Review of "The Alpha Incident (DVD)"

published 09/12/2014 | Jarisleif
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"Alpha Males and Alpha Woman"

The Alpha Incident (1978)

"The Alpha Incident" is a 1978 sci-fi film which was directed by Bill Rebane, who has also directed such films as "Monster a-Go Go" (1965), "The Capture of Bigfoot" (1979), and "The Demons of Ludlow" (1983).

Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.


Outline

The film is 95 minutes in length and stars Ralph Meeker ("The Dirty Dozen", "Wall of Noise", "Something Wild") as Charlie, Stafford Morgan ("Die Hard 2", "Another 48 Hrs", "The Stunt Man") as Dr. Sorensen, and John F. Goff ("They Live", "The Fog", "Butterfly") as Jack Tiller.


Plot

The plot for the film reads as follows: A microorganism from Mars, brought to Earth by a space probe, terrorizes passengers in a railroad office.


Review

The film starts with a backdrop of what is supposed to be (I think) some festering pit on an alien planet, and green parasites that are moving around in it. What it actually looks like to me is some cheap Tesco 12p a tin tomato soup that has been left open for a few weeks and has gone mouldy and is being stirred around from out of camera by a straw or something. The less I say about my experiences with mouldy Tesco soup, the better, as far as I'm concerned! Anyway, what it turns out to really be is a sample on a slide that some scientists are looking at through a microscope. How wrong was I, and I didn't even need to reference the tomato soup affair!

Watch any 1970s sci-fi film and you can guarantee that at least one of the scientists is sporting a big bushy beard. I've seen many of these films, and fortunately the majority of those bearded scientists have been male! Actually, there could be a good argument for any sci-fi film of any era, come to think of it. There are too many clichés on the big screen. For instance, why is the baddie always a Brit? Why does everyone pick a bulletproof car to hide behind when being shot at? And why does a gang of heavies attack the hero one at a time? Surely they'd be able to take care of business if they all ploughed into him at once! These and many others are things that have got up my nose over the years, and I often wish that filmmakers would be unique for once.

So the first part of the film takes place on a train? Oh yeah, there it is in the 'on location' scenery shot I just saw. Anyway, it seems the director can't work out what's supposed to be moving and what isn't, as some of the shots are quite clearly motionless and the actors are oblivious to the movements of being on a train. In other scenes we can't even hear the train moving along the rails. Now I realise that trains have become more sophisticated these days, and I was clearly very impressed by the lack of noise on a Virgin train from Manchester to London in September, but this was the 1970s. As for my train experience in September, the return journey with a loud mouth cockney on board wasn't as quiet. Fortunately, the journey only lasted just over two hours and I had a night on the ale to look forward to, and a nice hotel room waiting for me.

The special effects are nowhere near brilliant, but they were never going to be. I guess they might have looked good back then but they look pretty stupid today. If the FX guys think rats are supposed to have brains that cover the length of their entire bodies, then they probably should have looked on the Internet for the anatomy of said rodent. Oh yeah, it's 1978 – there is no Internet. I suppose they could have bobbed down to the local library, but they were likely too busy patting themselves on the back, congratulating each other on a successful special effects scene. What I don't expect is the effects team to be sitting at home right now showing their work on this film to whoever will be brave enough to watch. I expect it would be comparable to a nerdy uncle who goes on holiday to Skegness and decides to show off his slideshow of street lamps to the entire family.

Apparently the people involved are quarantined in a building, yet they are free to come and go into the outside world as they please. How does that work? Have they never seen or read "The Stand"?! Obviously not, because Stephen King was likely still writing it at the time of this film's release, but you see the point I am trying to make here. And they supposedly have to stay awake or they'll die. I have to wonder if Wes Craven watched this and thought that Freddy Krueger would do a better job at keeping people awake when all they want to do is sleep. The plot is clearly spread pretty thin but that is the least of the film's problems, which are wide and varied to say the least. I like films that challenge me into thinking what's going on but this tested me to the very limits of not just wondering what was happening but also why it was happening!

Jenny turns up late for work yet in one scene she's seen changing into another set of clothes. Obviously if she's running that late, she probably wouldn't have had time to pack more clothes. And why would she take along more gear anyway? Oh, I get it. It was done for the obligatory nice looking woman partially nude scene complete with funky music! Personally, I don't understand the need for a naked scene. It almost never has anything to do with the film itself, but I suppose in this instance that it gave male viewers something to look at while pondering whether the plot would actually go anywhere. It is just not my thing, though, and I wish writers and directors would realise that you can make a film without a woman having to take her clothes off.

The print is pretty atrocious and sometimes unwatchable. Some of it is like watching something on a green screen monitor, only the picture has faded and worn so bad that it's pretty difficult to work out what's going on. For the majority of the film I'd say the bottom couple of inches are eroded and the best of the print is in a circle towards the top half. This is a shame because I feel that if I was able to clearly view the film then I might have enjoyed it a little more. As it stands, I struggled to get into it, but I think if I watched a copy that isn't so badly messed up then I would happily sit through it again to get the full effect of the plot, character interaction and twists. Speaking of which, there are film endings in which I often think "Yawn. Saw that coming a country mile away." This one, however, was different, and I thought it brought forth a fascinating twist of events. I'm not going to give the game away, but it definitely put a smile on my face when I saw it coming at me from a completely different angle.


Summary

I was too young during the 1970s to remember if I've seen this film before, and it definitely doesn't look familiar. That said, I think I might have enjoyed it back then in that era at any age. The problem is that the film is severely dated now and it really isn't the best viewing I've done recently. I know that when I buy these films there is always a chance I won't be able to view them properly but you have to take the rough with the smooth, and films like this are always going to be hit and miss. One thing I will say, though, is you should at least give them a chance to entertain you. If everyone decided not to bother just because it sounds or looks bad, up and coming directors, writers and actors will never get the chance to show what they're capable of. Even if there is a serious lack of talent on show, there is always something in a film that Hollywood bigshots may look at and see some potential, no matter how little that might be.


Special Features

No extras are included on this DVD.


What the Critics Say

BobaFett1138: "This is truly a movie that started out as a bad one already but rapidly started to become even more worse."

BleedingSkull: "Some better writing could have really brought out the characters and tension."

MoviesToDieBeforeSeeing: "Take my word for it and skip this one. The only reason for watching it would be to confirm that Bill Rebane is, indeed, in the running for Worst Filmmaker Ever."

WeirdWildRealm: "Essentially nothing happens for an hour & a half then it just ends."

SciFilm: "The script is full of bad dialogue, and the acting doesn't redeem it much."

My rating: 4/10


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Comments on this review

  • euphie published 20/12/2014
    e :o)
  • Pointress published 16/12/2014
    love some of the critics' comments
  • IzzyS published 13/12/2014
    Very insightful.
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Product Information : The Alpha Incident (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

DVD Region: DVD

Classification: Parental Guidance

Production Year: 1978

Actor(s) (Last name, First name): Meeker, Ralph

Director(s) (Last name, First name): Rebane, Bill

Title: A

EAN: 0883629250946

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Listed on Ciao since: 08/12/2014