Dr. Alien (1989)
AKA I Was a Teenage Sex Maniac, I Was a Teenage Sex Mutant
Starring Billy Jayne, Judy Landers, Olivia Barash, Stuart Fratkin, Raymond O’Connor, Arlene Golonka, Jim Hackett, Robert Jayne, Julie Gray, Scott Morris, Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer
Directed by David DeCoteau
Expectations: Not much.
On the general scale:
On the B-movie scale:
Looking at the poster, it would be easy to assume that Dr. Alien is nothing but ridiculous, low-budget trash. Even with that weird alien face, it doesn’t look especially interesting to me. But over the last six years of reviewing films here at Silver Emulsion, one truth has continued to resonate: Keep an open mind. It’s a good piece of advice in general life, as well; being closed off to the unknown corners of the world doesn’t allow for much personal growth. I’ve also come to look forward to the David DeCouteau movies, as they are generally some of the better and more interesting offerings among the Full Moon catalog. So I started Dr. Alien hopeful and optimistic, despite not expecting much.
When the film ended 80-some minutes later, with a big grin plastered on my face and my commitment to pursuing artistic, creative endeavors bolstered, I was shocked. Dr. Alien might be one of DeCoteau’s best films; it’s certainly one of my favorites. Sure, it’s got all the dumb jokes and female nudity you’d expect of an ’80s sex comedy, which will definitely turn off some viewers (and keep the film out of the Criterion Collection), but it is a real achievement on DeCoteau’s part to craft a film that satisfies on both a lowbrow and intellectual level. Perhaps I’m overselling it, as the morality only comes in at the end, but regardless, the film excited me thoroughly. I expected sex comedy and nudity, but to leave the film reinvigorated in my appreciation of art as a vital component of the human experience, that’s something special.
Our hero is Wesley (Billy Jayne), a hopelessly nervous nerd who, like most of us, has a hard time talking with the girl he has a crush on. He’s an exceptional student, but he just can’t get the social aspect down, nor does he really know how to have fun. His life is about to get flipped, turned upside-down, though, when his science teacher is hospitalized in a freak accident and is replaced with Dr. Xenobia (Judy Landers). In addition to teaching the class about sexuality, Dr. Xenobia singles out Wesley for an after-school experiment. She and her odd lab assistant, Drax (Raymond O’Connor), inject their green, glowing formula in Wesley’s unsuspecting butt.
To say that the formula turns him into a different person is only the beginning. Wesley suddenly has confidence and loses his habit of dressing like a total nerd. The biggest change, though, is also the most entertaining, as the formula causes a weird, phallic antenna with lips to sprout from the top of his head. The antenna only comes out some of the time (it seemingly has a mind of its own), and whenever it decides to erect itself, members of the opposite sex simply cannot control themselves. They rip off their clothes, they rip off his clothes, they are completely overcome with wild desire.
This leads to a lot of the hilarity and nudity of the film, including dreams of chainsaw-wielding girlfriends, a trio of “Rocker Chicks” that includes Linnea Quigley, a Bruce Lee-inspired fight with the school asshole (complete with a take on Lee’s iconic jump kick)… the list goes on. Dr. Alien really is a series of great moments; there’s literally never a dull moment.
My favorite section of the film comes when Wesley joins The Sex Mutants, a rock band who is in need of a singer for a gig they have booked. The band first has dinner with Wesley’s good-natured, straight-laced parents, which is hilarious, but it went to another level for me once they hit the club and performed their awesome song, Killer Machine. It’s probably better seen than described, and even then who knows if you’ll dig it as much as I did. But I’d say that any song with the line, “Do you know there are demons crushing your mind?” is well worth your time. Wesley REALLY gets into the performance, too, lip-syncing, jumping and flailing around, and just giving 1000% percent.
If you’re open to its delights, Dr. Alien is really a spectacular B-Movie. It’s super fun, it’s well-directed, and it ends with one of the best morals I’ve ever seen in a B-Movie. I’ll admit that this message may have hit me harder than it should have. Over the past few months, I’ve become increasingly more interested in the importance of always taking risks in any artistic pursuit, an obsession kicked off by seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens and being overwhelmingly dissatisfied with how safe, unimaginative and creatively bankrupt it was. In any case, it was a perfect time for Dr. Alien to land on my brain… I just hope it’s influence doesn’t cause a weird, phallic antenna with lips to sprout from the top of my head… shit! Too late!
Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be heading back to the Moonbeam pool and pulling out The Excalibur Kid! See ya then!