Blu-ray Release: June 27, 2023
Audio: Spanish and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Run Time: 84:18
Director: Juan Piquer Simón
Snorkel-nosed furry aliens arrive on Earth where they encounter a foggy wilderness filled with sociopathic poachers, an American rock band, and befriend a boy named Tommy (Óscar Martín). (From Severin’s official synopsis)
Best remembered as the man behind 1982’s hyper-violent giallo/Euroslasher Pieces (Spanish: Mil gritos tiene la noche) – and for good reason, because it is a gore classic – Spanish director Juan Piquer Simón’s total filmmaking career demonstrates a larger investment in sci-fi and fantasy films than movies about chainsaw-wielding killers. This begins with his (non-documentary) feature directing debut: an adaptation of Jules Verne’s Where Time Began (Spanish: Viaje al centro de la Tierra; aka: The Fabulous Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1977). That film was followed by the pulpy, Saturday morning serial throwback The Supersonic Man (1979) and the Verne-esque adventure Mystery on Monster Island (Spanish: Misterio en la isla de los monstruos, 1981), as well as less family-friendly creature-features Slugs (1988) and The Rift (1989), which was released the same year as George P. Cosmatos’ Leviathan, Shaun S. Cunningham’s DeepStar Six, and at least three other underwater monster movies.
One year after Pieces, Simón was making one of those less family-friendly movies (even recycling some of the sets). It was a standard issue sci-fi-horror about an evil alien on a rural rampage – a sort of a Spanish answer to zero-budget American movies, like Don Dohler’s Nightbeast (1982) and Greydon Clark’s Without Warning (1980)*. Unfortunately for him, Pieces was sharing theater space with a little Stevie Spielberg joint called E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982) and then that movie went on to become the highest grossing motion picture of all time (at the time). So, the bosses at Almena Films forced Simón to change tactics, awkwardly turning one of his blood-thirsty spacemen into a cuddly lil’ fellah. The results are a singularly strange project known as Extra Terrestrial Visitors (Spanish: Los nuevos extraterrestres, 1983) that is trapped between incompatible tones and ideals, sold as a horror movie in some countries and as a literal sequel to Spielberg’s film in others, pleasing nobody, including Simón himself. Extra Terrestrial Visitors was then forgotten until the recut American release, retitled Pod People, found its way onto Mystery Science Theater 3000 (season 3/episode 3, 1991) and entered the realm of so-bad-it's-good fandom.
“So-bad-it’s-good” is, of course, a misnomer, because truly enjoyable junk cinema requires a degree of quality, commitment, and ambition from filmmakers. Being a competent, borderline skilled technician, who seemed to care about and enjoy making movies, Simón was a master of the art of good/bad motion picture production. He also couldn’t afford to fund his most ambitious visions, which led to charmingly chintzy, yet cleverly executed special effects. In this case, most people remember the dopey adult alien costume, but the baby alien (named “Trumpy”...) is pretty cute and the asteroid landing sequence is pretty cool. Simón’s key strengths, however, were his truly strange creative impulses, which made his best movies unpredictable, despite genuine attempts to re-create well-known Hollywood material. The fact that he wanted to make Extra Terrestrial Visitors a horror movie and was forced to make a family friendly adventure, instead, actually works in the film’s favor, because it compounds the erratic tonal and narrative shifts that make a classic Simón piece work. His heart isn’t entirely in this film, for obvious reasons, but there are still plenty of delightfully baffling choices as the story accelerates into a cavalcade of one thing after another and the cast does their best to fight through the absurdity with a semblance of dignity intact.
As mentioned, a re-edited version of Extra Terrestrial Visitors was released stateside as Pod People. The only way to see that cut on North American home video was via a Mystery Science Theater 3000 tape or DVD and included the show’s own cuts and changes. Curious fans could import European DVDs featuring the original cut with VHS quality transfers. Severin’s new Blu-ray, which marks the film’s world HD debut, features Simón’s cut and was mastered using a 4K scan of the original 35mm negative. Aside from a UHD reissue, this 1.85:1, 1080p transfer is almost certainly the best the film will ever look on home video. That said, Extra Terrestrial Visitors is a soapy mess of a movie. Juan Mariné & Ricardo Navarrete’s foggy cinematography isn’t the worst dollar store approximation of ET cinematographer Allen Daviau’s work, but there are some excessively fuzzy scenes, many of them outdoors in broad daylight. The fog softens details, forces color bleeding, and creates blotchy fields in the grain. The transfer mitigates the inherent issues with consistent bright colors, tight black levels, and clean-as-possible gradations.
Extra Terrestrial Visitors is presented with English and Spanish dub options, both in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio mono. According to an unattributed factoid on IMDb, as a Spanish-French co-production, the film was filmed in both Spanish and French. I’m not sure if this was true, though, because a lot of actors are clearly speaking English on set. Either way, the English performances are pretty good and features plenty of familiar dub voices from Italian and Spanish cult favorites, including Edward Mannix, Steven Luotto, Pat Starke, and Frank von Kuegelgen. The music and effects sound more or less identical between dubs, so your choice of track will have everything to do with language preference. The original soundtrack was done by Pieces composer Librado Pastor and the Film Ventures reedit was scored by Michael Demer. Considering that they’re highlighting only the director’s original cut, Severin has stuck with the Pastor score, which is a very effective, if not very lo-fi variation on the type of synth scores you’d hear from John Carpenter around the same time. There’s also a small collection of reggae-infused pop melodies that crop up every once in a while and appear on the included CD.
The Simon's Jigsaw: A Journey into the Universe of Juan Piquer Simón (101:22) – The most exciting extra is Luis Esquinas’ feature-length 2014 documentary on Simón and his work. It covers his influences and the various phases of his career, film-by-film. It includes behind-the-scenes footage and photos, storyboards and other illustrations, and clips, as well as new and archival interviews with Simón himself, critics/historians/fans Víctor Matellano, José Luis Salvador Estébenez, Miguel Ángel Plana, and Manuel Valencia; collaborating actors Antonio Mayans, Jack Taylor, Emilio Linder, Hilda Fuchsm, Frank Braña, Manuel Puchades, and José Luis Ayestarán; effects artists Reyes Abades, Domingo Lizcano, Marisa Pino, Basilio Cortijo, Gabriela Cortijo, and Emilio Ruiz del Río; and writer/directors Carlos Puerto, Sergio Blasco, Eli Roth, David García Sariñena, and Antonio Garcinuño.
A Weekend in Hell (14:23, HD) – Actor Emilio Linder recalls his earliest professional career, post-General Franco changes to the acting industry, appearing in five Simón movies (including Pieces, The Rift, and Extra Terrestrial Visitors), working on B-movies and major releases, and being consistently impressed by Simón’s technical ability, given his limited resources.
Composing the Cosmos (19:02, HD) – Composer Librado Pastor discusses his education, early gigs as a composer and musician, meeting Simón and working on Satan’s Blood (Spanish: Escalofrío, 1978; co-directed by Carlos Puerto), Pieces, Extra Terrestrial Visitors, and Dirty War (Spanish: Guerra sucia, 1984; co-directed by Alfredo Casado).
A Private Concert from Librado Pastor (8:41, HD) – Pastor plays cues from the film on his Korg electric piano.
Alternate Pod People opening credits (2:17, SD footage in HD)
Disc 2 (CD)
Four song original soundtrack by Librado Pastor:
"Los Nuevos Extraterrestres"
"Llegada a la Tierra"
"Rugen los Motores"
"Sara" (sung by Ian Sera)
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.