"Stranded," by director Tex Fuller, is what they euphemistically refer to in Hollywood as "product." That's a picture a company will just throw out into the market, hoping to cop a quick buck. And "throw out" is the operative phrase.
The movie is about a group of aliens who have the misfortune to find themselves lost somewhere in the South. We know it's the South because the place is full of bigoted rednecks, who are as fond of the alien interlopers as they are of their local black sheriff (Joe Morton). Another clue is that the actors are working awfully hard on their Southern accents. Or at least some of them are. The others don't bother.
It's a stroke of good luck that the outer-space guys, who look like leftovers from David Bowie's Spiders from Mars tour, wander into the picturesque country home of Grace (Maureen O'Sullivan) and her teen-age granddaughter (Ione Skye). From the look of things, you'd think these two have alien visitors as overnight guests every weekend. The granddaughter, whose parents were both killed in a car wreck the previous year and who isn't particularly pleased to be living with Granny, talks to them as if they were sitting in homeroom. "Those are my goldfish," she says, giving the extraterrestrial leader a tour of her bedroom. "I named them both Bob."
On the other hand, as Grace, O'Sullivan talks to the aliens, especially her favorite, a monkeylike creature with oversized ears she names Jester, in much the same way she talked to Cheetah in the Tarzan movies. The alien doesn't seem to mind all that much, but then again she keeps giving him Oreo cookies and pouring him whopping glasses of cognac. Call me old-fashioned, but is this any way to treat an alien?
While all this captivating stuff is going on inside the house, on the outside a gang of coppers is holding down the fort, making sure the aliens don't escape. These cops aren't exactly worldbeaters; they're sort of what you'd imagine the police force to be in Petticoat Junction. The sheriff, who makes contact with the aliens, wants to make sure that no one is harmed, and so he approaches the affair as a hostage situation, making "Stranded" another high-concept breakthrough -- an extraterrestrial hostage movie.
As you might imagine, the circumstances deteriorate and there's some unfortunate gunplay, causing casualties to both cops and aliens. (At one point even Grandma empties her double-barrel into an enemy.) Finally the alien leader, who by this point has a major crush on the Earth teen, is able to beam up to his spaceship and escape, but not without first getting a little hug.
All is handled with extraordinary ham-handedness by Fuller, who has a true gift for monotonous imagery. As for Skye, her talent is sullen brattiness; she's hardly the ideal choice for goodwill ambassador to the heavens. The movie was lighted by what looks like the headlights of somebody's car, and as for special effects, there is a glowing, powder-blue object that floats and spins a little. Exciting stuff. And it's certain that more time was spent on this little trick than on the script.
Stranded, at area theaters, is rated PG-13 and contains material offensive to Southerners.