Nasty Nurse Ratched gets even nastier when Invaders From Mars plant a red-hot wire in her cool blue brain.

In an era of fuzzy, cuddly, lovable aliens, it's almost refreshing to bump into a few who are down-right nasty.

There are no cute little extraterrestrials in the remake of Invaders From Mars, just folks like Louise Fletcher's Mrs. McKeltch, a wicked grade-school teacher who eats frogs and terrorizes kids. She's not exactly an alien, but she has always been mean, and she's meaner still now that a bunch of subterranean Martians have put a red-hot wire in her brain and made her their human slave.

"I like the idea of being a 10-year-old boy's nightmare," says Fletcher, "being nasty and mean can be fun." Nastiness is what made Fletcher famous. As Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, her villainy won her an Oscar, critical kudos and a stereotype. "I don't have an especially strong attraction to heavies," she reveals, "but they are very often the best parts. And I have a strong attraction to good parts."

She strayed from villainy in Brainstorm, "which I liked but it wasn't as sublime as it could have been," Strange Invaders, "a fun movie made by two of my best friends," and The Exorcist II: The Heretic, "something I guess I would rather forget about." Mrs. McKeltch is a part that the late Margaret Hamilton could have played, the sort of woman who would enjoy torturing small animals and setting fire, on Christmas Eve, to an orphanage.

"She's not a real person, she's a stereotype, she's a child's idea of pure evil," Fletcher observes. "That's a lot of fun."

And so is the movie, Fletcher hopes. "I think Invaders From Mars is funny. It's an affectionate look at the '50s genre of science-fiction films," she says. "I think it's a spoof. It has some wonderful dry humor. The monsters are hysterical and rather benign. They look terrifying on the set, but when I saw them on the screen, they were very funny. And the Supreme Intelligence...isn't that hysterical? He's so helpless and hapless, just a great big brain. Who wouldn't find that funny?" Maybe the same people who didn't think Strange Invaders was such a hoot.

"[With Invaders From Mars, they] will have no choice but to take it as one," explains Fletcher. "With Strange Invaders, there was a question about whether it was a spoof or not, though I'm sure it was. We knew it was a spoof when we were doing it, but I'm not sure it came across on screen very well. I can't imagine people won't get it with Invaders."

Although she has done a great deal of science fiction, it's not because she likes the genre, it's because "I like to work." Fletcher chooses her roles by measuring a project against a mental checklist. "Why are they making this movie? Is it a movie that I would want to go see? Is it a movie my mother [would want to go see?" The producers can shake] up the process."

"With Strange Invaders, director Michael Laughlin [STARLOG #78] and [production designer] Susanna Moore are two of my best [friends, and it's a lot of fun to make] movies with best friends, it's like making home movies in a way. That was the reason I did it, because they asked me. With Strange Invaders, I didn't use the same checklist that I would use with other works."

She was attracted "to the human elements in Brainstorm," and, for the embarrassingly bad Exorcist II, she took the role because "I had been looking for several months for something to do. I was beginning to think I was never going to make another movie," she recalls. "It was a part written for a man and I thought it was a good part. I was mesmerized by the fact that they would let me do a part written for a male star. So, I'm not sorry, it was a good experience. I'm not ashamed of what I did in The Exorcist II but I think everybody involved in it would rather forget about it. It was a movie that didn't do well....OK, it was monumental failure."

Fletcher laughs. "I knew that the name Pazzuzu would never go over. I remember saying, 'As long as I don't have to say it, I won't make a big deal out of it.' I thought it was a funny word and it was. Nobody would listen to me. Pazzuzu is not a word you can say seriously."

More often than not, when considering a project, her checklist sometimes doesn't count for much. "When you get to be a working actress," she comments, "you just decide you are going to work in whatever you can. Who knows what I might be doing next?"

The actress has never seen the original Invaders From Mars, so when she was offered this project, all she had to go on was the script and the reputations of the filmmakers. The script was by Dan O'Bannon [STARLOG #71] and Don Jakoby [STARLOG #99]. Tobe Hooper was directing. Though all have spotty cinematic records, Fletcher had no reservations.

"You read the script and take into account all the elements. Certainly, I knew Tobe Hooper wasn't going to bring a chainsaw on the set," she says. "I liked the part. I liked the idea of being a lot older than I am and seeing what that's like. I've done that on stage but not on screen. Or have I? I can't remember. I don't think I have. I didn't have any reservations about Tobe. I loved Poltergeist. I know nothing about Lifeforce. I never saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre and probably never will. But I automatically trust a person once I decide to do a film."

She ended up having a great deal of admiration for Hooper [STARLOG #96]. "It was like watching a juggler," she remarks. "Tobe had so many elements to think about. I was watching a man who had 40,000 things on his mind at the same time. I'm not used to working on such big movies. It's just a discipline I have to get used to." Even with all the admiration she felt towards Hooper, she still had some left over for nine-year-old Hunter Carson, the film's real star.

"He's a little boy, a real boy. I think he has a lot of talent. Acting comes naturally to him, he has a credibility that is just in him, he can't say a phony thing," she says. "When you have children who can act, it's sort of a miraculous experience, you just watch them being believable just because they are. It leaves you stunned. When the dialogue is said, you forget it's dialogue. When Hunter says to the Supreme Intelligence, 'Give me back my Mom and Dad,' it's very moving and real. It's terrific."

Invaders From Mars, despite its satirical bent and outlandish premise, made Fletcher seriously consider her role in life. She spent hours in the bowels of the Martian spacecraft which was, literally, "like spending hours in a bowel."

She laughs. "It was quite an experience being in that huge entrail, suddenly you begin to accept it. You go to work there as if it's the most normal thing in the world. You work there all day long and at 4:15 in the afternoon, you wonder: 'Where am I? Is this valid work? Shouldn't I be picking corn? What am I doing inside this colon?'" Louise Fletcher exclaims. "It suddenly makes acting seem so surreal -- how we so quickly accept circumstances of our employment and suspend our disbelief for hours on end. It's incredible being an actor."

Copyright Starlog 1986.