Friday, March 11, 2011

They Came From Beyond Space (1967)
--- science fiction

Dir: Freddie Francis

Amicus Studios enjoyed being a contemporary rival of the famous Hammer Studios during the 60's and 70's. While Hammers forte remained in remaking classic gothic horror films, Amicus went the route of producing anthology horror films. However, they did make a few forays in the science fiction genre, most successfully with the Peter Cushing Dr. Who feature films. I highly doubt this film would be boasted about, but it is an interesting piece. Of what exactly, is for you to decide.

Based on the 1964 novel "The Gods Hate Kansas" by American author of film novelizations Joseph J. Millard, "They Came From Beyond Space" tells the tale of several meteorites that crash land on earth in a "v" formation in the rural English countryside of Cornwall. Soon astronomy official, Richard Arden, contacts the one man they claim can solve the mystery, a Dr. Curtis Temple (played by American actor Robert Hutton). Temple is prohibited by his doctor to go on the investigation due to his recent recovery from a motorcycle accident, which gave him a metal plate in the head. He does, however, send one of his trusted assistants and apparent love interest Lee Mason.

Lee travels out to see the meteorites for herself, but during their study, the group is instantly is mentally invaded by an alien entities. Back at the lab, Dr. Temple and an associate discover these meteors originate from the earth's moon. The aliens now inhabiting the scientists bodies immediately go to a local bank to acquire funds for their mission. They send Arden to go pick up Temple and his associate, but its really of course to take their bodies of which they only succeed with one of them. Temple immediately sees that something very awry is happening, and he goes to find and question Lee for himself at the Roberts farm. Temple is surprised upon arrival that it has practically become a demilitarized zone quartined complete witg electrical fences and armed soldiers.

After meeting with Lee, Temple sees she is a totally different person. This leads Temple to desperately seek out Lee and Arden, to which after cornering her, she shoots him with some kind of raygun. He wakes up in the home of a gas station addentant, and soon after leaving to continue his search, he runs into a government agent named Stillwell. Things take a deadly turn, when Stillwell goes to make a call in the phone booth and becomes infected with a virus that covers the victim with spots of blood as well as anyone who comes in contact with a carrier. When concerned onlookers surround Temple and Stillwell, they all become infected by this "crimson plague" (possibly inspired by red weed from War of the Worlds). Curiously, Temple is once again immune to this as well.

Temple notices the female gas station attendant in the crowd of onlookers, but seemingly unaffected by the plague. Later at home, he catches a news report on the incident, but is soon paid a visit by another government agent named Williams. Temple notices, after he leaves and goes to his car, that the gas station attendant again is in the drivers seat. He tries to track her down by returning to the gas station, except he finds a bunch of heavies determined to make him mind his own business. Temple stakes out the farm later that night and witnesses a rocket launched from a immersed launchpad in the swamp. With unwavering determination, Temple returns to the farm and goes on full-on assault against the invaders in an attempt to infilitrate the farm. Once he gets in, he has an uncomfortably long fist fight with an invader, but before long he prevails only to find a collection of plague victims bodies frozen in some kind of containment area. Eventually, he is captured by the invader Arden.

They allow him the courtesy of imprisonment, as the invader Arden explains what is really happening. He explains to Dr. Temple that they are trying to bury the "crimson plague" victims on the moon where they won't be a threat to humanity. Temple highly doubts the story, and quickly devises an escape plan based on a loophole he discovers in their little security system. Just in time too, as the invaders have no intentions of keeping him alive.

Getting rid of Arden, Temple goes directly for Lee Mason and just barely gets them out of there alive. He takes her to a colleague named Farge, where they realize they have to find a weapon against these alien invaders. He and Farge construct a colander for a helmet to protect him, since Temple has been protected by that silver plate in his head. They eventually free Dr. Mason from the alien entity and ultimately return to the farm to confront the beings from outer space, and solve the answers to rest of their questions.

"They Came From Beyond Space" is a fun Saturday afternoon movie to watch that doesn't insult your intelligence too much. If the title sounds familiar, yeah, this film shares some similarities to the American 50's B-movie "It Came From Outer Space". The score, provided by James Stevens, is clearly the Sixties bebop you'd expect from a film from this era. It comes as no surprise he also contributed to Ed Woods' dubious classic "Plan 9 from Outerspace". I think this film might've been a decent cult classic had it not taken itself so serious. Besides being clearly inspired by the much better executed film "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", the plot has been rehashed on reguar sci-fi tv shows, that its originality is all but lost on modern viewers. This is exactly the kind of film Tobe Hooper was paying homage to in his film "Lifeforce" which I pointed out in my review of that film.