Review for They Came From Beyond Space
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Amicus Studios (arguably the less famous sister of Hammer) Studio Canal are re-releasing four fan favourites; They Came From Beyond Space, The Land That Time Forgot, At the Earth’s Core and Warlords of Atlantis. Oh – alright then. Three fan favourites and one odd-one out curio. Which leads me neatly to the first of these - ‘They Came from Beyond Space’ , a strangely dated film which would have been more at home in the 1950’s than the tail end of the swinging sixties. It’s a curious addition as it’s the only one not to feature an H.G. Wells excursion into ancient or mysterious lands, as well as the only film of the four not to feature the McClure/Connor/Dark combo.
Adapted from Joseph Millard’s book ‘The Gods Hate Kansas’, this terribly American cold-war themed sci-fi thriller is given a British make-over and re-located to Cornwall. Of course, in common with other British sci-fi favourites (The Quatermass Experiment for example) it has an American lead. Playing Dr Curtis Temple, an expert in meteorites, the older-than-you’d expect (for a romantic lead) is played by 47 year old TV stalwart Robert Hutton who turns in a suitably earnest performance.
When a bunch of perfectly circular meteors land together in a neat pattern in Cornwall the MOD ask Temple to investigate. However, he is advised against going by his doctor as he has recently had a car accident, and a metal plate inserted into his skull as a result. So his assistant (and girlfriend) Lee Mason (Jayne) goes to the crash-site instead.
The locals are acting a little strangely and before long so is Lee and her team. They have been ‘taken over’ by aliens who require a body to host them. When Temple arrives to help it seems that he alone is immune to the ‘take-over’ – probably as a result of the metal plate. He enlists the help of a colleague, Farge (Mohyeddin) and between them they conjure up a helmet that works in the same way as the metal plate. OK – it might look like a pretty un-cool colander, but if it works why knock it? So soon they are able to begin a rescue mission that helps them foil the world-dominating plan of the visiting aliens.
The film really does stretch the ‘suspension of disbelief’ rule to dizzy depths with some abominable dialogue and unlikely narrative, topped off with some very clunky acting.
When they finally get to the moon it all gets even more ridiculous. White-haired aliens in coloured capes and tight red leggings all look like rejects from a Buster Crabbe era Buck Rogers episode. What were they thinking?
Despite its low-budget, the mixture of location footage (Pinewood back-lot in the main) and studio work actually looks very nicely lit and rich in colour and texture. In fact, it has that terribly satisfying look and feel of the Amicus Dr. Who films – almost worth getting just for that. After all, though the plot is weak and the actors wooden it had a mighty fine cinematographer on board (Freddie Francis) and the transfer here is good with rich tones, dark blacks, precious little wear and tear and minimal artefacting. Indeed it may well be the best you’ll ever see as so slight a release is unlikely to get a Blu-Ray transfer any time soon.
As camp sci-fi it’s a film worth a look, and lovers of Hammer / Amicus will want to get it for the sake of completeness though I can think of no other reason to pick up this third rate British b-movie.