Today another old black and white movie- and while perhaps not a ‘classic’ in the way Turn the Key Softly is, nonetheless any fan of 1950s sci-fi b-movies will find much to enjoy in this outing into cosmic horror. This British-made film from 1958 bears many of the hallmarks of horror/sci-fi of that decade; fears of the alien, of atomic power, and even throws in paranormal powers of telepathy into the heady mix: its the quintessential 1950s sci-fi, complete with some curio casting (Alf Garnet himself, Warren Mitchell, playing a Swiss atomic scientist (Professor Crevett) with a delightfully strange German accent), some dodgy sets and some VERY dodgy visual effects. As usual the whole thing is saved by earnest performances and a typically efficient script from Hammer stalwart Jimmy Sangster.
Its actually more fun than it might have been. Part of this is the witty script- at the start of the film during a mysterious mountaineering accident, one climber retorts “maybe its the Abominable Snowman!” which may or may not have been an aside to Hammer’s own The Abominable Snowman from 1957, which I watched a few weeks ago (haven’t posted a review of that yet). Curiously, that Hammer film also featured actor Forrest Tucker in a starring role, which perhaps indicates what a small world the British film industry was back then. Here Tucker plays United Nations troubleshooter Alan Brooks, something of a forerunner of Mulder from The X-Files; this is a mysterious guy with experience of alien critters who is not averse to throwing petrol bombs at giant one-eyed monsters. As well as radioactive clouds hiding aliens and a telepathic girl, the film features victims brought back from the dead (talking zombies or telepathically controlled puppets, its not clear), numerous decapitated victims (do the aliens eat their heads!?) and a climactic bomb strike from a British bomber that reminds us of a time when us Brits had a bit more clout and didn’t have to rely on American firepower to defeat alien invasions. There’s a delicious feel of everything but the kitchen sink being thrown into the heady mix- audiences certainly get their moneys worth here. If anything, the film-makers cannot manage the scripts lofty ambitions, with the budgetary-constrained effects team’s climactic sequences not quite living up to what Sangster probably described in his script.
Its just a pity they couldn’t have gotten Peter Cushing involved, his sincere gravitas would have been the icing on the cake, although that would have denied us the pleasure of Warren Mitchell’s, er, performance (to be fair, I think its deliberately comic as opposed to accidentally so- the whole film has a slightly irreverent tone that possibly makes watching it today so much fun).
They even take the opportunity during the film to refer several times to an earlier alien attack in the heights of the Andes, giving this film (had it been popular enough) a ready-made prequel all set up. How modern is that?