Tractor Manufacturer: I disagree with you — I don't want to let George do it!
Mr. Ohman: Then you must be the exception?
Tractor Manufacturer: No — I'm George!
Invasion U.S.A. is a 1950s Red Scare propaganda film that purports to show the American audience how quickly the Cold War could heat up, and thus the importance of the military-industrial complex and the universal draft (and by universal, they don't mean the usual interpretation of drafting women into the armed forces — no, they mean everything).
One day in a bar, with news of Cold War tensions on the TV, a reporter comes in to ask the patrons — a motley bunch from all walks of life — if they support allowing the U.S. government to take over companies in the name of the Cold War effort. Most of the patrons are skeptical except for a strange man nursing a wine glass at the end of the bar — one Mr. Ohman (Dan O'Herlihy), who delivers a What The Hell, Citizen speech to everyone accusing them of just wanting to wish their problems dead instead of doing what needed to be done. After mesmerizing his audience with his speech before leaving, the patrons quickly discover that the U.S. is now in the middle of World War III, as "the Enemy" (totally not the Soviet Union) conducts an audacious plan to invade the North American mainland, with both nukes and paratroopers flying freely. The main characters try to do what they can, but somehow every request of the military-industrial complex that they'd been complaining about or ignoring comes back to bite the U.S. at the worst possible time, and the cast starts dropping like flies before the Red onslaught.
In the end, through the germanic man's hypnotizing the entire bar into seeing visions of what might be, the naysayers are shown the evils of their ways and pledge to be more patriotic afterwards. And the reporter hero manages to win the affections of the heroine from the tractor manufacturer who brought her to the bar.
Invasion U.S.A. contains the following tropes:
- All Just a Dream: Just as the last of the main characters dies, the characters awaken from a trance, still in the bar at the start of the film, discovering Ohman hypnotized them and the entire events of the film concerning the Soviet invasion were a cautionary tale.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The United States; but more importantly, the bar.
- Anyone Can Die: The main characters drop like flies throughout, and it starts fairly early. At least two of them (the factory owner and the senator) are killed in the midst of attempting to reverse their earlier Bystander Syndrome attitudes.
- Arc Words: "If I had my life to live over again."
- Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: The film was made less than a decade after World War II, when people had especially little idea how nuclear weapons worked. The weapons called "Atom Bombs" are just vaguely better (and visually identical) versions of conventional explosives, not devices that leave a thousand mile wake of irradiated fallout. Hence, "The Enemy" throw nuclear weapons like peanuts, blowing up airfields, dams, battleships, small out of the way towns, and cities (repeatedly), technically negating the very concept of an "invasion", since there'd be nothing actually left to occupy for about fifty years. As a particularly ludicrous example, the nuclear bombing of New York City results in only twenty thousand deaths. There's also the matter of the nuclear torpedo, which somehow only sets its target on fire instead of vaporizing it and everything a mile out in every direction. In fairness, this was Truth in Television as far as 1952 was concerned: the hydrogen bomb was still experimental and the American atomic stockpile consisted of mostly Mark 4, 5, and 6 gravity bombs with a maximum yield of about 180 kT, from half to a third of modern strategic yields. Given limited miniaturization, tactical atomics were also experimental; the 8 to 61 kT Mark 7 had only just entered into service in 1952 and a torpedo-based weapon probably would only set fires if it didn't hit directly. Military doctrine basically treated atomics as really powerful versions of their conventional counterparts and planned to use them the exact same way; Operation Plumbbob in 1957—the one with the films of soldiers marching into a mushroom cloud—was a test of this doctrine. This is how people thought nuclear war would be fought in 1952, and it's probably how it would've been thought... except that in 1952 the U.S. had 841 bombs and the U.S.S.R. 50, so they wouldn't have been tossed around like candy.
- Big Applesauce:
LondonNew York is left a bombed out rubble.
- Big Dam Plot: "The Enemy" nukes Hoover Dam (referred to in the film by its old name, "Boulder Dam"), causing Boulder City to be flooded, and presumably cutting off power.
- Brick Joke: Thick during the war, the bartender says his motto is "Let Jack do it!" — Jack being George's brother.
- Broken Aesop: To defeat Communism, cede your time, money, businesses, and even identity to your government and country. In other words, defeat communism with more communism! Near the beginning of the film, the tractor manufacturer even explicitly refers to the universal draft as communism.
- Bystander Syndrome / Not In My Back Yard: Discussed when Mr. Ohman points out to the bar patrons that everybody wants the problems of Dirty Commies solved, but they all want someone else to make the necessary efforts and sacrifices (the metaphorical "George").
- Chekhov's Skill: Ohman is described as a hypnotist by the barkeep during the cast introduction. You don't say...
- Comically Missing the Point / Dramatically Missing the Point: Played simultaneously. See the page quote; when Ohman notes that everyone wants some other person ("George") to deal with the problems of society, the factory owner says he himself doesn't want "George" to do it — because "I'm George!" Played for Laughs In-Universe, as the others all snigger at his splendid wit; but also Played for Drama when the viewer realizes that the man has just proven Ohman's point for him.
- Covers Always Lie: Don't let the poster fool you. Carla is wearing trousers when she jumps out the window.
- Day of the Jackboot: The Not-USSR has taken control of both US coasts, occupied Washington DC and destroyed or seized most of America's industrial complex. It's all over but the shouting when the vision ends.
- Deadline News: A reporter covering one battle against "The Enemy's" forces has his signal cut off while his position is being overrun. Also, the reporter hero's final broadcast near the end of the film.
- Dirty Communists: One even menaces a good, clean American woman. Her assailant also overlaps with Husky Russkie.Enemy Soldier: [drunk] Now you my woman!
- Dressing as the Enemy: "The Enemy" soldiers are equipped with American uniforms and weapons, allowing them to infiltrate Washington , D.C. and kill off most of Congress.
- Empathy Doll Shot: After the Hoover Dam flood, one is shown floating in the aftermath.
- Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: One of the most bizarre and badly staged in film history. As the Vincent and Carla stare lovingly into each other's eyes, a newsboy walks in, yelling, "Extra! Extra! 'America Invaded', read all about it!", stares directly at the two characters (who continue to stare into each other's eyes like zombies), then turns around and walks off from the same way he entered.
- The Faceless: The movie refuses to show the president looking at the camera.
- Foreshadowing: The factory owner's anecdote about turning down the government's "offer" to take over his plant for tank production predicts its being overrun and taken over by "The Enemy". In the flashback, the Major even points out that if he doesn't want to produce tanks for the American military voluntarily, he can wait for the inevitable invasion and then he'll be forced to make tanks for the other side.
- A Glass of Chianti: Ohman's nursing a glass as the film begins — and hypnotizes most of the bar with it.
- Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection: A prime example. "The Enemy" is never directly named, but near the end the movie just gives up and goes with the full-on Russian accents for the bad guys.
- Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: There's a lot of accusations of being a sissy in the film. The Marty Stu TV reporter, of course, is a man's man; but even he gets hit by it a little, when he acts Afraid of Needles while giving blood (although in that instance he's probably just flirting).
- Hollywood Geography: Paratroopers landing on the sandy beaches of Washington, DC. Problem is, DC is a landlocked city and 30 miles away from any ocean.
- Hollywood Tactics: Ranges from "The Enemy's" liberal use of nuclear weapons to paratroopers being dropped while under machine gun fire.
- Invaded States of America
- It's Raining Men: The way "The Enemy" invades America.
- The Juggernaut: No matter how much the American military throws at "The Enemy" forces, they just keep on coming, seemingly unstoppable and invincible. It's especially egregious given the President's claim that the U.S. is striking back at "The Enemy's" homeland, three strikes for every one of theirs (on the other hand, given how pathetic the U.S. military is depicted herein, said three-fold retaliation could be just an exaggeration to boost morale).
- Karma Houdini: No one seems to blame the President for allowing a ridiculous invasion like this.
- Killed Mid-Sentence: The traffic controller at Peace Harbor, Alaska — "The Enemy's" beachhead for the invasion.
- Meaningful Name: Mr. Ohman, who hypnotizes everyone into seeing an Omen of things to come. It's implied his name is even more on-the-nose; Vincent assumes it's spelled like Phil Ohman, the bandleader, to which he just replies, "it will do".
- The Mole / Double Agent: The foreign janitor at the tractor factory turns out to be a spy for the "Enemy" and takes command of the factory after its owner is killed.
- Neutral Female: The movie ends with everyone thinking about what they could do to stave off a Soviet invasion. All except Carla. Nothing she does either way would affect anything. In fact, she's just yet another war prize when the invasion happens. She did work as a nurse during World War II however.
- Omniscient Council of Vagueness: "The Enemy's" war room, with a huge wall map of the United States and "the most feared Geography teacher of Central High".
- Rape as Drama: See Dirty Communists.
- Redemption Equals Death:
- The factory owner spends his last few minutes of life trying to work out a deal with the U.S. Army and, when the invasion overtakes him, refusing to kowtow to the invaders even in full knowledge that they will just shoot him. Which they do.
- The Senator, who previously had advocated for reductions in military spending, spends the crisis giving an impassioned speech to Congress urging everyone to pour every last morsel of their resources into the military. In the middle of his speech, "The Enemy" storms the Capitol, and the Senator is gunned down in the ensuing panic.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The "wah wah wah" horns implying laughs when they find the bartender's dead body.
- Spot the Imposter: Used when "The Enemy" sends its troops disguised as Americans to infiltrate Washington, DC, and one infiltrator claims to be from a Chicago unit.Guard: You ever go see the Cubs play?
Infiltrator: [confused] Cubs? A cub is a small animal, a bear...
[Blast Out ensues]
- Stock Footage: Used in long montages to show the progress of the war. Rather noticeably, one of the pieces supposedly showing the destruction of New York in fact used footage from the London Blitz. At the end of one of these...
- Swiss-Cheese Security: Even given the film's Aesop, only two guards are posted to defend the seat of government in Washington? It's not just Washington but the whole country. Are there more than 10 American soldiers in the entire movie? And if "The Enemy" captured Alaska to use as a launching platform to invade the USA, where is Canada's army to stop them going through Canadian territory to reach the continental US?
- Television Geography: Paratroopers are shown landing on a beach supposedly outside Washington, D.C., which is 30+ miles from the Atlantic Ocean. A similar landing is shown at the wide open plains of Puget Sound in western Washington state, a region covered in trees and hills for hundreds of miles around.
- While Rome Burns: Discussed. One of the bar patrons asks the bartender what he'll do if World War III breaks out; the man replies he'll do the same thing he did during the last World War — serve drinks. Not one minute later, "The Enemy" bombs New York, and the bartender is among the dead.
- You Can't Go Home Again: The San Francisco cab driver realizes halfway to Phoenix that his home has a new flag over it.
- You No Take Candle: "The Enemy" all speak in heavily accented, broken English. Even to each other—they were instructed only to speak English, as practice.