1983, 84 mins. 18 secs.
Directed by Juan Piquer Simón
Ian Sera, Nina Ferrer, Susanna Bequer, Óscar Martín, Sara Palmer, Maria Albert
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Between his splatter cult classic Pieces and the gross-out mollusk masterpiece Slugs, Spanish filmmaker Juan Piquer Simón-- usually credited as "J.P. Simon"-- found another, more wholesome way to pulverize audiences' psyches with his cracked sci-fi heartwarmer, Extra Terrestrial Visitors. This one is more (in)famous today for its reworked U.S. TV version from Film Ventures International nonsensically entitled Pod People, which became one of the most beloved episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Regular Simón mascot Ian Sera, best remembered as clueless campus stud Kendall in Pieces, returns here and even gets to sing a bit as Rick, the verbally abusive leader of a pop band who head out to the woods for some camping after a contentious recording session. However, three hunters have just been attacked in the area after spying a glowing light coming to earth and depositing some unusual eggs. You might expect this to veer into Contamination territory (especially when the alien presence proves to be homicidal), but things go differently when young Tommy (Martín) spies the landing as well through his telescope and manages to retrieve the one egg left intact. The discovery quickly hatches and grows to full size and becomes Tommy's new best buddy, a long-nosed, furry creature he names Trumpy. Meanwhile Trumpy's alien parent is running loose in the area and will stop at nothing to find him.
One of the earliest and goofiest attempts to cash in on the success of Steven Spielberg's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, this was originally intended to be a much darker and more violent alien attack film in the vein of Xtro. However, the powers that be insisted on making the central alien a cute, child-friendly character who can move objects around and do fancy stop-motion toy tricks a la Mary Poppins. Of course, the various homicides scattered throughout the script clash heavily with that approach, resulting in a tonally baffling experience that makes this a much, much weirder Spielberg wannabe than Hollywood peers like Explorers and Flight of the Navigator. Of course even this one is left in the dust by the lunatic Mac and Me, but that's another story...
Apart from the MST3000 version of Pod People issued by Shout! Factory, this one hasn't had a legit North American release in ages (especially not counting a crummy bootleg DVD from the dreaded Jef Films International). In 2023, Severin Films gave the original director's cut a Blu-ray release as a standalone edition or a Good News / Bad News bundle, plus a special T-shirt commemorating the film's most memorable fashion choice. (How this didn't end up as a Severin Kids title will forever remain a mystery.) The film itself looks great courtesy of a 4K scan of the original camera negative, or as great as it can be given that the entire climax is badly lit and completely shrouded in fog! The saturated red lighting inside the cave scenes looks especially impressive here and is much punchier than past video editions, and having the original opening sequence with the intended score intact is a big plus. (See below for more about that.) The English and Spanish tracks are included here (DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono) and sound fine, with optional English SDH or English-translated subtitles. The English track is preferable since that's what the actors were speaking, even if they were dubbed later by others.
The first extra is the documentary The Simon's Jigsaw: A Journey into the Universe of Juan Piquer Simón (101m20s), which was included earlier on the Blu-ray of Cthulhu Mansion and is always worth a look for the curious. In "A Weekend in Hell" (14m23s), actor Emilio Linder chats about working with Peter O'Toole, getting his first significant role in Pieces, and marveling at the creative budget-conscious special effects on films like this and The Rift. However, the highlight has to be his story about making an S-rated erotic film for Jess Franco and its very amusing transformation by the time it hit screens. In "Composing The Cosmos" (19m2s), composer Librado Pastor (who provided the original Spanish score for Pieces as well) discusses starting his film career with Satan's Blood, his other music gigs, the psychological effects of music in genre films, his use of synths in this film, and his aversion to horror films "because I get scared easily." If that isn't enough, you also get "A Private Concert From Librado Pastor" (8m41s) featuring highlights on his Korg keyboard like "adagio from Extra Terrestrial Visitors" and some melodies from Satan's Blood. As a reminder of how much worse this film could get in the wrong hands. you also get the alternate Pod People opening credits (2m17s), sourced from VHS and featuring computer-generated titles over random footage from 1985's The Galaxy Invader for some reason. In a nice touch, the disc also comes with a bonus CD featuring a four-track soundtrack including two Pastor instrumental cues and both of the Ian Sera songs, which means you can now blast "Hear the Engines Roar Now" on your drive to work (and yell "It stinks!" when it's over).
Reviewed on May 21, 2023