A Doctor Who story - without Doctor Who!
If you liked The Earth Dies Screaming or Night of the Big Heat, with their minimal alien invasions and earnest British reactions, this is for you. A far less well known entry into the genre, not seen on home video since VHS (above). The story parallels and predates the first Jon Pertwee Doctor Who adventure...
A series of minor electrical malfunctions are shrugged off around the edge of town in south-east England. But an Army tracking station thinks an unidentified rocket has crash-landed in the woods. Then a couple driving home from a party hit someone walking in the middle of the road, and wearing a strange, silver, rubber suit...
Even the lowest-budget British sci-fi from the 1960s is graced with solid acting and tight monochrome cinematography. The night time exteriors of Invasion have extra punch for not being faked with day-for-night filming.
|The Frank Chickens started out as a garage band...|
The limited special effects are functional, mostly propped up by stock footage and only used where absolutely necessary. To compensate, the cast all play this 'first contact' scenario for real, though they snap into the extraordinary concept rather quickly!
Like an underwritten episode of the original Outer Limits, the situation quickly grips and draws you into the story. Every actor is on form and every character counts. Even the radar operator who tracks the UFO. Usually a thankless one-line role, but here someone with messy habits, a trashy taste in pulp fiction and a lax attitude to his commanding officer. He even thinks the blip on his screen might be an off-schedule car ferry!
|Barrie Ingham and Glyn Houston puzzle over a strange rocket|
Meanwhile, the (gasp) unmarried couple run over a stranger with their car. The argument over whether they should leave him to die is chillingly real. This isn't a children's film, and there are several more plot-driven shock moments.
This is one of leading man Edward Judd's run of sci-fi adventures. He previously looked hot and sweaty in The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961, reviewed here). He also fought aliens in Island of Terror (1966), and the awesome Ray Harryhausen version of H.G. Wells' First Men in The Moon (1964). His moments of tenderness aren't nearly as convincing as his take charge, 'I know what I'm doing - I'll sort this out right now' attitude.
Valerie Gearon plays a blood specialist at the same hospital, where the wounded stranger is taken. In her first scene, she's allowed the time to show that her character really doesn't want to stir from a place by the fire to rush to an emergency at work.
Also nice to see Barrie Ingham without his silver Thal wig, as seen in Doctor Who and the Daleks (1965). Here he's an Army man caught up in a potentially dangerous threat from outer space.
The aliens are played by South East Asian actors, like Yoko Tani (above). I wonder why?
This was the first feature film directed by Alan Bridges, who later made The Shooting Party (1985) and an aborted 1987 version of Stephen King's Apt Pupil, that would have starred with Ricky Shroder.
According to 'Doctor Who - The Seventies' (published in 1994), writer Robert Holmes recycled the core elements of his script for Invasion when he wrote the Doctor Who story 'Spearhead From Space' (1970). Specifically an injured alien (The Doctor) being analysed by medical doctors at a remote hospital. Gosh.
But while most Anglo Amalgamated movies of this period have made it to DVD, I last saw Invasion on late night TV. It was on VHS in the UK, but has never on DVD. I wonder if Network DVD have this in their vaults...
The BFI website has a few clips and more production stills from Invasion.
Invasion is one of the films made at the long defunct suburban Merton Park Studios, where Horrors of the Black Museum and Konga were filmed. More of the low budget Merton Park horrific mayhem is listed here.