07th Apr2013

‘Grindhouse 5: Dr. Alien’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Billy Jacoby, Judy Landers, Troy Donahue, Olivia Barash, Stuart Fratkin, Raymond O’Connor, Bobby Jacoby | Written by Kenneth J. Hall | Directed by David DeCoteau

dralien-cast

Yet another film from my youth and one that I distinctly remember from the pages of The Dark Side magazine (back in my pre-internet days when I used to buy horror mags religiously), Dr. Alien is a film that, despite my knowledge of it, I have yet to see. So this new DVD from 88 Films is a welcome addition to my ever-growing B-movie library.

After Ms. Xenobia takes over Dr. Ackerman’s science class following an “incident” the puts Ackerman in the hospital, she persuades a nerdish Wesley Littlejohn to participate in some vitamin research she and her assistant Drax are conducting. Suddenly Wesley becomes very desirable to all the ladies – including Ms. Xenobia herself – despite the fleshy antenna that grows out of his head when he’s excited! However Ms. Xenobia is not what she appears – she’s less science teacher and more alien scientist – and the new found confidence she has instilled in Wesley threatens his burgeoning relationship with the girl of his dreams, Leeane (Barash).

Out of touch parents, nerdy guy turned stud, musical number (via a shoe-horned in plot about starting a band) and bizarre wish fulfillment – all tropes of the teen comedy genre that are also present here. But unlike many genre films of the era Dr. Alien plays everything with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. From the knowing cameos (aimed squarely at fans of horror films of the era) to the gloriously OTT story, this is a film that could have only been made during the 80s…

Dr. Alien is filled to the brim with familiar faces of the 80s. Led by Billy Jacoby, who appeared in TV shows such as Silver Spoons and Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, as the nerdish Wesley; the film also stars Judy Landers (B.J. and the Bear, Vega$), Olivia Barash (Fame, Tuff Turf), and Stuart Fratkin (Teen Wolf Too); as well as cameos from Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer, Ginger Lynn, Laura Albert and Elizabeth Kaitan, who stars in 88 Films’ other Grindhouse Collection release, Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity. 

But it’s not only in front of the camera that features some familiar names. Dr. Alien was helmed by the prolific DTV king David DeCoteau and written by Kenneth J. Hall, who penned some of the decades cheesiest straight to video films (many for DeCoteau), including Evil Spawn, The Tomb, Nightmare Sisters and the infamous Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout. Hall was also responsible for the story for the original Puppet Master movie and wrote one of DeCoteau’s only other teen comedies, The Girl I Want (which also starred Linnea Quigley and Elizabeth Kaitan).

This latest 88 Films Grindhouse Collection release feature the same VHS-quality transfer and a complete film as an added bonus feature. Accompanying Dr. Alien is the first Charles Band produced straight to VHS movie, Auditions, which is a faux documentary on the casting process for one of Band’s early softcore porn movies. The quality of Auditions is even poorer than VHS – a murky, hard to watch mess that has probably been taken from an tenth generation videotape. Still, it’s better to get these films as bonus features rather than having to pay full price for them as they do in the US!

Less of a grindhouse flick and more a goofball 80s teen comedy, Dr. Alien is the odd man out amongst 88 Films other horror-themed releases. But for fans of the genre this is a very welcome UK DVD release for this 80s “classic”.

**** 4/5

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