Pod People (1983)

Pod People

Directed by Juan Piquer Simón

Tagline: “Men were not ready to meet these…”

Running time: c 80 minutes

Other titles: “Los Nuevos Extraterrestres”


Ask any movie lover what they consider to be the the worst movie they’ve ever seen. I’ll give you even odds that they say either “Pod People” or “Manos: The Hands of Fate”. These two films share an esteemed position far, far, far down on the “bad” movie food chain. Never to be unseated, “Pod People” and “Manos” have secured an eternal niche in the bad movie pantheon. As of this writing, "Pod People" is number 17 on the IMDB Bottom 100 list. I find this pretty surprising actually that people consider 16 other films "worse" than this one. ("Manos: The Hands of Fate" rests safely at number 1, as usual.) Regardless of "Pod People"’s ranking, I think it’s safe to say that this gem will adorn the walls of the IMDB Hall of Shame for many generations to come.

“Pod People” is directed by Spanish film maker Juan Piquer Simón, or “Simon” as he likes to be called in order to attract English-speaking investors. A long time exploitation-film producer based in Madrid, Simón has been responsible for such masterpieces as “Supersonic Man”, “Monster Island”, and “Slugs”, and of course, our feature presentation: “Los Nuevos Extraterrestres.”

Simón’s original intent was to make this story with a much darker edge then it ended up with. Unfortunately for Simón, “E.T.” was released in the U.S shortly before “Pod People”, so the film’s producers wanted him to change the plot to star a ‘friendlier’ alien: parasitically hoping to cash in an E.T.’s popularity. Simón admits that he was never happy with these changes and certainly not happy with the result (at least we have something in common there…), and when the creator of "Slugs" is dissatisfied…well…this is going to be a fun ride…

“Pod People” is a bizarre film, to be sure. The “plot” involves poachers stealing eggs, an incredibly untalented singer and his friends, a lonely boy living with his mom and Uncle deep in a forest, an alien named “Trumpy”, and Trumpy’s murderous twin brother. These plot threads collide with each other, compounding to form something which is recognizable as a story of sorts, yet somehow incomprehensible. It reminds me of a painting described in an old H.P. Lovecraft story I read one time…you could look at the painting, yet never quite make out what it was in the picture…and if you stared too long you went insane…

Let us begin, but do not stare too long…

We start with the opening credits filmed in that strange 1980’s video effect where everything is soft and pastel-like (like an old Scorpions video on Friday Night Videos. If you remember that show, then you’re getting old!). A really bad feeling starts to come over me as the background scenes show people fighting aliens and other clips of general mayhem: all of which are from a different film! (In fact the film was DTV crap-fest called Galaxy Invader (1985))

After the credits finish, we see a meteor heading through space towards the moon. Then, with a dramatic “Ed Wood-esque” flash of lightning, we cut to a pick-up truck driving through some foggy woods.

Oh yeah. There is a lot of fog in this movie, more fog than there was in “The Slime People". As Crow from MST3K pointed out, there is more fog in this movie than there was in the movie “The Fog”. No kidding. It’s unbelievable.

With cheesy, “oh-so-80’s” Casio synthesizer music playing in the background, three men get out of the truck and start unloading gear from the back. We find out soon that these three men are, ohhhhh, poachers! The viewer gets to hear some very useful information at this point (See Classic Lines), which leads us to believe that they have no idea where they are.

This is going to be a long movie.

With a neck-snapping change of scene, we see a blue ball of light hurtling through space with a picture of galaxy in the back ground. Said ball of light is accompanied with the standard “roaring engine” sounds that all meteors manage to create in the soundless vacuum of outer space.

Billions of miles away, back at the truck, we see the three poachers taking out rifles and other assorted gear from the back of the truck, and one of the poachers, Mack, takes out a cross-bow (!). This lets the viewer know that they are “up To No Good” A crossbow! Ohhh…what devilish deeds are these eeeevvvilllll men planning?

Pod People

Huzzah!

Wow, back to outer space, this time a big yellow ball of light coming towards the camera. Oh I see! This ball of light is heading towards Earth…but what was the opening shot with the meteor heading towards the moon all about? I think for the duration of this film, we will save all questions pertaining to either plot or common sense for the end of the film.

We find out through oh-so-clever exposition that these men are not everyday poachers, but cruel men who poach, <gasp!>, nightingale eggs! While wandering aimlessly around, they eventually spot a nest up in a tree that they figure "…will be worth a fortune." Yes, I remember my days of longing for enough money to afford nightingale eggs…only on the egg black-market could these babies ever be afforded!

More lightning. Not too sure what all the dramatic shots of lightning is supposed to accomplish. It’s not raining and the men hear no thunder. In fact, the sun is streaming through the branches (when the fog and smoke occasionally clears). Oops, sorry. We weren’t going to ask any more questions.

Pod People

This is scary.

The leader of these henious egg poachers (insert poached-egg pun here…), Burt, commands one of the other poachers, Sam, to go back to the truck and get a ladder. As Sam takes his leave, Burt then tosses a rope up and over a limb and starts to climb up to the nest.

Just as the tension is getting to be unbearable (not!), we shift scenes again to a child’s bedroom (but not without having to endure another boring, pointless "flying-ball-in-space" scene). A young, red-headed boy, Tommy, is awakened by his mewling kitten. You see, animals typically have a “sixth sense” when it comes to extra-ordinary events: earthquakes, hurricanes, yellow lights from outer space, and so on.

Pod People

Tommy (now that’s scary!)

Doing what any kid would do when awoken in the middle of the night, he begins peering through his telescope. Tommy sees green lights rippling through space superimposed over our moon, which is also now green. What this all means is beyond me. I guess this is just “spacey” and “cool”. Yup. Real cool.

Pod PeopleThunder cracks, and lightning flashes as he looks through the telescope. His bedside lamp begins to flicker on and off in order to indicate that something “weird” is happening. You see, a flickering lamp is “weird” and “scary”. I just thought I would remind you in case you forgot.

Back in the forest, Burt scrambles up the rope to the nest and finds the jackpot: 5 eggs! Yessiree, they’ll be living off the profits of that find for years to come! But wait! A flashing white light races across the sky (strange how it’s daylight in the woods, but night time in Tommy’s room) and lands in the forest (with the standard explosion and “Shower-o-Sparks”). Somehow, Tommy can see the explosion through his telescope, which leads me to wonder what kind of lens he has on that thing…One that can see through trees?

Another shot of a bolt of lightning and we return back to the poachers. (Really! Did this guy go to the Ed Wood school of special effects? What’s with all the lightning-bolt segues?)

On his way to get the ladder, Sam sees the explosion and runs back to the others and asks if they saw it too. Amazingly Burt and Mack neither saw nor heard a thing, despite the flash of light and explosive blast that Tommy saw and heard all the way back at his house! Despite Sam’s pleadings, the other two don’t believe him, and once again send him back to get the ladder. (I’m not really sure why they need a ladder since Burt has already climbed the tree, pilfered the eggs from the nest, and returned back to the ground.) Hilariously, Burt even warns Sam to hurry up and “…don’t take all night!” even though you can see sunlight streaming through trees and shining on the ground and their clothes.

Pod People

“Don’t take all night!”

Sam returns to the truck yet again, when we see what I can only assume to be the impact site where the meteor landed. For some reason, instead of a crater which, oh, 100% of all the other meteors in the universe make when impacting, this meteor has crashed and created a foggy cave complete with red lights and a room full of eggs. Amazing!

Sam finally gets back to the truck and takes out a coil of rope. (Hey Sam! Does that look like a ladder to you?!) Seeing a pulsating red light coming from the distance, Sam gets in the truck and drives off to investigate.

Becoming impatient waiting for the ladder, the other two poachers take off to see what is taking Sam so long. Burt and Matt grab their rifle and crossbow (!) respectively, and run off to see what Sam is up to. Sam, however, has apparently driven to the meteor crater, err, meteor cave, and has gone inside. The inside of the cave reveals a small room with large eggs scattered around the floor. (Oh yeah, and lots of fog too.) For some unfathomable reason, Sam picks up one of the eggs and smashes it on the ground. Inside the egg is a bunch of slime and what looks like a plucked chicken. Grimacing in disgust at the revolting contents, Sam proceeds to smash the rest of the eggs with a club he picked up from somewhere. Gee, if I were an egg poacher, I might think that these eggs could be worth a wee bit more than a nightingale egg…Maybe I would have saved them instead of smashing them to bits. Anyhoo….

After smashing all the eggs (except for one, of course. I wonder what’s going to happen to that last egg…), Sam hears something growling from deeper in the cave. (It sounds like somebody imitating a crow, but we realize that this is a “scary” noise because Sam makes a “scary” face. Boy, the magic of cinema!

Well, something attacks and kills Sam. What was it? We don’t get to see it; we only get to see the monster’s POV as it shambles up to Sam and dispatches him. Before he dies, Sam does manage to take a pathetic swing with his club in the direction of the floor (didn’t want to hit the camera, I assume). Scratch one stupid poacher.

Meanwhile, Matt and Burt find that Sam has taken the truck, thus forcing them to “rough it” in the woods and spend the night. Cutting to a scene showing a couple of deer walking through the woods, the poachers try to shoot one of them, but they can’t get a clean shot because the deer are so “nervous”. Whatever, lets get on with it.(I just can’t get over how they keep pretending it’s night time, even when you can see the sun glinting off the rifle’s scope.)

Pod People

Shooting deer in the middle of the ‘night’

Back in Tommy’s house, we see Tommy sitting at the breakfast table looking at a centipede through a magnifying-glass. Tommy’s uncle, Bill (how creative), comes in and Tommy tries to show him the newest addition to his bug collection. Not too impressed, Uncle Bill makes a few condescending remarks and leaves Tommy alone with his new bug. Tommy’s mother also comes in and starts clearing the dishes from the table, telling Tommy to get the “filthy” thing out of there. (Can’t blame her, really, it is the breakfast table after all). Tommy says he wants to go outside and collect some more specimens, but is told by his mom that he must first help Uncle Bill in the cellar (boy, that sounds fun).

So now we have established the fact that Tommy’s mom and uncle are far from what I would consider nurturing care-givers. Normally, we would expect an explanation for their behavior, and eventually would even hope to have a resolution (e.g., at the end of the film they see the error of their ways, and embrace Tommy in a home full of newfound love and care). In this film however, we get neither: Tommy’s mother and uncle (won’t even begin to get into what "uncle" Bill is doing there in the first place…) are just plain mean to him throughout the film, for no apparent reason. One obvious motive to all this insensitive behavior may be to establish Tommy as a ‘loner’, thus making his friendship with the alien, Trumpy (just you wait!), all the more credible.

Pod People

“Put that filthy thing away!…and go help your uncle in the cellar!”

Now comes the most horrifying sequence in the entire film: We enter a recording studio and are forced to listen to a young “pop” band singing “Hear the Engines Roll, Now!”. (MST3K did a hilarious spoof of the song called “Idiot Control, Now!” I placed the lyrics in the "Classic Lines" section of this review. It helps if you’ve seen the MST3K version of "Pod People" or at least heard the music and original "lyrics" to "Hear the Engines Roll, Now!")

Fortunately, our torture is short-lived for we hear just a few notes of the song before the singer, Rick, stops the take and yells at the backup singers for their sub par efforts (“It stinks!”, Rick shouts: a comment to which I full-heartedly agree with). Don’t worry, you will hear the whole song shortly…

For some reason, we cut to a scene of a fog-shrouded mountain top. Why? Why? Ok, we are back in the first movie with the poachers. Burt and Mack are spying on a ranger shack, buying time until the rangers leave. Exposition informs us that the poachers have come upon the great idea of crashing out in the ranger’s cabin as soon as they leave. (Huh? How smart is that?)

Argh! My neck! We immediately cut back to recording studio with “Hear the Engines Roll, Now!” in all of its glory:

Pod People

Rick ("Idiot Control, Now!")

If you want to know how terrible this song is, look up the word “Pain” in your thesaurus. Take all these words and string them together into one long word separating each word with a ‘dash’, for example:

Ache-aching-soreness-hurt-hurting-smarting-pang-throb-twinge-pinch-stitch-discomfort-malaise-suffering-distress-anguish-agony-torment-torture-ordeal-hell-misery-grief-woe-wretchedness-unhappiness

That doesn’t come close to describing this song. See the movie and listen to it for yourself. We do get to see one of the backup singers, Laura, making “goo-goo” eyes at the main singer. Hmmm, will there be a conflict between goo-goo Laura and Rick’s girl-friend, Sharon? Two points if you answered ‘yes’.

Pod People

Laura, flirty back-up singer, and idiot studio hand

After the second take, Rick is just as disgusted with the backup vocals as before. To ease the tension, the band decides to call it quits for the day and head up to the mountains for the weekend. On the way to the parking lot, Rick tries to sooth his insulted girlfriend. (Sharon is understandably upset after Rick has told her she sings like a "foghorn".) Well, a quick kiss in the studio hallway patches things up, so we can move along to some helpful exposition in the parking lot. It is revealed to us that the band is headed up to "Cinder National Forest" (Hmmm, was there a forest fire there recently? Who the hell named that place? Maybe next year they can take a trip to "Charred Stump Preserve".)

When they reach their huge 1980’s Winnebago, everybody is shocked to see goo-goo Laura already in the camper. She says she’s cold and wants to borrow a jacket from Rick, which makes Sharon just a wee-bit jealous. Through more exposition (which is fine with me, just as long as it makes the movie go faster), Rick tells his friends that Laura’s father is a record executive, so it can’t really hurt to smooze up to her since they’re trying to release a record (and believe me, they need all the help they can get!).

Anyway, Sharon storms off and Rick’s friend, Brian, walks over to try and calm her down (with some pretty awful dialog. See Classic Lines for what not to say to an upset girlfriend).

Pod People

“Making out with chicks is just part of his act as an artist…”

Sharon sees the errors of her ways, and realizes that Rick isn’t so bad after all (whatever). She returns to the camper and climbs into the back with the other singers, Tracy and Kathy, while Brian jumps into the drivers seat. Aww…young love…and a wonderful weekend in "Cinder National Forest"…this is going to be so much fun!

Tommy is now walking through an incredibly foggy forest looking for insect specimens (does somebody want to get that poor kid a life?). After some boring scenes showing him bending over and picking up bugs and what-not from the forest floor, Tommy sees the crash site and goes to investigate:

Acck! That was the sound of my neck snapping again from the jarring scene cut back to Brian driving the camper down a highway. (Who edited this movie anyway? Jack the Ripper? You need a neck-brace to avoid getting whiplash between the scenes!) In the front seat we see Laura, Rick, and Brian, smiling and looking forward to their trip in Cinder Forest. (Rick apparently doesn’t think that sitting in the front seat next to goo-goo-eyes Laura is going to make Sharon jealous).

Pod People

"Idiot Control, Now!" (The B-side)

In an effort to burn up some of the 80 minutes of run time, we are tortured with scenes of them smiling in the front seat intermingled with scenes of their camper driving along a wooded, dirt road. This is pain. Good lord, hurry up and get on with it!!!

Acck!! (neck snaps). Back at the meteor crater, Tommy walks into the glowing, fog-filled entrance to investigate. Walking through the mist, Tommy comes upon the eggs that the (now deceased) poacher had smashed. Tommy, throwing caution to the wind, picks up the one undamaged egg and takes it home.

Pod People

I’m sure mom will be happy when I bring this home…

Gasp! On the way out of the cave, er, crater, whatever, Tommy sees the poacher’s body on the floor. For some unexplained reason (maybe because the director thought it looked cool), there are a string of little glowing lights on the dead poachers forehead. (Wow!)

Now we see Rick and the others setting up camp. Rick heads off into the forest to collect fire wood (leather jacket and all), while Laura tags along, complaining all the while about how the others don’t seem to want her around. Laura eventually pins Rick up against a tree and kisses him (Gee, Laura, and you wonder why the other girls weren’t so hot to see you come along?) This romantic interlude is broken up when Sharon starts walking around in the woods, calling out for Rick. Why? Who knows? Does Sharon find Rick and Laura in a heated embrace, thus setting the stage for an exciting conflict? Nawww, not in this movie. They simply stop kissing and we cut back to Tommy sneaking his egg into the house….No! Whoa! Wait a minute! Now we cut back to the young campers sitting around a smoldering campfire.

Pod People

"Cinder National Forest": A great place to go camping!

Laura, trying to create conflict for whatever reason, confesses to Sharon that Rick likes her best and that they have in fact just kissed in the woods. (Really, why did they bring her? Oh yeah, the record deal…sure) This whole "love triangle" subplot is really irritating. It never advances the main plot (I know because I have had the displeasure of seeing this movie several times now), the characters and dialog are of course unbelievable, and it’s just generally boring. Were the film makers really so desperate to burn up run time in a film that only lasts 80 minutes in the first place? Anyway, Sharon gets angry (duh!) and throws her drink in Laura’s face. Laura gasps, and runs off into the woods in a fury.

Laura flounders through the fog and smoke (boy, a really nice place to go camping, let me tell you!) A Casio synthesizer drum riff indicates that something "exciting" is happening (in case you didn’t notice). Laura hears something coming towards her through the fog. This exciting "something" turns out to be the two egg-poachers. Mack grabs her and she breaks free with the two poachers giving chase.

Running through the woods, Laura somehow ends up on the top of a cliff (yup, guess what happens next…). She looks up and sees a monster coming through the fog which pushes her off the cliff. I can’t provide you a screen shot here because the smoke and fog pumped into the set are so thick that you can’t see much of the monster. Laura screams as she falls, alerting the others at the campfire. Rick and the rest of the gang run into the woods and somehow manage to find her motionless form at the bottom of the cliff (who knows how they tracked her down). Before they find her, we kind of, sort of, in a way, see the alien place its hand on Laura’s forehead. What does this mean? Your guess is as good as mine at this point. (Here’s a little hint for you: you never find out.)

After losing Laura in the fog, the poachers decide that they better get back to their "old hideaway" instead of the ranger cabin, because the rangers will be crawling all over this forest soon (?). In all honesty: what the hell is this poacher sub-plot all about anyway? It’s like there are 3 separate movies, occasionally, and violently, colliding under the most vicarious of pretenses, before spiraling off again into their own nonsensical universes.

Rick and Brian pick up Laura and carry her back to the camper. They unsuccessfully try to revive her with some brandy, which forces them to try the old ‘take her to the hospital’ method instead. Brian balks at the idea, reminding Rick that it’s 50 miles to "anywhere" and with the roads and weather (?), they won’t get very far (Huh? You managed to get to the forest no problem!) As a compromise, they decide to pack up and drive to "..the refuge at Black Butte…" in order to use a telephone. Mmmmkay. Nice plot hole patch there.

Back in the other movie with Tommy and the egg, we see Uncle Bill closing the shutters on the house, I can only assume in anticipation of the incoming ‘bad weather’. I just don’t know anymore. Up in his room, Tommy is examining the egg and has to quickly hide it when his mother comes in to tuck him into bed. After his mom leaves , Tommy gets out of bed and gets the egg from under the blanket where it was hidden, and takes it back into bed with him (yech!).

Ok, now we shift movies to the one with Rich and the band (and we also shift from nighttime to daytime, but that’s ok because this is a different movie, right?). Rick has managed to drive up to Tommy’s house (so much for Black Butte). Pounding on the windows, Rick pleads for help, to which a rifle-toting Uncle Bill cheerfully growls, "Well, go and find it somewhere else!!!". What a sweet-heart that Uncle Bill is.

Tommy’s mother overrules Uncle Bill and lets Rick and his friends carry the injured Laura into the house. Rick tries to call for help but, lo and behold!, the phone is dead. Bill exposits that there has been a "rock-fall" and the roads are blocked. (How the hell did he find that out? Just a ‘gut feeling’?)

Laura is placed in a spare bedroom while Tommy’s mom makes coffee for everyone. Ahhh, we finally learn the name of Tommy’s mom after 40 minutes of film (now I don’t have to type ‘Tommy’s mom’ everytime). Molly. Yes, that’s better. Molly tells them they can get help at a forest ranger’s cabin a few miles away (I guess Mr. Friendly, Uncle Bill, chose not to reveal this information). Hmm, could this be the same ranger cabin that the poachers are crashing out in? Ooo! The excitement is building!

Understandably, Rick wants to go to the cabin and radio for help immediately. Molly tells him that he’ll just have to wait until the morning because at night "..he’d never make it." (?). Anyway, Molly offers to let them spend the night, and in the morning Uncle Bill will drive them to the ranger’s cabin (boy, I’d love to take a road trip with that guy).

Pod People

Molly and Mr. Congeniality: Uncle Bill

Up in Tommy’s room, we experience the miracle of birth: the egg has started hatching! Pass out the cigars! The egg breaks open to reveal a strawberry-jam coated…well, thing. Once again, the scene is so under lit that we have to wait until later in the movie before I take a decent screen shot.

Brace yourself: scene change! We see Mack and Burt sitting around a camp fire, drinking Jack Daniels and trying to figure out how they are going to get back to town with their haul of pilfered nightingale eggs. While they are discussing things (and boring the viewer) they hear a noise. Looking up into the fog, they see the outline of an humanoid shape approaching them. Those of us in the know, realize that this is the alien that earlier pushed Laura off the cliff. The alien walks up to their campfire and stares at the poachers, while a whole lot of nothing continues to take place. (This scene is as exciting as it sounds.)

True to their nature, the poachers try to capture the alien in order to sell it. Burt circles slowly behind the alien while Matt sits by the fire distracting it with, er, small talk: "…Hey! You enjoying yourself? Taking a little night stroll?" (Sounds more like he’s trying to pick up a hooker…) Mack offers the alien some grilled chicken (!) as Burt finally makes his move, running up from behind and throwing a net over the unsuspecting extraterrestrial visitor. Burt struggles with the alien and gets knocked flat on his back, while Mack loads his crossbow (!) and finally shoots the alien. Understandably irritated, the alien snaps off the crossbow bolt (still protruding from his chest…tough little bugger!) and chases Mack off into the darkness.

Back in Tommy’s bedroom, the little alien is up and about: and hungry. Tommy names the little creature "Trumpy" (!). Ok then: Trumpy it is. Given a bowl of milk, the hungry Trumpy sticks his ‘trunk’ into the bowl and starts drinking. Trumpy drains the contents in about 2 seconds flat while Tommy eagerly explains how they are going to grow up and play together, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Pod People

Baby Trumpy…big bucks were spent in this film, I tell ya!

In a monumentally lazy display of film making, we cut away from Trumpy to a scene showing some fog-covered mountains. We watch the mountains for a few seconds, expecting, well, I don’t know. Then we cut back to Tommy’s bedroom where he is exclaiming how big Trumpy has become. Yes, we don’t need to see Trumpy grow up, nor really any indication of the passage of time; just cut to an entirely different scene that has no relevance, then cut back to the original scene where some unknown amount of time has passed. The magic of film making…You bet! Trumpy is now as big as Tommy…How much time passed? Two minutes? A week? The band is still sleeping over in the house, so it must be the same day! Argggh! My head hurts!

Everybody’s breakfast is ruined when they find out that Laura has died during the night. Tommy wonders what all the commotion is about and asks his mother. Obviously not wanting to alarm her son, she tells him it’s nothing and asks Tommy if he is done eating. When Tommy says he is finished, his mother says "Then you know what you have to do…run along." Wow! Great script writing! Author! Author!

Up in Tommy’s room, Trumpy curiously examines Tommy’s pet kitten, rabbit, hamster, and two parakeets. Mind numbing Casio-synth music pling-plings in the background, annoying the viewers to ensure they don’t fall asleep during this tedious scene. During his cursory examination of Earth life forms, one of Tommy’s toy robots turns itself on and startles Trumpy. Trumpy, displaying his immense extra-terrestrial powers, makes his eyes shine and destroys the toy. (The latter special effect is realized by lighting a sparkler tied to the robot’s back… George Lucas eat your heart out!!!)

Pod PeoplePod PeoplePod People

Trumpy no like Earth toy…Trumpy destroy Earth toy…

Tommy sneaks some more food back upstairs to Trumpy…this time the meal consists of peanuts, bread, and milk (Doesn’t he know that babies shouldn’t eat peanuts?!). In a rather nauseating scene, Tommy spreads some peanuts on the desk, then Trumpy bends over and sucks them up with his snout-thingy. After that mighty feast, Tommy, desperate for companionship, starts to play with Trumpy. Tommy pulls out a puzzle and tries to explain to Trumpy how it works, while Trumpy simply stares vacantly (a lot like the viewers of this film).

Seeing that Trumpy is failing to grasp the awesome complexities involved with assembling a jigsaw puzzle, Tommy pulls out a ‘Simon’ (if you remember those, then you’re getting old! And yes, I had one when I was a kid!) For all of you young whipper-snappers out there, ‘Simon’ was an electronic disk-shaped toy. It had 4 colored buttons on it that would light up in random order. After the computer was done lighting the lights, you then had to match the sequence within a certain amount of time. As the game progressed, the sequences of lights got longer and the cadence got faster. A lot of fun when you were a kid…a lot of boredom to watch in a film.

Pod PeopleAfter Tommy displays his lack of ‘Simon’ prowess (I would have kicked his ass in a Simon show-down! Anytime, Tommy! Bring it on!), he hands it to Trumpy. In one of the more goofier sequences (but not the goofiest by far…that one comes later), Trumpy takes the Simon, and using some sort of other-worldly "Simon Control" powers, makes the toy start playing stupid music and strange drum beats, while Tommy gawks in amazement.

Downstairs in the ‘Chateau d’Uncle Bill’, the adults have decided to try to drive to the ranger station and report what has happened (wasn’t this already established earlier? Whatever). Molly tells Uncle Bill to start up his jeep and drive Brian out to the station, to which Bill responds with a surprisingly small amount of bitching, merely grumbling that the road is in a "..terrible state…".

While the drama plays itself out downstairs, Tommy and Trumpy continue bonding. Tommy tries to find out where Trumpy is from but doesn’t meet with any success until Trumpy points to a star-chart where one of the constellations magically lights up (Wow! Cool!). Tommy offers the services of his telescope to Trumpy so he can look at his home, but first he has to show Trumpy how to use it (Ummm…put your eye to the eye-piece..wow! That was difficult!). Incredibly, when Tommy looks through it he sees some lions (!), then some hippos (!!), and finally some elephants (!!!). I’m really at a loss to explain all this. Just go with it. Maybe it means that Trumpy has special powers…well, no matter how ‘powerful’ Trumpy may be, if he can’t figure out how to assemble a child’s jigsaw puzzle, I’m just not too impressed.

Now comes the moment you’ve been waiting for. Trumpy is about to display his ‘magical’ powers. Trumpy’s beady eyes light up and he begins to ‘magically’ move things around the room (achieved by really hokey stop-motion filming…you know…shoot a frame or two..move the stuff…shot some more frames…cutting edge techniques used since, oh, the 1940’s?) Lights flash, toys move around, clothes fly out of the closet, and so on, in the accompaniment of music which can best be described as ‘circus music from hell’.

Tommy’s mother hears the commotion and comes upstairs to see what’s going in. Seeing the mess, Tommy explains it all away by blaming everything on his hamster (!). His mom then takes him downstairs for some reason, after which Trumpy comes out of hiding and looks through the telescopic. Oh, so sweet. (Amazing how Trumpy sees a star-filled night sky, even though it’s broad daylight out.)

Back to Uncle Bill and Brian, driving over a snow (!!!) covered road (huh?! Snow?) Whoa! Wait! Shift scenes again! Back at Tommy’s house, Tommy and his mother are cleaning up the breakfast dishes. Tracy, the flirty singer (not Laura, she’s dead, this is the other flirty singer), is relieved to find out that the TV still works, so they at least won’t be missing their programs. (Ummm, I guess you got over the loss of your dead friend, whose corpse is still laying in the room down the hall…) Anyway, we find out that neither the TV nor the radio works, then Tommy goes back up to his room (after doing nothing in this scene), and Rick comes back into the living room after putting Sharon to bed. (What is going on here? Oh yeah, Sharon, being so upset by Laura’s death has taken sleeping pills and gone to bed (!!!))

Upstairs, Tommy discovers that Trumpy is missing from his room. Tommy burns a few minutes of runtime going through the house looking for Trumpy, and rest assured, you get to follow his every, excruciatingly boring move, but after a while he discovers Laura’s dead body in the spare bedroom. Strangely (and stupidly) her forehead is also covered with those sparkling lights, the same as the poacher in the cave. The alert viewer (or should I say, the awake viewer) will note that the lights on her head are in the shape of the star constellation that Trumpy lit up on Tommy’s star chart. Cool, huh? Does this have anything to do with the plot? Nope.

Pod People

Cool! Wow! Spooky!

Returning to Brian and Uncle Bill in the jeep, we are happy to see that winter from the previous scene is over and it’s now spring again in this scene. They have reached the ranger station and go up to it in order to find help. Bill, for some unexplained reason, takes his rifle along and stealthily opens the cabin door. (Doesn’t everybody bring a loaded rifle when going up to a ranger station? I know I do!)

The inside of the cabin is in complete disarray, indicated by a toppled rocking chair and a magazine on the floor (Brian asks, "What the hell happened here?", in case we didn’t realize how trashed the place was). In the next room, they discover the body of Mack the poacher. Ok, when did that happen? Who cares. He too has the telltale sign of the lights on his forehead. What about Burt, by the way? Don’t worry, he’s written out of the movie at this point.

Pod People

Hmm, I sense a pattern here…

Bill and Brian wisely decide to get back to the house, but are ambushed by Trumpy’s twin brother (hence forth refereed to as ‘TTB’). TTB hits Brian in the leg, knocking him over a coffee table, where he lands on the floor and dies. (!!!) Uncle Bill runs back out to his truck, now surrounded in a dense fog, and tries to drive away, but of course the motor won’t start. TTB smashes the driver’s side window and..and…scene change.

Back at Tommy’s house, Tommy is still looking for Trumpy, and Molly and Tracy are still cleaning away the breakfast dishes (are they getting paid by the hour?!). Rick enters, picks up the phone, and tries to call…somebody…not sure who. The phone is still dead (of course) and now everyone is starting to get worried about Brian and Uncle Bill because they’ve been gone "for hours". (Well, maybe they’re worried about Brian; I can’t see how anybody would care if Uncle Bill was murdered by an alien.)

Now it’s about time to kill off another character. Yes, good. Tracy, finally finished helping Molly after hours of clearing the dining room table, goes out to their camper in order to be killed, er, I mean get something. Tommy up in his room, hears her screaming, goes to his telescope (?) and watches her struggle in the camper. After a short while, Tommy sees Tracy’s lifeless body thrown from the camper, followed by what appears to be Trumpy. (Do I really have to tell you that it is TTB? Please don’t make me tell you that… You can’t really think that good ol’ Trumpy would have done that?)

Just as Tommy is about to run outside and investigate, Uncle Bill comes driving back home, racing through the huge cloud of smoke that has mysteriously entered the scene (a lot of freakin’ smoke around here!) and screeching to a halt in the driveway. He gets out of the jeep and sees the furry alien scurrying off into the woods. Bill takes a few pot-shots into the fog, but the alien gets away (never mind that there might be people out there, Uncle Bill, just fire away!)

Rick and Molly, hear the shots (Kathy has also taken sleeping pills (?), conveniently removing her from the scene) and run outside. Uncle Bill tells Rick that Brian has been killed by "some animal" back at the ranger station. Rick loses his cool and blames the murders on Bill, but before things get out of control, Molly suggests that they carry Tracy’s body inside and take care of the other things later (‘Other things’ being what? Small details? Like what is it that has killed 4 people in the last 12 hours?)

Inside, Molly bandages Uncle Bill’s head where he was hit by TTB. Rick goes to "…wake up the girls…" so they can get out of there (finally, somebody does something logical!), but is stopped by Bill who insists that it is pointless since the road is still blocked and it’s "…getting to be night time…" (How long days ‘daytime’ last in this movie? 2 hours?)

Tommy, in the meantime, is walking around the woods looking for Trumpy. Whoa! Scene change! Back inside, Bill and Rick are standing by the bar. Bill, having a drink, provokes Rick over something stupid (don’t ask, it doesn’t make any sense) which isn’t too smart since Rick is, for some reason unbeknownst to me, now holding a rifle. Rick points the rifle at Uncle Bill, then shoots a round into a bottle sitting on the bar. (Whoa, dude! You come into a man’s house, take his rifle and fire it at him! Learn some manners!) The, *ahem*, tension is broken up when Tommy comes knocking on the door. He says he was out "…fetching plants…" and is quickly ‘shooshed’ upstairs to his room by his mother. (That kid spends a lot of time up there…)

The two other girls, who had taken the sleeping pills (because they were so scared…You know, that’s my first reaction when I’m scared for my life: Take a bunch of sleeping pills and go to bed!), are starting to wake up. Kathy goes off to take a shower while Sharon combs her hair (yawn…almost done here).

Tommy goes to his room as told, where Trumpy has mysteriously returned. Tommy wants to know why Trumpy killed Tracy…alas, since they have no common language, Trumpy can’t explain it was his evil twin. The pathos! Finally, through what amounts to a game of 20 questions, Tommy finally learns that there is another alien running around and that it is this other alien who is killing everybody. Tommy tells Trumpy that Uncle Bill is hot to kill some aliens (so am I!), so Tommy decides to put Trumpy in a disguise (!) and hide him out into the woods.

Back outside, where it is now daytime, TTB is sneaking up to the house. Scene change!

Rick and Uncle Bill, still hanging out at the bar <hic!> peer nervously out the windows. This scene is exciting because "scary" music is playing in the background. Upstairs, Tommy has successfully disguised Trumpy by putting a jacket on him. I’m not totally convinced that this disguise is going to fool anybody, what with Trumpy’s 2 foot long snout sticking out from the hood:

Pod PeopleKathy gets out of the shower and is killed by TTB, who has miraculously appeared in the bathroom (!) (I will give credit to Kathy, she tried to defend herself by slapping the alien with her towel). Her screams bring the others running to the bathroom door but it is too late. Uncle Bill forces open the bathroom door just in time to see TTB running through another door and outside into the darkness. However, Uncle Bill manages to get off a wild shot and wounds it.

Time out. Really people, how many bathrooms have a door leading directly outside! And even if it did, would you take a shower and leave it unlocked after 4 people have been killed in less than a day?

Uncle Bill suggests that they go after it and "…finish it off once and for all…" Somehow, Rick has gotten ahold of a rifle, and he and Uncle Bill head off into the woods to finish off TTB. Suddenly, Trumpy appears in the middle of the living room (!!! Where the hell did he come from). Molly freaks out and she grabs a rifle and points it at Trumpy. Tommy places himself between his mom and Trumpy, forming a human shield, insisting that Trumpy just wants to be friends. He covers Trumpy long enough so that they can both run off into the woods.

Next we are treated to a sequence of scenes showing Uncle Bill and Rick searching for TTB, Molly and Sharon looking for Tommy, and Tommy and Trumpy trying to hide. All of these exciting scenes take place in thick fog and smoke, so it’s all pretty confusing (along with alternating day and night, but it’s OK because the actors keep saying "…we better wait until daylight…" in order to remind us that it is in fact night time).

Tommy and Trumpy finally find TTB in the woods. Tommy says to TTB that he isn’t like the others and is just trying to help, so he takes a look at TTB’s gunshot wound (at which time TTB barks at him (!)) Uncle Bill and Rick then stumble across the trio too, at which time Uncle Bill fires wildly. TTB runs over and karate chops Uncle Bill in the stomach, killing him (!) (Rest in peace, you grouchy bastard!). Rick then proceeds to fire a few bullets into TTB and kills him. Yes! Now the movie is almost over! Rick walks over to look at the alien, but TTB’s body sinks into the sand (!) and disappears.

Tommy and Trumpy escape the gunshots and run off into the fog. Tommy suddenly stops, turns to Trumpy and tells him that they can’t be friends anymore (!!??). He pushes Trumpy away and goes back into the house with his mom and the others. The film ends showing Trumpy standing by himself in the fog, alone, presumably to wander through the forest until he dies of starvation.

The End

No kidding. That’s it, folks.

Dennis Grisbeck (Feb 2005)

Afterthoughts

What a mess. Here’s something to cheer you up: the MST3K lyrics to "Idiot Control, Now!" (to the tune of "Hear the Engines Roll, Now!"):
With a pickle mind, We kick the nipple beer, Steady as a goat, We’re flying over trout
Ghetto down the highway at the speed of light, All I want to feel now is the wind in my eyes!
A sack of monkeys in my pocket…my sister’s ready to go!
Hear the engines roll, now!
Idiot control, now!
Hideous control, now!
Nitty on the road, now!
Midi in control, wheels on fire, burning rubber tires!
Near each other rolls now! He really loves me, go now!
Needy inches bow down! Pity and a poor boy!
Hear the engines roll, bees on pie, burning rubber tires!

Read more about Pod People at

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12 comments to Pod People (1983)

  • guts3d

    …Rick and Molly, hear the shots (Kathy has also taken sleeping pills (?), conveniently removing her from the scene) and run outside. Uncle Bill tells Rick that Brian has been killed by “some animal” back at the ranger station. Rick loses his cool and blames the murders on Bill, but before things get out of control, Molly suggests that they carry Tracy’s body inside and take care of the other things later (‘Other things’ being what? Small details? Like what is it that has killed 4 people in the last 12 hours?)

    I would think that they might face criminal charges for tampering with a murder scene! Great review, Dennis! My daughter and I watched the MST3K version last night and laughed ourselves silly.

  • Rummy Dummy

    I laughed out loud at “Charred Stump Preserve.”

  • Are you sure it wasn’t all the rum? 🙂

  • guts3d

    Could have been the whiskey… Might have been the gin… Could have been the 3 or 4 six-packs, I don’t know, but look at the shape I’m in…

  • Hey, you should write country songs 🙂

  • guts3d

    I must admit, I stole that…

  • Maybe you could write some sort of song like, “My dog is dead, my beer is empty…my truck won’t start, and I’m addicted to movies oh so crappy…”

  • guts3d

    Nah, that takes talent!

  • Talent is not a requirement for this site…you should know that by now 🙂

  • guts3d

    Lies! All of the reviews on the site give me hours of chuckles.

  • guts3d

    …Said ball of light is accompanied with the standard “roaring engine” sounds that all meteors manage to create in the soundless vacuum of outer space.

    I checked, you are correct, sir!

  • Criggums

    Good write-up! A few tweaks:

    *) Laura isn’t a background singer – she’s a groupie who is the daughter of one of the bosses at the studio, supposedly an exec.

    *) TTB places his hand on his victim’s foreheads after he kills them to leave the mark of shiny constellation-formed zits.

    *) You forgot to mention that the drive in the camper out to Cinder National Forest is underscored by another terrible song recorded by Rick and the team. It’s every bit as awful as “Hear the Engines Roll, Now!”

    *) Uncle Bill used to be a poacher, but “joined the other side.” Burt explains this at the beginning of the movie, and Molly reenforces the idea later when she talks about the poachers’ activities, with a pointed “Isn’t that right, Bill?”

    *) The drive through snow isn’t farfetched – in mountainous terrain you can go through those kinds of changes crossing over a ridge, so this didn’t bother me as badly as “day for night” shots.

    *) I don’t know if the original soundtrack was English, but the English soundtrack during the Simon sequence uses Simon sounds that don’t match the colors – small detail that is a big distraction if you’ve ever played Simon.

    *) The fact that Tracey is relieved she won’t miss Dallas is a clear indication of the director’s attempt to imply the movie takes place in the US, and is pitching it to a US audience. Friends dying left and right, and she’s wondering who shot J.R.?

    *) The poachers apparently can teleport while others must use conventional means of conveyance – how else could one explain their ability to pop up in so many scenes that supposedly take place hours apart in travel-time?

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