Review: Devil Girl from Mars / Director: David MacDonald / Screenplay: James Eastwood / Starring: Patricia Laffan, Hugh McDermott, Hazel Court, Peter Reynolds, Adrienne Corri, Joseph Tomelty, John Laurie, Sophie Stewart / Release Date: Out now
Make no mistake, when it comes to '50s sci-fi movies, Devil Girl from Mars (1954) is as iconic as they come. But, truth be told, it’s hardly typical of the genre.
For a start, it’s British. Although that’s hardly unique, it has to be said that our other efforts tended to be a bit more serious and worthy. Actually we suspect the makers of this did think they were doing something worthy. You see, you might be surprised to learn that DGfM is actually based on a stage play. No, really. One assumes the play was the sort of thing Joey Tribbiani may have appeared in but it’s no surprise that the film is entirely set in a difficult-to-heat Scottish hotel. The landlady explains that they have to eat in the bar as it’s the only warm place (even if they’re happy to walk around the Scottish moors in their PJ's). Yeah, you get the idea: they’ve only got one set. Par for the course on stage but slightly embarrassing in a movie. Combine this with slow pacing and a tedious script and you’ve got something that is actually a bit rubbish.
So you’re wondering why it’s so iconic. Well that’ll be its ineffable ability to raise a smile. While everyone plays it straight as a die, it still manages to be as camp as Butlins. It starts like a god-awful amdram about a man-on-the-run; just as his true identity is about to be revealed there is a sudden blinding light as a spaceship lands outside. The unintentional comic timing couldn’t be better. On the subject of comic timing, you also have to remember it was made at a time when alcoholism was considered funny so long as the alcoholic in question was Scottish. Step forward no less than the mighty John Laurie as an amusing drunk. This was comedy gold in 1954.
However, the movie’s lofty status will be forever assured by the presence of Patricia Laffan as the Devil Girl herself. The Battle of the Sexes was taken a bit too literally on Mars and the women won. Yes, her planet needs men. If a stern '50s dominatrix in retro-fetish gear is your thing then we really can’t think of a film you’re going to enjoy more than this one. Don’t worry, your dirty little secret is safe with us and you can snigger with the rest of us as nearly all the male cast volunteer to be the one who goes back with her. If that weren’t enough, she has a robot that looks like a fridge. If this was the British response to Gort, you can tell we were a nation in decline.
It might be a terrible movie, but if comedy-alcoholism, crap robots and dated S&M are your thing, it’s an essential purchase. Always remember you’re British.
Extras: Image gallery /Press book PDF