman
Lars Ahren ... The Monster / An Alien / Tall Nightclub Soldier (uncredited)
A glowing white spaceship lands under the snow above the Arctic Circle in the Lapland region of Northern Sweden. Believing it to be an unusual meteor, a team of geologists race to the site just in time to be menaced by a giant, furry, monster-faced something-or-other that looks like a drunken Chewbacca. The creature waddles around, wrecks a Lapp village, and makes like a puppy dog in heat for American figure skating champion Barbara Wilson. Carrying the gal in its hairy arms, the beast takes Wilson to the spacecraft where she has a close encounter with the spacecraft's alien inhabitants...
Terror in the Midnight Sun, remindin' us that Socialism means every man, woman, and child can shower every day. But only for 20 seconds.
Before we get into the flick, though, I wanna take a minute to address all the calls I been gettin' about the brush with death we had last week. It's times like these that make ya stop and realize how fleetin' life is, and how important it is to make sure your loved ones understand what they mean to ya. But to put everyone's mind at ease, I'm happy to announce that, after hours of delicate, experimental surgery, Shankles is gonna be just fine.
I guess it never really occurred me to investigate the average life expectancy for a possum in Chickawalka County, but apparently, at the ripe old age of 5, Shankles' so old that he's gettin' a dozen marriage proposals a week from buxom, 6-month-old jills hopin' to inherit his estate when he croaks.
My initial concern started when his tail gave out on 'im last week while he was hangin' in the Christmas tree and he took a header into the stand. Actually, that happens pretty often, but this time he just kinda laid there dazed, like he was tryna remember the 88th digit of pi, instead of gettin' up and screamin' at his hinder like he usually does. What really worried me, though, was when Sadie Bonebreak came by to remove a fist fulla my hair for pointin' out the irony of 'er wife's dildo unboxing video on Youtube, and Shankles didn't even get up to root around in 'er shirt and get his customary chin scritches.
At that point I'd seen enough, so as soon as my scalp stopped bleedin' I called up Chickawalka Peterinary Care and made an appointment to see Mork Woolery. Mork was waitin' in his protective catcher's gear when we got there, but all Shankles could muster was hikin' up his leg and blastin' a stream of possum whiz through the wiring on Mork's facemask and up his nose.
"Urine sample appears healthy," Mork mumbled as he wiped his face off on a surgical gown hangin' on the wall.
"He's lost his get-up-'n-go, Doc," I explained. "He barely eats, he's lethargic, and he's constantly got the look of a squinty-eyed, hungover frat pledge who has no idea where he just woke up."
Apparently, the closest thing Mork'd ever seen to this was that time Fannie Ogglesby's skunk, Stetson, ate a 6lb tin can fulla nacho cheese and was forced to attach a vacuum to his hinder to ungum his digestive tract, so he hadda leave the room to consult his medical texts.
"Bad news," he frowned as he handed me a printout from Wikipedia that read, "The rapid senescence of possums is thought to reflect the fact that they have few defenses against predators; given that they would have little prospect of living very long regardless, they are not under selective pressure to develop biochemical mechanisms to enable a long lifespan."
"So you're sayin' they just live fast and die young like British punk rockers?" I asked.
"Essentially," he affirmed as he examined Shankles' prone form. "The onset is unusually sudden in Shankles' case, but generally matches the pattern of--" mercifully the complete diatribe was cut short by a horrific shriek from Shankles as Mork pressed his fingertips onto the crown of his head.
"God damnit Mork, if I wanted him tortured I'da called Michael Vick!" I hollered before shovin' 'im against the wall. "What the hell'd you do to 'im?!" I demanded.
"Nothing! I was only checking for..." he whined just as he got that look Hugh Laurie always gets on House right before he walks out on whatever conversation he's in and goes to cure the patient with some completely insane treatment. Then he pulled out some weird gadget that apparently checks to make sure a critter's brain's inflated to the proper poundage and attached it to Shankles' coconut and shook his head.
"His brain's outgrown its pan," he declared.
"So his engine's still purrin', but his computer's fried?" I asked.
"Right. But he should be in tremendous pain. Why doesn't..."
"He's tougher'n a Duggar's vagina, Doc. One time I saw 'im stick his tail in the bug zapper while he was climbin' onto the patio roof, and all it did was give 'im Boris Johnson's haircut and a lousy attitude for the next two days," I expounded.
Mork chewed on that a minute or so and finally concluded that Shankles' lineage, through sheer tenacity and geographic separation from predators, had eliminated its biological need to defend against the usual pitfalls a possum would face, such as snake venom, and had instead begun diverting its evolutionary R&D towards expanding its lifespan. Unfortunately, Shankles' skeletal system hadn't gotten the memo, and the ever-so-small increase in brain mass was now pressing against his skull and threatening to hemorrhage.
"If we just had a way to protect his brain, I could remove a portion of his skull to relieve the--"
"You doctors're all book smarts and no imagination, ya know that?" I chided. "Didn't you ever see Silent Night, Deadly Night III?" I asked incredulously.
"After Part 2 included 30 minutes of recycled footage? No, I did not," he asserted.
"Alright, fair enough. Just Google it while I run down to Hammer Time Hardware and grab a couple things and be ready to go when I get back," I barked before boltin' out the door.
It's amazin' how fast you can get across town when you ignore all the stop signs and crosswalks, and pretty quick I had what we needed to save a life: a hot glue gun, and a clear plastic egg container outta the 25 cent toy machine, and within ten minutes I'd acquired the goods, got back to the clinic, and had Mork performin' life-savin' surgery. There were a coupla close calls caused by excessive glue runoff, but after two hours he was able to remove the skull's upper hemisphere with a dremel tool, glue the egg container onto the rim of the lower hemisphere, and transplant a small section of hide from Shankles' lower back onto his head to compensate for the slight increase in surface area.
Once the swelling goes down we're gonna hafta replace that plastic popemobile dome with somethin' more permanent, and Shankles' gonna hafta get used to havin' that ridiculous bulge on toppa his head, but at least he's still with us. Mork doesn't really know what Shankles' new life expectancy'll be, but I'm thinkin' about callin' up the Guinness people, 'cause frankly, I think the old crank's too stubborn to die.
I dunno what I'da done if we'd lost 'im. Apollo woulda been inconsolable, 'cause even though Shankles considers Apollo little more than a comfortable place to sleep on a good day, Apollo loves the mean ole booger like a brother. An angry, shrieking, dinner stealing brother. It just wouldn't be the same goin' into the bathroom every mornin' not seein' his groggy, droolin' little face hangin' upside down from the shower rod before work. In closing, I just wanna thank the Chickawalka Peterinary Clinic staff, Hammer Time Hardware, and especially Bill Moseley for keepin' my family together. You're all heroes as far as I'm concerned.
Alright, enough mushy stuff. I know you're all here to get the low-down on Sweden's contribution to the science fiction boom of the 1950s, and I'm right there with ya, 'cause Sweden doesn't really make a lotta our kinda movies that don't have the word "tramps" in the title. Actually, it was mostly made by Americans with a cast consisting primarily of Swedes, so it's prolly one of those movies that seems okay to an American, only it's rife with cultural malarky that makes it hysterical to an actual Swedish person - like when Claudio Fragasso made Troll 2 and it looked amazing to a crew of Italians. In other words, we've got ourselves a rare opportunity to learn about the Swedish film industry, as American-splained by a buncha guys who prolly spent mosta their time cozyin' up to ski bunnies while occasionally filmin' scenes for a movie. And while I'm sure you'll all find your own moments of international enlightenment, I'd like to share three of the things about the flick that really stood out to me. First, you can't go blamin' America for changin' a movie's title when it includes the words "Midnight Sun," but looks like it was lit with a Bic lighter. Over here a guy can get sued for false advertisin' pullin' a stunt like that. Second, it's hard to focus on slow dancin' when the music has subtitles. And third, the only thing separatin' this movie from a Tunguska documentary is a well-cushioned base layer of snow.
The movie begins in the Olga Steppe region of the Laplands of Sweden where a nuclear popcorn ball crash lands on an abandoned Viking reservation near Jormomkootsk and creates a national sensation two weeks later when the news is delivered to Stockholm by aspiring Olympic downhill skiers. So astounding is the news that an American who goes to the same barber as Joseph Stalin (Dr. Wilson) drives all the way to the Svensonian Institute to investigate as a personal favor to the king of Sweden, 'cause all the local science guys're suspicious about the way the supposed meteor left two-mile long skidmarks and suspect the whole story could be an elaborate ruse to disguise tracks left by an invading vanguard of Rooski dog sledders. Then Mannwhore Steamroller (Erik "I had no idea she was married" Engstrom) arrives late to the briefing from a debriefing that ran over budget and he and Wilson fly to a ski lodge in the Staakenbraaden Mountains and meet up with Wilson's daughter (Diane) who's there freezin' 'er nipples off perfectin' 'er figure skatin' routine in hopes of landin' a spot in the kickline for Snow Bunnies-a-Go-Go. Erik takes one look at Diane and decides he's gonna yo-de-lay-her-hoo, and so they go up on the slopes and grin at each other like they're filmin' a Colgate commercial and do some skiin' until he accidentally causes 'er to wipe out and she steals his skis. Then Erik loses three toes walkin' back to the lodge and joins everybody for dinner at the B-B-Q moose joint and he and Diane slow dance to Swedish Lounge music, until Dr. Wilson turns the lederhosen on 'em and drags 'em out into subzero temperatures to rendezvous with the National Gaard and examine a reindeer massacre at Santa's Village where they find footprints the size of a Tor Johnson snow angel.
Whatever it was, they don't wanna tangle with it until its had a chance to let its food settle, so they wait till mornin' and fly out to the crash site to examine the space pasta strainer they find stickin' outta the snowbank while the bald-headed alien pilot fumbles around inside the craft lookin' for his tire chains. Then Wilson and Erik start settin' up a slalom track with their emergency flags, only while they're doin' that the Furrning Torso comes along and turns the airplane pilot into a Svenson TV dinner and causes an avalanche that buries the plane up to its exhaust port. So now Erik and Diane hafta ski for help, 'cept before long she Sonny Bonos a helpless spruce tree and Erik hasta help 'er limp down the hill to a rescue station while one of the Swedish meatballs is back at camp gettin' too close to the intergalactic colander and ends up havin' his fat can phasered into glutefisk. Then Erik leaves Diane at the cabin and starts shooshin' back towards town, but once he's gone Diane hears somethin' stompin' around outside, and when she goes to look there's a 20' tall spacesquatch leerin' at 'er like he's plannin' a trip to the Chrysler Building. Erik hears 'er screamin' and comes back for 'er, only about that time the Iceman Cometh and causeth another avalanche that traps Erik inside the buildin', while Diane's knee compressor heals 'er up good as new and she no-sells the injury on a level rarely witnessed outside a Hulk Hogan cage match as she flees for dryer ground.
The next mornin', Wilson finds Erik at the cabin and explains that about an hour after he left some helpful Sherpas who'd taken their reindeer out for walkies happened by and helped 'em winch their plane outta the snow, but that nobody's been able to locate Diane since she was last seen runnin' towards the Finnish border like a buncha D&D nerds on their way to a Nighwish concert. Fortunately, Diane is able to keep 'er buns from freezin' by spoonin' up against a downed tree, 'cept when she wakes up, Chonky Kong's waitin' and he carries 'er back to the unidentified frozen object where three Nordic space druids scare 'er so bad that... well, let's just say she's gonna hafta be chiseled out of 'er drawers later. Then Wilson and Erik head over to the Sherpa Swede village to see if anybody's seen a 20' space yeti carryin' a figure skater and pretty quick the Andromedable Snowman shows up and trashes the place and pretty much shows everybody where they can stick their rugged individualism, till he gets bored and goes back to oglin' his Caribou Barbie. Needless to say, the Sherpas are P.O.'d, and having spotted a vulnerability in Dirty Hairy's personal defense system, they start lightin' torches like fine people at a confederate monument demonstration and go chargin' through the snow in search of revenge and Bigfoot back ribs. I'm not gonna spoil the endin' for ya, but I gotta say - if they're gonna try explainin' that the Wooly Bully was one of the space monkeys we sent up that never came back, or make *any* attempt at an epilogue, they'd better hurry it up, 'cause this flick's got about seven minutes left and we're no closer to understandin' diddly squatch.
So there ya have it - one of the best science fiction epics ever filmed in the Laplands of Sweden. 'Course it's the only science fiction epic ever filmed in Sweden, but credit where credit's due - it took a lotta guts to try combinin' The Thing from Another World and King Kong into somethin' intelligible. I guess with the American director and the American writer it was never gonna be all that different from any other science fiction flick of the '50s, but the one thing it does have goin' for it, that no American flick could've gotten away with in 1959, is the inclusion of a gratuitous shower scene. We hadn't even legalized the documentary loophole that allowed us to film chunky, middle-aged weirdos playin' shuffleboard inside nudist colonies by that time, so way to go Sweden. Unfortunately, once it made its way to America that scene hadda come out so we wouldn't all turn into rapists and start molestin' the drive-in ticket booth operator, but if you watch the American version that Jerry Warren put together two years later you won't hardly recognize it anyway. Jerry was one of those visionary types who could see what a runaway hit Mystery Science Theater would become decades later and dedicated several years of his life to makin' flicks they could riff on, and so for that reason, Jerry deserves a lotta credit for temporarily embarrassin' himself for the good of the world. Terror in the Midnight Sun, or Invasion of the Animal People, as it was retitled, never did make the MST3K cut, but it wasn't for a lack of tryin'. Jerry cut 24 minutes out of the original version, filmed 11 minutes of insert shots and narration with John Carradine, and sent that sucker out into American theaters with a 55 minute runtime. Impossible to say why, really, 'cause with the exception of Swedish accents that occasionally pronounce "v's" as "w's" like Chekov from Star Trek, you'd probably never even realize the movie wasn't American to begin with. Almost everyone speaks English, and the ones that don't have their dialogue translated for the benefit of the American characters, so it's not like Godzilla where the movie required dubbing for an American audience, but I've long since given up trying to understanding Jerry's thought process. Changing the title was also unfortunate, given that the movie is a very middle-of-the-road science fiction flick that's not good enough to be considered a classic, but *too* good to be rife for the riffing (Terror in the Midnight Sun sticks in the memory a whole lot better than Invasion of the Animal People). Either way, I'd suggest watching the Swedish version, ya know, given that there's literally no reason not to.
In short, there're far better, and far worse fates than finding Terror in the Midnight Sun on at 3 in the AM, so let's shovel this thing outta the snowbank of obscurity and see if there's anything worth defrosting. The plot takes too long to get moving, and there's a little too much focus on the romantic subplot (the unmistakable sign of a producer in denial about what he's making), but once the characters make it to Sherpa country it picks up alright. The thing about scripts like this one that leave so many unanswered questions is that a good segment of the population hate that. They want hard answers, or at the very least, some indicator or clue that may explain the movie's unresolved elements, and for them, this flick is gonna be especially hard to swallow given that you never find out a damn thing. You don't find out who the aliens were, where they were from, what they were doing, whether they released the spacesquatch on purpose, were hunting it, or whether it just escaped; nothing. The whole thing just peters out in an uninspiring fashion that would suggest it was unfinished if the rest of the movie wasn't reasonably well structured and coherent. So yeah, expect ratings ranging from complete garbage to pure genius depending upon the person giving them. The acting is decent, despite some infantilization of the female lead. She's still a bit more fleshed out (no pun intended) than a lot of female characters in early science fiction flicks, and the actress was downright gutsy for doing a nude scene in 1959 even considering few people would ever see it. Stan Gester is alright as the heroic manslut, Erik, as well, and the two seem to have decent chemistry together for a genre where chemistry was at a premium. The only thing the movie's missing is a quirky character actor that gets some serious screen time. Ake Gronberg seems like he's gonna fill this role early on in the scene where he's taking calls from irritated Frenchmen, but his character fizzles out shortly thereafter before being nuked by the spacemen for gettin' too close to their ride. In short - the acting is typical of its era and subgenre, and maybe even slightly above average.
Here's who matters and why (not counting anybody from Jerry Warren's Americanization): Barbara Wilson (The Man Who Turned to Stone, The Flesh Eaters, Blood of Dracula), Robert Burton (The Slime People, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein), Gustaf Unger (The Lucifer Complex).
The one good thing about bein' a Swedish actor in the '50s is that you were in a pool so small that you had a pretty good shot at workin' with Ingmar Bergman. So here're the few mainstream credits I could make out with my extensive reading comprehension of the Swedish language: Bengt Blomgren (Ernest Haglund on Tre kroner), Ake Gronberg (Albert Johansson in Sawdust and Tinsel), Gosta Pruzalius (Reidar Dahlen on Redereit).
The special effects are better than they get credit for, even if the monster suit is pretty silly. You don't get to see the creature for about 30 minutes, which leads you to believe that you might be in for an unbearably talky flick where the characters go on and on describing the monster because the filmmakers don't wanna show it. Fortunately, that's not the case, because once the Yeti's outta the bottle, they keep him out and put him on full display stompin' all over the Scandinavian countryside. Pretty hokey stuff by today's standards, but it must be pointed out that the effects crew did a nice job making miniatures, and semi-miniatures (as well as using shots filmed from high above) to reflect the monster's size. This isn't one of those flicks like Grizzly where the cover boldly proclaims: "18 feet of towering terror," and then uses a regular bear that's clearly average in size when filmed alongside the human actors. In this flick they advertise a 20" space monster and build fairly sophisticated sets/props to play that up, and it actually kinda works. The U.F.O. is goofy too, but it's clear that some real effort went into these creations, so at the very least, it's fair to say that these effects were marginally above average for their time, and that they hold up better than those of other comparable films, with comparable budgets.
The shooting locations are the high point, with excellent cinematography (when it's not being ridiculously sped up by the editor) by Hilding Bladh that captures the grandeur and isolation of the Swedish Laplands. There's not a hell of a lot to look at out there, but that's kinda the point, and it's all captured professionally and in such a way that even the stock footage fits in smoothly. The soundtrack is also commendable, and although it suffers from the usual indistinctness of most '50s films, the variety of tone being conveyed in the different tracks is fairly impressive. Far too many musical scores from this decade are droning, melodramatic, and monotonous, and while Terror in the Midnight Sun has its share of these as well, it's also got pieces that lighten the tone to more reasonable (sometimes even appropriately comedic) levels, and consequently, there's a bit more impact to the dramatic pieces when you haven't been listening to them play over relatively mundane happenings. Oh, and there's also a 50s romance ballad that plays over the opening crash sequence and credits sung by an all-Black gospel group called The Golden Gate Quartet, which all good science fiction epics need, but rarely deliver. Overall, Terror in the Midnight Sun is a very middling '50s sci-fi flick. The production values are almost good enough to warrant a passing grade, but the entertainment value isn't quite there due to a slow start and what I consider a failure to reach the minimum amount of exposition. If you're a fan of 1950s science fiction or monster movies in general, you may find it to your liking, but it's probably a bit too cheesy for the average cinephile.