Invasion, U.S.A. (1952)

Seeing “pants off” and Hedda Hopper together is enough to scare John Wayne

INVASION, U.S.A., a pint-sized camp classic of anti-Commie raving from 1952, was directed by Alfred E. Greene, but you may think it was Alfred E. Neuman by the time its rampaging Reds have reduced America to ruins. Done on the cheap ($127,000), capitalizing (loaded word choice, comrade) on the Cold War hysteria running roughshod over civil liberties at home while our troops were fighting actual Communist divisions in Korea.  Blatantly phony but oddly effective agitprop pulled in more than six times its outlay, the $1,200,000 gross a paper-trail testimony that when you leave out facts and bellow “fire!” you can ‘scare some of the people all of the time’. *

There was a rumor they were dropping parachute troops near Puget Sound—in American uniforms.”

How much you bet guy on right makes a play for the babe—while there’s an Atomic War going on, yet….

A newscaster interviews several people at a bar in Manhattan, asking them how they feel about government spending, taxes and the specter of Communism. None like Communists, but none are eager to have any more money spent on the military. One, the quiet and articulate ‘Mr. Ohman’—as in omen—asks them to reflect a bit, when suddenly news flashes announce the country is under attack. The patrons head to their respective parts of the 48 as the assault intensifies and casualties mount under sabotage, air raids and selected strikes with atomic bombs. It doesn’t look good, from Seattle to Arizona, D.C. to The Big Apple. “Better Dead than Red” is put to the extreme test.

Reassuring words from ‘The President’: “For every atom bomb dropped on our country, we have taken three to the enemy’s heartland and we have huge stocks of atomic weapons in reserve.”

The budget paid for the cast, a few bare-boned special effects, and a mountain of stock footage harvested from World War 2 and Korea. Never mind that the ‘enemy’ planes are actually our own, that some shots are of kamikazes in the Pacific, and others of the bombing of London. Notice those British helmets, anyone? Forget that the Commie officers are dressed in Nazi-ish uniforms off the studio rack with a few alterations. The U.S.S.R. (Russia, for you youngsters) is never mentioned, but the accents point one way: Moscow, budski. The actors are serviceable, even if the script is absurd, including the instant romance that blooms between the reporter played by Gerald Mohr and the inviting society dame in the sexy threads embodied by Peggie Castle. When she gasps “It’s a nightmare, this can’t be happening!” his practical/philosophical reply seals the deal and their now-or-never liplocks: “It was a cinch to happen. The last time I met a girl I really liked, they bombed Pearl Harbor.” That plum is followed by “War or not, people have to eat and drink… and make love.” (smooth bastard…)

Maybe the uniforms were from East Germany?

As the trauma escalates, we’re told Joe Next Door is rallying—“In the little time we have left I want to tell you how proud you can be of the average citizen of New York. It seems every man and boy today has become a guerrilla fighter. I saw taxi drivers use their cabs as weapons to mow down enemy troops. I saw high school boys attack enemy tanks with pop bottles full of gasoline. I saw mounted policemen become a fighting cavalry.”

Others in the bar—a logical place to face Armageddon—and line of fire are Dan O’Herlihy (precise doom-diction, as the Ohman/omen mystery man), Robert Bice (tractor-factory owner, rushing back to San Francisco to switch the plant to making tanks, just as the invaders arrive), Erik Blythe (cattleman, rushing back to family and spread, just in time to be submerged by the A-bombing of Boulder Dam, with special effects from a faucet in the kitchen), Wade Crosby (blowhard Congressman, rushing back to D.C., just in time for the capitol to be overrun) and Tom Kennedy (the bartender, who stays put, and pays for it).

74 minutes of cut-to-the-clips fear-mongering—a good 30% of the running time uses WW2 as WW3—and a full-on cry for more defense spending. With Knox Manning, Noell Neill, Phyllis Coates, William Schallert, John Crawford, Richard Eyer (7, debut) and Edward G. Robinson Jr.

* ‘No Americans were harmed during the making of this picture’——this amusing relic bears no relation to the idiotic Chuck Norris slaughterfest of 1985. You need a sense of history and humor for the 1952 opus. The Norris upChuck requires a dose of salts.

’52 and the threat’s on you—the silly Big Jim McLain has John Wayne clobber a Commie cell in Hawaii; My Son John sees Robert Walker betraying family, God and apple pie, pumpkin pie, milkshakes, Little League, etc.; Walk East on Beacon puts FBI man George Murphy onto Soviet atomic spies; the not bad Diplomatic Courier sends Tyrone Power to Europe after microfilm; the bananas Red Planet Mars mixes stealthy Marxist messaging from the 4th rock, with Christian theocracy on a bender: talk about a last stand. Of the year’s two Korean War salvos, avoid dopesville One Minute To Zero, but crank the sound for Retreat Hell!, which mans up the Marines for the knock-down, drag-out at the Chosin Reservoir.

Guy on the left: Red ratfink disguised as a Yank. Bring on the baseball passwords.

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