Sitting down and watching a pretty random movie for no real reason (and actually staying awake throughout) is a fairly rare event, so I thought I would go one stage further and write a review... of sorts.
The film was an hour and seventeen minutes of 1953 American sci-fi: Invaders from Mars.
Nobody of any real note amongst the cast, although the actress who (in what was her final film appearance) played Dr Pat Blake was called Helena Carter (below), but if you search for pictures Google tends to assume you meant to include “Bonham” in between.
The premise of the movie is that people are dragged underground through a sandpit, only to emerge later with a tell-tale scar on the back of the neck, and a total change in personality. The “invaders” have arrived in a flying saucer, which was spotted by young David Maclean (played by Jimmy Hunt, who would reappear as the police chief in the apparently dire 1986 remake). Jimmy’s father goes to investigate... disappears into the sand... and isn’t in the best of moods when he eventually returns home.
David soon realises something is wrong, and rushes to tell the Police Chief who... yes you’ve guessed it... has the tell-tale scar on his neck. Luckily, Dr Blake (Helena without the Bonham) and astronomer Stuart Kelston (Arthur Franz) believe David’s story, and persuade the military to investigate.
Basically, what has happened is that a Martian intelligence (a head under a bowl) is controlling slave creatures (with clearly obvious zips in their costumes) by mental power, and slightly unnerving eye movements.
The humans are implanted with crystals that force them to try and sabotage a nearby atomic rocket, but if they are caught, the crystals cause a brain haemorrhage and a fairly swift farewell.
Explosives are eventually placed in the alien ship and, after a lengthy fleeing sequence during which David’s face is seen in close-up whilst significant moments from the story are superimposed (some backwards), an explosion causes the Martian craft to explode and everyone lives happily ever after...
Or do they?!
For after the explosion, David suddenly finds himself back in bed. A thunderstorm causes him to run through to his parents room (as he had at the start of the film), they assure him everything is fine (as they had etc etc); but when David goes back to his bedroom and looks out of the window, he sees the very same flying saucer coming into land.
The music lends a creepy tension to the ending, as the viewer is left to ponder whether David’s original dream was a premonition, or if he is somehow trapped in a recurring nightmare that will be played out over and over again...
It was an unexpectedly thought-provoking conclusion to a film that was certainly watchable, but many of the positive aspects were negated by a string of mistakes or irritations.
One of the worst (in my opinion) was the inclusion of the same shot of an underground explosion on at least four occasions (condoms being used to create a bubble effect on the tunnel walls); likewise the same mutant slave gets shot a couple of times, only to recover and clamber to his feet in identical fashion. Some shots were clearly reversed, as during a car chase involving David’s father George (Leif Erikson), he gets into the car as a passenger, then suddenly appears in the left-hand seat – the driver’s seat - only minus the steering wheel. The sandpit closing was simply the opening played in reverse; when the mutants picked up and threw some of the characters, their respective doubles were clearly considerably smaller in stature, and while I’m on a roll, there was way too much of stock military footage to pad out the film.
But the unforgiveable mistake occurs near the end of the action, when the soldiers’ escape from a tunnel is blocked by rocks. The order is given to start digging... and a spade suddenly appears. No one had one when they descended into the tunnel... so where exactly...?
Or maybe I’m being slightly unkind. This film was released over sixty years ago after all, and elements were probably pretty scary to the audience of the time. So after virtually no deliberation, I will give the first 75 minutes an average 6/10 and the final two minutes 8/10.
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