A 1959 low budget Sci-Fi production by filmmaker Tom Graeff, “Teenagers From Outer Space,” found its place in drive-ins as lower billing to a Godzilla sequel. Storyline involves aliens in search of grazing pasture for Gargan (giant crustaceans) their primary food source. Jim Tushinski puts Graeff almost single-handedly in public’s eye with website “Tom Graeff Biography Project“ and “CineGraeffia,” a You Tube channel with clips from Graeff’s films. Graeff makes fine subject, who had film debut in 1951 on a Westwood, CA screen just off campus,when still a college senior in UCLA film school. The early promise turned tragic when “in 1959, Graeff placed an ad in the Los Angeles Times proclaiming that he was to be called Jesus Christ II, and that God had shown him truth and love…The next year, Graeff filed to have his name legally changed to Jesus Christ II. After opposition by the Christian Defense League, the petition was denied.
After this incident and a subsequent arrest, Graeff vanished from Hollywood,” according to Wikipedia. Graeff committed suicide in late 1970.
TFOS filmed on location in Hollywood in 1956-57, provides nice period piece with what appears to be sparsely populated Hollywood Hills and middle class trac homes. Durable rotary-style black phones and 1940-50s era cars made of heavy steel, are evident. David Love AKA Chuck Roberts, plays lead character Derek and lived with Graeff behind bungalow that is called home to trusting Betty Morgan in film. Morgan, played by pretty Dawn Bender, lives with her grandpa and becomes Derek’s love interest, when he finds address on her dog’s tag. Derek opposes alien goal to make Earth a Gargan-grazing pasture, escapes to side with Earthlings, who unlike his kind enjoy family and rich emotional lives. An apt synopsis of TFOS dystopian plot with commentary can be located at Mystery Science Theater 3000 website.
British Actor Bryan Pearson, another colorful character involved with TFOS, invested $5000 in attempt to revive acting career as killer alien, Thor. Pearson brought along his Nazi-era German wife, Ursula, who plays Professor Simpson’s secretary. Pearson sued Graeff eventually to get his money back. The best scenes, are perhaps, when Thor reduces humans to skeletal remains with shots from “focusing disintegrator ray gun,” a well-done special effect. You may watch below to find out how 90 minute TFOS ends, the best part admission is free!
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