What better to gladden the heart in difficult times than settling down to watch a big hammy slice of long forgotten micro-budget British sci-fi? Who can resist a film in which the legendary Michael Gough turns up playing ‘The Master of the Moon’? Who can think badly of a film in which the heroes melt a shelf full of sports trophies to fashion silly helmets to help them ward off the baleful influence of hostile body-possessing aliens? Welcome to They Came From Beyond Space, a 1969 Amicus Production from the Milton Subotsky/Max Rosenberg partnership who had recently brought Doctor Who and his Daleks to the big screen (the film even reuses some leftover props and sets from the second Doctor Who movie) and directed with some reluctance by Freddie Francis who was already a bit peeved at the quality of some of B-movies he was finding himself lensing.
A shower of meteorites land in formation (a plot device reused in the first Jon Pertwee Doctor Who serial the following year) in a field in Cornwall and a top team of boffins are dispatched to investigate the site. They uncover strange, angular space crystals that quickly take them over and they seal the area off as they work on a mysterious unearthly project. Dr Curtis Temple (Robert Hutton), recovering from an accident that required a metal plate to be inserted into his head (pay attention, this becomes important later on in the film), travels to join the team but discovers that strange alien shenanigans are afoot when he sees a rocket launched from the crash site, heading for the moon. Before long a strange disease starts to spread around the area which is quickly quarantined and the contagious bodies are secretly disposed of (by sending them off to the moon). Temple discovers that a cabal of disembodied aliens led by the inestimable Mr Gough are operating from a base on the moon and are using the bodies of the diseased victims (who aren’t actually dead) to restore their physicality. Temple and his friend Farge (Zia Mohyeddin) and love interest Lee Mason (Jennifer Jayne), freed from alien control, travel to the moon for a final and somewhat less than dramatic confrontation with the Master of the Moon and his minions.
They Came From Beyond Space is shameless tosh but hugely enjoyable. Early sequences create a pleasing Quatermass-like atmosphere of creeping dread and paranoia as humans fall under alien control but this quickly fades away when the film crashes into a hokey concoction of utter silliness – the aforementioned alien-resistant helmets and Temple and co. travelling to the moon with nothing more than a tin hat on their heads. Any unlikely pretensions towards credible science fiction are jettisoned well before the limp ‘is-that-it?’ finale, which brings the film to a juddering and utterly undramatic conclusion. Quite rightly considered as - how can we put this politely? – one of UK cinema’s less accomplished genre movies, They Came From Beyond Space is still a harmless and fun ninety minutes that looks pleasingly sharp and colourful on this new Blu-ray transfer, accompanied by a fond and chatty commentary from film historian David Del Valle and filmmaker David Decoteau.
Release Date: March 8th