Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on May 1, 1967
Directed by Freddie Francis
Written by Milton Subotsky
Cast: Robert Hutton, Jennifer Jayne, Zia Mohyeddin, Michael Gough, Bernard Kay, Maurice Good, Hedger Wallace, Luanshya Greer, Jack Lambert
It’s time for me to once again join my blogging friend Lindsey from The Motion Pictures as we travel beyond the far reaches of space and review the next film in our cheesy film blogathon series, the goofy UK alien takeover chiller They Came from Beyond Space. And I don’t know about her, but the version I watched was hosted by the eye-popping Elvira, mistress of the Saturday night B-movie show Movie Macabre, and I must admit that, thankfully, her segments added what the lobby card above promised, but sadly didn’t deliver on.
Robert Hutton plays Dr. Curtis Temple, a scientist involved in research of extraterrestrial life, who’s asked to lead a team investigating nine small meteors that crashed—in precise triangular formation—in a field in Cornwall. The metal plate in his head, the result of an auto accident, prevents him from joining the team (and of course will factor into the plot later), so he sends his assistant in his place. When she and the other scientists suddenly and mysteriously cease communication with their superiors, Temple goes to the crash site to investigate, where he discovers alien creatures are controlling the minds of town citizens to perform slave labor for them. But what kind of labor, and why…and where?
This all started out rather serious and scientific, and everyone in the cast played it that way, which was good, but soon the cracks began to show, and the proceedings slowly began to spiral downward from there. The middle section—with Temple repeatedly trying to break into the alien compound—seemed to last for hours, and brought the film’s already-fading pace to a complete dead stop. And based on the awful framing of the shoddy print I watched, I had to assume the aspect ratio of the picture had been cropped to some extent, because I couldn’t imagine Freddie Francis (veteran director of such horror films as Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, The Deadly Bees, and Trog) having such lapses in cinematic judgement, or eyesight.
And though the basic framework of the story seemed to be a fairly decent one, and had me intrigued early on, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a superior sci-fi film released fifteen years earlier, titled It Came from Outer Space. The two narratives were nearly identical, and the presence of Temple’s plate also brought to mind the 1970 made-for-TV movie Night Slaves, which was based on a book written just two years earlier. Even bits of a favorite television series of mine, The Invaders, could be found sprinkled throughout the story, and had me wondering just how much of this movie—based on a novel titled The Gods Hate Kansas—was original, and how much was, let’s say, ‘homage’.
And I know what you’ve been dying to ask, because I’ve been asking myself the same question, and though I did watch the movie, I still don’t have a solid answer: what the hell are those goofy goggles used for? I remembered seeing Temple and his friend assembling them, and of course wearing them, but did either of them ever state their purpose? I had to go back and watch a few scenes over again to find out. Apparently, they’re worn so humans can detect the aliens…but I never knew they couldn’t detect them! And I’m still baffled as to not only how they made the screwy things, but what gave them the idea to make them in the first place!
But does any of this mean the film itself earns the ‘BOMB’ rating that film critic Leonard Maltin seems to believe it does? I’d say no, it deserves a few more points than that, despite its derivative storytelling, low production values, and brainwash-preventing motorcycle helmets. Still, to me it seemed like these aliens went through a whole lot of rigmarole and whoop-de-doo for nothing, and unfortunately dragged us along for the ride. And if you were excited to see the name Jack Lambert in the opening credits, don’t be; it wasn’t the thug from Westerns and noir films of the ’40s and ’50s, nor was it the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker of the ’70s. Regretfully, it was just an old guy sitting behind a desk. (3/10)