Science Fiction · Thriller

All’s Fair in The Love War

Angie Dickinson wants to know why Lloyd Bridges is so strange. Image: Modcinema
Angie Dickinson thinks Lloyd Bridges is handsome but strange. Image: Modcinema

Although we (as in, yours truly) are not the most enthusiastic supporters of television, we do feel an odd nostalgia for televised events we never witnessed, such as Elvis Presley’s first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, or the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Another bit of TV business for which we recently developed a fondness is ABC’s Movie of the Week series, described as an “anthology” of made-for-TV movies.

Although the American network NBC was the first to produce a made-for-TV film in the mid 1960s, it was ABC who glommed onto the idea. They produced films to air Sunday nights from 1969 until 1976 under the ABC Movie of the Week banner.

(Confession: We had never seen a Movie of the Week until recently because we – wrongly – assumed they were cheap and unimaginative.)

These movies attracted some powerful talent. For example, a young Steven Spielberg directed his first feature-length film, Duel (1971), as part of this series. Big-name actors were drawn to these projects, too, such as Lloyd Bridges and Angie Dickinson who starred in the sci-fi thriller, The Love War (1970).

Now, The Love War sounds about as cheesy as it gets, but hear us out.

Lloyd Bridges stars as an extraterrestrial from the planet Argon who has been sent to earth, disguised as a human, to battle representatives from the enemy planet Zenon. The winners of this battle will claim earth as their territory.

The agreed-upon Rules of Engagement are: (1) Each side is to send three soldiers; and (2) The battle ain’t over until every member on the opposing side is dead.

The thing about this movie – the thing you don’t discover until it’s too late – is you have to take characters at their word. For example, Bridges claims his side would be benevolent to humans, while the Zenons would kill everyone. We, the audience, have to accept that; we have no way of verifying what anybody says.

Harry Basch uses primitive earthling technology. Image: Mod Cinema
Harry Basch drives primitive earthling technology. Image: Modcinema

There are two Big Complications with this assignment. The first is both sides have assumed human form, so no one can tell who the enemy is without their handheld scanners. (The scanners beep when another extraterrestrial is in the area.) They also have special spy glasses that allow them to see each other in their true alien form.

Bridges uses this equipment to good effect, but he is anxious to have the upcoming battle done with. However, he runs into the second Big Complication when he meets Angie Dickinson, a lonely, slightly desperate woman on the rebound.

At first, it’s difficult to see why Dickinson is attracted to Bridges, but we are soon grateful for it. She grounds the film for us. There are so few interactions with actual humans that we need Dickinson to ask the questions we want to ask. She’s the normal one; she’s not awkward or strange, and her affection for Bridges draws out his compassion and generosity.

It’s not long before we’re hoping Dickinson can save not only Bridges, but the entire population of earth as well.

Bridges in his alien spy glasses. Image: Stojo
Bridges in his alien spy glasses. Image: Stojo

Even though this film is set in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, the story isolates the main characters, as though the daily goings-on of humans are of no relevance – which they’re not.

The last scene in the film reinforces this concept. It takes place in an abandoned western town/movie set. The scene is a nod to those Westerns because both the Argons and the Zenons have agreed to stage the showdown here, O.K. Corral-style.

But there’s more to it. The abandoned buildings, bereft of human activity, serve as a bleak reminder of what this battle could mean to the future of humanity.

The Love War has a clever, but not unexpected, plot twist that makes things really intriguing. But we (as in, yours truly) could not guess the outcome of this film.

We bet you won’t guess it, either.

The Love War: starring Lloyd Bridges, Angie Dickinson, Harry Basch. Directed by George McCowan. Written by David Kidd & Guerdon Trueblood. Thomas/Spelling Productions, 1970, Colour, 106 mins.

This is part of The Movie of the Week Blogathon – we couldn’t resist! – hosted by The Classic Film & TV Cafe.

movie-of-the-week-blogathon

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23 thoughts on “All’s Fair in The Love War

    1. You’ve got to see this one! The plot really zips along, but it also takes a bit of time to ask deeper questions such as what it is to be human and the nature of infinity. Not to mention the unexpected ending…

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  1. Recently, my wife and I have been watching THE LONER, Rod Serling’s Western TV series with Lloyd Bridges. I always liked Bridges, but I now have a greater appreciate for his acting. He’s quite good in THE LONER and the same applies to THE LOVE WAR. He and Angie Dickinson work well today and their romance, though it develops hastily (the movie is only 73 minutes!) is convincing. What I remember best about this movie from my childhood is the alien-revealing glasses. Thanks for a fine review that brought back some great memories.

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    1. Yes, I agree that even though the romance is quickly established, it’s still credible. And those alien glasses! Ultra cool interstellar specs.

      Thanks for organizing this blogathon and for helping me broaden my horizons.

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    1. This film is short (73 minutes) so the action happens quickly. But it’s surprising how much ground they cover during that time. I liked it much more than I thought I would, and I hope you like it, too, if you get the chance to see it.

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  2. Wow! This reads like a forgotten gem that should be a cult classic. It struck me as a complement to Quinn Martin’s THE INVADERS. Aliens in human form are arguably more menacing than little green men or bug-eyed monsters. Great casting with Bridges and Dickinson. I’ve been watching THE LONER too and my regard for Bridges has really risen. He’s a talented guy and it’s a shame too many people upon hearing his name immediately think of AIRPLANE (and he was very funny there, but he’s so much more!). Thanks for tipping me to a movie I didn’t even know existed and now can’t wait to see!

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    1. You’re the second person to mention “The Loner”, and now I’m determined to track it down. Sounds like an interesting series.

      As for “The Love War”, I agree that aliens in human form are more menacing than in their natural alien state. And Bridges + Angie Dickinson are terrific here. It’s made me want to learn more about their work.

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  3. Your statement about how the audience has to trust that the good guys really are good reminds me of what I wrote about the original THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. Klaatu’s big speech at the end makes it sound like his society is so much better than ours, but we have no real proof of that. In fact, on closer inspection, based on what he says, it might actually be worse. But that’s another story.

    This movie sounds gloriously low-budget.

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  4. I’m a fan of the Love War and so glad you picked it. What a weird little movie. What strikes me most about it is the similarities to They Live. I think John Carpenter did it a bit better, of course, but The Love War is definitely underrated stuff! Glad you picked this one, because it sounds like you’ve gotten some people to take a chance on it. Yay! 🙂

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    1. It is a weird little movie, like you said, but SO enjoyable. Thanks for the heads up re: “They Live”. I haven’t seen it, but will watch for it to look for similarities to “The Love War”. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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  5. Thanks for covering the other TV movie written by Guerdon Trueblood in 1970! Clearly he had some good ideas, even if his career only led him to Jaws 3D.

    I was happily going to highlight how this suggests similarities to They Live, one of my favourite films of all time, but I see that Amanda beat me to it. The key similarity is the ability to see the aliens among us if you only put on your special sunglasses, though the approach is different. ‘Either put on these glasses or start eating that trash can!’

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  6. Thanks for sharing information on “The Love War”! I will take a look via YouTube. I like movies that show the old western towns and movie studios so this one intrigues me.

    Have you ever seen the TV movie called “The Phantom of Hollywood”? It was filmed on the MGM backlot in the waning days before the studio was demolished, so you get a good chance to see what It was like when on the way out.

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  7. I couldn’t figure out what to make of this one but it reminds me of a film version of pulp fiction. (The penny dreadfuls / dime novels not Tarantino.) I want to give it a try, though. Where would we find this?

    Liked by 1 person

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