August 16, 2007

DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS (1954) a frightfully British space invader



DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS
(1954, UK)

One of the few, fun 1950s sci-fi films made in the UK, that is still in circulation

There are lots of classic American sci-fi films from this decade, Tarantula, It Came from Outer Space etc, but few worth watching from the UK. I’d recommend Fiend Without a Face, the Quatermass films of course and X – The Unknown, but that’s about it.

The first time I saw Devil Girl From Mars, I was delighted to have found it, mainly because it was fun. It hadn’t ever been on TV to my knowledge, so it was a late discovery to find this on VHS. It’s a daft film in many ways and I’d not taken it very seriously. But on rewatching, it at least stands up well as entertaining on several levels!

A mysterious craft lands near a remote Scottish hotel. It’s out of season, so there are only a few guests, Coincidentally, a pair of scientists investigating a plane crash are forced to stop at the hotel. They discover the craft from outer space has inhabitants, who aren’t friendly…

Mind-bogglingly, this tale of space invasion, was based on a stage play, and I'm guessing that there was only one setting, the hotel bar! Thankfully in the movie, we get to see the outside of the hotel and the craft itself, but an awful lot of the film features characters walking between the two locations…


I was struck by the similarity with the stage version of Dracula, which seems to have been an influence on the story. The female alien constantly enters the hotel (a gothic pile in the middle of the moors) through the French windows, keeps unveiling more and more powers including hypnotism (big close-up of her eyes) and wears a flashy black cape. Although her 'Renfield' is a big robot.



The limited setting of the story betrays its B-movie status, but the special effects are handsomely mounted, except that the design of the UFO makes it less believable – it looks both a light fitting or a fancy hubcap. SFX director Jack Whitehead (The Tunnel, 1935), does very well with a sizeable model that has lots of internal lighting and seamless moving parts. It reminded me a lot of a smaller version of the spaceship in Dalek Invasion Earth 2150, which also had a spinning section. The ray blasts are achieved much the same way as The Day The Earth Stood Still (another obvious influence) with a series of lap dissolves, but are well done – the targets are rather small fry – like bushes and dead trees…

The robot looks top heavy when it walks and more impressive in the posters, or when it stands still, and thankfully it doesn’t have to do much.


The cast is above par and take it all as seriously as possible (except a kid who can’t act for toffee). Notably there is a cult cast - Hazel Court (before she was in Hammer’s Curse of Frankenstein and sensational in Corman’s Masque of the Red Death), Adrienne Corri (memorable as the circus-master in Vampire Circus, the madwoman in Madhouse, and as the space sheriff in Moon Zero Two), and John Laurie (from Hammer’s The Reptile and beloved British sitcom Dad’s Army). The melodrama of the multiple plotlines, is as unlikely as the story, but there’s rarely a dull moment.


Obviously, the striking Patricia Laffan as Nyah steals all her scenes, mainly due to her ahead-of-its-time black leather mini-skirt and long legs. She doesn't have to overplay her lines, because they’re already pretty silly.

The film doesn’t outstay its welcome, if you like fifties sci-fi and you’re forewarned about the tiny ‘pub invasion’ scenario, this shouldn’t disappoint.

If you want more info on the lovely Hazel Court, there's a detailed fansite here...


I watched this on a UK VHS, which had pretty low volume audio on it. Hopefully the American DVD releases are better. It’s black and white and looks fine in full-frame 1.33 aspect. Strangely, it’s available on DVD
in the US (pictured below) but not in the UK. Duh!


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5 comments:

  1. jervaise brooke hamster22 September, 2011 23:52

    I`d rather watch "Devil Girl From Mars" than "The Inbetweeners Movie" Anyday. I wish the British film industry would go back to making proper films again instead of the laughable, pathetic, unwatchable, unimaginative garbage that it makes now.

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  2. Always nice to hear from an upper class twit...

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  3. jervaise brooke hamster23 September, 2011 22:33

    Cheers my old mate. By the way, Hazel Court was such a gorgeous little darlin` in those days.

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  4. jervaise brooke hamster25 September, 2011 19:11

    "Hazel Court-Horror Queen", no not yet i haven`t. Hey, i just realised that in "Devil Girl From Mars" Hazel was already pushing 28, i thought the bird was about 21 or 22, like i said, a scary realization. By the way, when i watched it on Youtube i was really impressed with the explosion of the spaceship at the end, its magnitude was almost scary.

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