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I Married a Monster from Outer Space

I Married a Monster from Outer Space(1958)

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Tabloid magazines enjoyed a veritable golden age in the United States after the Second World War, at a time when economic prosperity whetted a ravening national appetite for gossip. Whether the subjects were unfortunate nobodies or celebrity scandal magnets, Americans appreciated having the inside scoop (or the illusion thereof), particularly when spilled first person singular within the pages of Confidential, Whisper or The National Enquirer. In Hollywood, the movies began to reflect this voyeuristic bent with brazenly confessional titles along the lines of I Was a Criminal (1945), I Was a Male War Bride (1949) and I Was a Shoplifter (1950). As moviegoers grew more jaded, confessions became more exceptional: I Shot Jesse James (1949), I Was a Communist for the FBI (1951) and I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957). In these films, the societal infrastructure took a beating and no institution left the ring bloodier than the honorable estate of marriage. In 1942, both I Married an Angel and I Married a Witch posited happy fantasy unions of humans and otherworldly creatures of uncommon beauty; by the end of the decade, however, the mood had darkened considerably. Though their titles would be changed for theatrical release, I Married a Communist (aka The Woman on Pier 13, 1949) and I Married a Dead Man (aka No Man of Her Own, 1950) broached a connubial incompatibility of epidemic proportions, a marital malaise that reached its apotheosis in 1958 with I Married a Monster from Outer Space.

I was a Teenage Werewolf and I Married a Monster from Outer Space shared a director in Gene Fowler, Jr. Fowler was the son of famed journalist/novelist/historian and sometime screenwriter Gene Fowler, a member of the hard drinking Hollywood Hellfire Club led by W. C. Fields, John Barrymore and Errol Flynn. While still a student at the University of Southern California, Fowler fils got his start in the business at the invitation of Allen McNeil, chief editor for Mack Sennett (whose story Fowler's father had told in the book Father Goose.)

Gene Fowler, Jr. made his debut as a "cutter" on the Dick Powell comedy Thanks a Million (1935) and within a few years was editing Fritz Lang's Hangmen Also Die! (1943) and The Woman in the Window (1944). By 1950, Fowler was itching to direct features and accepted the luridly-titled I Was a Teenage Werewolf because he thought no one would go see it. (Fowler had previously helmed episodes of the Dan Duryea series China Smith.) The surprise success of that Herman Cohen production encouraged Fowler and partner Louis Vittes (a TV writer with credits on the Gunsmoke, Medic and Waterfront series) to try something similar using a title of their own construction. I Married a Monster from Outer Space had a slightly higher budget ($125,000) than he was used to but Fowler also enjoyed more creative freedom. The producers handed down only one non-negotiable demand: the Martians had to glow.

I Married a Monster from Outer Space marked a step up in prestige for its leading lady, Gloria Talbott. The Glendale, California native (her great-great grandfather was a cofounder of this suburb of Los Angeles) had just come off of work on the low-budget horrors The Cyclops (1957) and Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957) and appreciated the relative luxury of the Paramount backlot. In an interview with film historian Tom Weaver in 1986, Talbott recalled a surprisingly hectic and tense set for a modestly-budgeted B picture. Although the dark-eyed actress enjoyed the gig (apart from an abscessed tooth that developed smack dab in the middle of shooting), she was frustrated by the inflexibility of scripter Vittes, who stationed himself beneath director of photography Haskell Boggs' camera to ensure that all of his dialogue was spoken word-for-word. Talbott remembered costar Tom Tryon as cordial but aloof and that Tryon hated making the film. The son of an affluent Connecticut clothier and a Yale graduate, Tryon had landed in Hollywood on April Fool's Day, 1955, and enjoyed a painful tenure as a Hollywood star. Famously bullied by Otto Preminger during the making of The Cardinal (1963), Tryon quit the business by 1968 to focus on writing. Though he began The Other as a screenplay, the project morphed into a novel, which became a bestseller in 1971 and was filmed by Robert Mulligan in 1972. Thereafter known as Thomas Tryon, the former movie monster enjoyed a celebrated second career as a novelist until his death from stomach cancer in 1991 at the age of 65.

I Married a Monster from Outer Space was intended by Paramount to headline a double bill filled out by Irvin Yeaworth, Jr.'s The Blob (1958), an independent, Pennsylvania-shot feature the studio had acquired. When test audience scores of the two-fer suggested that moviegoers preferred the vibrantly full-color The Blob to the noirishly monochrome I Married a Monster from Outer Space, Fowler's baby became the B-film.

The critics of the day were mostly enthusiastic, if somewhat condescending, at the time of the film's release in September of 1958. "Strong supporting fare," trumpeted Variety while the Hollywood Reporter found the piece "fairly interesting" and Film Daily allowed that it was strictly "satisfactory... competent..." Not amused in the least was the critic for The Mirror-News, who thought little of The Blob and found its co-hit to develop along "similarly moronic lines" and that it was "frightening in one aspect its unrelieved mediocrity." Due in large part to its emphatically unique title, the film has endured as a cult item and from an academic stand point remains equally readable as a proto-Feminist tract or an anti-Communist screed.

Producer: Gene Fowler, Jr.
Director: Gene Fowler, Jr.
Screenplay: Louis Vittes
Cinematography: Haskell B. Boggs
Art Direction: Henry Bumstead, Hal Pereira
Film Editing: George Tomasini
Cast: Tom Tryon (Bill Farrell), Gloria Talbott (Marge Bradley Farrell), Peter Baldwin (Officer Frank Swanson), Robert Ivers (Harry Phillips), Chuck Wassil (Ted Hanks), Ty Hungerford (Mac Brody), Ken Lynch (Dr. Wayne), John Eldredge (Police Captain H.B. Collins)
BW-78m.

by Richard Harland Smith

Sources:
Gene Fowler, Jr. interview by Tom Weaver, Science Fiction Stars and Horror Heroes.
Gloria Talbott interview by Tom Weaver, Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers.
Interview with Thomas Tryon by Jane Wilkie, Playgirl, August 1973
Interview with Thomas Tryon, Publishers Weekly, July 1976, Vol. 210, No. 1
A Life in Two Acts by Jocelyn McClurg, Northeast, April 26, 1992
e-mail from Tom Weaver, January 20, 2009

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