Monday, April 23, 2007

"my planet's got no magnetic core!" "how do you pilot it around then?" "bedfordshire!"

Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 AD (1966)

Dir: Gordon Flemyng

Peter Cushing (Dr Who), Bernard Cribbins (Tom Campbell), Ray Brooks (David), Andrew Keir (Wylen), Roberta Tovey (Susan), Jill Curzon (Louise)

The Daleks second foray onto the big screen 'Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD' has the kinda title that gives even the most casual viewer some idea of what to expect (although the Daleks vs. the grumpy tramps might be a more appropriate title, feature as it does the greatest collection of flea market suits this side of an Oxfam opening). The bright colours and fun feel of the first movie give way to an altogether more gritty film, a sort of junior 'Escape from New York' with Bernard Cribbins in the Kurt Russell role(albeit wearing black, wet-look PVC).

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A Dalek spaceship yesterday.

Beginning with a fabulous pre-credits teaser that would do Bond proud in which Cribbins (as hapless copper Tom Campbell) is bonked on the head by a gang of ruthless clock thieves before stumbling into the TARDIS after mistaking it for a real police box. Before you can say 'Right said Fred' he's been whizzed away into a future London by our old friends Doctor Who and Susan, this time aided by sultry Louise (the raven haired Jill Curzon). On leaving the TARDIS all manner of exciting things begin to happen, from flying saucers over Sloane's Square to Louise being kidnapped by a flat capped grumpy Scotsman. With the help of Ray (Mister Benn) Brooks, Doctor Who discovers that the Daleks have been kidnapping the fittest men in the country and, after scary brainwashing techniques involving stand-up hairdryers, dressing them in tight PVC jumpsuits and leather boots to use as 'slaves'. Not content with this vaguely homo-erotic course of action, the Daleks are also digging a big hole in Bedfordshire with the idea of removing Earths magnetic core and piloting the planet around like a big spaceship. So it's up to Doctor Who, the grumpy Scotsman, Mr. Benn, the Womble-voiced Cribbins and all the survivors the Daleks obviously didn't fancy to gang together and stop this frankly terrifying plan before it's too late.

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"Bugger me Bernard! It's a wasp!"

The film boasts some genuinely great effects including a fabulously designed Dalek Spaceship flying menacingly over a devastated London and some super forced perspective sets, especially those at the saucers landing area. The battle scenes between the survivors and the Daleks are well choreographed and visually exciting and the whole movie has a kind of 'epic' quality to it, only marred by some misplaced hi-jinx from Cribbins. Whilst the comedy in the first movie is quite sweetly done, here it seems to jar against the overall seriousness of the plot, especially the Roboman meal scene, which cheapens the otherwise genuinely chilling concept behind these Dalek slaves. A scene late on in the film, where one of the workers tries to reason with his robotised brother before being cruelly murdered by him, has its impact slightly lessened by the earlier antics of Bernard Cribbins scoffing dolly mixtures with his funny robot pals to a samba beat.

The guest cast are uniformly great, with a special mention to Andrew Keir's afore mentioned grumpy Scotsman, Ray Brook's 'boy with the knack' and Philip Madoc's nasty black marketer, who meets his grisly end in a garden shed blown to pieces by around twenty Daleks.

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"I'll drink you under the table mate."

'Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD' is by far the more accomplished film, although the fact that it made less money than its predecessor curtailed any plans Subotsky had for further big screen Doctor Who adventures, which is sad really, as judging by his efforts here, the results could have only got better and better. Often seen by fans as either embarrassing relatives of the series, or seldom mentioned curio's, the two sixties feature films offer a wealth of enjoyment to be had and a glimpse, for those too young to remember, of 'Dalekmania' at it's height.

Friday, April 20, 2007

skaro a go-go!

Dr. Who And The Daleks (1965)
Dir: Gordon Flemyng
Screenplay by Milton Subotsky
Produced by Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg
Peter Cushing (Dr Who), Roy Castle (Ian), Jennie Linden (Barbara), Roberta Tovey (Susan), Barrie Ingham (Alydon)

For many of us, the Peter Cushing movies were our first encounter with the show's past, so this was how we imagined all sixties Doctor Who looked and sounded (so you understand, then, why we were a wee bit disappointed when we finally got to see 'The Dead Planet' on it's original video release but why we all adore 'The Krotons') and re-watching them today it's hard not to be won over by their charm. Peter Cushing, as the eccentric old grandfather Dr. Who plays the part as a mischievous schoolboy trapped in an old mans body (stop sniggering at the back). From the opening shot of him enjoying Dan Dare's adventures in The Eagle to his genuine excitement at the thought of exploring the mysterious city, Cushing's Doctor Who is a joy to behold.

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"Just a trim sir?"

As for the rest of the human cast…Jennie Linden's Barbara is all scary hair, tight tops and pointed bra's, a kind of low rent Lulu either frowning sweatily at Peter Cushing or fawning sweatily over the bumbling comedy genius that is Roy Castle's Ian Chesterton but Roberta Tovey's Susie is just bloody scary. Imagine Adric in a tartan pinny and ankle socks and you're half way there.
The Thals, all blonde wigs, Chelsea boots and blue eye shadow are amazing, as if Ziggy Stardust and Quentin Crisp had been melded in a hideous genetic experiment run by the kids from Village of the Damned. The ladies are strangely alluring, the men just plain strange...
None of this is really that important, though, as we're really here to see the Daleks….bigger, better and considerably brighter than ever before (or since). From their first appearance skulking in the corridors of their city, to their exciting demise, the metal meanies have never looked better, as if they'd stepped directly from the pages of TV21 comic. The whole production screams 'BIG!, even the police box shell looks bigger than normal (it's a pity, though, that they decided to film the TARDIS interiors inside Albert Steptoe's shed). The Skaro sets have a genuine other-worldly feel and as for the city interiors…Jennie Linden recalls that this was 'the first and largest set completely built from plastic'… think about this, a giant primary coloured, transparent plastic Dalek city, complete with lava lamps and big black and white TV screens populated by giant primary coloured, shiny Daleks…genius does not begin to describe this artistic triumph. The one big mistake by the Academy Award panel was that this film wasn't even nominated in 1965, if it had been it would have swept the board.

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The plot is adapted from the Terry Nation original, but with all the boring bits cut out, by David Whitaker and the legendary Milton Subotsky, hurtles along at a cracking pace, pausing only to showcase a few quality comedy turns from Mr. Castle. These include such delights as 'Ian sits on a box of chocolates', 'Ian can't get in a door' and mine (and many other fan's) favourite, 'Ian is attacked by giant projected Roman soldiers whilst whistling'. Fans of Roy Castle's portrayal of Ian may also want to check out the Amicus classic 'Dr. Terror's House of Horrors', as well as also being produced by Subotsky, it re-teams him with Peter Cushing and also features star turns from Christopher Lee, Kenny Lynch, once mooted big screen Doctor Donald Sutherland and Alan 'Fluff' Freeman….but I digress, that's for another time……

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"Hmmm....did I leave the gas on?"