Updated: April 22, 2013
THE INVADERS PHOTO GALLERY #07
The New Breed, which lasted only a year, was a rare failure. By 1966, Martin had given ABC three big hits in as many years: The Fugitive in 1963, The F.B.I. in 1965, and in between them the already declining Twelve O'Clock High (which would bow out in the same week that The Invaders debuted). His production company was the hottest in town, and it continued to spawn massive ratings successes (of steadily decreasing creative merit) well into the seventies, among them Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco, and Barnaby Jones.
Quinn Martin was a notorious obsessive. On most sixties TV series, one or two producers oversaw the entire process of production, from the pitching of stories to the final dubbing of the music on each episode. But Martin compartmentalized his company, dividing the responsibilities for every series among four or five highly departments that rarely interacted with each other. "Every area on all of Quinn's shows was carefully delineated," said The Invaders' post-production supervisor, John Elizalde. Added writer George Eckstein, "Unlike anybody else, Quinn had a production setup in which he had a preproduction operation and a post-production operation, and a producer very rarely saw a cut of the picture, [and] did not participate in the dubbing or the scoring."
At QM, the department heads held the same responsibilities on all of Martin's series simultaneously, including The Invaders. Adrian Samish supervised preproduction, approving budgets and art direction and occasionally getting involved with the scripting process. John Conwell was QM's casting director, and Martin himself hired the directors. Arthur Fellows oversaw the editing of the film, while John Elizalde handled the scoring of music and dubbing of sound effects. Only the producer on each show was different, and, relieved of all other considerations, he was able to spend virtually all his time working with the series' writers. "All he did was develop scripts," said Eckstein. "All the producers were really just writers."
The result of QM's system was that it left Martin with virtually total control of all his shows. "Quinn was a benevolent despot, with the accent on the benevolent," recalled John Elizalde. "If you knew what you were doing, he gave you very free reign." According to George Eckstein, Martin "was always a gentleman, he paid very well, he was very good to his employees, and he was very creative."
By contrast, said QM producer Anthony Spinner, "If it was a hit, may he rest in peace, it was Quinn Martin's hit. If it was a failure, it was everybody else's. And you were not to get your name too prominently mentioned in the trades or the newspapers. [QM] was sort of like a factory. There was only one person there who had autonomy, and it was Quinn Martin. He was a great friend and a terrible enemy, and you never knew which one he was going to be on any given day."
Martin's show's all shared a highly distinctive visual signature. Each one was narrated by an almost impossibly deep baritone (most famously, Cannon star William Conrad on The Fugitive) who proclaimed over the opening credits that the series was "a QM Production." Every episode was divided uniformly into a prologue, four acts, and an epilogue, and lest the viewer remain unaware of this neat schematization, a superimposed title announced the beginning of each act. The Invaders featured perhaps the most imaginative variation on this visual tic. After each commercial break, the picture reformed in the center of a blackout, spreading outward to cover the entire TV screen as if emerging from some alien black hole.
Martin's greatest strength as a producer was his devotion to production values. Martin paid higher salaries to guest stars than any other company in Hollywood, often recruiting performers who rarely did television, and he shot on location extensively. "He demanded quality. When it was night in a scene, he'd shoot at night; he wouldn't shoot it day for night," said Invaders director Sutton Roley. "He spent some money. And he paid a little extra to directors, to writers, to everyone else to get that kind of quality." As a result, Martin's shows had a pristine look, with none of the drab sets or phony backlot exteriors that characterized series shot at Universal (The Virginian) or Paramount (Star Trek) during the same period.
On the other hand, Martin's taste tended toward the pedestrian, and the story content of his series often exhibited a depressing sameness. His protagonists, with the exceptions of David Vincent and The Fugitive's Richard Kimble, were always policemen or private detectives, and they were always unalterably heroic. Shades of gray occupied no space in Quinn Martin's world. The Martin shows generally rivaled Dragnet in their unsmiling straightforwardness. "Quinn was notable for a lot of virtues, but one was not his sense of humor. You could never put much humor in. You had to be deadly serious at all times," said Anthony Spinner.
Which leads one to the obvious question: Why would a quirky, paranoid, covertly political fantasy like Larry Cohen's The Invaders attract Quinn Martin? The answer is probably a matter of pragmatism. According to Spinner, "Quinn had an exclusive contract with [ABC], and I think they just told him, ‘[If] you do this show, we're going to put you on the air.' Well, once somebody said to Quinn, ‘We're going to put you on the air,' I don't think he cared what it was!"
Most of Martin's associates concede that the TV mogul really didn't understand The Invaders. "It was a departure for Quinn," said Alan Armer. "He felt a little uncomfortable in that it wasn't his bag. We all have certain areas that we feel secure in, that we feel we know how to do well, and I think Quinn didn't feel that about The Invaders."
But, in fact, Quinn Martin's trademark seriousness was the final ingredient needed to make The Invaders a classic. It grounded the series in reality, providing a kind of credibility that made the show genuinely spooky and distinguished it from all its sci-fi contemporaries. "[The Invaders] was not very far out, by any means. It wasn't like The Outer Limits, where you were on Pluto today and Mars tomorrow," said John Elizalde, who worked on both shows. Irwin Allen's kiddie fare (Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) offered up silly cliches, and even the intelligent Star Trek resorted to Nazis-in-space or gangsters-in-space shows. But The Invaders, whose impeccably dressed aliens were so clean-cut they could pass for FBI agents, seemed just plausible enough to be possible. At its absolute best, it could be as scary as The Twilight Zone.