Saturday, September 11, 2021

Los nuevos extraterrestres (1983)

... aka: El retorno del extraterrestre (Return of the Alien)
... aka: E.T.: The Second Coming
... aka: ETV
... aka: Extra Terrestrial Visitors
... aka: Pod People
... aka: Unearthling, The
... aka: V. F. Extra Terrestrial Visitors
... aka: Vierailijoita oudosta maailmasta (Visitors from a Strange World)
... aka: Visitor
... aka: Visitors - I nuovi extraterrestri (Visitors: The New Extraterrestrials)

Directed by:
J. (Juan) Piquer Simón

A large meteor crashes in the foggy mountains and creates a glowing mound / cave. Three poachers led by Burt (Frank Braña) are illegally hunting there and one of the men goes to the cave, finds a bunch of alien eggs scattered about and starts smashing them with a stick. A large, unseen creature with hairy arms then kills him. We then meet a few other characters, starting with little Tommy Stevens (Óscar Martín), an amateur scientist who loves his cat, collects bugs and speaks in animal genus. An orphan (I think?), Tommy lives with his (I think?) Aunt Molly ("Connie Cheston" / Concha Cuetos), one of those "Don't be late for dinner!" types, and his grumpy Uncle Bill (Manuel Pereiro), who really seems to take issue with the fact this 8-year-old is clearly more intelligent than he is. Having spotted the meteor crash through his telescope the night before, Tommy goes into the woods, finds the glowing cave and, despite seeing a corpse just lying there, steals an egg. He then returns home with it and doesn't tell anyone about anything he just saw.

Meanwhile, at a recording studio, arrogant and temperamental pop singer Rick (Ian Sera), a trio of female background singers and his producers (one wearing an "I'm a Virgin" [!] t-shirt) are working on a new track called "Hear the Engines Roar Now." One could say Rick is unsatisfied with the end product ("It stinks!") and he ends up blaming everyone but himself for it, shrieking at the other singers and chastising the staff. I don't know if Sera had it in his contract that he could only play extremely unlikable characters, but he's about as charming here as was playing "campus stud" Kendall in Simon's sleazy slasher Pieces... but at least there we got the satisfaction of watching him get his dick ripped off at the end! Here, not so much.

Rick, studio engineer Brian (Emilio Linder) and all three of the background singers - including Rick's doormat of a girlfriend Sharon (Nina Ferrer), Brian's girlfriend Kathy (Sarah Palmer) and low self-esteem third wheel Tracy (Maria Albert), decide to go on a weekend camping trip to Cinder National Forest. Yes, that's the same stretch of mountains where the meteor fell. Rick has also invited Laura ("Susan Blake" / Susana Bequer), a young airhead who clearly has the hots for him, along on the trip and provides the excuse that she "likes the way I perform." A (quite understandably!) infuriated Sharon has an issue with her even being there and attempts to storm off, but Brian puts her at ease. "Making out with chicks is part of his act as an artist!," he tells her, "One today, a different one tomorrow!" For some reason that's enough to get Sharon to rejoin the group. Yikes.

Upon arriving at their campsite, Laura storms off after getting water thrown in her face, runs into the woods and is grabbed by Burt and his sidekick Matt ("William" / Guillermo Antón). She breaks free and tries to flee, but falls into a deep ravine. Rick and the others find her there unconscious but, seeing how the nearest hospital is 50 miles away, they instead decide to look for a nearby ranger station or home with a telephone. They end up at the Stevens' place. However, a rock slide has blocked off an important road and knocked the phone lines out. So, nope, no phone and nowhere to go. Or, as one of the ladies so eloquently puts it, "What a fuck-up this back to nature crap is!"

Tommy has been keeping the alien egg nice and warm under his blanket, so it finally cracks open to reveal a little baby alien. He feeds it milk, white bread, cereal and Planters peanuts and it continues to rapidly grow. In a day it's his size. He dubs it Trumpy. I guess because it has a trumpet-like nose. I once promised a friend's 6-year-old daughter that she could name a cat I was getting. She'd just returned from the grocery store with her mom at the same time I brought the cat home and when I asked what his name was going to be, she immediately blurted out "Coupon!" And I kind of just shrugged and said, "Sure. Why not?" So if I can have a cat named Coupon, I suppose little Tommy is entitled to have a big-eared, glowing-eyed, cone-headed, anteater-snouted, gorilla-suited alien named Trumpy.

Trumpy aces a puzzle and a Simon game, walks on the ceiling and uses his telekinetic abilities to turn the lights on and off, make clothes fly out of the closet and levitate furniture. It also transforms Tommy's telescope into a more powerful instrument he can use to see all the way to Africa (?!) While Tommy's bond with the creature grows, a second alien of the same species goes around killing off the rangers, the poachers and anyone else it happens to stumble onto, finally making its way to the cabin where the main characters are hanging out. Victims are found with some kind of glowing astrological pattern on their foreheads, which is never really explained.

Even though this particular director isn't known for the high quality of his work, he at least made a few entertaining films. However, producer interference seems to be chiefly responsible for giving this one a severe identity crisis. Originally conceived as an alien-in-the-woods horror movie, plans were altered after the massive success of E.T. (1982). Simón was then steered into including the plot involving the little boy and his friendship with the more docile child alien. While other Simón films like Pieces and SLUGS were able to chug along on their sleaziness and over-the-top gore scenes, the horror content here is dull and extremely sanitized to the point where I don't recall seeing so much as a single drop of blood! On the flip-side, this includes too much profanity to be a kid's movie. What we basically end up with is the original horror concept being compromised at every turn by the inclusion of the more family-friendly stuff, which leaves both potential audiences unsatisfied.

There are only a few other notable things about this one, starting with the hilariously overworked fog machine, which is pumping out fumes during every single scene that takes place outside. And there's some pretty good music in here, too, including some dark synth (some of which was stolen from a 1974 album by French artist Georges Rodi) and one catchy-cheesy song on the soundtrack that appears to be titled "Sara" that I could find no other information about. This was also simultaneously filmed in both French and Spanish, with the actors doing separate takes reading their lines in both languages, though the executive producers were Americans Dick Randall and Edward L. Montoro.

Here in the U. S., this was given a belated release from Film Ventures International in 1990, who changed the title to Pod People and added new opening credits swiping footage from Don Dohler's THE GALAXY INVADER (1985). This version became one of the most popular films featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and would be cross-referenced in numerous later episodes of the show. In fact, the MST3K version, distributed by Rhino on VHS and Shout! Factory on DVD, is easier to find on home video than the unaltered version of the film.

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