Review: Space invasion in Lapland

The alien invasion theme was a staple of 1950s film making, but not in the Nordic region. It’s therefore quite fascinating to learn about Space invasion in Lapland, which is not only the title of the film but also the entire story.

The film is supposed to take place in Northern Sweden, where the Lap (or Sami) natives live; it is also filmed on location in Northern Sweden, with half the crew and half the actors being Swedish, the rest American. There are even some actual Laps in the film. Space invasion in Lapland was a American-Swedish co-production and the only one of its kind, probably forever, due to traditional sci-fi films never getting funding in Sweden. The producers must have been desperate if they went after Swedish money to get a sci-fi film made, in the 50s no less.

The story is very traditional (like many superhero origin stories today will be regarded as either traditional or clichéd in 30 years from now); an object falls from the sky and crash lands in the snow and ice of Northern Sweden. At first scientists do not understand what the object is, but they realize it must have intelligence behind it. It appears that the object is some kind of transportation for alien beings, and their fears are confirmed when a monster starts roaming the glaciers.

Many 50s alien invasion films of this type are considered cult classics today. Space invasion in Lapland must be one of them, at least in a Nordic context, as it’s the only film of its kind from this region. It features real mountains, real snow, real ice, real Swedes, and real reindeers. Granted, there is one very fake sounding Lap but most of the time when American films pretend they have scenes from snowy areas, it’s so fake that a child would spot it. Even though it was directed by an American who made most of his work in TV, the film does not feel contrieved or rushed, and not at all like the cheap B-movie it was (even though the budget was huge in Swedish terms). It’s a given that designs, technology and acting looks very 1950-ish, but the film actually has its own energy and freshness. By that I mean there is never a dull moment. There are just no many things to laugh at, for example the alien monster which just has to be seen to be beleived. The point is that for this kind of film and for its age, there aren’t many “wrong” things about it. Now, 50 years later, it looks ridiculous but that is not the same as dull or poor. The only element in this film that could have been trimmed or changed are some padding; long skiing scenes and a love story, but I guess they needed to show the exoticness of Northern Sweden, and also try to appeal to the ladies, so both faults are justified. There is also a very brief nude scene included, quite explicit for a 50s film, but contrary to what others say about it, it wasn’t uncalled for; the lady came out of the shower, and one doesn’t wear clothes in the shower!

Not for everyone’s cup, but definitely for sci-fi historians and cult fans. Make sure you watch the Swedish version called Space invasion in Lapland and not any of the bastardized American edits, called either Horror in the Midnight Sun, Terror in the Midnight Sun, or Invasion of the Animal People.

Directed by Virgil W. Vogel.

Sweden / USA, 1959.

People-who-like-Michael-Bay-action rating: 2 of 10.
People-who-like-cult-movies-from-the-50s-rating: 7 of 10.

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