The Intruder Within (Peter Carter, 1981)
Dredging up prehistoric eggs and a bizarre fossil on a remote (cuz it wouldn’t be an “Alien” rip-off if it wasn’t) oil rig near Antarctica leads to everything from foreboding nightmares, uninhibited primal sex-craze mania, suicidal tendencies and, well, violent death by the deadly millions-of-years old creatures from beneath the oceans depths the small drilling crew has unearthed, with their only hope eventually being whatever head hardhat dude in charge and general earnest guy Jake Nevins (no-frills, likeable tv actor Chad Everett) and his new-to-the-rig scientist love interest Colette Beaudroux (Jennifer Warren, another generally agreeable boob tube actor) can threaten and cajole out of the secretive geologist (Joseph Bottoms, who looks a ton like his other acting bros, Timothy and Sam) who is on some kind of top secret directive from the oil company Zortron (and, if there was any doubts, with a dubious sounding sci-fi name like that, you just know the company isn’t all that concerned about the well-being of its workers).
With me and my small film troupe having gotten through, awhile back already, the entire series of “Alien” franchise films and all their cross-overs (starting with the mostly all worthwhile and imaginative initial film quadrilogy, into the Paul W.S. Anderson-guided consumer-slick emptiness of the “Alien vs Predator” twosome – which then required throwing the “Predator” films into the mix, of which I adored the second one by far the most – and finishing up with returning director Ridley Scott’s stuffy tangential prequel Prometheus and the lethally dull final entry, Alien: Covenant which I still haven’t found the desire to get around to writing about yet), as well as a bunch of films known to have inspired “Alien” (like legendary Italian director Mario Bava’s wildly colorful and tripped out scifi triumph over no-budget constraints Planet of the Vampires from 1965 and the 1956 masterful scifi adaption of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” with the psychedelic electronic score known as Forbidden Planet) we all decided we had nowhere near enough… and it was time to find some new avenue of exploration down the “Alien” pathway… so now… films that were straight out rip-offs of Alien.
The first one out the gate on our viewing list, TV movie The Intruder Within came a mere two years after the wildly successful release of filmmaker Ridley Scott’s first and arguably greatest (some counter with the first James Cameron-directed sequel, but not I) “Alien” film, with its evocative tagline of “In space, no one can hear you scream” and its introduction of that constantly evolving, perfectly created survival machine with acid for blood and a phallic-shaped head (the better to be imagined by mad Swiss artist HR Giger, of course) eventually known as a xenomorph, and, amongst the weird and whacky Roger Corman productions and uber-violent Italian cash-grabs, is perhaps the only attempted network television go at taking on Alien, which makes sense, considering there was only so gruesomely gory you could get away with on a Movie-of-the-Week.
Saying that though, the tube times might have been more innocent, but you have to hand it to the makers of The Intruder Within – with the constant downtime talk amongst the mixed-gender crew being almost exclusively around hooking up (with the writer speaking nicely to what you know would eventually have to be a lot of sex obsession stuck out in the middle of the ocean), a male crew member turning possessed by an alien force after his finger pricks one of those monster eggs and raping one of the woman – with the woman then giving birth just moments later to a full grown alien life form! – even if a lot of it happens off screen, they were definitely pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable to all those families viewing from their living rooms looking for some comforting status quo confirming television time before drifting off to bed.
There is an appealing whiff of some Lovecraftian Old One mythology, with the geologist surmising the lead creature is an original super evil that — in an excessively convoluted way that includes charts showing man’s evolution from ape (and leaves one entirely confused as to what an oil company wants with these creatures, let alone had any idea they were out here) – apparently killed off an entire distant ape ancestor lineage before disappearing, lying dormant since then, waiting to be unleashed (or something like that — to be honest, it gets very confusing – including the fact they keep treating it as one creature, while we see more than one of them running around, including lots of eggs).
And à la Alien, the creature shifts form, starting out as an eel-like hissing creature with prominent razor sharp teeth, then into its final incarnation as a man in a rubber monster suit (hey, I grew up on classic monster films, so that’s far from a turn off to me) – with the only stage missing being the lobster-hand that impregnates a human, but they took care of that with the ‘possessed guy with sudden monster sperm turned into a rapist’ gag.
Along with overtly ripping off Alien, with its added telepathic nightmares and primal sexual possession stuff, The Intruder Within also takes mish-mash style from everything from haunted house and possession films, to more specifically David Cronenberg’s early overtly body-disgust films like They Came From Within and Rabid …while providing the aforementioned hints at Lovecraftian Old Ones.
Now, in no way am I saying the film explodes into the pantheon of great alien films, but – unlike my fellow viewers, who it felt were shuffling in their seats a bit out of boredom – my experience was, even accounting for the unimaginative TV-style blocking and flat lighting (brought to us on muddy standard definition straight off of youtube), there was more than enough interest to be found in this 90 minutes to make it worthwhile (even with the deadly force of a creature that was said to have wiped out entire species getting offed a bit too easily by the conclusion).