How Silly Would You Look In Order to Save the World?
DIRECTED BY FREDDIE FRANCIS / 1967
BLU-RAY STREET DATE JUNE 2, 2020
KINO LORBER STUDIO CLASSICS
Let me start off by saying right off the bat that the artwork on the poster for this film is mostly a pack of lies! Sure, there are conquerors, and maybe you could say that they come from a dying world. And while they don’t exactly come from beyond space, they do come from pretty far away. But let me assure you, gentle reader, that while there are a number of ridiculous outfits on display in this movie, there isn’t any one of them that looks like that!
That might be a little thing to criticize about They Came From Beyond Space, but I’m a critic, and I have to say something. As for the movie itself, criticism is almost besides the point. You’re either on its wavelength or not. If you’re not, it’ll come across as cheap and cheesy and patently ridiculous in almost every respect. If you are, on the other hand, it will still come across as all those things, but you’ll love it all the more for being so.
Happily it turns out I’m very much on its wavelength.
We’ve spoken of Freddie Francis, the film’s director, before when I reviewed The Psychopath. They Came From Beyond Space is another one of the low-budget sci-fi thrillers he directed for Amicus, a small studio that specializes in horror films. Amicus produced the theatrical films Dr. Who and the Daleks which was written by Milton Subotsky- who would go on to write They Came From Beyond Space. In point of fact, They Came From Beyond Space has a very strong Dr. Who vibe to it- and I’m not just talking about the cardboard sets and bad compositing effects (and there are some really bad compositing effects here- particularly the seemingly mundane driving sequences). It’s an adventure that could easily fit into the Doctor’s wheelhouse, and the final resolution would be one the good Doctor would be thrilled to come up with.
The story begins when a group of mysterious meteorites comes down on a farm in England. The government turns to astronomer Dr. Curtis Temple (Robert Hutton) for help. He’s thrilled because he’s spent his whole life searching for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. Then he’s crushed because his doctor won’t let him go. He’s still recuperating from an auto accident that left him with a silver plate in his head. This movie is an emotional rollercoaster!
Dr. Temple’s beautiful assistant (and fiancee!) Lee Mason (Jennifer Jayne) leads the investigation in his stead. Soon, however, the stream of data the team is sending back dries up and the team begins sending in requisitions for all manner of odd equipment. Despite his doctor’s orders, Temple goes to investigate. He finds that the team has constructed a hidden rocket base on the farm- because they’ve all been taken over by alien intelligences! Only the silver plate in his head keeps the aliens from doing the same to him! And here you thought that plate was just a weird superfluous detail!
At 85 minutes in length, They Came From Beyond Space doesn’t have time for superfluous details! Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that the story moves at a brisk pace. It keeps throwing things into the plot- there’s the aliens, secret government agents, a deadly plague, Michael Gough in a spangled dress! There’s no time to take a breath.
There just aren’t any women in skin-tight catsuits, and I don’t think I’ll be able to get over that crushing disappointment.
Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray release of They Came From Beyond Space comes with a feature-length commentary track by film historian David Del Valle and filmmaker David DeCoteau. It also comes with the movie’s theatrical trailer, bundled alongside a collection of trailers from other related Kino Lorber Sci Fi releases.